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Motivation,  The Science Behind Motivation

Motivation for Returning to The Gym: The Science

Please note: I am not a qualified professional. You can find my disclosure here.

If you’re reading this in the present day, the majority of us haven’t been to a gym in 4 months. Lockdown has seen us try every home workout under the sun and, for me, has tested my motivation. But, UK gyms are re-opening this weekend and to say I’m excited is an understatement.

This excitement also made me curious. I read up on the science behind motivation for returning to the gym and I knew it would be useful for me to share my findings. Therefore, here are simple, science backed, tips for getting motivated to return back to the gym!

Motivation for Returning to The Gym

1. Revamp your social media to reflect your return to the gym motivation

As we’ve seen for years now, social media (and its’ influencers) has a HUGE impact on our lives – and that includes our motivation for the gym. A study published in 2018, by Rachael Mooney from the National College of Ireland, found ‘both social media and social media influencers have a considerable impact on the motivation of millienials…to use the gym.’

My Instagram page suggesting instagram can have a postive and negative impact on motivation for returning back to the gym.

And, as we’ve also seen, that impact can be positive AND negative. This is particulary profound on Instagram, with Mooney concluding that, ‘the type of content the participants found most encouraging and impacted their decision to use a gym most was workout videos and images on Instagram.’ This suggests that social media CAN have a positive and encouraging impact on our motivation for using the gym – it just depends how you use it.

Here are some simple tips to revamp your social media to help contribute to your motivation to return to the gym:

  • Follow a VARIETY of accounts that have a healthy and positive impact on your motivation and mood. This should include a range of body types.
  • Unfollow accounts that demotivate you or you find yourself comparing yourself to.
  • Don’t only follow influencers. Make sure you are also following qualified professionals in many sectors from fitness, nutrition and mental health.

2. Don’t make things too complicated

It is easy to make the mistake of returning back to the gym with a complicated routine that doesn’t take into account your personal situation.

However, a 2008 study by Song and Schwarz found that, ‘our brains employ all kinds of tricks and shortcuts to get us through the day with the least mental and physical effort.’ Therefore, this suggests that our complicated routines can actually have a negative impact on our motivation for returning back to the gym.

In fact, Song and Schwarz even found that, ‘students’ brains mistook the ease of reading about exercise for the ease of actually doing‘.

Take into account these simple tips to ensure your motivation, when returning to the gym, isn’t hindered:

  • Start off easy and simple to redevelop your relationship with the gym. (e.g. take things slow at first and you are more likely to remain motivated and consistent.)
  • Don’t put pressure on yourself to pick up where you left off.
  • If you do want to return back to the gym with a routine, make sure it is easy to consume and you don’t dread thinking about it.

3 – Have an open mind

We, as a society, know there are consequences to the way we speak to other people. So, why don’t we consider the consequences about the way we speak to ourselves?

In 2010, Senay explored self-talk (the conversation you have with yourself in your head) and whether there was a link with people being willing. The study found that, ‘those with questioning minds were more intrinsically motivated to change. They were looking for a positive inspiration within.’

Me in the mirror wearing gym clothes and motivated to be returning to the gym.

If we relate this to motivation for returning back to the gym, it suggests that those who asked themselves ‘will I go back to the gym?‘ instead of ‘I will go back to the gym‘ were more instrinsically motivated to go. Senay explains that this is because ‘will I?‘ questions ‘by their nature speak to possibility and freedom of choice.’

Take some time to open your mind:

  • Self-talk is SO important. Be kind, loving and, as previously mentioned, don’t put pressure on yourself.
  • Start questioning and giving yourself that freedom of choice. Will you be motivated and return back to the gym?

See, things don’t need to be hard or complicated to be effective. These simple tips should equip you with the actions you need to to get, and stay, motivated returning back to the gym!

If you have any of your own tips then please feel free to share in the comments below. I’ve been enjoying reading up on the research behind motivation and I’m looking forward to writing more ‘Science Behind Motivation‘ posts!

Until next time my friends!

-Millie πŸ™‚

You can find the references used in this blog post here.



    Great post Millie!! I think it’s definitely going to be a lot of building up our relationship with the gym again – for the time being, home workouts are working for me but everyone is different! Im x

    • msblife28

      Aw, thank you Imogen! I really enjoyed home workouts at the start of lockdown but I’ve really been missing the gym these past few weeks. I’m glad you’ve found what works for you πŸ™‚

  • Carla

    Great post!! I think everyone will struggle a little with rebuilding their relationship with the gym and their reasons for going but these are some great tips to keep in mind!

  • Charlotte

    I am LOVING the psychology behind this post!! It’s so thought out and I’m a sucker for research studies so I was in my element reading this. I love the perspective you took on social media. People are so quick to follow influencers who have no professional qualifications. LOVED LOVED LOVED this post!

  • Johnny

    It’s good to see that you’ve written a post focusing on motivation to return to the gym after lockdown. It’s often discussed more in person but rarely have I come across content that tackle it. The latter is more focused on what gyms will look like during the new normal but not focussing on how to get people back into gyms cos people would be sceptical of visiting the gym in these uncertain times, knowing that its safe enough to do so.

    Johnny | Johnny’s Traventures

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