Experience is a Great Motivator

Copyright 2006 Ainsley Laing

Do you know the saying, “we are all a product of our experiences”?

If you have gone through a major life change or trauma which created the physical symptoms of anxiety or grief, you understand how physically uncomfortable this can be with stomach aches, elevated heart rates and such. Not only do these symptoms happen at the time; but often months or years later, a memory of the event can trigger these symptoms again. These are strong emotions associated with big events.

Most of us like to avoid uncomfortable feelings whenever possible, right? I know I do. With big, life altering events, it’s easy to recognize memories and events that “trigger” bad feelings. The emotions are strong and hence the physical response is strong as well. But what about lesser events?

AND…What does this have to do with fitness? Ok, Ok…I’m getting there!

Let’s say you are a 35 year old man who was an athlete in High School. You developed a nice athletic body that has served you well. But lately, you are feeling like you look a bit “soft” and feel sluggish. So you decide that you should work on your body some.

So, off to the gym. After all, you used to be very fit, so it should be easy to get it back. You enter the gym. It’s big, busy and intimidating. But, the people working out don’t look like professional body builders, just normal people. You begin to feel comfortable.

Since it’s your first time at the gym, you are assigned a Fitness Trainer to help you get started. You don’t really need help, you tell yourself…after all you are in pretty good shape for 35. The trainer helps you to a treadmill and asks you to walk for 5 minutes to warm up. Instead of walking, you jog. It hasn’t been that long since high school, has it?

After that, the trainer takes you through a series of machines and free weights and explains how to use them and what weight levels to start with. The trainer then hands you your card record, wishes you luck and encourages you to ask for help anytime. Off you go…

Now the moment of truth: you are worn out from the treadmill, and barely strong enough to do the weight levels and exercises on your card! After a few minutes, you feel so tired, discouraged and even embarrassed because all the people around you suddenly seem to be SO much stronger and more accomplished than you.

The next day, you are too sore to move! An emotionally negative experience for sure.

There are 2 ways to go here: you can tell yourself that it’s just not for you. This way, you don’t have to go back and face those negative feelings again. OR you can use those emotions to galvanize you to action!

Fitness is what I like to call a “great equalizer”. In other words, if you do it, you get stronger and better. If you don’t do it, you will not get stronger and better.

Like painting a house, each trip to the gym is another coat of paint. It gets easier both physically and emotionally with each workout. Very quickly, it feels good to be there. Then it feels good to see changes and get stronger. Then, you start seeking the next challenge with excitement.

Not to mention that after a while, you start to make friends at the gym and feel a part of something.

I have used a gym workout as an example, but the same holds true for the sports you choose to be involved in. You do it, you get the physical benefits. Getting the physical benefits leads to positive emotions. The positive emotions motivate you to repeat the experience rather than avoid it. Repeating the experience causes you to get fitter which brings more positive emotions…and so on.

So, if you are having trouble starting or staying with a fitness activity, take a visit inside yourself to see if past experiences and emotions are holding you back. You might be surprised what you learn.