The reason for me writing this article today is because a friend turned to me, and asked a very simple question:
“How Can I Motivate Myself to Exercise?”
She looked slightly lost, almost forlorn, and was desperate for me to give her an answer.
She explained that she had actually checked on Google, and then tried the various things that she had learned, but to no avail.
I thought I’d better have a quick check myself, and I have to say that I can see why none of these things really motivated her to exercise.
I mean, advice such as, sleeping in your workout clothes, scheduling workouts in your calendar, or signing a commitment contract, this doesn’t really cut it for me.
Don’t get me wrong, this is all great advice, but it still doesn’t tackle the issue of actually motivating yourself.
So, today I’d like to share with you what I told my friend.
How Can I Motivate Myself to Exercise?
1. What is Your “Why”?
First things first, if you want to motivate yourself to exercise, you need to ask yourself “why”.
Why is it that you actually want to exercise?
This is genuinely quite a difficult question to answer.
At a guess most people will state some of the most obvious reasons, e.g. “I want to lose weight”, “I want to fit into my summer clothes without feeling paranoid”, “I’m going on holiday soon”, “I have a wedding/other special occasion to attend”, etc.
In truth, the list could go on.
So, take some time to really think about why it is that you want to exercise.
If it is for a special occasion or holiday, then in my book, that’s fine.
Now, there will be many people who will tell you that you shouldn’t rely on external factors to “improve” yourself.
In fact, one of the major causes of unhappiness in many people is that they chase things that they believe will make them happy.
Only to discover that once they have achieved said thing, they are still none the merrier.
However, as the owner of an exercise and nutrition website, this subject is beyond the realms of discussion.
I am aware of these factors, but I’m not going to pass myself off as some sort of self-help guru.
For me, I would just like to help people achieve their body composition goals.
So, if your motivation to exercise is that you want to look fantastic while lounging around on the beach next summer, that’s all good with me.
Once you’ve worked out why it is that you wish to exercise, then you can use this as your main focal point to keep you motivated.
If you’re going on a dream holiday, then find a magazine picture of your destination, cut it out, and stick to the wall in your bedroom.
This way it will be the first thing you see every morning and the last thing at night.
Whatever your motivation, I’m sure you can find an image somewhere that will remind you of it.
The idea here is to keep your mind focused on why you want to exercise.
If it’s simply that you want to lose weight, then a picture of someone with what you consider is the ideal body will suffice.
As I say, you want to remain focused on your goal, as well as giving yourself constant reminders.
You may even want to stick additional images around the house to keep yourself motivated.
The fridge is another great place for an image or two
I’m sure a picture of Blake Lively in swimwear, or Daniel Craig emerging from the sea in Casino Royale will soon stop you reaching into the fridge for another snack.
So, find your “why” and make it personal to you.
2. Take Baby Steps
One of the main reasons that many people find it hard to motivate themselves for exercise is because they make such a huge issue out of it.
I’m sure we’ve all read that we should be exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, 4 or 5 times a week.
Perhaps, you have a friend (who looks fantastic) that goes to the gym for an hour a day, six days a week.
This is all well-and-good, but it’s probably not doing much for YOUR motivation levels.
In fact, exercise has suddenly become an extremely daunting prospect.
In my mind what you’re trying to achieve here is to start a new habit.
However, the bigger or more difficult this habit becomes in your mind, the less likely you are to stick to it.
I once read about a psychologist who was observing a general practitioner friend (obviously with permission from his patients).
One lady came to see the Doctor and they discussed her ballooning weight, and the effect it was starting to have on her overall health.
The Doctor had previously discussed changes in nutrition, plus he explained that she would need to become more active, and to start out by walking for 20 minutes, three times a week.
At the appointment, the lady mentioned that she had made certain changes to her diet, but she had tried walking, but didn’t keep it up.
Upon hearing this, the psychologist intervened.
He asked the lady that for the next 3 weeks until her follow up appointment, he simply wanted her to get up during a commercial break while she was watching TV, and gently run on the spot until her program started again.
She should do this just once a day.
The outcome – the patient had completed her “commercial break running” once a day for the first week.
She then decided to do this twice a day the following week, and three times a day by the 3rd week.
She did all of this using her own volition.
By the end of 3 weeks, she was “working out” for around 9-10 minutes a day, 7 days a week (so more exercise than the doctor had initially prescribed), plus she was actually enjoying it.
So, my advice is to stop making such a big deal out of your need to exercise.
I often set a timer in the mornings, typically no more than 10 minutes, and will simply do sets of bodyweight squats and push ups until the timer rings.
You could do something similar, but it doesn’t have to be the same exercises, and it doesn’t even have to be for 10 minutes.
What do you think’s better for you?
Spending a week thinking about how to motivate yourself for exercise, but doing nothing.
Spending 5 minutes a day doing a few bodyweight exercises.
I think we all know the answer.
So, it doesn’t matter how small or how insignificant you feel your “workout” may be, something is always better than nothing.
3. Make it Fun
One of the main reasons you may lack the motivation to exercise is because you view it as a chore.
Going running, hitting the gym, or even working out at home just seems like such an effort, and it’s pretty boring too.
Going back to my friend, the first thing I did was to take her to our local park.
Do you know what we did?
We went into the children’s play area and basically “played” on everything.
We went on the swings, ran each around on the roundabout until we were dizzy, clambered over the climbing frames, and raced up and down the slide.
It was fantastic fun, and we certainly laughed a lot.
Okay, we did get a few weird looks, but luckily there were no actual children around who’s fun we were stealing.
I can guarantee that the both of us in the hour or so we spent in the park burned a lot of calories, got our heart rates up, and “exercised” without actually realising it.
