The Psychology and science of MOTIVATION ! Get ready for some geek mode. So I am not a qualified psychologist I will be open about that but I study sports psychology as part of my degree and there is also elements of psychology within the personal training qualification I am half way through, so I would say I have some knowledge on the subject.

Motivation is such a crucial factor within fitness and life so understanding it a bit more may help you to find your own motivation and stay motivated.


Types of Motivation

  • INTRINSIC: To perform an activity for its’s own Sake (e.g Enjoyment)
  • EXTRINSIC: To perform an activity as a means to an end (e.g winning)

The 3 Psychological needs that drive us

The 3 psychological needs outlined by Self-Determination theory are the three things that when supported and facilitated allow for greater motivation

  • Competence

This is mastering a skill and learning how to do something 

  • Autonomy

Being able to control your own outcomes and behaviours

  • Relatedness

Relating to others and being involved in the social world

Motivational climates

There are 2 motivational climates that exist that…

  • Mastery Climate

This climate is associated with learning how to master skills, personal progression and involvement

  • Performance Climate

A performance climate is characterised by public evaluation and social comparisons

As you can imagine in the research mastery climate has been related to positive outcomes such as higher levels of effort and enjoyment, greater self-efficacy (confidence) and a more positive attitude. Performance climates tend to have more negative outcomes such as boredom, tension and beliefs that ability alone will lead to success.

Now it’s your turn

So I’ve explained the basics and that’s great but you want to know how this can benefit you.

Firstly assess whether you think your more intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. It’s good to have a balance of the two but sway  towards being intrinsically motivated. Look to make goals that satisfy both and don’t just focus on a means to an end.

Address the 3 psychological needs. How can you satisfy competence? Maybe you need to go to a club or join a team whereby you can learn and practise new skills. Maybe you need to start recording your technique, practicing and then reviewing footage to see how you’ve improved and how to continue to master new skills,

Satisfying Autonomy is all about you being in control. Firstly if you decide to make goals, make sure they are your own goals and not ones that have been set by others for you. Get involved with your training schedule or training programme; talk to your coach so that you can tailor it to what you want allowing you to feel more in control.

Relatedness shouldn’t be too hard. you could join a local team or club to get involved with like minded people. I know that training with people really boosts my motivation.

Now we need to address your climate. you need to create a mastery climate. To do this you need address TARGET

  • Task – performing a variety of tasks that are challenging, interesting and meaningful
  • Authority – Make some of your own decisions about how you train
  • Recognition – Recognise your own improvements and strengths
  • Grouping – This is how you interact and work with other athletes
  • Evaluation – Evaluating your performance, your successes and how to improve
  • Timing – Allowing sufficient time for your own pace of learning as everyones different

Here’s a great free resource if your interested to learn more:


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