How To Make Them Want More (Exercise, That Is)

Exercise isn’t always fun. Not every single time. Sometimes a work out is amazing, and you feel as though you were on the ball. There are other days though, where you just don’t want to get out of bed, and believe me, I’ve had many a day such as that one. In fact, I had that day this morning, all cuddled up in my bed. I had a rough night and barely got any sleep. 5:30am rolled around, and my entire body was in protest as I rolled out and proceeded to put on my work out clothes. My brain was practically screaming at me to get my ass back into the cozy bed and forget about exercise.

See, I’m an average Joe. I’m a real person. I go to the gym dressed in ratty clothing and I don’t wear make-up. I never shower before I work up a sweat, and my hair this morning resembled that of a rat’s nest pulled back into a haphazard ponytail. Yes, I’m passionate about fitness but I’m still human. I won’t paste on a smile and tell you, “It’s always great. It’s always amazing.” That would be a lie. Here’s the truth, though: I always feel better afterwards. Dragging myself out the door for a run or to the gym might be torture in the beginning, but something amazing really does happen AFTER I put that effort in. I know there will be some days that I feel on my game, and other days where I don’t, and it’s OK- because it’s OK to have good and bad days. I won’t stop living my life over bad days, right? So, why should I drop exercise for the same reason?

There is definitely a mentality when it comes to fitness. What propels us to keep going? Initially, it’s about an individual’s choice to make a change in their life. It all begins within, and no one can make that choice for someone. Not everyone will be in the same place when it comes to fitness related activities. There are stages that we go through when it comes to fitness, called the Transtheoretical Model of Behavioral Change (TTM). As listed:

First, PRECONTEMPLATION. This is when a person is still sedentary, and not even considering an exercise program. They don’t see fitness as relevant.

Second, CONTEMPLATION. The person is still sedentary, but starting to think more about working out and the importance of fitness in regards to health. They still aren’t ready to make a commitment though to change.

Next, PREPARATION. There will be some physical activity, as the person starts to mentally and physically get ready to stick to a fitness program. During this phase, a walk here or there, or even a visit to a gym periodically may occur. It’s still inconsistent though.

Fourth, ACTION. In this stage, the person will start to engage in regular activity, but it’s been less than 6 months.

The final stage is MAINTENANCE. Regular activity for longer than 6 months.

Usually, a group fitness instructor (GFI) will work with people in the preparation stage. a GFI needs to be very supportive. Giving assurance and support will help to keep a new participant coming back.

There are ways to motivate someone in each stage. In the PRECONTEMPLATION stage, you can provide information re: the benefits vs. risks of fitness. Help to make inactivity a relative and important issue. In the CONTEMPLATION stage, provide opportunities for questions, and provide information on exercise in general. For PREPARATION, provide the opportunity to be active, and give lots of support and feedback. If they have concerns, let them express it. If they don’t seem excited about certain work out routines, offer a variety so they have choices. For those in the ACTION stage, give continued support and feedback, knowing that there might be triggers that will get someone off the path to fitness. For those in the MAINTENANCE stage, keep the exercise environment enjoyable and change things up to prevent boredom.

So much goes into how a person views exercise. It’s more than just the individual. The people around them as well as their surroundings can influence the way they feel about exercise. Examples:


Demographics: Education, income, age and gender play a role. Lower levels of activity are seen with those who are getting older, fewer years of education as well as lower income. Age though has been shown to be unrelated to whether someone sticks with a work out program.

Health Conditions: Obesity or cardiovascular disease shows a weaker want for fitness. These groups are less active, and less likely to stick with a work out program.

Activity History: This is the most important. Past participation will be a good indicator of current participation.

Psychological Traits: There are some who are more self-motivating than others.

Knowledge, Attitudes, and Beliefs: The way you think or feel about exercise is a huge indicator of how active you will be. People who feel as though they are in good health will usually stick with a fitness program, vs. those who already feel they are in poor health. Locus of control is the belief that you have person control over health outcomes.


Access: If you have a gym close to your house, you will be more inclined to go, vs. one that is far away.

Time: A lack of time is the most common excuse for not working out, and for dropping out of an exercise program. People think they just can’t fit it into an already packed day. If someone isn’t very interested already, they won’t make the time for fitness. We tend to make room for the things we truly enjoy. As a GFI, you can help participants in dealing with time constraints, and finding a time that works well for the participant.

Social support: Family and friends supporting your goals is a very important indicator. If you don’t have support, it’s hard to stick with the routine.


Intensity: The drop out rate in vigorous intensity work outs is almost twice as high as moderate intensity work outs. When people are able to choose what they want to do, most will choose the moderate work out.

Injury: When people become injured, they drop out of the fitness class.

So, based on all of these different factors, how does someone acquire motivation?

There are many ways for a person to become ¬†motivated, from within as well as from external sources. Some people are self-motivators, while others are not. It’s hard to know from looking at someone where their motivation comes from. If someone has intrinsic motivation, they engage in fitness because they truly enjoy it. Nothing else motivates them, other than what they feel inside. These people would continue to work out even if given a magical pill that would make them super toned and trim, because they just love it so much. There are very few out there who are intrinsically motivated. Most people are extrinsically motivated. They enjoy the group classes for the company and camaraderie, to earn a reward, or to see results.

A form of extrinsic motivation is called INTROJECTION. People who have introjection are sticking to work out goals merely for other people, not for themselves. Maybe a spouse has indicated a need for weight loss, or someone told them they need to tone up more. These people are likely to feel controlled, tension and guilt, as well as pressure to perform and to do well.

The best way to keep people interested and to keep them coming back, is to show support, dedication, and honesty. If someone complains about how sore they are, let them know that you are also sore. That a move is tough for you, too. Showing your human side and identifying with the person builds that camaraderie and support system, that you can get through this together. If you see a participant struggling, let them know they can modify what they are doing for their comfort, or if someone wants to get more of a work out, offer moves that will help them to reach their goals. Each person in the class is there for a different reason, and the GFI is there to motivate them and to guide them, and to help them to achieve those fitness goals.

The real me, after a work out.
The real me, after a work out.





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