Is it because the doctor told you to? Because you want to lose that holiday ten? Because you want to shave a few minutes off a personal record for that upcoming 5K? To win a "biggest loser" challenge against your coworkers?
Or is it because it's fun and you enjoy it?
If it's any of the first reasons, you're what sports psychologists call extrinsically motivated--in other words, you're motivated to step it up and sweat because of an external reason or reward. Someone has told you to, you want to look great in that swimsuit for summer, you have some goal that you're aiming to meet.
If it's because you just love working out and the feeling you get from it, then you're intrinsically motivated. People who go out and run just to experience that "runner's high" are in this group. You work out because you love it! That's probably why studies have shown that people who are intrinsically motivated tend to stick to their workout programs longer and achieve their goals more often; if you genuinely enjoy what you're doing, you're more likely to do it and make fewer excuses.
This isn't to say that if you're extrinsically motivated, you won't attain your goals. Most people are a mixture of both extrinsic and intrinsic. In fact, while intrinsic motivation will get you out to the gym, it's often extrinsic factors that motivate you to push your boundaries through the goals you set, whether it's a new PR or better health goals.
There's a way to get the most out of your workouts through your own personal blend of motivations. First and foremost, make it fun! Try out a new class or group training session, find a new friend who keeps you motivated, try working out with your significant other for a different kind of date idea. Stop thinking of going to the gym as a "have to" and start thinking of it as a reward for yourself--after all, what could be a better reward than taking care of your body?
Second, meet with a personal trainer and talk to them about your goals. They have the experience and the knowledge to not only help you set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound), but to design programs or progressions to help you meet them.
So get out there and make your goals work for you!
Blog post by Ashley Crosby.