Before we get to your tips, I want to share a quick story.
I used to be the most unmotivated person when it came to working out. In college, I no longer had a team sport to hold me accountable, so unlike in high school when I was part of the swim team year-round, physical activity wasn’t a mandatory, no-questions-asked part of my day. I no longer had that structure in my life, so if I wanted exercise to be a part of my routine, it was up to me, myself and I to make it happen.
Of course, having gone from the total structure and support of a team activity to absolutely zero commitment and responsibility, exercise quickly became a non-priority of mine and for a long time it didn’t happen at all. While I was in college and trying to figure out how to stay in shape without swimming, getting to the gym was a full-on struggle. I had classes to attend, tons of work to keep up with, and then of course I wanted to spend my free time hanging out with friends.
But all of that other stuff we have to do — work, chores, errands, etc. — those don’t ever go away, they are constantly a part of life, so it makes almost no sense to say things like “Oh, I’ll start my new workout routine next week when the kids are finally in school,” or “I just need to wait until work isn’t so busy and then I’ll get started.”
Eventually, and it took me quite a long time, I learned that I needed to figure out not only how to get myself more motivated, but also how to make exercise a bigger priority in my life, because if that wasn’t going to happen, then keeping up with a consistent workout routine wasn’t going to happen either.
So this list of tips that I’ve created based off of my own personal fitness journey and my experience as a personal trainer are designed to help you both learn how to stay motivated and how to fit exercise in your life as a top priority and not just a thing you’ll get to if you have time. So, without further ado, here are the five tips as promised!
Get (And Stay) Motivated To Work Out
1. Stop Doing Workouts That You Hate
Let me ask you a question: last time you did work out, did you enjoy it? If your answer to this question is “no,” then maybe don’t do that same workout again. One of the best things I learned about exercise is that it doesn’t have to be a dreaded, grueling experience. It used to be that way for me, but it’s not anymore because with a little bit of experimentation, I finally found an activity (running, duh!) that I could get excited about.
In 2014, I wrote this in an article about creating a workout routine you’ll enjoy:
“The key to sustaining an exercise routine actually has nothing to do with motivation. If your ‘workouts’ consist only of activities that you truly enjoy, than you won’t need any motivation. You’re passion and enthusiasm will keep you engaged far beyond the point that any amount of motivation could.”
For me this has held true. Sure, I’ve had times or even periods of time where I don’t really feel like running and want nothing to do with it, but that deep underlying love I have for it is so strong and pure that it always comes back. Plus, running has taught me how good my body feels when I’m active, so even when I’m not in the mood for it, usually I’m looking for some other form of activity, like yoga, spinning or lifting weights.
Oh, and I’m not saying that you have to go pick up running. I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s certainly not for everyone. What I am telling you, though, is that you should try new activities that sound fun and exciting to you. If you’re not sure where to start, email me! I can give you suggestions and try to help guide you towards what will really work for you.
One last piece of advice on this tip: when you’re trying new activities you can’t just dismiss them after only one or two workouts. If you know my story about running, then you know I used to LOATHE it. I can’t even put into words how much I despised it. But that’s because when you’ve never run before and you first start, your body isn’t ready for it, so naturally it just sucks. It doesn’t feel good at all. But once you build up your strength and stamina, then it starts to get better and you can truly determine whether you like it or not. This is true for pretty much any form of exercise if you’re a beginner, so you have to promise me that when you’re trying something new, you’ll give it a few weeks before you decide whether it’s for you or not.
2. Switch It Up
So yes, hopefully you’ll find that one activity you’re totally in love with and you’ll never want to give it up. But while that’s totally great, it’s a good idea to have a few other options that you also enjoy. Maybe not on the same level, but just to a point where it doesn’t feel like a chore for you.
This tip is important for two reasons: (1) you will likely burn yourself out and get sick of your favorite activity if you do it too often and (2) from a physical standpoint, doing the same activity over and over and over again won’t be the most beneficial for your body. The idea is to keep things interesting and to get your whole body working in different ways.
Like I mentioned above, these things for me are yoga, spinning and lifting weights, but they will be different for everyone. And again, please feel free to email me if you want some suggestions for what to try!
3. Plan For Rest Days
You don’t need to and shouldn’t work out every single day of the week. Doing so is another great way to burn yourself out and become frustrated or displeased with exercise in general.
Working out every day, and especially if you’re just starting to implement exercise into your daily life, isn’t a sustainable approach. The goal is to achieve consistency so that exercising becomes a routine part of your life for the long-term, but it’s likely that if you start out by trying to tackle too much all at once and feel like you can never miss a day ever, then you’ll exhaust yourself and end up feeling disappointed because you couldn’t keep up. We don’t want that. There’s no need to lead yourself to feelings of frustration and defeat.
If you start out slowly, gradually add more days in, and keep regular rest days (days where you have no workouts planned aside from maybe some light stretching and easy walking), you’ll build yourself up to a routine that’s healthy, safe and, most importantly, sustainable over the long term.
Oh, but don’t forget: rest days don’t equate to sitting on your behind all day. Numerous studies have shown the importance of moving throughout the day, regardless of your workout routine. Sitting is bad and motion is good.
4. Set Goals And Have A Plan, But Don’t Be Afraid To Deviate
Your goal can be simple (exercise at least 3 days a week for one month straight) or a little more intricate (run my first half-marathon), but whatever it is, having it will help you stay infinitely more motivated. The idea is simple: create a tangible achievement to work toward. It will be a constant reminder of why you’re working out and help you to stay excited about the process.
Additionally, if exercise is totally new to you, it’s not likely that you can just make a decision to start doing it and expect your habits to change overnight. It will take time and you’ll need a plan of action.
Last year when I was writing an article about how to successfully set and achieve New Year’s resolutions, I talked to two fitness experts about how to set goals that work. The article was framed around the idea of setting New Year’s resolutions, but really the steps they lined out can be used at any time to set a new goal, so I encourage you to give it a read >> 10 Tips For Successful Goal Setting
5. Take A Day Off
This is different than planned rest days (see tip #3). What I mean by take a day off is, you’ll set your goal and you’ll map out your plan, but if your plan calls for a workout but something feels off or something comes up that gets in the way, just skip it and let it go. These things are going to happen, it’s inevitable. The trick is (a) to not let it get you down — there’s no use in feeling sorry for or bad about yourself over one or even two missed workouts, and (b) to not let it become a habit — don’t get into a routine where you’re constantly making excuses for why you can’t fit your workout in. That will almost certainly lead to failure.
The main idea behind this tip, though, is to trust your body and treat it with respect. If you missed out on a lot of sleep the night before, something is feeling sore, or you had a legitimately stressful day to the point where trying to fit a workout in would likely just create even more stress, then it’s probably better to give yourself a break and get back on the horse again the next day.
OK, I know that was a lot of info, but all of these concepts are what have helped me come to have a fun and sustainable relationship with exercise. Yes, they will take some time to learn and implement, they did for me anyway, but if you work at it, set your goals and stay consistent, I promise you won’t have to think twice about whether or not you’re “motivated” to workout.
Also, I’ve created a little chart (see below) that breaks these five tips down into simple terms: something you can print out and hang up where you can see it every day to remind yourself of what it takes and what you’re working toward!
And finally, if you have any questions, just shoot me an email! I’m here to help you and honestly it’s my favorite thing to do, so don’t be shy! I love you all <3