And that’s the point.
Yes, there are specific forms of exercise that we all typically lean towards, or that we believe that we should be doing.
However, in my mind, exercise is simply about being more active in your daily life.
There are no “rules”, there isn’t anything you should definitely be doing, and it doesn’t have to feel like a burden or an assignment.
As far as I’m concerned, if you’re moving then you’re exercising.
Additionally, we can learn a lot of lessons from watching children play.
They’re basically having a great deal of fun, but at the same time they’re expending energy, burning calories, and giving their entire body a great workout.
I have what can best be described as a forest/wooded area near to where I live.
I often go and spend an hour or so just walking around, jumping over fallen trees, swinging from the ropes that have been attached to trees, skipping over the stepping stones in the stream without falling in (hopefully).
It’s great fun, and it’s still exercise.
4. Have An Exercise Buddy
Just looking at the above example of the two of us “playing” in the park, sometimes having someone else with you can be all the motivation you need.
Firstly, if you have someone to exercise with, someone who has the same goals and aspirations (in terms of exercise), you definitely won’t want to let them down.
It also brings the “fun” equation back into exercise, as you’ll be doing something together.
There will be days when you just don’t feel like it, so your friend can gee you along, get you exercising, and vice versa.
They often say that a problem shared is a problem halved, and this is certainly true when it comes to motivating yourself to do something that you typically struggle with.
Having an exercise buddy will inspire you, help you form a closer bond with that person (or people, you can have more than one exercise buddy), and ultimately, once again it will make exercise seem like fun.
5. Exercise First Thing in the Morning
I’ve heard many people say, “I’m not a morning person”, but I truly believe that we can all be whatever we want in life.
A “not a morning person” in my mind is simply someone who hasn’t had a good night’s sleep.
Once more, I’m not going to delve into the realms of sleeping habits and the perfect number of hours of sleep.
With that said, it is a subject I’ve touched upon in my article, “How to Lose Weight Without a Diet or Exercise”, and there’s a great video that shows the relationship between sleep and weight gain/weight loss.
However, one thing I will say is that I have discovered that I am generally more motivated first thing in the morning.
Believe it or not, this is the same for most of us.
We begin a new day (hopefully) feeling fresh and excited about what we’re going to encounter in the hours ahead.
But, as the day wears on we typically become more tired and lethargic, and many of us will suffer from the post-lunch slump, when all you want to do is absolutely nothing.
By the time the evening rolls around, thoughts turn to dinner, relaxing on the sofa, and eventually bed.
I’m aware that many people exercise in the evenings, after work, or once they’ve been home and had a chance to relax.
I’ve even done this myself in the past.
Nevertheless, for the vast majority of people, our motivation is at its greatest when we haven’t been worn down by the ins-and-outs of the day.
Use this to your advantage.
Going back to the point about taking baby steps, there’s nothing wrong with having a quick 10-15 minute workout first thing in the morning (or even less if you’re just starting out with exercise).
You’ll actually find it sets you up quite nicely for the day, gives you that burst of energy, and your mood is certainly enhanced.
Plus you have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve already completed your daily exercise, and it’s “out of the way”.
When you’re first starting out and severely lacking motivation, it may be an idea to exercise first thing in the morning.
In a way, it’s much like the main take away from Brian Tracy’s book on procrastination, Eat That Frog.
Although, the term “eat that frog” was originally coined by Mark Twain.
Basically, starting the day by tackling your hardest task, or the one you’re least looking forward to, you know that the rest of your day gets easier.
Okay, I don’t want you to specifically look at exercise in such a negative manner, but this may be your current mindset.
However, by performing a short bout of exercise, or even an entire workout, first thing in the morning, you’ll be amazed by how it starts to make you feel.
6. Write Down How Exercise Makes You Feel
Once again, I may be straying into the realms of “self-help”, so sorry for that.
I am someone who regularly journals, basically I write down the thoughts and feelings going through my mind.
There’s no need to go quite as in-depth as myself, but this may be a fantastic way to motivate yourself to exercise.
I’ve mentioned how a quick bout of exercise in the morning can set you up for the day.
Just a few minutes can leave you feeling energized, alert, and you’ll find that your mood is definitely a lot brighter.
Use this to your advantage.
Once you’ve finished your workout, showered, and had something to eat, pull out a pen and paper (yes, they still exist you know).
Simply spend no more than 3-5 minutes writing down what exercise you did this morning, and how it’s made you feel.
As long as you’re not pushing yourself too hard, or exercising for hours on end (which I’m guessing isn’t going to be an issue), you should always feel absolutely fantastic after a short bout of exercise.
This is especially true once you’ve had a chance to relax and have something to eat.
The release of the hormone serotonin, which typically leaves on you on a high, and is what I like to call the feel-good hormone, should’ve kicked in by then.
So, take the opportunity to jot down a few words about how you feel afterwards.
You’ll be amazed by how a few positive words can brighten up your day, and leave you feeling motivated to exercise even more.
So, there you have my tips to motivate yourself to exercise.
There’s nothing ground-breaking here, but hopefully what you’ve read is a little different to the standard advice on offer.
As I’ve mentioned above, I’ve tried my best not to stray into “self-help”, but talking about motivation will do that for you.
If you’re just starting out with exercise, or you simply want to begin with “baby steps” as I’ve discussed, then I may have the perfect thing for you.
Erin Nielsen created an entire workout program which is based around five 10-minute workouts per week – literally no time at all.
The workouts are aimed at helping you burn fat and gain a leaner physique, plus you can do all of this in the comfort of your own home.
So, please check out what I have to say about Erin’s program in my Toned in Ten Review.
Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.