Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lack of Motivation can Hold You Back

It is always helpful when starting a new workout program to do it with a friend.  In the case of Ben and Jack, they have been going strong for five weeks.  Even though Ben was the one who talked Jack into starting to workout, Jack has made greater gains in his workouts than Ben.  However, Jack would like to expand their workouts to more group activities other than just weight training, but Ben is reluctant to branch out to new exercises.  Rudy, their personal trainer, has noticed that Jack is not working out as hard as he normally does, and he doesn’t seem to be motivated.  Jack seems to be suffering from a lack of intrinsic motivation because the exercises are no longer interesting and challenging to him, and because Ben insists on only weight training, Jack feels he has no real choice in the activity.  Understanding motivation requires consideration of individual differences (Gill and Williams, 2008).  Therefore, because of the differences in workout interests, Jack is lacking motivation in his workouts.
            Rudy needs to find a way to help Jack get motivated again so he can start to see success in his workouts.  In order to do this, I believe Rudy’s first step is to talk with Jack about what his short and long term goals are.  This should help Rudy in determining how to motivate Jack.  It is not uncommon after doing the same type of workouts for weeks to get bored with them because of their repetitiveness.  Rudy and Jack together need to use the self determination theory to help figure out what drives Jack.  The self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985, 2002) examines motivation from a humanistic perspective. According to the self determination theory, there exist various forms of motivation that can be aligned on a continuum of self-determination, or greater choice and self endorsement of the behavior.  So this brings to question if the weight room is the right motivational environment for Jack to see the benefits he wants.  He has shown some interest in joining a group aerobic workout; therefore I think this is something Jack should pursue despite Bens reluctance.  Jack can still continue to workout with Ben with his weight training if he still has that as a goal, but he can also incorporate some of the group workouts on his own or with a different workout partner.  I also don’t see the harm in Rudy encouraging Ben to participate in the aerobic training to expand his exercise repertoire.  Ben may find that he actually likes the group workout setting and therefore would have a new challenge to add to his workouts.
            Rudy also needs to address the specific motivations Jack has.  “Two people in identical situations can have two different motivational experiences” (Gill and Williams, p. 132).  This is the case with Ben and Jack.  At the beginning their motivations may have been similar, but over time they have changed.  Gill and Williams (2008) suggest that understanding motivation requires consideration of individual differences and situational factors.  Helping us understand Jacks motivations means figuring out his intrinsic and extrinsic motivations.  Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations are believed to be conscious self-regulatory processes, therefore finding out what motivates Jack will help Rudy guide him towards his goals.  Extrinsic motivation is intentional and controlled by external forces (Gill and Williams, 2008); therefore if Rudy can find some external motivators for Jack he may be able to help move him in the right direction.  Some examples of external motivators or rewards would be a free aerobic class at the gym or a six-pack of Gatorade.  Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, may be a little more challenging for Rudy because it deals with Jacks internal motivations.  Figuring out Jacks intrinsic motivations is vital to Rudy helping him with his workouts.
            The final thing Rudy should focus on with Jack is his overall total effort.  Gill and Williams (2008) indicate that personal effort is an internal quality we can control individually.  Effort is controllable, however since Rudy cannot control Jacks effort, he needs to use internal or external attribution.  Attributions are the perceived causes of events and behaviors (Gill and Williams, 2008).  Perhaps Jack feels like he is a failure because he is not really being challenged anymore with only weight training.  Perhaps he is upset or annoyed with Ben because he feels like Ben is limiting him.  Whatever the reason, Jack needs to find his drive again.  People seem to take more pride in successes that they earn than in those that are due to external factors, therefore it is imperative that Rudy challenge Jack in the workouts so Jack feels challenged and satisfied.  This should help Jack get back on track and stay motivated for his exercise goals.


Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum Press Publishing Co.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (Eds.), (2002). Handbook of self-determination research. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.

Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Monday, October 11, 2010

There's more to running than just running

There are many different reasons people get involved in an exercise program.  It may be because of an injury and they need to do rehabilitation exercises.  Or the individual may be unhealthy and need to start an exercise program to prevent obesity or other health problems.  Many individuals get started in an exercise program simply to get into better shape, possibly lose a few extra pounds, and ultimately to feel better about themselves.  In order to keep up with whatever exercise regimen we choose, it is very helpful to implement a behavior plan.  If we can design an effective plan, we will have a higher likelihood of success.
If I were to design an exercise plan for myself, I would focus on getting into better shape and have a goal of running a 10K by the spring.  Including a behavioral plan with my training will help keep me focused on my specific goals and stay motivated to challenge myself and be successful.  I will use some of Spiegler & Guevremont’s (2003) steps to implementing a behavioral plan to assist me in designing an effective exercise program.  The first step is to clarify the specific problem, which is staying motivated to train even though I’m so busy.  So organizing a specific program that can be done with high intensity and a short amount of time would be most effective for me.
The second step is to formulate goals for my program.  “Participants should personally set their own performance goals because this increases their commitment to achieve the goals” (Gill and Williams, p. 102).  I agree that taking some ownership for the program will help me stay motivated.  One specific goal is to never go more than two days without doing a workout.  This way I won’t have to set specific days to workout, I can just make sure I don’t take too many days off.  With my busy schedule this time of year with travel and school, I feel this will allow me to have some flexibility, but still stay within the specific goals of my workout.  Taking days off when training for a run is actually encouraged.  Having at least two days free from a running schedule per week allows time for non-running activities (Kuscsik, 1989).  Also, you need to give your body a break.
The third step is to design target behaviors.  Training for a 10K is more than just going out for a run every other day.  There are many programs I can choose from to help me train and prepare for my run.  Choosing a specific program and sticking to it will be key for success.  I also need to make sure I can measure my success throughout the program.  For example I can keep track of my ‘minutes per mile’ pace and work on challenging my intensity with some of my runs.  This will help me continue to stay motivated and at the same time benefit my training.  Training runs will be different each day, with some being farther and others being shorter with more intensity.  Many people think you have to train constantly at a fast pace or you won't be able to run a fast race. Kuscsik (1989) believes that a combination of paces during your training--both easy and harder--will give you the energy, efficiency, and stamina to run a great race.
The fourth step in incorporating my behavior plan is maintaining my target behavior.  The main way to do this is to use the ABC model Gill and Williams (2008) introduce us to.  Getting myself in the right frame of mind before, during, and after my workouts will benefit my training.  I think the most important aspect of the ABC model is the (C) consequences.  How I feel after I am finished with my workout really helps me stay motivated in the long run.  Running is not my favorite type of exercise, but I enjoy it enough and feel great after I have had a good run.  Therefore, maintaining my training goals and intensity levels I set for myself will help me stay on track.
The final three steps in Spiegler & Guevremont’s (2003) behavioral plan are designing a treatment plan, implementing the plan, and evaluating the plan.  I think these three steps are very important, and can also be incorporated together.  Gill and Williams (2008) talk about reinforcement as “any stimulus, event, or condition whose presentation immediately follows a response and increases the frequency of that response.”  For me, positive reinforcement works best.  Getting acknowledgement for my training by my training partners and the feeling of accomplishment are both examples of positive reinforcement for me. 
The final part of my behavioral plan will be mental training.  Since running is not my favorite type of exercise, allowing myself to use imagery will also benefit my training.  Keeping myself in a positive, relaxed frame of mind will help me before and during my runs.  Porter and Foster (2003) explain that each time you 'see' yourself performing exactly the way you want with perfect form, you physically create neural patterns in your brain. These patterns fire the signal to the muscle to move. It tells each muscle how to move, when to move, and with how much power.  Incorporating the use of mental training and this behavioral plan with my exercise program will help me have more success as well as help me enjoy my training.

Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Kuscsik, N. (1989). How to improve your 5k and 10k times. Women's Sports and Fitness, 11(4), 30.

