Are you stuck in a slump? Do you find that you have the best intentions for a fitness plan only to get distracted, lazy, and not make it a priority? Are there many days when you struggle to get up and go?
We’ve all been there. Staying fit is tough. Netflix is always available. Sometimes you need a little something extra to push you toward your workout.
Let’s take a look at 25 proven and powerful ways to increase your motivation and set you up for success.
1. Determine Your Why
This is the important starting point. Why are you exercising? Do you need to strengthen your core muscles to prevent back pain? Do you suffer from depression and find running improves your mood? Is your health at risk due to your weight? Once you single out your “why” you will be able to come back to that mantra over and over when you’re tempted to throw in the towel.
If you don’t have a compelling reason for exercise, you’ll be more inclined to skip days and then give up altogether. Nail down your why first.
2. Make a Plan
Before you dive into 90 minute classes at the gym, sit down and plan. Make attainable goals. Start small. If you haven’t exercised in 3 years, don’t train for a marathon. If you set goals that are too high you will most likely become quickly discouraged and quit. Challenge yourself but be realistic.
Runners often make two goals: minimum and stretch. For example, if they are running a marathon, their minimum goal may be a 4 hour finish and their stretch goal may be a 3.5 hour finish.
Consider making a minimum and stretch goal for yourself. That will give you options if you find yourself either having great success or struggling.
3. Follow Fitness Bloggers and Instagrammers
There’s nothing is quite as motivating as seeing someone working hard and getting results. Fitness bloggers have lots of excellent advice, recipes, and tips. You’ll come to realize they’re just real people who have the same struggles as you and have overcome a lot of obstacles.
Many fitness Instagrammers share photos and videos of their workouts, which can give you guidance and inspiration.
4. Treat Yourself
Think of a way to reward yourself for diligently working out. Treating yourself to a half-pound loaded burger, fries, beer, and a shake will more than likely be counter-productive. Instead treat yourself to a small splurge.
Watch an episode of House of Cards or buy new workout clothes. Science shows that extrinsic reward is extremely powerful for motivation. Your brain connects the workout to the reward and increases the chances you’ll be consistent.
5. Track Your Progress With an App
There are countless apps out there like NIke Run Club and Runkeeper that track your miles, routes, and calories burned. Its extremely gratifying to see your “Total Miles Run” slowly grow over time.
Plus, tracking progress allows you to tell when you’re slipping and then make appropriate adjustments. If you look at your app and see that you’ve been hitting the gym less frequently, it’s a reminder that you need to get back on track.
6. Train Your Brain
This is going to be hard to believe when you’re not in a routine of exercising, but once you get into a rhythm of weekly workouts you will feel rejuvenated at the end of your workout. In time that alone will be a huge reward.
Exercise releases large amounts of serotonin, which is known as the happy hormone. It’s what gives you that euphoric feeling after an intense weight session or long run. Once your brain is accustomed to having the serotonin, you’ll begin to crave it, reinforcing your workout habit.
7. Make It Legal
This may sound crazy, but draft a document committing to doing “x” exercise for a set period of time and pay a friend ten dollars every week you don’t keep your word. In a sense, create a “binding” agreement between you and your friend that you’ll exercise, and then penalize yourself if you fail to meet the contract.
For some the money is a huge motivator. For others the potential embarrassment of having to tell your friend you didn’t workout is a stronger motivator. Whether it’s one or the other or both combined this is a strategy that will keep you in line.
Taking time to think about exercise in a positive light increases motivation. When you’re sitting on the couch debating fumbling into the pantry for the Cheetos and clicking the “Next Episode” prompt on Netflix, visualize yourself running.
Think about how good it will feel when you’re done. How invigorating the sun will be. How energized you’ll be. High performing athletes use visualization to prepare them for an activity before they do it. By visualizing your workout, your can ready both your body and brain for exercise.
9. Identify Your Obstacles
You can’t overcome an obstacle you haven’t identified. Take a minute and determine what prohibits you from following through on your plan to exercise.
Are you a night owl trying to get in a 5:30 AM workout? Rearrange your schedule. Do you feel too weak or tired to run? Guzzle down a glass of water and eat a small healthy snack to energize you. Do you hate running? Get a gym membership. Do you ate the gym? Start running.
Identifying what holds you back from exercise allows you to break down walls and get moving.
10. Create a Ritual
Rituals are a way of telling your brain that something is going to happen. By creating a pre-exercise ritual which you perform repeatedly, your brain begins to associate the ritual with working out. Once this association is formed, it becomes part of your routine and thus easier.
