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Creating a Culture of Motivation for Exercise

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Shawn Stewart, the owner of CSS Fitness Holdings and Fuel Fitness, shares how to create a culture of motivation for exercise.

When Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “Training gives us an outlet for suppressed energies created by stress and thus tones the spirit just as exercise conditions the body.”

He couldn’t have imagined the challenges our members and community have faced with COVID-19. After two years of shutdowns and mandates, people have fallen out of healthy habits and routines, allowing COVID-19 to further help them justify not working out or visiting their club. Simply put, motivating people in a post-COVID world is different than in a pre-COVID world.

Whether you are motiving children, athletes, team members or people to exercise, it’s important to break down each level of motivation into the three forms: power, wealth and knowledge, and prepare a strategy for each.

Power as a motivator is using a threat or fear of something. The fear of not looking your best, gaining weight, being ‘fat,’ or self-conscious about social media pics, etc. While these fears used to be commonplace and often used as pseudo-motivation, they often lead to dangerous fad diets, yoyo working out and self-esteem issues. Using the power motivator can be effective if you shift the focus from fear and negative to a more holistic approach by better understanding mental health, exercising the soul and overall self-well-being.

Wealth is, in essence, a bribe but in a good way. It’s the carrot and stick. Using short term incentives to get people moving can be a great tool to motivate people to exercise, especially those who are novice exercisers. Using contests to win rewards based on visits, weight loss and other challenges, “frequent flyer” program for regular users, and celebrations recognizing member success can all be simple motivators to get people moving again.

The challenge with the first two forms of motivation – power and wealth – is they are both short term and superficial. Once the threat or the bribe is gone or no longer essential, the behavior goes away. The best way to motivate long term is through intrinsic motivation.

Knowledge is intrinsic motivation, the what’s in it for me (WIIFM). The deeper “why” of why someone should exercise. This is personal for every individual and inspiration is more important than ever. We need inspiration to exercise after being lock up in our homes for so long, including many who continue to work from home and lead a sedentary lifestyle. Now, as the science has proven and we in the fitness industry have always known, obesity was the No.1 factor in determining the severity of COVID-19. Yet, we never heard the government, the CDC, the AG, etc. speak on the issue of personal health. We only heard about vaccines and mandates.

Learn More: Episode 28 – Shawn Stewart on Being Better Than Yesterday

While these are certainly important, we now have clinical research and data that points to the importance of being in the best health possible. Masks can limit the spread of disease, vaccines can keep you from dying, but the best way to limit the severity of COVID-19, the variants, and many other issues is to be at your best health.

Examples of ways to create a culture of motivation for exercise include:

Fitness can be fun. Some people prefer to play games or compete rather than just exercise. Make the idea of exercising a game or competition and offer rewards for participation or meeting certain goals. Train for a charity event together. Get fit and raise money all for a good cause. For some, it’s easier to be motivated to exercise if it’s done for the greater good.

Exercise is a lifestyle. Activities that accomplish a task while also burning energy, such as walking the dog, parking in the furthest spot, mowing the lawn, biking to work or walking kids to school are important to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Have shorter workout options. A workout doesn’t have to last hours on end. There are great workout plans and options that achieve results in a fraction of the time.

Set short-term goals. Encourage friends to reward themselves by setting and achieving short-term fitness goals. 

Have an accountability partner. Offer a workout partner program or easy entry to work with a trainer. If someone knows you’re counting on them, they’re more likely to show up for workouts.

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Shawn Stewart

Shawn Stewart is the owner of CSS Fitness Holdings and Fuel Fitness.

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