You hear that word thrown around a lot in today’s fitness world. However, there is more to motivation than a simple buzz word.

Understanding where your motivation stems from and what the driving factors are behind your training is key to successfully achieving your fitness goals or even just getting to the gym on time!


This article will explore the notion of intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation and how to capitalise on which stage you are at to ensure you’ve got the tools at your disposal to make your fitness goals a reality.

Extrinsic motivation

This is where many start their fitness journey. Extrinsic motivation is any external influence.

If you are motivated to go to the gym for a reward or because you have a personal trainer, these are examples of extrinsic motivation.

Many people begin their fitness journey with much more extrinsic motivation compared to intrinsic. A person may see exercise as a chore or a requirement rather than an enjoyable activity or lifestyle.

Consider what motivates you to go to the gym or even what motivates you to complete other goals in your life.

Consider the motivating factors which influence your decision making. Are they based on money, family, health, a sense of duty? Understanding what you need to push you externally is important as everyone needs to feel supported in order to achieve success in some shape or form.

Good external influences can be:

Having a personal trainer and an appointment: this maintains accountability and also provides a support structure with exercise

– Exercising with friends: once again provides an external support structure and friends can generally hold each other accountable

– Having a reason to train such as a fitness event or work event

Intrinsic motivation

intrinsic and extrinsic motivation_2Everyone has some level of intrinsic motivation. These are the internal factors that push us such as determination, wanting to succeed or reach a specific goal.

People with high intrinsic motivation with regard to exercise are generally the ones who can get out of bed at 6am without needing an alarm.

They are driven without needing as many external pushing factors and will train due to fitness or health becoming a part of the lifestyle they lead.

Intrinsic motivation is generally developed over time

Consider yourself at the beginning of your fitness journey. You may not have liked certain exercises, you may have hated getting up early to make it to a session or some may even be slightly tempted to reschedule sessions.

Intrinsic motivation develops as self-efficacy develops, that is our confidence in our ability to do something and confidence in ourselves.

After six months of training, most people know what to expect. They understand the exercises, the delayed muscle soreness and most importantly, they would have seen some success or changes.

Some tips to help identify sources of motivation and barriers to fitness:

Understand your habits – ask yourself these questions…

– are you most productive in the morning or night

– what does your schedule look like, what are the most plausible times to train

– when are you tired or hungry throughout the day

– how does work influence your food habits

– what pushes you to train

– what do you believe stops you from training

– what is the hardest part about training (getting to the gym, the actual session, feelings before or after a session)

The above points should provide you with a general starting point to identify a few external and internal factors and how to keep yourself on the right path to success. Good luck!

Connect with Expert Lisa Dunn

WatchFit Experts change lives!

And they can do the same for you.


Pollyanna Hale Health and Lifestyle coaches
Lost 13 Kg in Total
Mel, 32y Location: London, United Kingdom Working with Pollyanna changed everything. I lost 13kg, got toned and have more energy than ever! Get same results!


Chriz Zaremba Fitness Consultant
Lost 45 Kg in Total
Chris, 50y Location: London, United Kingdom Lost 45kg after the age of 50 and now competes and wins physique competitions and runs marathons Check our weight loss plans