How to motivate yourself for a regular workout

Hello, great question!

It is one thing to know what types of exercise you should be doing and how frequently, but it is quite another to accomplish this. Between your career, family, friends, personal hobbies and other aspects of your lifestyle, it can often be difficult to fit in exercise as often as you should. Add to this the fact that exercise is physically and mentally challenging, and you've got a recipe for disaster.

Follow these strategies to find the motivation to work out, even when you don't feel like it.

  • Set out your workout clothes in advance. This is a popular piece of exercise advice, and for good reason. When everything you need for your workout is ready to go, it's more difficult to make excuses. If you prefer to exercise in the morning, choose your outfit before you go to sleep, and put it near your bed so that you'll see it as soon as you wake up. This way, you'll be able to get dressed and out the door before you have time to make any excuses. If you typically work out in an old t-shirt, buying some stylish new workout clothes can provide extra motivation, as you won't want your new purchases to go to waste.
  • Commit to just five minutes. Getting out of the house to work out in the first place is often the hardest part, especially when you aren't feeling your best. Instead of blowing off your workout completely, start with just five minutes. This is an easily manageable amount of time, and once you get started, you'll likely find that you have enough energy to stretch your session out a bit longer. Even if you do choose to stop after five minutes, that's still better than nothing. Once you're already out, though, you'll probably want to keep on going, so do what feels right for your body.
  • Set realistic goals. There's no quicker way to lose your resolve than to set goals that are unattainable. Of course, it should be a challenge to reach your goals, but it shouldn't be impossible. For example, if you haven't fit into a size two since you were a teenager, it's unlikely that you will get back there again. Instead, set a goal to drop one or two sizes to start with. Once you reach your current goal, you can always set a new one if there is still more you want to achieve. You want to be able to see your progress so that you don't get discouraged and give up.
  • Don't let a setback derail your progress. Making a major change in your life, like adding regular exercise, takes time and patience. Don't put too much pressure on yourself to stick to your workout schedule perfectly. Life will always throw you curveballs, but that doesn't mean that you have failed. If you have to miss a day due to family commitments, work obligations, illness or any other reason, cut yourself some slack and get back to it the next day. Just because you missed one day doesn't mean you should just give up. Acknowledge that you slipped up, then get right back on track going forward.
  • Enlist a friend to help. Having a workout buddy is a great way to keep both of you motivated. After all, you don't want to let your friend down, do you? Make a plan to meet up with your friend, and stick to it. It helps if you and your exercise partner have similar fitness levels and goals, but this is not required. If one of you is more fit than the other, it can serve as motivation for the other to catch up. The fitter of the two of you can also help coach the other, demonstrating particular moves and making your session more enjoyable and productive for both of you. Even if the two of you are doing completely different exercises, you'll still have more fun doing it together than you would on your own. As an added bonus, a little friendly competition can motivate you to push yourself just a bit harder.
  • Reward yourself for small successes. Within your larger fitness goals, set mini-milestones for yourself, and reward yourself when you reach them. For example, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds, treat yourself to something for every 5 pounds that you lose. Because you are working on your fitness, your reward doesn't have to be dessert-related. Buy yourself that cute top you've been eyeing, or treat yourself to a relaxing day at the spa. Your reward doesn't have to cost a lot to be effective; it could even be something as simple as putting a smiley face sticker on your calendar to mark the milestone. Anything that makes you feel good about your accomplishment will motivate you to keep going to hit the next target.
  • Find intrinsic reasons to work out. Take some time to think about why you want to work out. The reasons you choose to focus on can have a major impact on your motivation level. Intrinsic motivators are much stronger than extrinsic ones. For example, if your reason for exercising is to look better for potential significant others, you may have a harder time finding true motivation than if your reason is to have more energy for playing with your children. In the former example, the reasoning is more superficial, while the latter example would likely lead to more personal fulfillment and happiness. Make sure that you are working out for yourself, not because you feel like you have to in order to impress others.
  • Share your goals. Making your goals known to others can help motivate you to achieve them. Call your mom to tell her about your plan, text your best friend, or post your goals on social media. The more people who know, the better. This will give you the extra motivation you need to push through your hardest days, as you know you have your friends, family and even strangers cheering you on. What's more, you'll want to have something positive to tell everyone when they ask how your workouts are coming along. If you do share your fitness journey on social media, post frequent updates to keep yourself accountable. If you prefer to keep your goals to yourself, write them on a piece of paper and stick them up on your fridge to remind yourself what you are working towards.
  • Have a backup plan for bad weather. Nothing can throw a wrench in your plans quite like a day of bad weather. Instead of giving up on your workout completely, come up with a plan for what you'll do instead so that you aren't left scrambling for ideas when the time comes. For example, instead of going for a jog outside, head to the gym and run on the treadmill. You could also substitute strength training indoors, doing bodyweight exercises, lifting weights and stretching. With a little creativity and flexibility, you can still get a good workout in, even if you have to stay inside. Having a plan in place in advance will prevent you from making excuses.
  • Work with a personal trainer. Anyone can benefit from working with a personal trainer, whether you are relatively new to fitness or have been working out your whole life. If you are a novice, a trainer can teach you the basics of proper form and technique so that you don't hurt yourself in the early stages. Those who are more experienced can make use of a trainer's vast knowledge to take their workouts to the next level. Hiring a personal trainer can help to boost your motivation as well, as you'll want to get your money's worth. Many trainers will still charge you for a session if you cancel less than 24 hours in advance, so you'll need to make your scheduled appointments to avoid losing your money.

Hope this helps!

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