I am currently undertaking a research project on a topic relating to personal training and motivation (and adherence) and how perceptions of these two criteria differ between the personal trainer and the exerciser. I was wondering whether you could recommend any papers that specifically relate to personal training and motivation, adherence and/or positive experience. Any help would be appreciated.
Your question talks about a few different general issues (motivation, adherence and/or positive experience), each of which are chunky concepts worthy of lengthy exploration and endless evolutionary thought. However, I’ll take a moment to share a few of my general thoughts about the topic of motivation, which will likely flow over into the other two. Actually, in my opinion, true and lasting motivation really needs to start with the third component listed: positive experience. In a very big sense, when we are enjoying and connected to what we are doing, then not only are we exponentially more effective and productive, those first two components – motivation and adherence – become complete non issues. They happen quite naturally as a by product of the positive experience, and to me, that is the way it should be.
The only challenge is that we have trained pure joy right out of many of our experiences, so we have lost the notion and appreciation of how powerful it can be. We can certainly force adherence and generate motivation in other ways, and in fact, a vast majority of people in western society do this every day as they climb out of bed to go to work in the morning. Our whole modern high achievement society is built upon this sense of “no pain, no gain,” this “push hard and make it happen” view of motivation that says, “If it doesn’t feel good, just keep pushing until it does.” The funny thing is we have built up this big perception in the working and workout worlds that you have to “do this to get that.” You have to earn your good feeling experience by first putting in the hard yards. Endure pain, pay your dues and then you’ll be allowed the pleasure of the experience. In my opinion, this is an old paradigm which is ready to be flipped on its head slightly.
I may be an idealist, but my belief is that life and almost all the things we do and create in it (including working out) can and should be good feeling experiences. If they are not, quite simply, what is the point? It’s a short ride down here. Why spend any more time in pain and forced adherence than we need to?? In the awesome documentary film, The Secret (www.thesecret.tv) Jack Canfield (author of Chicken Soup for the Soul) states his mantra, “If it’s not fun, don’t do it.” I like that. Now, having said all this, as a former elite athlete and then a coach of elite athletes for many years, I also place high value on disciplined, focused effort and what many would consider to be “hard work.” So we need to keep one thing in mind: pain and pleasure, positive and negative are completely subjective phenomena, which are completely dictated by our own unique perceptions. What is a positive experience to one person may not be appealing at all to another. Some people love the feeling of an incredibly heavy weight pressing down on their backs, while to others, this is their version of hell. So how do we find the balance between pure pleasure and productivity? This is a slightly different answer for every individual (and one of the truly joyous challenges of the personal trainer to discover uniquely in each client!), and there were a few keys that have really helped me and others I have worked with and watched along the way. The essence is that we create our experience from the inside out by our thoughts, feelings and level of connection to what we are doing. When we allow ourselves (and our clients) to really connect with WHAT we really want and, more importantly, when take time to connect with WHY we really want it, then suddenly no one has to remind us to wake up in the morning or put in the extra effort. Suddenly it feels awesome to feel our self exerting full effort. And when it feels good to us, then that good feeling experience will continue to be returned and reflected in our outward experience.
One final thought
One of the fundamental laws of the universe, the Law of Attraction, tells us that like attracts like. In a very basic and profound sense, as we allow ourselves to generate and create in our bodies the feelings we wish to receive from our experience, we become energetic points of attraction to that which we desire. By embodying the principles of inner drive and positive experience in your own body as a trainer, you will find that you naturally draw to you clients who are ready to meet you and match you in that place. What an amazing world this is we live in.