May Motivation: It Matters More What You Tell Yourself

Let’s talk motivation! How can we as a gym best motivate each other? Many of you may have noticed, simply by coming, that you are 1.) in a way, self-motivated to get to the gym, but then once here, the group/class will 2) tend to push you a little harder than you would have pushed yourself without them. That is a good thing and a good reflection to make. Exercise and the decision-making process in general, feels more autonomous when the individual is involved in a group atmosphere (Murcia et al., 2008). Meaning, that “push” the class gave you really did come from within. You just aren’t giving yourself enough credit for it, and that’s because the mind associates autonomy through being part of a group. It’s true! At least per some unbiased science. This means, you can and should use a healthy/positive group environment when making other potential life decisions.  

The only downside to this is that you simply can't travel all day, every day with your best, most influential gym bestie, now can you? Nope! So, one must learn to understand true self-motivation and intrinsic decision making factors. The self-determination theory (SDT) is meant to bring an understanding to the psychological needs that are behind one’s motivation level to engage in physical activity and self-growth (Oliver, Markland, Hardy & Petherick, 2008). Interpersonal communication that occurs during a task, such as completing an exercise program, can affect the feeling of autonomous support in the environment; influencing a person’s self-talk and behavior towards the task (Oliver et al., 2008). Self-talk can include innate speech, inner dialogue, private speech, oral rehearsal, and egocentric talking (Oliver et al., 2008).

Research suggests that self-talk is influenced by environmental conditions; autonomous environments producing more positive self-talk than controlling environments (Oliver et al., 2008). When in an autonomous environment, individuals use self-talk, such as, "let’s go", as a means to control their concentration on a task; while self-talk in a controlling environment, such as, "I should be better at this", is used to offset the feeling of one’s autonomy being threatened (Oliver et al., 2008). Further more, a phrase such as, "You have to do this", could be perceived as encouraging and supportive to one person, or demanding and stressful to another person (Oliver et al., 2008).

Knowing this, it’s time to practice self-talk! Write down phrases that motivate you, share them with other, and say them to yourself! Thinking isn’t the same as hearing, so literally say them to yourself. Also, organize which phrases are most motivating, and which are not, and share with others. This is your coach asking you as a community to do this, so if anyone looks at you funny, please refer them to this blog.

This is just one tactic for motivation, unlike extrinsic motivation (which exists all around us). This is the highest quality motivation because it will re-hardwire the way your body responds to stressors internally versus needed something externally. 



Oliver, E. J. , Markland, D. , Hardy, J. , & Petherick, C. M. (2008). The effects of autonomy-supportive versus controlling environments on self-talk. Motivation and Emotion, 32, 200-212.

Murcia, J. A. M., Roman, M. L. S., Galindo, C. M., Alonso, N. & Gonzalez-Cutre, D. (2008). Peers’ influence on exercise enjoyment: A self-determination theory approach. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 7, 23-31.