The word “intrinsic” means “naturally occurring; essential.” Intrinsic exercisers are those that exercise for the sake of exercising; enjoying the process itself rather than for external rewards.
Extrinsic motivation, like looking more toned, losing weight, being healthier, has been found to keep people less consistent over time. We often don’t see those types of results fast enough to keep us motivated when the newness wears off.
I read a psychology today article talking about the motivations behind really successful exercisers. Here are some practical steps you can take to promote your internal motivation for exercise, increasing the likelihood that you’ll stick with it:
It’s hard to enjoy exercising for the sake of exercising when you don’t enjoy what you’re doing. There are many types of physical activity; I encourage you to keep trying things until you find something that makes you forget you’re burning calories. There are no rules to this life, so figure out what works for you and don’t quit until you do! The classic gym grind isn’t for everyone, don’t give up just because you don’t enjoy the gym.
About 10 years ago my dad started taking fencing classes. Swords & face guards fencing (think Lindsey Lohan in The Parent Trap). It ended up being something he loved and a great workout as well. He researched, focused on learning new techniques, looked into new stretches to assist with the necessary flexibility to improve, and truly enjoyed his time. These classes were not a chore for him, even though he was doing some hard physical work. This is key to sticking with your goals. The skill your activity takes as well as the focus on improving that skill will keep you from feeling like you’re suffering through a workout.
Everyone talks about the “runner’s high,” right? According to Hopkin’s Medicine, this “high” is not due to endorphins like popular culture says.
“That relaxed post-run feeling may instead be due to endocannabinoids — biochemical substances similar to cannabis but naturally produced by the body.
Exercise increases the levels of endocannabinoids in the bloodstream, Linden explains. Unlike endorphins, endocannabinoids can move easily through the cellular barrier separating the bloodstream from the brain, where these mood-improving neuromodulators promote short-term psychoactive effects such as reduced anxiety and feelings of calm.” (Hopkins Medicine)
The article also talks about the long term benefits of regular cardiovascular exercise and how it combats depression and fatigue. I can definitely say I’ve experienced this myself. There have been a few times where I felt like I needed to cry, but I told myself I’d wait until after my workout. By the end, I really don’t need to cry anymore.
The bottom line is that our bodies need movement for a multitude of reasons whether we feel like it or not; focus on these intrinsic traits of exercise to keep the motivation up when you don’t feel like doing anything!