Improve Your Health
One of the most common reasons we run, exercise, read fitness magazines and websites and enjoy apps like RockMyRun, is to improve our health. Sure we’ve heard that “exercise is medicine,” but like all medicine, if we don’t take it, it won’t work. And when it comes to running, or any doing any exercise routinely, the motivation for putting on our sneakers and working up a sweat has got to be internal.

That means turning the “E” in exercise into “enjoyment” not “excruciating.” Do that by finding your “why” and creating a plan that includes specific, small and measurable steps attached to a written weekly plan.  Ensure you do what you say you are going to do by finding a buddy and filling your vision with friendly, not trash, talk about your progress. Do you feel like you are breathing easier already?

Motivation for Running

Look Good
Another common motivation for exercising is pure vanity—you want to look great in that new bikini or tee shirt. Superficial? No way! Who says wanting to look good is shallow and artificial? Ever apply for a job and show up looking unwell, unkempt, or unhealthy? You get the idea. Whether it’s your wedding, a job interview, your high school or college reunion or the upcoming party, looking good is a prime motivator to put some fuel in your step around the track, on the trail, in the gym or running through the streets of downtown. And by the way, don’t think this is a woman’s motivator. GQ Magazine is pretty, pretty popular!

To help you achieve this goal if this is your primary motivation, don’t, repeat don’t, go all out. You might find yourself burning out your flame before its red carpet show time. High intensity interval training that includes planned, focused ups and downs, for about eight cycles, taking no more than about 30 minutes four or five times a week, should be fine coupled with resistance training that focuses on full body activity. Body-sculpting, Pilates, Yoga, TRX, Total Gym, light weights and high reps, are the key here. Lastly, visualize yourself already achieving what you set out to accomplish, seeing yourself in the present bringing that new you to the party. Doesn’t if feel great to be a size 4 or have some muscle under that tee shirt?

Friends” wasn’t just a widely popular TV show, but socialization is a third reason people decide to workout. The idea of “group ex,” Zumba, Les Mills, biking, hiking, track and running clubs are in large measure successful due to the opportunity for social connection. Many people realize that a great way to connect with others and make new friends is through activities. Ever notice that grass grows without any battles and fruits ripen without any drama? If it’s friends you are looking for, joining a group exercise activity by allowing yourself to be free of self-consciousness will certainly help. Come from a place of acceptance—of yourself and others—and the experience will be easy and effortless.

Friends, new or old, can be great cheerleaders and sources of accountability—and you can be the same for others. Set up a social media group and keep tweeting and texting about your experiences—soon enough you’ll attract others to your new passion. Like being a social exercise leader? Check out Fitmob and see if a social group exists near your home yet.

Enhance Your Mood
Finally, we all get down and blue, worried and irritated and just downright nasty from time to time. Guess what the fourth most common reason people “need to go out for a run”? That’s right! It’s a great mood enhancer. By releasing  and increasing those “feel-good” brain chemicals, decreasing those chemicals that increase anxiety and depression and providing a calming feeling, people find lots of solid motivation to exercise to simply feel happier, more confident, cope more effectively, concentrate easier – all within five minutes after moderate exercise.

If this is your primary reason, internal motivation is a high driver and that’s great. You’ll stick with it longer than if your motivation is purely external.  One caveat here is don’t overdo it because you like the way it makes you feel so much.  A plan of about 150 minutes per week of moderate to intense activity will give you the mood enhancement you are looking for. Novelty is important so mix it up. Positive thinking is important to boost mood, so include affirmations such as, “I, Jennifer, already know what it feels like to live my life calmly, successfully and happily.” After an affirmation like this, don’t forget to say “thanks” acting like it’s already present in your life.

There you have it. The four top reasons people are buying running shoes, joining gyms, hiring trainers and pushing themselves to sweat—getting and staying healthy, looking good, connecting with friends and feeling happier and more positive. If your main motivation isn’t here, let us know what it is in the comments below.

Post contributed by Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.  Dr. Mantell has served as a long-time Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego and today is the Senior Fitness Consultant for Behavioral Sciences for the American Council on Exercise, a behavioral sciences coach, an author and a national fitness-health speaker.