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Do you love yourself? No, really, do you truly love yourself? So why aren’t you taking care of this beautiful temple you’ve been given? Why are you treating it so badly? Some people think that those who are preoccupied with health and fitness are vain. They’re not doing it because they want to be healthy, they’re doing it to look good. While “looking good” (however you define that) can be a by-product of exercising and eating well, those that continue to work out long after they have achieved their aesthetic goals do it because they like how they feel physically when they’re active and eating right. You’ll often hear fit people say, ‘my mood is just better after I’ve worked out,’ or ‘I feel so crummy after I have a junk meal’ or even ‘the gym is my sanctuary.’ Still, others cite the confidence they’ve gotten from getting strong and being able to accomplish things they never thought possible for themselves.
I’m finally starting to understand this, some twelve weeks into my renewed fitness journey. Since getting my apple watch about 12 weeks ago, I have only missed a few days at the gym due to traveling (an ill-fated ski trip) and the cold I got during the aforementioned trip (really New York -6 degrees). While the scale hasn’t shifted a ton, I know I’m getting stronger. I love the feeling that I can do things that I couldn’t do just a week before. I love that I can run a little harder than I used to. I’m addicted to the feeling of accomplishing something that I would have never thought I could do. And my moods are so much more stable now. I’m rarely ever bloated because I watch what I eat. My immune system feels like it’s firing on all cylinders — I got over that cold much more quickly than others who got it.
This is the difference between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is a drive that comes from within. You gain intrinsic motivation to do something when you enjoy the activity or achieve competence in an activity. In other words, no longer are you driven to go to the gym for extrinsic reasons, like having a six-pack, instead you like going because you really like the rowing machine, or you’re starting to get really good at deadlifts. What you’re looking like doesn’t matter in your desire to go to the gym, you just like the experience of pushing yourself harder than you did yesterday, of reaching a new personal best. That’s where I’m at, I still have aesthetic goals but I also just like the experience of achieving new feats.
So working out is my daily act of self-love. A challenge that makes me feel my best, gives me confidence and makes me happy. At this point why wouldn’t I be kind to the body that carries me everywhere I go and shows me on a daily basis that I am capable of so much. Why wouldn’t I give my brain the rush it needs when it’s gotten me through every test, every hard case, and every seemingly unwinnable argument?
Tell me what can motivate you to go get a workout in besides just looking great. Let me know in the comments how you’re showing yourself some love and why you’re doing it.
Great post! So hard to sort out the different motivations. Maybe it’s ok to want to look good and go to the gym for that if you know health is a likely side effect? I think a lot of us have to set up these tricks to make our goals realities.
At some point I’ll do a piece that focuses on the science behind intrinsic motivation but from my own observation of myself and others, I have found that looking good isn’t enough to get you through the months where it seems like nothing is changing. A lot of people give up within those first three months of a new exercise regime because they don’t see anything changing or maybe even, gasp, put on a little weight which happens for a variety of reasons but can really discourage you when you’re just getting in to fitness. Ultimately those who stick with it do so because they love the activity or the feeling they get from the activity, and that’s the sweet spot!