Healthy Tahoe: Mental Health Month, motivation for exercise

Ryan Carr

Exercise and movement, whether outside or in a gym, increase blood circulation and have a profound effect on your mood. Exercise is a great tool when considering lifestyle modifications to improve your quality of life and overall well-being.

Ryan Carr

Though the end game is clear, like losing weight or being able to continue doing the activities you love, it’s not always easy to find motivation to exercise. By using the Self-Determination Theory, we identify three key components of motivation to implement a routine and encourage a thriving athlete: autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

Autonomy. Autonomy is having the freedom to act on your own. Though it is common to feel pressured to exercise by external factors, ideally you engage in exercise because you choose to, and you enjoy the experience.

Autonomy is not always easy in the gym. Pressures and lack of guidance can make it difficult to create an efficient exercise schedule. A coach can help guide your strength and conditioning program. Though you are the expert of your body and mind, your coach is the expert in developing programs to reduce the risk of injury and improve athletic performance; together, you can create the most optimal program.

Competence. Competence implies people have the skills and knowledge to influence their performance. This means understanding the equipment you are using, the benefits it provides, the order and cadence in which to use them, and how to measure the progress.

A coach works with an athlete to provide challenging training sessions with multiple components and structure while logging statistics and progress. Progress can be measured beyond the obvious talent-based measures like lifting weight, jumping height, and aerobic duration; simply logging the number of workout sessions performed illustrates an athletes’ mastery, or competence, a key component of motivation.

Relatedness. Relatedness refers to a feeling of connection and belonging, cultivated through empathy, inclusion, respect, and compassion with training partners and coaches.

To build relatedness, plan to introduce yourself to other athletes and coaches wherever you regularly exercise. Relationships help create confidence and accountability, improving consistency and commitment to exercise.

Autonomy, competence, and relatedness come in many different forms. Consider whether any one of these components need improvement along your health journey, and seek support from a health or performance coach. Any amount of progress in these areas will improve your health, both mental and physical.

Ryan Carr is the Performance Supervisor and a certified mental performance coach at the Barton Center for Orthopedics & Wellness. To learn more about services at the Center that can help you prepare for sports, visit

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