“I do not need a flat stomach, I just want to run really fast!” Motivation to compete for female elite athletes and exercisers

In Danish

Kirsten Kaya Roessler
University of Southern Denmark


Female athletes spend a lot of time and energy on exercise, which requires high levels of ambition and motivation. The aim of this paper is to investigate psychological differences in motivation by interviewing high-intensity female athletes in competition sports and recreational sports. A psychodynamic theoretical framework inspired the development of the interview questions focusing on participants biographical background, social aspects of exercise, and the meaning they attributed to exercise and competition. The results show interesting biographical and social differences. Recreational athletes are independent of their families and use exercise to reinforce their internal identities, while competitive athletes are influenced by their relationship to their fathers and compete to externalize their identities. For recreational athletes, the meaning of exercise was the activity itself, while it was a personal best or certain achievements for competitive athletes.


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KIRSTEN KAYA ROESSLER, professor, ph.d., works at the Department of Psychology at Faculty of Health Science, University of Southern Denmark. Her main research areas are medical psychology, environmental psychology, and communication in the field of health science. She is trained as a psychodynamic group therapist in Tiefenbrunn/Göttingen.

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