Guest commentary: Understand what type of motivation keeps you going

By Lauren Burdick

As the new year approaches many people begin to create new goals for themselves. The most common New Year’s Resolution is the goal of beginning an exercise regime. As an athlete and coach, I always see an influx of people in the gym from January through February and then they slowly taper out. Why are these people abandoning their goals so soon and what could have been done to help them meet their goals? As a coach, I see different mind sets and it’s left me wondering “why do some people have the motivation and why do some lose it”? There are two types of motivation that play a huge role in training, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.  Let’s explain what these are.

Intrinsic motivation refers to a behavior that is driven by internal rewards such as feeling the enjoyment of an activity or seeing it as an opportunity to explore, learn, and increase our potential. In contrast to this motivation, is extrinsic motivation which involves engaging in a behavior in order to earn external rewards, like money, praise or approval.

Running a speed session on your own or hitting the gym for an hour for the inherent satisfaction of the challenge or joy of the work you are putting into it rather than for some separate consequence is an example of intrinsic motivation. Having a great time with your exercise buddy is an example of extrinsic motivation. You may enjoy spending your day doing something other than exercising, but you’re motivated to do it because you get time to see your friends.
What are some tools to use for staying consistent?

  • Find a buddy to exercise with, join exercises classes, or a running group to make friends, suffer together, and support one another during the tough exercise sessions.
  • Use a mobile app. There are thousands of free apps to choose from where you can log you exercise and food while earning badges for completing consistent workouts and eating the right amount of calories for your body. Some apps even allow others to comment to motivate you. The biggest thing with my company app is our group chat. This is where people tell one another their accomplishments, races they just ran, and they have direct contact with us (their coaches) right at their fingertips. The accountability helps.
  • Slowly work your way into the regime and let your body get used to the activities you are asking it to do. On days you are tired, instead of an off day – tell yourself just a 15-minute walk. 15 minutes is better than nothing. Often, once you are outside, you will go longer.
  • Don’t get down on yourself for a having a day where you ate something unhealthy or did not work out. You have not undone your work. Please do not skip your next meal and nor workout an extra hour. Move on and keep working towards your goal!

Some athletes will always have strong self-discipline (intrinsic motivation) and some athletes have outside factors influencing them (extrinsic motivation). Depending on the season, it can differ for all of us and that’s ok.  You should not be training hard all year round. Having downtime and maintenance time allows for recovery, finding enjoyment in exercise, and bonding with your friends. The best way to handle a busy lifestyle while being an athlete is about breaking things down into smaller sections, blocks you can handle.


Editor’s note: Lauren Burdick is a certified nutrition consultant and running coach. She and her husband, Jared, run Miles & Macros, LLC, an athletic training and nutrition company located in Fayetteville. For more information, visit