We have two statements. One is a clear negative reinforcement and one is a positive. One tells you to keep going, you body is strong but the mind is weak. The other tells you that you need to look after yourself. One is much more powerful than the other in the long term.
Marketers have discovered that people respond more strongly to negative reinforcement than positive: ‘Don’t touch the pan, you’ll get burnt!’ Is a more powerful statement than ‘please be careful around the pan.’ We tend to use both positive and negative statements regularly, but which one resonates most depends on the current state of mind of that person.
Payday loan adverts use terminology around ease, convenience and almost miracle benefit in order to positively encourage people to sign up. Investment firms talk about saving and investment as a way to protect your future.
In a training context motivational statements are far more powerful as negative reinforcement; ‘You’re weak/overweight/out of shape, keep going.’ This works better on people than ‘you’re doing really well so far.’ Playing off people’s fears when they are new to exercise is powerful because that lack is something that is in their mind already.
However this is inherently ineffective. And this infers a wider issue. Namely, that people who are motivated by these negative statements choose to workout because they dislike something about themselves; it’s not a desire to nourish themselves that drives them, but a desire to punish themselves because of perceived failure.
That is the same attitude that pervades these hardcore sessions, that underpins HIIT training’s popularity, that makes people celebrate getting DOMS. I’m not saying you should avoid these things, but seeking that from every session is as insane as wishing to avoid challenge in every session.
This wider self loathing manifests in a number of different sports and training disciplines, and because people have been successful despite it, it has unfortunately become part of the way these training methods are taught. This means in effect there are plenty of people who are taught to identify self loathing through exercise as part of the route to success.
But a lack of care for yourself leads to injury, to poor technique and movement patterns, just as a negative motivational statement pushes you into a mindset of being compelled to exercise.
And compelling someone to do something never work in the long term. We always rebel against a rule we feel forced to abide by in the end.
Typically the internal discussion around exercise for someone negatively motivated to workout is along the lines of: ‘I have to exercise, and it has to be hard because otherwise it won’t benefit me and I’ll have wasted my time going.’ Consider that rather than: ‘I’m going to exercise today to make myself feel better and I’m going to do what I can as it will benefit me.’
What happens to the person with the first internal thought when they can’t go? They feel guilty and push even harder the next time, or they completely abandon exercise because they no longer feel compelled to do it.
And this is why motivation is bunk; any positive motivation is disregarded because they audience that is receptive don’t need it, whilst any negative motivation only works until the inner voice compelling them to obey is disregarded. Creating good habits is far more effective, choosing to do some form of exercise you enjoy for the duration of time and frequency you can manage is best.
So what is your opinion on motivation? Have motivational posts given you a sustained training regime? You can message me on Facebook or Instagram, or email me directly!