11 Tips for Workout Motivation

By Kay Carter

Finding workout motivation can be hard, especially if you’re stuck doing the same exercises multiple days in a row or if you feel like giving up because you aren’t seeing any progress. To rise above the day-to-day challenge of getting in a steady home workout routine, here are 11 workout motivation strategies to help you reach your fitness goals.

1. Switch up your workout program

If you’re going to the gym day after day and not changing where or how you workout, it can be hard to stay motivated. Change scenery and go for a run outside or find an exercise you actually enjoy, like yoga or pilates. On the other hand, it can be just as difficult to leave the house to work out. Bring your workout home and start a new yoga series on YouTube or try a high-intensity training program like P90X.

Try fun, adrenaline-pumping activities like rock climbing and uphill hiking or go to boutique fitness studios that offer specialized workout programs. There are also a number of fitness apps and online training videos, like Runkeeper or Sweatcoin, that can help you stay motivated and provide a personalized workout experience.

Class Pass is an app that provides access to yoga, strength training, barre, martial arts, pilates, boxing, and indoor cycling class with a flat-rate monthly subscription service, allowing you to pick and choose workout classes that suit your preferences.

2. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals

Make your goals specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. A S.M.A.R.T. workout goal could be to have more energy at the end of one month by performing cardio five times a week for 30 minutes a day and combining that exercise with two days of 20-minute strength training regimens.

Another S.M.A.R.T. goal could be that as a moderate runner, you want to run a 5K in 20 minutes.

  • Specific—In three months, I want to be able to run a 5K in 20 minutes.
  • Measurable—I will measure my mile pace during training and during the race to ensure I will meet the 20-minute completion goal.
  • Attainable—I have three months to prepare for the race.
  • Realistic—Because I’m a moderate runner, it’s realistic that with regular training I can achieve the 10-minute mile pace.
  • Time-bound—I have three months to train for the 5K.

3. Work out in the morning

You might be losing workout motivation because you’re prioritizing your fitness at the end of a long work day—a time when you most likely feel completely depleted and drained. Sometimes a morning workout can be the best workout.

According to Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief science officer with the American Council on Exercise in San Diego, “Research suggests in terms of performing a consistent exercise habit, individuals who exercise in the morning tend to do better.” If you exercise in the morning, your body should allow more time to warm up since your overall body temperature is lower.

Set yourself up for success and schedule your workout in the morning and see if this shift helps with overcoming the post-work workout slump.

4. Give yourself a reward

In addition to losing weight, increasing energy, improving mental and emotional health, and getting stronger, make the benefits of working out more tangible by treating yourself to an item you’ve been eyeing for a while. According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, “An extrinsic reward is so powerful because your brain can latch on to it and make the link that the behavior is worthwhile.”

Over time, this extrinsic motivation will translate to intrinsic motivation, as the brain associates sweat and pain with endorphins, feel-good chemicals that diminish pain and trigger positive feelings (also known as the body’s natural pain killers).

5. Start a buddy system

Enlist a friend to be your source of workout motivation and hold you accountable throughout the week. Whether it’s scheduling time to go to the gym with your roommate or a partner or playing a sport where more than one person is involved, like tennis or basketball, having a buddy system can motivate you to achieve your fitness goals.

Consider joining a yoga studio or spinning class and meet other exercisers who share your fitness habits. A community that will support you in your workout journey can be a crucial step in getting over your workout slump.

6. Make monetary commitments

Putting money down on a gym membership or an upcoming marathon can be the biggest source of workout motivation because nobody wants to see their money go to waste. Even investing in smaller items like a new pair of yoga leggings, an Apple Watch, or new gym shoes can get you motivated. Hire a personal trainer to help you exercise or sign up for a non-refundable workout class—setting these appointments will force you to show up and work out.

7. Invest in new gym equipment

Buying new fitness equipment and creating a home gym may kickstart a new period of working out. Maybe you want a new set of weights or have been eyeing a more comfortable yoga mat. Pick one item that gets you excited about working out and make the purchase.

8. Use your workout to destress

View your workout as a time to destress—a motivating factor we can all appreciate. Catch up on the latest podcast, listen to a new audiobook, or find a new Spotify workout playlist to listen to. Some treadmills even have built-in TVs that allow you to binge watch your favorite show while working out.

9. Compete with others

Even if you’re not a competitive person by nature, finding a workout buddy or group who is slightly better or faster can bring out your competitive nature and encourage you to work harder. Check Meetup for running groups in your area. Some will start at a sports shop or bar and, after the run, will end at a bar for a celebratory beer.

You can even compete with yourself and compare miles ran, calories burned, or weight lost from the previous week or month and improve on those metrics. Always try to find a healthy balance in how much you exercise and how much you rest—too much exercise could result in severe weight loss or extreme burnout.

10. Visualize the workout outcome

After setting your goals and visualizing the desired outcome, identify what’s holding you back from achieving these goals. This “mental contrasting” helps you set a plan to overcome any obstacles you face that get in the way of working out.

11. Take a break

Your lack of workout motivation could be because you’re exercising too much. Take a week off to do more low-impact exercises, like walking around the block, cleaning your home, or planting flowers in your garden.

Other workout motivation tips

  • Wear your workout clothes during the day and don’t change out of them until you do some sort of exercise. Simply wearing workout gear can motivate you to exercise during the day.
  • After each workout, write down how you feel. On days when you don’t have the motivation to exercise, look back at how each workout made you feel and be encouraged to try and exercise.
  • Break down lofty goals into smaller, more attainable goals. For example, office workers could try walking meetings and commit to walking for at least 10 minutes—this barely takes up any time, and it’s a goal that easily be achieved.
  • Instead of meeting friends for a drink after work, consider going on a walk or run to get those extra steps.

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