What Is the Relationship Between Motivation & Achievement Goals in Exercise?

Setting goals and deadlines can help you stick to your program.
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Regular exercise should never be a passing fad -- it's a healthy choice that you make that becomes a habit over time. Unfortunately, the lure of a sedentary lifestyle and a busy schedule can sometimes make exercise all but impossible. The trick to sticking with your workout program is to create motivation through proper goal-setting. With something to work toward, you can transition from an occasional exerciser to habitually fit without missing a beat.

Proper Goal-Setting

    The link between motivation and your goals comes from the right type of goal-setting. If your goals are too lofty -- dropping 20 pounds in a month, for instance -- you're bound to fail, which inevitably reduces your motivation to continue, warns MayoClinic.com. Instead, setting short-term goals is just as, if not more, important as setting those long-term goals. If you want to exercise more, try setting a goal to hit the gym every day for just one week. It's highly achievable and when you meet that goal, you'll feel accomplished and more motivated to take on the next phase.

Creating Intrinsic Motivation

    A loved one could try and get you to work out more, but motivation that comes from within is more effective. Intrinsic motivation is the motivation you get from yourself, whether it's a desire to live a healthier lifestyle, reduce your risk for certain disease or increase your endurance. By taking a look at what you want out of your regular exercise, you can help build up that intrinsic motivation to help you lace up your running shoes, even when you don't really feel like it.

Breaking Barriers

    Another way goals help increase your motivation is by breaking down some of the barriers that might come between you and an active lifestyle. Len Kravitz, a researcher from the University of New Mexico, writes in a report that perceived barriers are often unrealistic -- saying that you never have time to exercise or that you don't have the money for a gym membership. Setting goals can help you see past those barriers to create solutions, like exercising earlier in the morning or renting workout DVDs for free from the library. When you're focused on your goal, you're better able to make exercise a priority in your life.


    Finally, one of the best motivating factors behind goal-setting is the potential for rewards. Setting rewards for both your long- and short-term goals can help you stay motivated when the going gets tough. Of course, the goal should be commensurate with the effort -- maybe a week's worth of workouts results in a new exercise outfit, while reaching a long-term goal means a weekend trip. The American College of Sports Medicine warns that your rewards are in line with your goals -- rewarding yourself with treats won't work if your goal for exercise is weight loss.

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