The Type I Fitness Plan

The below is transcribed (with the occasional loose paraphrase + transition sentence) from a great book I read called Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.


What is Type X vs Type I Behavior

  • Type X Behavior: Behavior fueled more by extrinsic desires than intrinsic ones and concerned less with the inherent satisfaction of an activity and more with the external rewards to which an activity leads.
  • Type I Behavior: Concerns itself less with the external rewards an activity brings and more with the inherent satisfaction of the activity itself.

Drive argues that for professional success and personal fulfillment we need to move ourselves from Type X to Type I Behavior.

The good news: Type I’s are made, not born, and Type I behavior leads to:

  • stronger performance
  • greater health
  • higher overall well being

So how can one apply Type I Behavior to fitness? Thank you Drive for…

The Type I Fitness Plan: Four tips for getting and staying motivated to exercise

The cover of Drive is a runner, by no accident:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is drive-book-cover.jpg

Running can have all the elements of type I behavior: Running is

  • autonomous
  • it allows you to seek mastery
  • and the people who keep at it and enjoy it the most often run toward greater purpose, testing their limits or staying healthy and vital

To help you bring the spirit of intrinsic motivation out of the office and classroom and into another realm of your life, Drive gives four tips for staying fit the type I way.

Set your own goals

Don’t accept some standardized cookie-cutter exercise plan. Create one tailored to your needs and fitness level. Equally important = set the right kind of goals. Ample research has shown people who seek to lose weight for extrinsic reasons – to slim down for a wedding or to look better at a class reunion- often reach their goals but gain their weight back when the target event ends. But people who target intrinsic goals – get fit to feel good or to stay healthy for their family – make slower progress at first but achieve significantly better results in the long term.

Ditch the treadmill

Unless you like treadmills of course. If trudging to the gym feels like a daily obligation, find a form of fitness you enjoy, that produces those intoxicating moments of flow. Find friends to play bball, go for walks, dance for a half hour, or play with your kids. Use the Sawyer effect* to your advantage and turn your workout into play.

*Sawyer Effect: Sawyer Effect: A weird behavior alchemy inspired by the scene in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” in which Tom and friends whitewash Aunt Polly’s fence. This effect has two aspects. The negative: rewards can turn play in to work. The positive: focusing on mastery can turn work in to play.

Keep mastery in mind

Getting better at something provides a great source of renewable energy so pick an activity which you can improve over time. By continuously increasing the difficulty of what you take on – think Goldilocks tasks, not too easy, not too hard – and setting more audacious goals as time passes, you can renew that energy and stay motivated.

Reward yourself the right way

In general, don’t bribe yourself with if-then rewards like “if I exercise four times this week then I’ll buy myself a new shirt”. This can backfire. But the occasional now-that reward is not a problem. If you swam the distance you hoped to this week, there’s no harm in treating yourself to a massage afterword; it won’t hurt and it might feel good.

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