Gym Psychology: The 6 Types Of Motivation

Everyone is motivated a little differently. Learn what type of motivation best suits you and then use that knowledge to attack your awesome fitness goals!

One of my favorite topics to speak and write about is motivation. I like talking about motivation because it's so personal. Everybody has his or her own brand of self-encouragement and determination. Each of us is motivated a little differently.

During a recent webinar for Gold's Gym, I discussed the six types of motivation. I spoke about this topic because knowing which type of motivation best compels you can be a really important factor in achieving your fitness goals. It went over so well that I thought I would share it with you!

As you read through these motivation types, you may realize that you fall into more than one category?that's a good thing! You can use various techniques to ensure that you make it through those rough days and move onto bigger and better things.


People who are motivated by achievement desire to improve skills and prove their competency to themselves and others. It can be an internal desire to strive for personal accomplishment or a search for positive feedback or recognition from others.

If you're motivated by achievement and recognition from others, tie your goals to something personal like being healthy and fit for your family. We all want to feel like a good mom or dad and it certainly never hurts to get affirmation from others who see us feeding our children healthy options and staying active.

If you're more intrinsically motivated, take photos of yourself regularly so you can compare them and see the results. When you do notice changes, take a moment to reflect and bask in the glory. Allow your success to motivate you to future changes!


Nobody wants to feel stagnant or stuck in their situation. The desire for personal growth and change can be a great motivator.

Your motivation to change can be related to fitness. You no longer want to be sedentary, overweight, or too thin. You want to change your lifestyle, feel better about yourself, and discover a new identity. If you're ready to change who you are, start identifying yourself as what you want to be: a cyclist, a runner, a bodybuilder, or a dancer. Tell people that's who you are. From there, your new self-identification becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You turn into what you want to be!

Another great way to use growth motivation is to look at your workout as a break, a time to focus on yourself without any work or kids to interrupt you. Personal time is so important for your own well-being. Thinking of your workout as personal, and therefore as a way to improve yourself will help you stick to your workouts.


motivated by power

If you're motivated by power, it means you want to control your own life. You want to determine the outcome and are thus more driven to create the outcome you want. If this sounds like you, you can harness your desire for control by setting smaller, attainable goals.

More important than setting a main goal to lose 40 pounds, set weekly and monthly goals to increase your reps or weight and/or increase your cardio. It's also smart to start off with bite-sized chunks. So, instead of setting the goal to go to the gym every single day, set the goal to work out three times per week. Setting attainable, realistic goals will help empower you to succeed.

Another way to tap into the power aspect of motivation is to vary your routine and choose what you want and like to do. Doing the same exercises and routines over and over can be monotonous and can often lead to plateaus. You can also keep a journal about which weights you use each workout and how much you increase each week.


Social motivation can be extremely effective, especially with so many social media platforms. With a desire to belong or to catch the eye of a special someone, people will often use the affirmations from others to motivate them further. Some people who are motivated socially also like to use their success to encourage others to make positive changes of their own.

If you're motivated socially, find a buddy to train with.
If you're motivated socially, find a buddy to train with.

If you're motivated socially, find a buddy to train with. There is nothing like some friendly competition to spur a good workout. You may also consider joining an exercise class. The camaraderie you develop with your classmates is a great way to keep you coming back.


Some people are motivated through fear of consequences. This type of motivation can be effective, but can also be a little extreme. If you like to have consequences attached to a goal, go public with your fitness goals and post them on social media. The fear of disappointing others or publicly failing is often enough to keep you on track.

If you find this type of motivation is effective, you may want to think about signing up for an event like a fitness competition, a mud run, or a marathon. Along with paying an entry fee, the fear of stepping on stage or performing poorly at an event just might be the push you need. Buying fancy workout clothes and hiring a trainer can also play into this type of motivation. The fear of wasting money may actually keep you coming back to the gym.


Incentive motivation involves rewards. Knowing that that there is a reward for tackling your fitness goals can make the whole experience more fun and exciting. Perhaps the incentive is a long-awaited vacation? You could pay yourself after each completed workout. If you paid yourself $5 per workout four times each week, you'd have about $1,000 by the end of the year. That's a decent vacation!

Knowing that that there is a reward for tackling your fitness goals can make the whole experience more fun and exciting.
Knowing that that there is a reward for tackling your fitness goals can make the whole experience more fun and exciting.

Another good and often favorite incentive for many people is a night out for dinner without worrying about calories or macros. I'd recommend only doing this once each month—you don't want to squash a week's worth of hard work in a single sitting.

Extra Motivation Ideas

Here are more things you can do to stay motivated through your fitness journey!

  • Keep your gym music fresh. High-energy music will help you work out with more intensity and focus.
  • Get enough sleep! Lack of sleep will derail your training program faster than anything. Most people overcompensate for their lack of energy by eating too much or skipping the gym altogether.
  • Be patient. Make a promise to yourself to stick with it for at least 3 or 4 months. Consistency is the key
  • Don't try to change every habit at once. Choose one habit to change at a time. For example, start with "get at least 7 hours of sleep each night."
  • Stick to your diet and exercise plan for at least 30 consecutive days. The more often behaviors are repeated, the more likely they will become ingrained and habitual.

My number one motivational tip is: Get on a professionally designed, long-term program! Lasting change is about progression and consistency. You can't expect to stay motivated 100 percent of the time. Proper, individualized programming can carry you through when your willpower falters.