How to find the 'why' behind your workout goals

When we think about our fitness goals, we tend to concentrate on how we want to look rather than how we want to live.

Samantha Harden, an Associate Professor of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise at Virginia Tech, says finding our true motivation behind wanting to get healthier can help us stick to our goals by giving us a foundation to fall back on when we struggle.

"Sometimes weight loss is about being able to go on a hike and not lose your breath," Harden explains. "It might be about keeping up with the grandkids."

To stay on track, Harden says, we need to find the right fitness fit.

"Because burnout is really not that you're doing too much, it's that you're doing too much of the things that you don't like," she explains. "So, how do you find joy and fun in the movements that you're doing?"

Harden says, think about the "why" behind your "why."

Start by sitting down and making a list of the reasons you want to get in shape.

"Not even just typing it, but writing it pen to paper, to check in with where you are and what's feasible," she says.

Finding your "why," Harden says, may require peeling back layers of motivation.

"So, someone might be sitting down and saying, ‘My doctor says I need to be more active,’" she says. "That's not why you want to be active. Maybe you don't love your doctor. What is your actual ‘why’ behind that? 'Well, I don't want to die of heart disease like my dad did.' So, the ‘why’ behind that is, you know, 'I want to live, I want to live long and be able to find joy and do the things that I like."

All movement counts, she says, even if you are active just a few minutes here and there during your day.

Finding your true motivation, she says, can help you choose an activity that will really work with your goals and where you are right now.

"So, if you've set a goal around running and every day, and you have to really overcome so many mental and physical blocks to running, find a different activity," Harden says. "Make these small incremental changes, check in on how they feel, what's working, what needs to change, and just continue to be flexible with yourself and your goals."