We all know regular exercise good for us. Doctors tell us. The media tells us. Even our parents tell us.
According to Michigan State University, just 30 minutes of physical activity a day can help decrease risks of certain diseases, promote weight loss, assist with heart and lung health and improve mental wellbeing.
No one wants to be sick and sad. So why don’t we listen?
One word: Motivation.
Take New Year’s Day, for example. The promise of a new chapter fills us with inspiration. We resolve to lose weight, read more, call our grandmas, and, yes, work out. Yet studies show that a whopping 80% of people who join a gym in January quit within five months.
Once that initial fuzzy feeling fades, we’re left with reality: sticking to an exercise regimen is hard work. Early mornings, challenging workouts, and slow progress all stare us in the face. We want to stay consistent, but after a few sore muscles and membership costs, we fall off the wagon.
So what will it take to win your workout motivation back?
Things to know
- Don't set your goals too high. Start with developing micro-habits. It could mean simply starting with 10 minutes of yoga a week and increasing when you feel able.
- Tracking your progress is a great way to stay motivated because you know things are changing in the right direction, and perhaps you can even visualize the end result.
- You can easily make working out fun with your favorite music, some new clothes, or an upbeat instructor on YouTube.
Here are nine steps to get you picking up an exercise program and not putting it back down:
- Find Your “Why”
- Make A Pump Up Playlist
- Follow Inspiring Trainers
- Get New Gear
- Pick a Fun Workout
- Set Attainable Goals
- Track Your Progress
- Stick to a Schedule
- Hold Yourself Accountable
1. Find Your “Why”
If you picked up a magazine, you would think the only reason anyone goes to the gym is weight loss. But if dropping a size or two isn’t your goal, then you’re going to run out of workout motivation pretty quickly. You need a solid reason to stay on track.
It’s true that a smaller waistline can be a benefit of regular exercise, but it’s not the only one. Working out has countless positive effects and can improve your life in many ways. A healthier heart, stronger bones, and even a lower risk of cancer can all be achieved from physical activity. If your physical health is important to you, then that can be an excellent motivator for your next workout.
But you might be surprised to learn that mental health is also aided by exercise. Following an exercise program has been shown to have a powerful impact on the mind. Researchers have found evidence that staying active can be beneficial in reducing anxiety, depression, and stress, while improving self-esteem and cognitive function. So if you struggle with mental well-being or low self-esteem seeing exercise as medicinal may be motivational for you.
2. Make A Pump Up Playlist
Nothing kills your inspiration like listening to elevator music playing in the gym. If the tunes aren't your style, it will suck all the energy out of your training. Power up regular exercise with a motivational workout playlist!
Find the songs that get you fired up and save them for your next workout. There are no rules here: your fitness jams can be pop, classic rock, show tunes, rap, or a little bit of everything.
If you don’t know where to start, look for a track with a fast beat or inspirational lyrics. A workout playlist will definitely help you push through lazy days.
3. Follow Inspiring Trainers
One reason people lose motivation for their daily workout is gym intimidation. They see uber-fit athletes doing unfamiliar movements in the weight room and run for the hills.
Turn that fear on its head and follow fitness influencers on social media! Now, that same personal trainer type that scared you off in the gym is walking you through a full fitness program. Following someone else’s fitness journey on social media teaches you new activities and gives you exercise motivation at the same time.
Another plus? It will turn Instagram into a fitness app that motivates you every time you open it up.
4. Get New Gear
If you want to get motivated for your daily workout, it helps to dress the part.
There’s no gym requirement to wear color-coordinated outfits, but there’s just something about brand-new workout clothes that makes you want to wear them. Treating yourself to a fresh pair of sneakers or a trendy top will make you look forward to the next time you’ll be using them.
But a new outfit won’t just give you exercise motivation. It can also help you have a better workout. With the right gear, you’ll reduce the risk of injury and make your new active lifestyle more comfortable. Investing in quality gym clothes will set you up for long-term success.
5. Pick a Fun Workout
An exercise session doesn’t have to be something you dread. Adding variety to your daily workout is a great way to maintain your motivation. It prevents boredom and helps you identify which types of exercise you enjoy.
Hate running? Don’t do it. Does strength training make you feel powerful? Add more weights. Motivated by a little friendly competition? Try a group fitness class, like boot camp. Prefer the great outdoors to the inside of a building? Go for a bike ride or walk around a track.
To keep up an exercise habit, don’t force yourself to do boring workouts. Do what makes you feel good.
6. Set Attainable Goals
One big mistake people make on their fitness journey is setting unrealistic goals. They want to rush the process and experience an extreme transformation almost overnight. But if running a marathon is your fitness goal and you can barely walk a mile, then you will quickly grow discouraged and give up.
Instead of aiming to run ten miles, try adjusting your target to walking ten minutes a day. Or, if you're more advanced, shoot to increase your bench press weight by 10% instead of 50%.
Make your fitness goal easy to reach, then pick a new one once you hit it. That way, you are constantly being rewarded for your progress, which will inspire you to keep it up.
7. Track Your Progress
When we look in the mirror every day, we don’t see dramatic changes. Physical transformation happens so slowly that it’s hard to appreciate just how far we’ve come. It can be devastating to work up a sweat every day and feel like you have nothing to show for it.
That’s why it’s so important to find ways to keep track of your progress from the very beginning. Using a fitness app is a great method. You can record your weight, diet, and even photos to monitor your fitness journey. Even if you aren't proud of your current physique, you'll be grateful you have a "first-day" photo to compare yourself to.
Over time, you’ll be able to look back and admire the rewards of your consistent dedication. Nothing motivates you to work out like seeing results.
8. Stick to a Schedule
Acting in bursts of motivation isn’t the best way to keep up regular exercise. If that’s your strategy, you’ll only go to the gym when you feel like it. Or worse, go overboard early on and hurt yourself.
Instead, the best way to keep up your exercise motivation is to create a workout schedule. This way, you can plan out a fitness program that works for you. If you’re the kind of person who hits the snooze button, then don’t choose an early morning workout time. Or, if you know you have a busy week ahead, then structure your schedule to fit in a gym session.
Without a plan, it's easy to skip your workout when you're feeling tired or stressed. Having a routine adds structure and control to your workouts, which will keep you on track.
9. Hold Yourself Accountable
Discipline is a habit. We don’t always feel motivated to jump out of bed and knock out a gym session. Most people give up and go back to hitting the snooze button on the alarm clock after a few days of a new exercise program.
That’s why you can’t rely solely on motivation to get you out the door. To build an exercise habit, you need someone to hold you to your word. Getting a workout buddy to go to the gym with you is a great solution. If you're in a relationship, why not make fitness part of your couple goals? An accountability partner can be also be a supportive family member. It’s a lot harder to skip your workout time with an exercise buddy waiting for you.
What Are You Waiting For?
Getting back to a fitness program doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
The most important thing is to start where you are. There’s no friendly competition between your fitness journey and someone else’s. You won’t prove anything by pushing too hard, too fast. That approach is a recipe for an injury, which will definitely kill your motivation.
Stay consistent and monitor your progress. Results take time. Once you form an exercise habit, you won’t even need to rely on getting motivated to work out. If you follow these steps, you’ll be swapping out video games for group classes at the gym in no time.