Monday, March 12, 2012

How to Get Motivated to Exercise: Internal and External Personality Types

How to Get Motivated to Exercise for Life - Photo from NIH
Many people have lost hundreds of pounds only to discover that they have lost the same ones over and over. Or perhaps the numbers on the scale simply continue to rise higher and higher while others have maintained the same weight within a few pounds for decades. Although numerous sources speak of the great benefits of regular exercise and a healthy diet, many folks discover that getting motivated to start and maintain a regular exercise and healthy eating program may be very difficult.

One key issue to consider is one's personality, whether one is internally motivated or externally motivated. Both personality types have their strengths but both groups can also experience roadblocks to optimal individual fitness.

Pros and Cons of Being Internally Motivated - Photo by Dcoetzee at Wikimedia Commons
Advantages of Being Internally Motivated

When it comes to exercise and diet, those who are internally motivated may be able to embark on a quite successful solo exercise and healthy eating program. They may awaken at 5:00 a.m. and hit the treadmill, sidewalk, pool, or mall. They may have held a gym membership for twenty or more years. You could probably set your clock by these people who find motivation within themselves to stick with a routine, sometimes for years or even decades. They may not savor change, but these folks usually roll with the punches and adjust their routine to meet their needs.

Many of the people in this group are seniors. They may have grown up in a home where everyone was encouraged to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and keep on keeping on. These folks typically learned early in life how to rise above obstacles. They worked hard in younger years because they wanted food on the table and a warm place on which to lie their head at night. They are often loyal and seek to encourage others if asked. No, they do not always feel great, but they often realize that exercise enables them to achieve functional fitness and to enjoy life to a much fuller degree.

Diet choices in this group may be very healthy, or this group may simply exercise to the point where they balance the calories coming in. Many people in this group find that they maintain their weight or experience smaller weight gains over the long term than those who are externally motivated.

Disadvantages of Being Internally Motivated

Some who are internally motivated may participate in exercise classes that do not challenge them outside of their comfort zone either out of habit, in order to encourage someone else who may not be as fit, or perhaps to encourage the instructor. They may take care of others before taking care of themselves.

These folks with gym memberships may discover that a particular routine that has worked for them for years is suddenly replaced with a class that may or may not be safe for them. This could be the factor that serves as a huge roadblock to his or her health if another routine does not work well.

Internally motivated people may keep exercising despite injuries, with or without a doctor's blessing. Their stoicism might lead to denial of symptoms or signs that could indicate serious health problems. Sometimes they may miss making friendships as they focus on their fitness goals. Relaxation may be hard work for this group.

Don't put these people on a pedestal or assume that they always feel great – they are human and usually have to force themselves to work out during certain stages of their lives...but they typically do keep going and often quietly inspire many others along the way.

Pros and Cons of Being Externally Motivated © Katrena
Advantages of Being Externally Motivated

People who are externally motivated may be willing to try new things, as long as there is a tangible reward at the end. Perhaps a class reunion, upcoming wedding, gym challenge, or upcoming physical and/or bloodwork may do the trick. A gym that offers the latest workout equipment, newest group exercise classes, and largest pools may particularly attract those who are externally motivated. These folks tend to be willing to try all sorts of new fitness ideas, from techniques to music. They are usually game for going outside of their comfort zone, provided the goal is tangible.

Once committed, people who are externally motivated may achieve huge results in a short period of time. They may lose large amounts of weight and build muscle quickly. Sometimes the rewards do not even have to be huge or expensive. Gaining points, going for a t-shirt, receiving words of encouragement, or trying to get to the top of the list may be a great motivating force for the short term. Many people who are internally motivated benefit from gyms and programs that cater to this crowd, but prices for these facilities tend to rise as they keep purchasing new equipment to satisfy the ones who are seeking the "best" workout.

Disadvantages of Being Externally Motivated

New songs and equipment get old. New routines and instructors do too. Not everyone can win the challenge. A healthy diet is not often the easy road. Don't even mention weather, injuries, or full schedules.

Once the wedding, reunion, challenge, or blood test is over, those who are externally motivated may breathe a sigh of relief, pat themselves on the back and decide that they have finally achieved their goal. Now it is back to life as usual, which usually leads to weight gain, loss of muscle tone, and perhaps lowered bone density with higher blood sugar levels.

People who are externally motivated may spend large amounts of money on programs that offer flat abs and toned thighs in the twinkling of an eye. The fine print in those programs usually involves commitment to a strict diet that may or may not be healthy. Even the cheapest piece of equipment won't work if it is not used on a regular basis. Treadmills and other exercise equipment may become a clothes hanger and horizontal file for paperwork and other items. That great exercise DVD can quickly gather great amounts of dust. The one who is externally motivated may suddenly realize she is paying for a membership to a gym that she visits rarely.

Those who are externally motivated may miss out on ongoing fitness opportunities. The "boring" classes that are not branded may offer similar or even superior benefits over time, some with less potential for injury. Although this group may be willing to try all sorts of new classes, they may avoid even considering taking one that has been offered for years.

What Motivates You to Get Fit and Stay Fit?

Perhaps you are seeing a bit of yourself in some of these descriptions. That is a good thing! With knowledge comes an added ability to analyze and adjust. Both groups have advantages and disadvantages, and each group has something valuable to offer to the fitness world and to one's individual health. The key is to capitalize on those benefits and to tackle the challenges for a healthier life for years to come.

Check out the Fit Tips 4 Life site map for more great articles!

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