What Motivates Each Individual

The simple fact is that few people are able to begin and adhere to an exercise program for an extended period of time. For whatever reason, their motivation is simply not strong enough. One of your most difficult and most important tasks as a trainer will be helping your clients stay motivated and on track. Each individual client will be motivated by different factors and circumstances, and you need to discover what those variables are.

Types of Motivation

Motivation has been defined as inspiration, encouragement, stimulation, impetus, or incentive. These are the factors directing goal-oriented behavior, and are generally broken down into two types or forms: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within the individual. When someone is intrinsically motivated, they are doing something because they want to do it. The behavior provides them with enjoyment and/or satisfaction. Extrinsic motivation comes from outside influences. Behaviors are exhibited in order to obtain a reward or to avoid punishment. Individuals may have a tendency toward one or the other, but everyone is both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated.


Self-monitoring devices such as pedometers, calorie trackers, and heart-rate monitors provide people with concrete feedback and can be great external motivators. They provide an objective means to see how hard someone is working, and a tangible way to measure progress.

Most clients will retain your services because they need to fulfill some physical or emotional need. However, if you ask your clients, “What are your intrinsic motivators, or how can I best extrinsically motivate you,” they may look at you like you are crazy. They only know that they want to lose ten pounds so they can fit into a bathing suit or their favorite pair of jeans. You have to figure out what their motivations are, and how to best keep them motivated, by asking the right questions and through trial and error. The simplest way to get started is by asking clients why they came to see you and what they hope to accomplish. Their responses will tell you what their motivations are. By determining what their needs are and the motivation behind them, you will be able to keep your clients on track to fulfill those wishes and needs.

Factors Affecting Motivation

People can accomplish almost anything if they are motivated enough. But what does it take to reach that level of motivation? It starts with a positive, optimistic attitude and a belief system. If a client believes they can do something, they will feel better about themselves, and be more likely to achieve it. If, on the other hand, a client does not come in with the right mindset, you can have a difficult time helping him stay motivated. Other factors that may influence your client's levels of motivation are:

  • Past history of exercise

  • Whether they are exercising because they want to or because they need to

  • Level of support from friends and family

  • How much time they have for exercise

  • Whether or not they believe they can be successful

  • How much they enjoy what they are doing

The client who enjoys exercise, believes she can be successful, and has support from loved ones will be much easier to motivate than the client who was told by her doctor that she must exercise to get her blood pressure down, and hates every minute she is there. You may be able to help her change her attitude, but it will require a significant effort on your part.


Motivation will fluctuate through the course of a program. In the beginning, your client may need more extrinsic motivation (the desire to lose ten pounds) until exercise becomes a habit and they start enjoying it more. If they are still on a program one year down the line, they are likely motivated by more intrinsic factors, such as self-satisfaction.

Motivation is a team effort. Neither trainer nor client should bear the burden individually. Your job is to believe in your clients and help them believe in themselves. Knowing that you are invested in helping them produce a positive outcome will be a powerful extrinsic motivator.

  1. Home
  2. Being a Personal Trainer
  3. Motivating Your Clients Through Goal-Setting
  4. What Motivates Each Individual
Visit other About.com sites: