Habit Hacks: Shifting Your Motivation

Tara Penawell Habit Hacks Blog Cover Photo

Simplify starting and consisting a new routine with Habit Hacks! Every month, Elite Personal Trainer and Health Coach, Tara Penawell, will serve up and break down the building blocks of creating a routine that sticks. Learn hacks from the pro that will help you actualize your goals! 


As a personal trainer, I have often been asked to identify which type of exercise is best. My answer has always been that the best exercise is the one you will stick with.

Consistency is the ultimate key to reaping all the benefits exercise has to offer. Yet, many people struggle with maintaining the motivation to workout on a regular basis. If you find yourself struggling to accomplish your goals or feeling undermotivated, a shift in mindset can help you reach your potential!


Just like the quality of your goals matters, so too, does your motivation. 

Think about your hobbies or other activities you do frequently. What is it that keeps you going back for more?  It’s likely because you find something about them enjoyable, fulfilling, or you get a sense of satisfaction from gaining a new skill. This kind of gratification that comes without the need for positive feedback or a reward is an example of intrinsic motivation. Finding this type of internal motivation with exercise will increase the likelihood that you’ll stick with your routine in the long term. 

A frequent reason people begin a workout program tends to be extrinsic in nature, such as weight loss or toning. No shame or criticism here! Statistically, however, external motivators such as these aren’t enough to keep you working out in the long run. Between the two, studies show that people who’ve maintained exercise programs over the long term reported intrinsic motivators. 

Changing the ‘why’ of your workouts can profoundly impact your relationship to exercise. Rather than focusing on aesthetic motivators like size or toning up, concentrate on feeling stronger, the joy of mastering a certain skill set, or the mental health benefits. Paying attention to how we feel during exercise – what sparks joy, what we find challenging – can turn exercise into something you actively look forward to!


The first step is to pay attention to your internal dialogue. Try to catch yourself when your motivation to exercise focuses on an external factor. For example, instead of:

Extrinsic Motivation: “I ate a ton this weekend, I need to workout and burn that off.”

Take that thought, and shift it into:

Intrinsic Motivation: “I had a busy weekend, so I’m going to the gym to take my favorite class and relax.”


Extrinsic Motivation: “I hate my butt in these jeans, I’m going to do some hip thrusts and band walks to tone it up.”

Intrinsic Motivation: “I feel so strong when I do barbell squats. I’m going to get so good at these that I can lift my own bodyweight.”

The extrinsically-motivated thoughts treat exercise as something that needs to be done as a result of over-indulging or to alter your appearance. Whereas intrinsic motivators treat it as a joyous act in order to feel better mentally and physically. 

Personal Trainer Tara Penawell on the Cable Machine


It may have ‘work’ in the name, but a workout shouldn’t be the worst part of your day. The time you spend exercising is a loving act of self-care – time spent tending to your health.  

Another way to shift your motivation away from the external can be as simple as trying new things! Take a fitness class you’ve never been to before, just for the experience. Getting out of your comfort zone isn’t always easy, but you might just find a new workout you love. Plus, mixing it up is a good way to keep your body and mind guessing and your gains progressing!

Take the pressure off of yourself and get rid of what you “should” be doing. There is a tendency for people to plan workouts based on what they think they need to do – that workouts need to be at least “this long”, filled with exercises you hate, or have to be super hard. It’s unlikely you’ll feel excited about your workouts when you think about it like that. 

What you “should” focus on are activities you enjoy and that make you feel good! So, listen to your body and what it is telling you. Embrace the activities you enjoy, and seek out challenges that are fun for you.

With these simple tools, reframe your mindset and develop a positive relationship with exercise! It’ll become a forever habit in no time…perhaps even a hobby?!


More Habit Hacks from Tara: 

  1. 5 Steps to Better Goals
  2. Habit Stacking


Elite Personal Trainer Tara PenawellTara has an extensive background in the health and fitness industry, with over sixteen years working as a personal trainer. Her experience and dedication to acquiring new skills qualify her to serve a wide range of clients. She enjoys the diversity of working with people with different goals and backgrounds. Above all, Tara is passionate about helping people meet their goals and find the joy and satisfaction that comes along with their success.

Tara also teaches weekly fitness classes on our schedule at our Downtown location, as well as virtually. Learn more about Tara’s classes and inquire about private sessions at the button below! 

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