Why is it that some people actually enjoy exercise? What is about these enthusiastic individuals that means they relish the chance to pound the pavement and look forward to lifting weights? And, most importantly, can you also become someone who exercises for enjoyment (not because you feel you have to)?

The good news is, if you don’t actually enjoy working out you don’t need to sweat it. New research shows that the motivation to exercise doesn’t always come from within. You can leverage the talents of others to help you fall in love with fitness. It all comes down to choosing the right fitness instructor or training partner.

A recent study by Les Mills and Curtin University in Perth has highlighted the dramatic effect fitness instructors can have on whether you keep up, or give up, your exercise regime.

Ask Bryce Hastings, Les Mills Head of Research, about it and he explains that achieving the long term behavior change necessary to fall in love with fitness requires the conversion of extrinsic motivation into intrinsic motivation – and there’s a real art to doing this effectively. A talented fitness professional knows how to make it happen.

“When we first jump on the exercise bandwagon, most of us do so because we feel we have to,” says Bryce. “Perhaps a doctor or loved one has encouraged us to exercise, or we’ve put pressure on ourselves to better our body,” he explains. “With this in mind, the last thing we need is added pressure.”

“Being led through a workout by someone barking out orders and yelling at you to push through the pain is unpleasant and it creates more external pressure. While this pressure can stimulate an immediate response, this type of motivation won’t last forever – and it can even be detrimental when it comes to creating long term change.”

Studies show you are far more likely to fall in love with fitness if you steer clear of the “no pain, no gain” approach that is often synonymous with the hard core fitness scene.

Here’s what to look for in a fitness mentor:

Someone who…

  • Allows you to feel in control of your workout – they encourage you to push yourself when you can, take a break if you need to and even leave when you have had enough.
  • Is on the team with you – they don’t tell you “you have to” they inspire you with terms like “let’s…”
  • You can relate to, someone who empathizes with you and feels your pain when the going gets tough.
  • Recognizes your efforts and gives genuine meaningful praise which builds your confidence.
  • Explains why you’re doing specific exercises – when you understand the benefits you’re more likely to embrace the exercises with enthusiasm and shift behavior.
  • Wants to connect and shows a real interest in you – they take the time to get to know you, and understand your training goals.

This approach helps achieve motivation that is self determined – meaning you choose to be active because of how it makes you feel rather than because you feel you have to. This is the secret to long term behavior change.

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