Research finds inferiority complex key to fitness successon December 3, 2012 @ 9:47 am (Updated: 3:49 pm - 12/3/12 )
Motivation comes in many forms, from threats and yelling to encouragement and platitudes such as: "Don't ever let somebody tell you that you can't do something."
That's probably good life advice, generally, but feelings of inadequacy could be the key to success in fitness.
"Inadequacy, when they're comparing themselves to their peers, can be a strong motivational force to get a person to try a little harder, to excel a little bit more beyond what they feel they can do," said Henderson Mar, a certified personal trainer at Gold's Gym in Kirkland.
Researchers at Kansas State University discovered that people who exercise with somebody they consider superior tend to put out greater effort. In one test, female test subjects on stationery bikes were told they were working out with a teammate in another lab and they could see the partner on a video screen. They were told the team score would be based on the partner who quit pedaling first. For the purposes of the research, the "partner" was fictional, on a video loop, and was never going to stop pedaling. Over time, the test subjects exercised up to 200 percent longer than when working out alone.
Mar explains the dynamic of mismatched workout partners. "If you do 15, I'm going to do my darndest to do 15 reps. The weaker partner will match the stronger partner and they'll ratchet up the intensity that way."
That match can help the higher achieving workout partner, too, who is motivated to stay ahead of the weaker partner. Workout partners with similar ability make it more difficult to overachieve.
"They're more willing to match each other but they're not willing to push beyond a certain level," said Mar. "They might spend a little more time chit-chatting, putting the workout as secondary and catching up on current affairs as being more important."
Researchers also found that motivation is lost if one workout partner is exponentially better than the other, according to Brandon Irwin, assistant professor of kinesiology, who conducted the research at Kansas State University.
The key to success, it seems, is for one workout partner to perceive that they are the weakest link.
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