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Keeping Motivated over the Christmas Break

During the Christmas period, most amateur sports teams tend to take a break with training resuming in early January. Most of these teams expect (or rather hope) their players to take part in some form of physical activity over the break to keep their fitness levels up. There is also always in influx in people buying gym memberships in January to try and shed those extra Christmas pounds and keep their New Year’s Resolutions. One of the main ways to maintain a exercise programme over the Christmas period and into the New Year is motivation. Understanding motivation and the ways to maintain it, is key to establish a routine that allows you to continue to exercise over these times.

Motivation is one of the most important elements that facilitates physical activity participation (Vallerand, 2004), whether that’s at an elite or novice level. There are two main types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is taking part in physical activity for the pleasure and satisfaction of the participation itself. Intrinsic motivation is underpinned by the psychological needs of self-determinism, competency and relatedness (Adie, Duda & Ntoumanis, 2008). An example of intrinsic motivation is an athlete going for a 5K run because they enjoy running and feel a sense of pride and satisfaction after completing it. This could be the main motivation for a novice athlete taking part in training sessions.

Extrinsic motivation is where an athlete takes part in physical activity to gain a reward that is separate to the activity itself (Weinberg & Gould, 2010). For example, an athlete may take part in a competition because they will win prize money for doing so. There are a number of different types of extrinsic motivation that exist on a continuum (Deci & Ryan, 2011):

  1. External regulation

  2. Introjected regulation

  3. Identified regulation

  4. Integrated regulation

External regulation refers to behaviour being rewarded by external means such as achieving rewards or avoiding punishments. Introjected regulation is where behaviour is internalised and the individual takes part to avoid negative feelings, such a guilt. Identified regulation occurs when the behaviour becomes important to the individual, for example taking part in physical activity to become fitter, or attending training to enhance their skill in a specific sport. Finally, integrated regulation occurs when an individual takes part in physical activity because it’s beneficial for their health.

In order to maintain motivation, having a high level of intrinsic motivation is key. Extrinsic motivation is not sustainable over a long period of time, as the rewards need to get larger each time, otherwise motivation will decrease. It is also important to learn strategies to deal with dips in motivation which will reduce the risk of not adhering to your physical activity programme. A simple way to do this is to keep thinking positively if you have missed a training session. It is also helpful to remind yourself of what you want to achieve. By combining this with a goal setting programme, it can keep motivation levels high throughout a long period of time. By setting weekly short-term goals, they can give you a quick burst of motivation each week that will lead you to reaching your long term goal.

Finally, remember that It is ok to be slightly extrinsically motivated (who doesn’t like winning?!) but it needs to be balanced with intrinsic motivation. If you can keep the enjoyment of physical activity high, then motivation will also be high.


Woking, Surrey

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