The Motivation Paradigm

One of the misconceptions that newer students have to overcome is the belief that exercise is something they “should” do for good health. Amazingly, the promise of good health is actually a very poor motivator for exercise. 

Jane Brody writes in this New York Times article that the eventual promise of good health is hard to use as a daily motivator when your day is full of more immediate temptations and distractions. (Jane Brody is one of my longtime favorite health and nutrition writers. Check out her cookbooks.)

Brody writes that good health is too big and abstract a concept to overcome the daily temptations we all face. Good health is always something we can address tomorrow…or until we have a major health event.

But if good health is a poor motivator, what else have we got?


  1. Author

    Vivienne, I love your story because it so clearly speaks of the important relationship that can exist between instructor and student. It’s clear that you care about your students. Please keep sharing.

  2. Timely article…..for me as well as my class members. I’m still struggling with personal motivation following another summer of deconditioning in Colorado.

    Thanks also for the link to Jane Brody’s article and a stand out phrase that I’ve started to repeat “Consistency trumps quantity” (and even “quality”, come to that). A long time regular (in an irregular sort of way) has been showing up for every class for a few weeks now……made a bit of a joke along the lines of looks like he’s down for a commited relationship rather than a few one-night-stands. Turns out his doctor wants him to lose 30 lbs so, after a bit of convo about how to acheive it best, it transpired that he’s been diagnosed with T2D…..with the need for metformin and regular glucose monitoring. Had cause to mention the value of regular monitoring during the day after exercise as exercise=increased insulin sensitivity in the muscles. Had my best thought on the way home though (and also after reading this post)…….and this is something to take on board for any folk with such issues in their classes…..he’s now becoming a consistent *trainee*. Not only that, he’s starting to listen to cues and try to work a bit harder than his old self. With consistency comes increased fitness and the ability to work harder in real terms for the same level of perceived exertion……and, I suspect, the potential for hypoglycemia in someone who’s diligent about taking their meds and keeping blood glucose under tight control.

    Note to self#1:… an emergency energy gel in the gym bag “just in case” and a reminder to measure glucose levels for a few hours (the whole day would be good….)

    Note to self#2:…..walk the walk yourself, Vivienne!!

  3. Author

    Thank you, Ellen. This is such an important issue for our students. We all struggle with it at one time or another. Imagine the value we can add to our classes if we can offer some help. I am really happy it worked well for you.

  4. This was awesome in my class today. Very well thought out. Thanks

  5. Great article Bill. I have been thinking about this subject recently as I am about to start Izabela’s 50 Class Cycle SMART Challenge across all the gyms where I teach. 120 days. 50 classes. 4 months. Goals set at the start. Each month has an additional 30 day interim challenge. Thank you for that. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

    1. Izabella, this sounds awesome! I would love to hear more about it, perhaps we can do a podcast about this and inspire other instructors and studios to do something similar!

  6. I love the concept of reframing. When I first read the linked NYT blog article, it made me think of how I sometimes talk myself out of going for a mtn bike ride. I work at home and theoretically could take a ride mid-day…but I come up with excuses that usually sound like this:
    – I’m an entrepreneur! I need to work a full day like “normal” people before I can go out and exercise!
    – Let me write just one more article (or paragraph)…then another, then another, then…ooops, it’s 6 pm, guess I can’t ride and have to make dinner!
    – ugh, think of the time it will take to get dressed, get my camelback filled, get my bike ready….I’ll do it later.
    – I’ll have to shower after, much better to wait.

    I have several quick, hard rides I can do right from my door with minimal prep time, from 45 to 60 minutes, just like taking a class. And when I DO get out and ride, 100% of the time, I feel better, 100% of the time my head is clearer, and 100% of the time I am more productive afterward.

    But admittedly I talk myself out of it more than I’d like to admit.

    So I am working on reframing those thoughts, just like Bill suggests in this article. I am SOOOOO much better off when I overcome my obstacles and get out for that ride. I actually waste less time at my desk.

    We can help our riders do the same thing with their days, by finding out the excuses they use do NOT come to class, and helping them reframe them into positive outcomes instead of excuses that keep them from doing what they need and want.

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