Porter, K., & Foster, J. (2003). The Mental Athlete. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Spiegler, M.D., & Guevremont, D.C. (2003). Contemporary behavior therapy (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Don't Forget to Have Fun

When working with youth athletes, it is sometimes easy to get caught up in their techniques, skills, and overall physical talent.  There are times when we simply overlook their mental training, and just allowing them to have fun and enjoy their sport.  Take into consideration this young tennis athlete who has developed great physical potential, but he allows outside factors such as officials’ calls, opponents moves, and other distractions affect his play.  The emotional side of sports is very important in the development of young athletes.  It helps teach them how to deal with challenging situations and circumstances such as tougher competition, weather conditions, or when they are just having an off day physically.  Gill & Williams (2008) indicate that even slight physical changes, such as increased muscle tension, can interfere with coordination.  Therefore, focusing on how we can teach this athlete to relax and not get worked up will help his mental and physical game.
Forty-five percent of American youth, or 20 million children ages 6-18, participate in organized sports in non-school-sponsored events alone (Chambers, 1991). 
Youth sport participation has grown tremendously over the years, and we need to remind ourselves why it is the youth of today play sports in the first place.  Gill, Gross, and Huddleston (1983) and Gould, Feltz, and Weiss (1985) surveyed over 1,500 youths on participation motivation. Their data showed that the primary reasons for adolescent athletic involvement are: (1) fun, (2) skill development, (3) excitement and personal challenge, (4) achievement and status, (5) fitness, (6) energy or tension release, and (7) friendship.  Of these motivation characteristics, I believe incorporating fun, excitement and personal challenge, and skill development are the main ones to focus on at this camp.  Therefore, when working with our youth tennis athlete, we need to try and incorporate these characteristics in his practices so he can carry them over into competition.
            In an extensive youth sport study in Michigan, Sapp and Haubenstricker (1978) reported that "having fun" was the reason youth gave most frequently for participating in sports.  We need to make sure we are not over stressing skill development in place of enjoyment for the game of tennis.  Skill development is of course very important, but we should try and give the athlete fun, game like drills to enhance his performance as well as allow him to enjoy what he is doing.  Scanlan and Passer (1978) found that fun was the most potent predictor of the amount of postgame anxiety experienced by youth participants.  They showed that children who had more fun were less anxious after the game.  This relationship was true for both winners and losers.
            Now of course we want our young tennis athlete to be successful, so we will also incorporate personal challenges into his practices and competitions.  It is not always about winning, especially at this level, but we still want to keep things competitive.  We know his skill level and need to challenge him both mentally and physically to help him develop as an athlete.  Setting mini-goals such as serving percentage and winning consecutive points can help him see successes even if he is not “winning” the match.  We also need to incorporate positive self-talk in order to help the athlete work through challenging situations on the court.  Helping athletes shift their focus from negative thoughts to specific actions might well enhance performance (Gill & Williams, 2008).  So in practices, we should purposely put the athlete in challenging conditions so he can practice working through these situations.  Some examples would be loud crowd noise, an annoying opponent, and inconsistent line judges or officials.  “Teaching emotional control in exercise or youth programs can not only enhance the activity experience but also build emotional-control skills for life enhancement” (Gill & Williams, p.191).
            In conclusion I believe there are many little things we can incorporate into training youth athletes today.  It is easy to get caught up in competitions and games both for the athlete and the coach.  So it is important to incorporate game play and fun into practices while still working on skill development.  It is also very important to incorporate mental training such as self-talk in order to practice challenging situations the athlete may face.  We need to make sure we as coaches and trainers are providing an enjoyable environment for our youth athletes.  Sports can have a tremendous impact on a child’s life, and how we teach and develop their physical and mental skills is going to affect how they develop as a person.  It the situation with our youth tennis athlete; he will leave camp hopefully with some sort of self-satisfaction and accomplishment. Ideally he will take with them a fulfillment of his motives to participate, a feeling of fun and excitement for tennis, less anxiety and stress, and higher overall self-esteem.

Chambers, S. (1991). Factors affecting elementary school students' participation in sports. The Elementary School Journal, 91(5), 413-419.

Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Gill, D. L., Gross, J. B., & Huddleston, S. (1983). Participation motivation in youth sport. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 14, 1-14.

Gould, D., Feltz, D., & Weiss, M. (1985). Motives for participating in competitive youth swimming. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 16, 126-140.

Sapp, M., & Haubenstricker, J. (1978). Motivation for joining and reasons for not continuing in youth sports programs in Michigan. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, Kansas City, MO.

Scanlan, T. K., & Passer, M. W. (1978). Factors related to competitive stress among male youth sport participants. Medicine and Science in Sports, 10, 103-108.