Vroom Vroom: The theory of motivation in indoor cycling


Vroom Vroom

In 1964 Victor Vroom (yes, that was his real name, fitting hey?) produced his ‘Expectancy Theory’ for employee motivation. Expressed as a calculation, it stated:


Valence x Expectancy = Force


Can you see where I’m going? No? Don’t worry - I wouldn’t expect you to! Let me explain.

Firstly we are not looking at ourselves as employees, but it’s still relevant because it’s about getting people to do things that may not be their idea or in their immediate best interests.


What does it mean?

In its simplest form, Vroom’s theory of motivation says that the amount you want something (valence) and your expectation of being able to achieve it (expectancy) combine to determine the level of effort put into doing something (force).


Put another way, if you want something, you will try harder to achieve it if you believe you can achieve it, than if you don’t think you can do it.


Kinda like that "Believe it achieve it" quote right? Indeed. So how do we ensure we believe it and achieve it?


How to maximise motivation

Firstly - start at the end - what are you trying to achieve? And do you value it?


Make sure the outcome (or goal) is clearly defined. What are you trying to do? Where are you trying to get to? There are both extrinsic (external) and intrinsic (internal) goals. Exercising to look better = extrinsic. Exercising to feel better = intrinsic. What types of goals do you have? Why do you want to do? To feel?


Secondly - how do you know when you've got it done? Or got there? What does success mean to you?

What does success look like? How do you actually achieve the goal? Being clear on whether it's a certain time or output on the bike, or a consistency in activity for a period of time is important to celebrate when it's appropriate!


And finally - do you believe you can achieve it? Can you make success happen?


A challenge for lots of people is that they don’t believe they can achieve the goal. I know I've always struggled getting past the first steps. Even if it’s something that you really want, you may think you're being unreasonable or unrealistic. There can be all sorts of mistaken beliefs swimming around in your head trying to talk you out of even trying - those little voices that tell you that you can't do something, or you're not good enough.


Beating doubt

How do you get rid of those little voices? Well personally I like to drown them... Drown them out with music :)


Maximum Vroom

But before we talk about me, let's think about some steps you can take to increase your 'motivation valence':


Types of goals

Intrinsic goals are stronger than extrinsic goals. ‘Feel’ is better than ‘look’. But that is easier said than done initially. When you begin, make a note of how amazing you felt after a workout - that ‘OMG I CAN TAKE ON THE WORLD’ feeling (as opposed to the I don't want to do this before and why am I doing this during feelings) and use that 'after' as a reminder when trying to decide if you can do a ride or not. Leave yourself a voice memo telling your future self how AMAZING they will feel afterwards. How strong and powerful and smiley and satisfied.


Now for your Expectations.


Defining success

First point - keep success small. All. The. Small. Things. (TUNE! Which is about 74BPM for reference) What was I saying? Oh yeah, all the small things add up. To be an indoor cyclist you need to do indoor cycling… so as soon as you get on your bike, and start cycling, you’ve done it!

Now, being realistic we know just getting on for a few seconds isn’t enough to feel better (in the moment or long term) so how do we keep going?


Well this is where the drowning comes in…

Get a coach. No, they are not going to drown your demons. Well, not literally anyway.


The job of a coach is to help make things easier to keep going. To help you believe that you can do it. That it is achievable.

That coach can be someone in the same room as you in a studio or gym class cheering you on. It can be someone you watch on the internet (that sounds well dodgy doesn’t it - you know what I mean) who gives you structure to follow. Or your coach could be music. Yes music! The music of your power song. Your magic song.


You know the one I mean - the song that will get you back on the dancefloor even though you’ve put your coat on. The song that stops you from feeling tired. The song that you can’t help but smile at even on the worst day. THAT song.


That can be your coach. Your motivation.


Because you know that song gives you energy. You know it gets you going. You KNOW you can get on the bike and ride to it. And that means it’s an easy win. Something you know you can achieve. So you can do it.


This is where indoor cycling, and specifically rhythm riding is unlike many other activities. Not only are you in complete control and able to adjust both speed and intensity (resistance) based on your specific situation, you get to use the magic of music to take you through a workout, no thought required.


Follow some classes for free on YouTube or freestyle with your favourite playlist. Let the music lift you up and ride. And there you are - you're indoor cycling, ergo you are an indoor cyclist! You go!

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