Source: CrossFit Inc

Internal or External Motivation – What Drives You to Train?

What's your "why" when it comes to training?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. About how the place that a person’s motivation comes from affects how they train, how often they train, how they view their body, life and all the downfalls and setbacks they endure.

In my mind’s eye I visualize a list of names, in one column are the names of people who I see train regularly, who have ups and downs but overall seem to enjoy training and who see the best and most consistent results.

In the other column are the people who have (in some cases) been members of the box for years but who I have seen and coached rarely. They generally turn up when they are feeling either really good or really bad (a knee-jerk reaction to over indulging most often), who turn up when life isn’t “too busy”, who turn up when they have a holiday coming up or a wedding or a function where they feel they must make an effort to lose weight.

You win .. or you learn. – I'm trying to wrap my head around this whole season. Mostly just the fact that it is over. This is certainly not the results we wanted but in a weird sense this might have been my favorite CrossFit Games so far .. we got to FIGHT & we got to LEARN so much more than any of the times we stood on top of the podium. Giving it everything we have, regardless of circumstances, is something Ben talks to me about alllllllll the time .. now we got to live it. – I've been on both sides of the story where at the end of it all my name is called & also when someone else's is .. and that hurts. When I know we CAN win .. It hurts. We can still walk away with our head held high & no regrets. I feel like you can only regret something & it truly be a mistake if you don't learn from it. If you learn, you win. – The competition is AHHMAZING, my competitors are absolutely incredible athletes & it is nothing at all to be ashamed of to be standing behind them at the end of it all. They really impress me. And they REALLY give me fire for this whole upcoming year ???? I can't wait to be back .. 2018 is in trrrrrrouble hehe – THANK YOU @crossfitgames, @crossfit, @thedavecastro, all the judges, volunteers & YOU GUYS for putting up this whole event & making it what is is .. it allows all of us to day in & day out all year round do what we absolutely love the most .. & then bring it to light at this amazing event ?❤️?? – More thoughts to come & my TEAM ? & support system deserves a whole thank you post alllllll to themselves. – Okkkayyyy – Longest post everrrrrrrrrrr .. OUT ??? xoxo

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These people are often members of several gyms which they also don’t attend, don’t seem to enjoy training very much, find excuses easily and regularly for why they can’t make time for the gym and very rarely see results- or if they do, are too inconsistent to ever really maintain the results they do achieve.

If I had to put a heading on top of each column, column A would have “internally motivated” and column B would have “externally motivated”.


Most Boxes and Gyms are the same, but what has got me thinking is; why and how does someone become internally motivated instead of externally motivated?


In a world where our body and fitness is externalised, moreso now thanks to social media and the easy access to fitspo porn that both incites us to be better and also constantly lavishes guilt by telling us we’re never doing enough, how are some people internally motivated? And can this be taught or encouraged in those who aren’t?

A person who is motivated to train externally is driven by trying to achieve something by looking a certain way; they want to look good, fit into an outfit, undo years of over indulging in a few months or sometimes weeks and almost always see this process as something to endure but that has an end point.

A point at where they achieve whatever it is they aspire to, a goal weight, or event or (more positively) a fitness goal (perhaps doing a pullup or lifting a certain weight or running a certain distance). They look forward to this and are motivated by it, driven hard and often see results faster than those who are not driven by such direct goals.

However once this goal is reached, or the person believes it is unreachable or they are unwilling to put the effort required in too reach it, they disappear. Well they disappear from my life anyway, they go back to old habits, fun times and only return again when a new goal is set or they need to lose weight all over again.

Although this sort of athlete frustrates me immensely, I don’t think it is entirely their fault. The world we live in encourages us to think and act this way. We are taught to set goals, and we all celebrate when we get there. The most heinous example of this (which boils my blood) is when diet groups celebrate months of dieting and attaining a goal weight by going out and stuffing their faces with crap food! Restarting them on the cycle that will soon lead them back to the diet club and handing over their money.

Although I don’t blame them, at some point, I think, as an adult and with a mind of our own, the realisation that this method of: set a goal, achieve it, relax and do nothing, backslide and start again, doesn’t work. It might give you some pretty impressive photos to post on social media, but what it leaves you with is a lingering feeling of dissatisfaction and dread of having to do it all over again, no wonder you don’t like training.


The internally motivated person, this I find harder to explain. Yes they have goals, but the goals don’t have an end point. There is no sense of stopping at a certain point and “going back to normal” because what they are doing is their normal.

They are motivated by what they achieve both daily, monthly, yearly and over the course of their lives. They have external goals like performing a movement they can’t do, a competition or even looking good for an event, but this isn’t their overarching goal.

That goal is: to continue to improve, and that goal is large and vague and it allows for daily failures without these failures ending in the person giving up.

A person that is internally motivated might come last in a workout or competition, and damn they won’t like it, but they will still be back the next day. They don’t view failure as embarrassment, it doesn’t dissuade them or make them ashamed. It is just something that happens on the road to getting better.

An internally motivated person doesn’t ask me “when am I going to look like _” or “how long will this take?” an internally motivated person will ask me “can you show me how to do this” and “I want to achieve this, what drills can I do to get there?”

They are consistent and even though they have busy lives and children and holidays and work and exams, they still turn up. They sacrifice something else to make time, they are dedicated to their goals of being better and if that means getting up earlier or skipping friday drinks or bringing their children in with them, then they do it.


I have people say to me “I don’t know how you can train by yourself” and when they say that they don’t mean going to the gym and running on the treadmill, they mean pushing to the limit, going to the place you don’t want to go and staying there, without others around you to push you and without a coach to roar at you to pick the bar up for one more rep.

Mat Fraser on internal motivation (hard work pays off)

I do it because that is the only time I have to do it (I have the best job in the world, many don’t even consider it a job so I am not complaining).

When the classes are on I am the one screaming at you. I see the pain and sweat and motivation and the fear, I watch as class after class, athlete after athlete pushes themselves and fails and achieves and comes back for more and I don’t forget this. I train alone because I am in the privileged position that I have time to do it, and I push my limits remembering how hard everyone else will push and wanting to be better, I push myself to meet this.

I want to train, I love it, it is inside me making me get up when I don’t want to, making me run when it’s raining and pick the bar up when everything inside me screeches and demands to stop.

What motivates you to train? Internal or external, if you reached your goals tomorrow would you stop, or would you make more goals and be back the next day desperate to start again?

I truly believe only one style of motivation leads to happiness, and either way you start again. But if your desire comes from inside, if you would keep wanting it even if no one took a photo of you, if there was no proof on social media and not one other person in the whole world ever told you that you look good, or gave you congratulations, you did it purely because it made you feel better, it made you feel successful and it made you feel happy- then you have achieved the most attainable goal of them all.

30 Inspirational Quotes for Crossfit Motivation