5 Ways to Find Motivation to Exercise

We all love the high that comes from finishing a good workout. It makes us feel good, it’s good for us, blah blah blah. The trouble is, getting to the gym is often very, very difficult. Why is it that, after a day of sitting, continuing to sit feels so good??

As a former college athlete, I have been on both sides of this dilemma: at certain points in my life, I have been the person who effortlessly goes to the gym most days. More recently, I have also experienced the daily struggle of not having the motivation to get off the cozy couch.

Below are some simple steps to bridge the gap.

1. Expand your idea of what a “work out” is.

When a lot of us think of “exercise,” we have a mental picture of sweating on an elliptical, hating every minute of it. Exercise is anything that involves moving your body.

Walking is a workout. Dancing is a workout. Spending 2 hours going on what my husband calls a “cleaning rampage” is a workout. Once we allow ourselves to see what we are already doing as exercise, the concept of “working out” becomes less daunting, less grueling, and less seemingly impossible to fit into our schedule. If you are a human being living on planet earth, you are ALREADY exercising. Revolutionary!

Once we get rid of the incorrect assumption that exercise involves one narrow, even painful, form of movement, it is much easier to get over that initial hump of starting to workout.

2. Find a type of exercise you feel good at.

Research shows that when you feel more competent at a given task, you are much more motivated to engage in that task in the future (Deci & Ryan, 2000). So, one key to finding motivation to work out is finding a type of exercise you feel good at. Maybe you’re good at lifting weights. Maybe you’re a wonderful tennis player. Maybe you’re a budding yogi, basketball player, biking extraordinaire, or alpine skier.

The wonderful thing is, you don’t have to be great at all of it. So, think about your strengths! What types of physical activities do you feel confident doing?

3. Consider the gym environment in which you will feel most comfortable.

Self-confidence also relates to the people by whom we are surrounded. If you’re at a gym primarily occupied by body builders and triangle-shaped men, perhaps it’s time to reconsider that particular membership for one that makes you feel more at home.

Also, if you show up to the gym slightly embarrassed by your work out clothes from the Dinosaur age, maybe it’s time to invest in some better gear to help you feel your best. As silly as it sounds, new work out clothes that you can’t wait to wear can really help get you to the gym to show those cuties off! Importantly, these don’t have to be expensive to get the job done (sorry, Lulu Lemon, I don’t have $4,000 to spend on a pair of leggings). I personally love the ones that have pockets for my phone, like these ones from amazon which are less than $20!

4. Find an exercise that’s FUN.

Are you more likely to be excited about jogging on a treadmill for 50 minutes, or spending that hour in a Zumba dance class? Everyone has a different idea of fun, but the key to finding motivation is starting to view this time of day as a fun break.

Maybe it helps you to make a super good workout playlist. Maybe you need a different gym membership that offers group fitness classes (e.g., my gym offers spin, yoga, pilates, HIIT, barre, and aerobic classes).

If you’re a lover of the great outdoors, maybe it’s time to quit the gym membership altogether and simply spend more time walking and jogging outside.

5. Find a buddy, if possible.

Not only does a motivated work-out friend give us some accountability for going to the gym, but it’s also an efficient use of time: your hour long gym escapade can also serve as your social hour, so you’re guaranteed to leave in a great mood.

The key here is to find a friend with somewhat similar interests and fitness levels. Neither of you will feel as motivated to continue if one wants to spend 2 hours at the gym and the other is hoping for 30 minutes.

6. Set goals.

So, if you’re serious about your fitness, take a notecard or post it and write down a starting fitness goal. Try to make is as specific as you can, and don’t be unrealistic. If you’ve been working out once a month, it’s probably not the best to start with a 6-day a week regimen. Think about baby-stepping your way in to the routine you eventually want to have.

Maybe you start with a goal of going for two 30 minute walks a week. After a week or two, you add 1 day of lifting to the schedule. A few weeks later, you add a second day of lifting, etc.

One thing that can be a really helpful marker of how you’ve been doing is a fitness tracker. My husband gave me the Alta HR Fit Bit as a gift about a year and a half ago, and it has been kind of life changing. I am much more conscious of how much I’m moving throughout the day and how much sleep I get at night because it tracks all of that for me. (As soon as I got it, I was so excited to see if I could reach 10,000 steps every day that I started walking everywhere).

If you’re looking for extra accountability or more info on your fitness levels, I highly recommend the Alta HR. It had everything I needed, and nothing extra. It’s also on sale right now for less than $100 on amazon! (You’re welcome).

I hope these tips help give you a place to start. Good luck and happy exercising!