A closer look at: motivation

… what it is, where it comes from and how to make sure it stays. By Christina Nettek

Motivation is almost always an issue, whether in sports or in terms of general life goals – like getting a better job or working on your relationship. There may be many reasons why someone decides against something or disagrees with something. Let’s take “working out” as an example. You might not want to work out because you are tired, you just had too much to eat or it’s raining heavily. However, no matter what your so-called “reasons” are, underneath them there is always something else, something more powerful. Something that pushes you, or doesn’t. Motivation.

But what exactly is motivation?

If we take a closer look at motivation, one differentiates between the everyday and the specialized psychological concept of motivation. In the everyday context motivation is the pursuit of goals, for example in a career, in a relationship or in sports.

In the psychological sense, the concept of motivation stands for the urge for activity. It does not matter whether this activity is useful or not, the motivation is neutral, meaning without evaluation and is only there to bring us forward. It therefore has a purely guiding, directing and driving function. Classic motifs can be:

  • social needs (e.g., relationships),
  • security (e.g., financially),
  • ambition (to be the best in a certain area),
  • helplessness in certain situations or (the opposite) the pursuit of power,
  • and finally curiosity.

Why do we do sports at all?

Take extreme athletes as an example and what kind of life-threatening things they do, inevitably you have to ask yourself what makes them carry on. Sure, often, they are simply looking for the ultimate rush of adrenaline. However, they are increasingly driven by very simple motives, such as wanting to balance out their stressful and demanding careers. The word “compensation” is key and means finding something you want to do for yourself. Something that will do you good or just helps you to relax. Classic motifs for sports can be:

  • enjoyment of movement – you feel good and free;
  • experience of expressing oneself;
  • social interaction – team sport, in the sense of “together we are strong”;
  • relaxation – getting rid of tension;
  • challenge – achieving a goal, e.g., running a certain distance in a certain time;
  • health awareness – you want to stay fit or take action;
  • material profits – prize money at tournaments;
  • and many more…

“Only those who know their goal, find the way.“

Laozi, Philosopher

Motivation can be lost quite quickly though. A phenomenon that probably every one of us has already experienced. At the beginning you are incredibly enthusiastic about a type of sport, buy new equipment and work out five times a week. However, as time goes by, your desire to continue with your workout is slowly fading. And sometimes it even disappears completely. What you can do about it? Personal trainer Brigitte Tebbich might have the answer for you.

Insights of a personal trainer:

To get more insight in terms of sports-related motivation, we interviewed Brigitte Tebbich, a personal trainer. She is 59 years old and has worked out with people her whole life. Today she shares her experience on how to keep her customers motivated with us.

How and why do people start their fitness journey?
Today it is an age issue – the under 30 year olds want a defined body in order to be more stylish, people over 30/35 focus on health, muscle building, tightening and fat loss.

How do you keep them enthusiastic during the first weeks? Is there a specific point, or a certain period of time when motivation starts to decrease?
People who have decided to go to the gym usually bring a lot of enthusiasm, but it is important to set the right goals. Usually, motivation decreases as soon as the workout gets boring and especially when they don’t see immediate progress, which can be after 2-3 months, sometimes earlier.

How can you trigger motivation? What are your secret tips?
To motivate every individual customer is always a challenge for me. My piece of advice for all trainers: Pay attention to the body language of the customer and make time for short conversations. Each person might be motivated by another technique; to figure out the right one, that is the job of the trainer. Also fun and new exercises always help!

Different personalities need different approaches? Group vs single training?
I found out that people who have a demanding job book individual training more often. These people want a trainer who does the thinking for them. Ideal to unwind. Most others like to work out in the group. Both types of training are motivating and communicative at the same time.

What do you do, when someone is thinking about giving up? Is there a way to get them motivated again?
It always depends on what their reason is. Sometimes a break is necessary. However, it is always important to detect the loss of motivation early on.

How can people make fitness a part of their lifestyle, so that they don’t lose motivation?
The easiest thing is to integrate the workout into everyday life. Routine helps many people and motivates them. If the daily routine is firmly anchored, it makes it more difficult to interrupt it. Thereby a certain amount of motivation is created more or less automatically.

One last advice on how to keep people going and reaching their goals?
Make small steps and don’t rush into anything. Set yourself short-term goals that can be reached easily and motivate you to go on. And of course, never give up.

What is your favourite motivational phrase?
If you can dream, you can do it.


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