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The purpose of the present investigation was to determine the relationship between athletes' goal orientations, elements of perfectionism, perceived ability and obligatory exercise behaviour.Two hundred and forty six British middle-distance runners completed a multi-sectional inventory containing the Obligatory Exercise Questionnaire [Pasman, L., & Thompson, J. K. (1988). Body image and eating disturbance in obligatory runners, obligatory weightlifters, and sedentary individuals. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 7, 759–769], the Task and Ego Orientation in Sport Questionnaire [Duda, J. L., & Nicholls, J. G. (1989). The task and ego orientation in sport questionnaire: Psychometric properties. Unpublished manuscript], and the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (Frost, R. O., Marten, P. A., Lahart, C., & Rosenblate, R. (1990). The dimensions of perfectionism. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 14, 449–468).Regression analyses indicated that 31% of obligatory exercise behaviour could be explained by a combination of athletes' goal orientations, perceived ability, concern about mistakes and high personal standards. Further regression analyses indicated that high ability and elements of perfectionism combined to explain 49% variance in the obligatory exercise behaviour of females, while achievement related overstriving (Covington, 1992), which included high task and ego goals and elements of neurotic perfectionism, combined to explain 27% variance in the obligatory exercise behaviour of male participants.The positive association between achievement goals, perfectionistic striving and obligatory exercise behaviour in this sample of club runners seems to result from a combination of motivational variables that encourage a focus on self-validation and failure avoidance, and it is this psychological mechanism which appears to underpin this compulsive form of exercise.