Start your ritual the night before. Set out your sneakers and workout clothes for spin class. Clean up things that could distract you or demand your attention the next morning. When you wake up, drink coffee and eat a healthy breakfast. Getting into a routine of some sort will train your brain to avoid excuses and keep you on task.
11. Find Your Tribe
One of the most beneficial motivators for exercise is having a workout buddy or a group of friends who you’re doing a class with. The accountability is extremely effective in increasing motivation.
You’re also much more likely to stick to an exercise regimen if someone is expecting you. Who wants to call their best friend and cancel a run at six in the morning?
12. Put It In Writing
Depending on your personality there are a couple ways to use good old fashioned pen and paper to increase motivation.
Print out a calendar and mark off every day you exercise with a big, red marker. Doesn’t that sound gratifying? Keeping a log of what you do will help you stay motivated as you see the accumulation of all you’ve done over a period of time.
13. Lower Your Expectations
It’s easy to let shaming thoughts intrude even if you are already exercising. If you want to do more or get stronger or have a hotter body or workout for an hour and a half, fine.
But if you’re squeezing in a 25 minute walk into your day and find shaming “should” thoughts creep in, stop them dead in their tracks. Tell yourself you are being healthy and doing a whole lot more than most people.
14. Appreciate Your Health
The fact that you have a healthy body and can exercise and improve your health is a tremendous gift. Take time to slow down and appreciate your health. Appreciate the fact that you can exercise. Express gratitude about being able to run or lift or do Crossfit.
Gratitude reframes working out from a duty into a privilege.
15. Stop the All or Nothing Thinking
Nothing derails a consistent workout routine like allowing yourself to be defined by a bad day. The fact that you hit the snooze today doesn’t have to mean your good intentions to stick to a program are a wash.
From there you’ll just continue to spiral downward and most likely end up quitting. One snooze doesn’t have to mean it’s going to be a bad day or bad week or a bad month. Give yourself some credit and try to do better tomorrow.
16. Get Past the Scale
The scale is an useful way to measure success, but celebrate successes beyond the scale.
Celebrate your pants fitting better. Celebrate the muscle tone in your arms. Celebrate being able to move in a flexible way that was not even remotely possible a year ago.
The scale is only one very specific metric for measuring progress. Losing weight may not even be your objective, especially if you’re doing intense weight workouts. Gather a variety of ways for celebrating progress beyond stepping on the scale.
17. Don’t Compare
Unfortunately the rise of social media has made it a whole lot easier to compare your body to other people’s. Stop.
Don’t let your mind go down the rabbit trail of self-loathing. If the skinny ultra marathon runner’s daily workout updates complete with photos is making you crazy, unfollow him.
You are chasing your own personal fitness goals, not trying to be someone else.
18. Start Your Day Right
While this is not for everyone, consider starting your day with a workout. Give it a try and set the alarm clock a little earlier to allow time for a pre-work run. You may find that once you get your butt out of bed, the energy and other rewards of a morning run outweigh that extra half hour of sleep.
Additionally, starting your day with a workout means your serotonin and dopamine levels will be high, which will put you in a positive mood for the day.
19. Workout On Monday or Friday
Studies show people start the week with high levels of motivation. You’re rested from the weekend so start the week out on a good note. You’ll feel good and be much more likely to stick with your exercise plan if you start well.
Friday is another alternative. Are you low on motivation? The week’s taken its toll? Imagine how much better you’ll feel when you know you went for that jog when it was the absolute last thing you wanted to do! This is also an effective means to keep your weekend in check and to keep weekend indulging at a minimum.
20. Take a Rest Day
Do not do the same workout every day, because you will be sure to suffer from workout burnout. Your body is not made to go go go. Take rest days or work different muscles groups. If you don’t you will be much more susceptible to injury and likely quit altogether eventually.
21. Make It Fun
Why would you workout in silence when you can speed through an audio book or a good podcast while you sweat? There’s tons of easily accessible entertainment from your smartphone. And who knows. You may even start to look forward to exercising and picking up where you left off in the most recent thriller you’re listening to. Music is an obvious choice, but keep these in mind too.
22. Read Success Stories
If you find you’re overwhelmed at the state of your health, reading the success stories of other people will be a tremendous encouragement. They were in the same shoes as you are now, but look how their hard work paid off.
23. Change It Up
Sometimes you need variety to take your fitness to the next level. If you run 3 miles 3 days a week, try doing cross-fit one day. The variety will not only keep you motivated, but your overall health will improve as you will be working different muscles.
Armed with fresh motivation for exercise, you’ll find these tips will make you more consistent and and get you on the track to health you’ve always imagined for yourself.
No one said working out would be easy. It takes discipline, hard work, and pure sweat. But by implementing these suggestions, you can significantly improve your motivation levels.