• Peak For Life Team

Self- Determination: Building an exercise routine that you can stick to

I can. I will. End of story.

Many of us struggle with sticking to an exercise routine, and even when we’ve got an established routine, a break can mean a whole other struggle to get started again! Sound familiar as we head in to a new term?

Building a successful exercise routine and sticking to it is essential for progress. In psychology the term is referred to as motivation, “the act or process of giving reason for doing something.”

Digging further into psychology we find different types of motivation, internal and external. When clients possess high levels of internal motivation the odds of them succeeding dramatically swing in their favour. They are driven by a desire to make themselves better at the activity and can focus on the variables that they control directly to impact successful adherence to a routine.

The triggering factor to join an East Auckland gym however is often extrinsically motivated. We wish to receive social recognition from our surrounding social circles (friends, family, colleagues) on how well we look. Unfortunately, their reaction is external to our control and relying on this source of motivation reduces the chances of sticking to your routine.

Many gym instructors would have you believe that life is that simple, however as many people’s reason for starting in a Gym relates to an external factor, we know that it’s all a little more complex ! The type or quality of motivation is far more important in predicting successful outcomes than the amount of motivation.

Drum roll please…step in Self Determination Theory (SDT). Deci & Ryan (1991) claimed to give a different approach to motivation, considering what motivates a person at any given time with SDT. It makes distinctions between different types of motivation.

SDT theory hypothesizes that people have 3 basic psychological needs; competence, relatedness and autonomy

  1. Competence (White, 1959) refers to desire to master and control our environment.

  2. Relatedness (Baumeister, 1995) refers to the desire to interact and be connected to other people.

  3. Autonomy (Deci &Vansteenkiste, 2004) refers to the need to control the course of life.

The East Auckland personal trainers at Peak for Life continuously challenge each other and their clients with new exercises. They take a keen interest in each member of our fitness community, often checking up personally when someone misses a class. We recognize that many of our ‘Peakers’ want to influence the course of their life.

Here’s the science…

Since we have deduced that most people’s first interaction with a gym will be externally motivated, lets delve into that further. Deci and Ryan split extrinsic motivation into Organismic Integration Theory (OIT).

  1. Externally regulated

  2. Introjected

  3. Identified

  4. Integrated

To bring us back and make that more relevant…

Developing a ‘Externally Regulated’ routine where rewards or consequences are at the forefront is least likely to feel like changing the course of one’s life for the better. The rollercoaster of positive and negatives is often too much to handle and keeping clients on track with their routine is a challenge. We encourage you to progress your journey and find part of our programme that will suit your needs.

Do you feel the need to show competence during the activity but a weak adherence to a regular routine? Trust your trainer! An introjected routine describes behavior such as taking on routine but not fully accepting it as your own. Deci and Ryan believed that ego was a classic reason. Don’t let the fact you think you know better negatively influence your motivation. Our instructors regularly meet together to discuss their classes and upskill each other.

You may believe you have found the right routine for you. Consciously value a routine so that any action is accepted as personally important. Regulation through identification is a more autonomously driven form of extrinsic motivation, you are more likely to feel you are influencing the course of your life.

Integrated Regulation is the most autonomous kind of extrinsic motivation. The ‘pièce de résistance’ and our aim for you. We educate our clients in what they need. Clients believe at this point that the program is based on their personal needs from their own self-evaluation. Integrated motivations share qualities with intrinsic motivation, but the goals are not the inherent enjoyment or interest in the task. To use the famous words of one our clients “I’m a conscientious objector to exercise! But it’s good for me”. You can read more testimonials here.

A Peak client may move through all these phases. Initially attracted by a special offer or reward (Externally), they spend the time finding the right classes or instructor to suit (Introjected). Once they find a routine that identifies with their needs (Identifies) they begin integrating it with their daily life (Integrated).

Our instructors are all fitness enthusiasts themselves. We pride ourselves on understanding the stresses and strains of modern day living and finding a routine that will fit for you.

We can recommend:


Deci, E., & Ryan, R. (1991). A motivational approach to self: Integration in personalit'. In R. Dienstbier (Ed.), Nebraska symposium on motivation: Vol. 38. Perspectives on motivation(pp. 237–288). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

White, R. W. (1959). "Motivation reconsidered: The concept of competence". Psychological Review. 66: 297–333. doi:10.1037/h0040934.

Baumeister, R.; Leary, M. R. (1995). "The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation". Psychological Bulletin. 117: 497–529. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.497. PMID 7777651.

Deci, E. L.; Vansteenkiste, M. (2004). "Self-determination theory and basic need satisfaction: Understanding human development in positive psychology". Ricerche di Psichologia. 27: 17–34.

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