Seeing pictures of super-fit men and women may push you to get in shape, but psychology dictates that relying on "fitspiration" for motivation may hurt more than it helps. Here's why.
Image by antoniodiaz
According to fitness coach and author Lawrence Judd, who runs operations at Shredded by Science and Elite Fitness Mentoring, there are two types of motivation: intrinsic motivation (e.g. "I want to run because I enjoy it and want to improve") and extrinsic motivation ("I run because I want to lose 5kg"). According to Lawrence:
Think of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation like flying a jet.
Extrinsic motivation is akin to flying a jet with the afterburners on maximum — you'll go very fast, it will be very intense, but the effect will be relatively short-lived.
Intrinsic motivation is like switching the afterburners off, flicking autopilot on and cruising to your destination with the minimum of fuss — just remember that in order to reach this, you have to do your pre-flight checks, take off and get up to cruising altitude. Intrinsic motivation takes preparation and time to develop.
According to Lawrence, the problem with "fitspiration" — which corroborates much of what I've seen myself in the wild — is that a majority of it it aims to do three things:
- Focuses on exercise as some form of punishment
- Focuses on the external goal: a physique ideal
- Aims to cause serious guilt
This mentality is diametrically opposite to intrinsic motivation, because it equates exercise to punishment and guilt, rather than improvement and self-efficacy. To succeed long term in fitness, exercise must be a source of self-love and happiness. Fitspiration, on the other hand, turns exercise into one of the numerous things in life we have to beat ourselves up about, which reduces its ability to work.
Why Fitspiration is Killing Your Motivation [ShreddedbyScience.com]