Changing Words into Action, or, Oh God, This is Gonna Hurt

This is another article written for an Algonquin Fitness Zone newsletter.  It was written about the common New Year’s resolution to get in shape, but it’s really about making change and committing to it.  That’s a message which bears repeating.  Especially as this is the time that this year’s batch of Resolutions start to disappear from the gym and crawl back under their rocks.  (Don’t do it!!) Enjoy!

Ahhhh… January! It is the time of cold, snow and resolutions! As a new year begins many people look to make positive lifestyle changes. For many of those people, that decision leads them to a gym. Some of them are arriving there for the first time, some of them for the first time in years, but they all have one thing in common… they want to make a change in their lives. The nature of that change may vary from individual to individual (some may feel they are too big, while others may feel they are too small), but the details are unimportant. The common denominator is that their status quo is no longer acceptable to them.


I can relate to this as I made my first real foray into the gym as a New Year’s Resolution. I can even specifically remember the moment all those years ago that I stood in front of my mirror in residence and told myself that I could do better. Looking back I recognize that as a major turning point in my life, it was the day that my words began to change into actions. I would love to be able to tell you that after that moment every-thing was easy, that all the pieces fell into place and my workouts practically did themselves. Unfortunately, that would be a lie. I had only taken the first step of an endless journey, and the road ahead of me was paved with a lot of learning and more than a few awkward moments (ie. being stuck on a decline bench unable to lift the bar off my chest and having to roll it painfully up my torso just so I could sit up, but that’s not important right now). The truth is that it only takes a second to make a resolution, but living up to it takes effort every day. Recognizing the need for change is a critical first step, but it must be followed up by a commitment to making that change happen. Without commitment our words are just words, and just in case anybody has been mislead, words don’t do a lot of push-ups.


For every new Fitness-Zoner who has made it far enough to be standing here reading this newsletter, I applaud you and welcome you to the Fitness Zone! For those of you who haven’t, what are you waiting for?  It is a great gym with friendly staff who would love to give you a spot, answer questions or just talk shop. It is also important for you to know that this is YOUR gym! You have just as much right to be in here as the gorilla in the corner military pressing a squat rack and the yoga queen juggling kettle bells while running on the treadmill. Success around here isn’t measured by the shape that you are in but by the effort that you give. Now I challenge you to do the work. I challenge you to put in the effort and put in the time required to start your journey towards your personal goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your dream physique, but today is the day that you start.

P.S. If you have started and are thinking about quitting… you’re not allowed.

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‘Motivation in Exercise, or ‘Come on baby, light my fire’.

This is an article I wrote for the Algonquin Fitness Zone newsletter.  (Memberships at excellent rates, only $130 for four months for full-time Algonquin students.  Get ’em while they’re hot!)  I should point out that it is also this month’s front page article, but I’m reallllllly humble, so I won’t do that.

As I sat there it was minus 20 degrees outside… minus 31 with the wind-chill.  My couch was comfortable and warm.  It whispered seductively in my ear… ”stay home!”  The cold wind blasted against the window.  It screamed at me… “Stay home!”   A moment of uncertainty followed as I weighed my options.  Then a deep breath was followed by a long sigh and leaving my indecision behind, I stood up, bid my uber-comfy temptress goodbye, grabbed my warmest toque and headed towards the door.  I was going to the gym.

As I crossed the threshold of the doorway, bundled up like I was going to spend a month in the Arctic, I started to wonder about what had gotten me out the door.  What is the difference between doing it and not doing it?  What provided the spark?

The answer ofcourse, is motivation.  Motivation is the force that drives us, that spurs us, that urges us on to greater things.  It is also arguably THE most important component of any training regime.  You can have the time, the knowledge, the equipment and everything else, but if you don’t want it bad enough to actually do it, you’ve got nothing.

So, where does it come from?  How do you get it?  Can you buy it in a bottle?? Sadly… no.  It is trickier than that because different people are motivated by different things, so what might light my fuse might not work for you.  Still, a good starting point is to try and figure out what motivates you.

Social Needs Theory

Psychologist David McClelland suggests in his Social Needs theory that individuals are motivated by three different basic needs; achievement, power and affiliation.  The type of motivation that we lean towards is a product of our upbringing and experiences and most of us actually exhibit a mix of the three.

A person dominated by a need for achievement likes to accomplish things and is most successful when their program has goal-setting incorporated into it. They are also often motivated by competition, both against themselves and others.  Often they gear their training around events such as bodybuilding competitions or triathalons.

Individuals who are predominantly motivated by power have a need to be influential and are motivated by prestige and recognition.  This type of person may enjoy being seen as the fittest, biggest, strongest, or most dedicated person at the gym.  They can be more focused on the end result than the process of getting there.  This is the most dubious of the three types of motivation as it involves not only the person themselves but their impressions of and the attitudes of the people around them.

Those who are motivated by affiliation enjoy being a part of something.  They know that all the coolest people are at the gym and they want to be there and be part of that too.  For them to be most successful in their training they have to find ways to take advantage of that.  This person might consider joining a team or doing a fitness class.  They might also do well with a workout partner as their responsibility to each other and the ‘team’ would help keep them committed!

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

A discussion of motivation wouldn’t be complete without considering intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.  An example of extrinsic motivation would be promising to buy yourself a new pair of sneakers if you stick with your workout plan for a certain period of time or reach a certain goal.  This is perfectly fine but will probably only be viable for short-term goals.  At a certain point your motivation needs to come from somewhere deeper.

Intrinsic motivation on the other hand comes in the form of the positive feelings you have when you work hard, achieve goals, etc.  While a new pair of Nikes is an awesome prospect, the feeling that comes from sticking with your workouts and achieving your fitness goals will last long after your sneaks are in the trash!

Conclusion

The information in this article is by no means exhaustive.  Rather they are some bits and pieces intended to make you more aware and give you a starting point for further discovery (more information is only a Google away!).  At the end of the day, the best motivational tool is whatever gets you active and keeps you that way.   So try some different things, see what works and go with it.  And if anybody wants to motivate me by buying me some new sneaks, feel free!

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