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Fitness Motivation Part Two: Intrinsic Motivation and How To Increase It

Personal Trainer and Her Motivated Client

In last weeks blog we talked about the main types of fitness motivation and what motivation actually is. Now we are going to go further into the most powerful longterm type of motivation, intrinsic, and how you can increase it. We'll also explore how to avoid things that decrease it.

If you remember from the last article, there are three main factors that affect intrinsic motivation. To get intrinsically motivated comes from developing a strong sense of autonomy, competence, and belonging.

Autonomy Autonomy is the feeling that you are in control of your own destiny, and your actions are taken because they are in line with your own needs, wants, and values. The opposite of it is feeling like you are being forced or pressured to do something. Well intentioned coaches and trainers can sometimes sabotage their clients sense of autonomy by overdoing it with extrinsic motivation tactics.

It's fine and good for trainers to make recommendations based off of your goals, and provide support and encouragement, but the moment they go overboard to the point that you are being overly pressured or feel forced to do workouts or exercises, it can become counterproductive. This is because feeling forced or pressured causes people to lose their sense of autonomy.


Competency is feeling like you know what you are doing, or are at least on the way to getting there. If you feel like you are getting better and can keep getting better, then congrats, you have a good sense of competency.

Outdoor Workout at Chris Protein Personal Training Austin

While most people do generally know what they need to do to accomplish their goals (workout consistently, eat healthy foods, get decent sleep), when it comes down to specifics, it is normal to be unsure. For example, you might go to the gym, but not know what exercises to do or how to do them properly. Similarly with nutrition; you know you need to improve your diet, but how? Is keto better, or is low fat better? Or maybe dieting is bad and I should just eat 'intuitively'. With all the conflicting advice out there, it's easy to get confused about how to go about exercising and eating better.

Feeling confused and overwhelmed robs you of your sense of competency and can decrease motivation.

We will explore further by thinking about the opposite of competency, which is feeling stupid. This happens a lot with beginners at the gym. You show up, realize you aren't sure what to do, and then stand around feeling silly until you slink out or end up spending 30 minutes on the elliptical (boring and ineffective), again.

You only have to experience this a couple times before you won't want to go back ever again. Well intentioned coaches can even inadvertently cause this by overworking people or having them try complex exercises they aren't ready for. Great coaches will instead meet people where they are at and work with them on making steady progress from that starting point.


Finally, a sense of belonging is very important for gaining intrinsic motivation. Belonging is defined as feeling connected and valued by people we respect and like. It is no wonder social support has been shown in numerous studies to help people accomplish their fitness goals and maintain them longer. Not only does it provide extrinsic motivation, it also makes us feel like we belong to a community.

If every time you hit the gym you feel like an alien or an outsider, it would be no surprise that you would not want to go back. This is something beginners or those that have not worked out in a while often struggle with. They go to the gym and feel like everyone else is in great shape and possibly even judging them. Easy to see why motivation to go back would decrease from this type of experience.

Working out in an environment where you feel comfortable and like you belong is very important for keeping your motivation levels up. Make sure the gym or fitness facility you decide to go to has a friendly and welcoming environment where you feel at home. Great trainers or class instructors that you like that makes you feel welcome can be very helpful as well.

A supportive community of personal trainers and clients

By now you should have a good idea of what motivation is, the main types of it, and how you can foster and build your own of motivation. If you have any questions feel free to drop us a line, we're happy to help!

If you'd like to join a program that will increase your motivation from all angles, our personal training program does just that. You'll get a boost of extrinsic motivation right off the bat from working with our trainers, plus they will help you develop a sense of autonomy, competency, and belonging, that will give you deeper, longterm intrinsic motivation as well.

You can book a free Transformation session online to get started (Available only at our Austin Texas location). At that session you will do a detailed consultation, a short workout, and then your trainer will put together a plan for you to achieve your goals. Click here to get started!

Celeste Working Out at our Austin Texas Personal Training Studio


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