By Team ICG® Master Trainer Jim Karanas

Motivation to exercise has spurred fitness discussions for decades.

Having taught Group Fitness classes for over 30 years, and Indoor Cycling since 1995, I've noticed that, when a person successfully integrates exercise into his or her life, the motivation to keep exercising changes over time.  I've observed Four Levels of Motivation.

Level 1 - Physical

When someone starts a fitness program, the motivation usually comes from a physical goal, typically to lose weight, look better or become healthier.

Physical changes are easy to effect in a person with sufficient desire.  Particularly when working with a trained professional, people can see success in these top three areas.  We”™ve all seen that initial desire wane, however, even in people who achieved results.  Their workouts may stop or become sporadic.  The physical Level of Motivation starts things but often won”™t sustain a lifelong process.

The industry addresses these clients through change.  The workouts weren't diverse enough.  Let”™s focus on something else, move in a new direction.  It works for a while, but finding another way to lose weight is not the long-term answer.  If students”™ motivation does not evolve, they”™re likely to stop once again.

Level 2 - Emotional

Most people will benefit from the second Level of Motivation, emotion.  In time, feeling better supersedes looking better.  Even people frustrated with lack of physical results will tend to acknowledge that exercise has made them feel better emotionally.  They”™re more relaxed, less stressed, glad to be taking care of themselves.  If they have family, staying healthy and setting an example for their kids may feel gratifying.

This deeper Level of Motivation can sustain regular exercisers for a lifetime, but is often overlooked as a factor in keeping someone going after the physical motivation wanes.

Level 3 - Mental

The third Level of Motivation involves the mind, and I”™ve seen it impact people dramatically.  They become fascinated by what”™s happening in the body, research it, study it, take charge of their own fitness programs.  Some get certified to teach Indoor Cycling.  Many of you reading this may have started your Indoor Cycling careers this way.

This leads to rapid, exponential growth in fitness.  Students overcome physical challenges they”™ve faced.  They”™re transformed.  They become athletes.  They move into events and competition, set yearly goals, and train with a dedication greater than that of some gifted athletes.  With each accomplishment, their confidence grows — and their enthusiasm.  They find new friends, change their lifestyle to accommodate a more rigorous workout schedule, and define themselves though their training.

This stage is glorious.  It can go on for years, maybe decades, but must come to an end.  Whether through injury, poor health, or aging, a decline in ability is inevitable.  Unprepared students may be left deflated, empty or depressed.  They can't ride as fast, can't manage their weight, lose flexibility or whatever they used to have that made them feel special.

This is a critical time because students may have to go through this process to realize the final Level of Motivation:  connection with spirit.

Level 4 - Spiritual

Most people don't get here.  Training becomes something they used to do.  

Let me emphasize that this doesn”™t involve religious beliefs, though some see it that way.  Bottom line, if your students have never felt their spirits soar while riding, they may be stuck on Level 1.  If you teach Indoor Cycling, you have likely felt this soaring but may not have expressed it this way.

The contrast between our ever-present sense of aliveness and the impermanence of the body is what tells us we”™re more than muscle and bone.  Eckart Tolle says, "If the whole world were blue, you would not recognize blue."  If riding your bike makes you feel more alive, even in the face of injury or an aging body, you realize that a part of you never gets tired, never grows old.  You ride a bike into your 90's and still feel as if you're flying.

When you feel this, your perspective on all of the training you”™ve done in your life changes.  The achievements matter less.  They”™re fun and exciting, but their value is short-lived.  You feel less unique and more deeply at peace.  Balance replaces ego, and riding a bike just makes you happy to be alive.

When a student feels this, my job as a trainer is done.  More than likely, he or she will now become the teacher.

Few individuals achieve this balance or are able to sustain it.  Most of us float among all four Levels of Motivation.  It would be ludicrous to tell you that, after 40+ years of intense training, I never think about how I look or use Level 1 to get my ass to the gym and train.  If that”™s my motivation for the day, so be it.  I”™ve learned that the connection with spirit is not easy to achieve every day.  That state of consciousness can be elusive.

When it”™s there, though, it”™s undeniably the best thing that training — especially riding a bike — gives me.  Your students will feel the same way.




Jim Karanas
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