Motivational Trajectories and Well-Being in Sport—A Phenomenological Study of Running By Feel

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Abstract

In this paper, we describe the structure of the experiential shift that occurs during high intensity exercise when runners navigate the spectrum of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is defined as any reliance on external affirmations for effort or intensity, and is marked by a dependence on objective evaluations. Intrinsic motivation is defined as the self-awareness of effort and perceived exertion; it is marked by a process- or task-focus. The participants, college runners at a liberal arts school in the Northeast, were asked to describe their experience after running a 3,000-meter time trial on the track without the aid of external performance feedback. The protocols were analyzed using the descriptive phenomenological method in psychology. Three subjects remained extrinsically motivated throughout the workout, demonstrating a pronounced need for external evaluations of their effort level. When this was not supplied, these runners exhibited frustration, confusion, and disorientation. For the remaining four runners, the absence of external feedback encouraged a shift to intrinsic motivation. These runners reported relaxation and greater enjoyment in the workout (with no noticeable reduction in performance). The authors make suggestions as to how these findings may be put to meaningful use in the creation and application of athletic training programs for college students.

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