Friday, January 6, 2012

What Fires You Up?

by Tracy Zimmer

Intrinsic motivation motivation driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual rather than relying on any external pressure; based on taking pleasure in an activity rather then working towards an external reward.

Extrinsic motivation: the performance of an activity in order to attain an outcome; comes from outside of the individual. Common rewards/incentives are money and grades, coercion and threat of punishment, a crowd cheering on the individual and trophies. Competition is in general extrinsic because it encourages the performer to win and beat others, not to enjoy the intrinsic rewards of the activity.

Sure, a lot of people have qualities of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, but when you actually do something there is a reason for it, and the two don't overlap.  Knowing the difference between both types of motivation, I'm without question intrinsically motivated.  In lifting and in life, I choose to do things because I like to.  Every now and then you have to do things you don't want to, or wouldn't ordinarily choose for yourself, but that's life.  I tend to internalize a lot and the ability to take frustration out on the weights gets me fired up to lift.  

What motivates me?  Here are some things that come to mind...

  • Squatting.  Not just when I'm lifting.  Anytime someone is under the bar, the vicarious excitement I have is unreal.
  • Solitude of the weight room.  No matter what the noise level is, who is working out around me, or what the workout includes, I'm usually in my own world--it's a state of mind.
  • I'm incredibly lucky.  Thinking about the problems others face, it puts into perspective that the issues I've encountered are really insignificant.  I'm healthy and able to exercise daily.  Every workout, I get a chance at one more rep.  Some people NEVER have a single chance.  
  • Videos.  Not the people on youtube who predetermine the workout setting and pre-select some weight or exercise that would appeal to the masses.  I'm talking about real lifters/strong people.  Kirks, "Cadet to Captain" and training cycles for powerlifting.  When he deadlifts the bar flys off the floor!  Arnold's "Pumping Iron".  He's got some classic lines!  Cristi's 500 DL.  Watching things like this make me want to lift!  
  • Vanity.  I have no problem admitting that I workout to look a certain way--I workout to be muscular and I eat to have a low body fat--and the opinion of others makes no difference. People are always going to talk, and that's fine.
  • Negativity or being mad.  This may seem unusual because many people excel when complimented.  It boosts their confidence.  I loathe compliments from some, because they're really looking for a compliment in return.  I've never been one for positive reinforcement.  I love constructive criticism.  If something is "wrong" I want to do everything possible to fix it!  I'm fueled by put-downs, always want to challenge myself, and if someone or something pisses me off, I find more energy from it.   
Everyone's motivated for one reason or another.  If you're hungry for a trophy or token of success, that's great if it works for you.  These things fire me up, but I know they wont work for everyone.  I suggest that you find out what motivates you and get to work!  

Tracy Zimmer is an Assistant Strength Coach at the University of Pennsylvania.  She can be reached for training consultations at

All About Being a Lifer

What's a Lifer? Someone who isn't in to something for just a day, a month, a's for life. Whether its training or your family or your doesn't matter. You work at it, you build on it, you see the big picture . You don't miss workouts because it means something to you. You are like a Shakespearean actor- no matter what is going on in your life, you block it out when it's time to train. You walk into the weight room and all else disappears. Worry about it later.