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.

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