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How To Motivate Yourself To Exercise

Trying to motivate yourself to exercise can sometimes feel like a fruitless endeavor. No matter how hard you try, you fall out of your routine and end up right back where you started. It’s tough!

If you’re anything like me, you used to be very active in you teenage and young adult years. I was heavily involved in high school sports, and then I went into sports clubs in college to continue being active. The thought of not having a routine that included exercise was scary as I looked forward.

But after a long day of school and/or work, I really enjoyed just plopping in front of the TV with a drink.

And I began doing that regularly for a long time.

It’s difficult to motivate yourself to workout whether you are an out-of-practice athlete or a never-was athlete. We all hear about the health benefits of exercise, and know that working out is good for our heart and our cholesterol and our blood pressure and so forth.

But it’s still too easy to compare ourselves to our former selves and/or those around us.

No matter what, do not compare yourself to the person next to you.

As long as you’re doing the workout, it doesn’t matter if you’re the next body builder or the housewife next door. You are bettering yourself, and that’s all that matters.

And if you’re comparing yourself to your former self, remember that you accomplished that once. You can do it again.

[clickToTweet tweet=”New Year, New Me: How To Motivate Yourself to Exercise” quote=”New Year, New Me: How To Motivate Yourself to Exercise”]

Here are some tips to add motivation to get yourself to the gym or to that workout class or even just for that run or home workout:

1. Reward Yourself

Start with a workout jar. Every time you workout, put a dollar in the jar. If you’re doing a workout challenge like those 30-day abs or 30 days of running or so forth, then reward yourself when you complete the challenge. Or do both: a dollar every time you work out, and then a $10 or $20 when you complete your challenge. Then use that cash to buy yourself something nice with no guilt!

Or for those of us that don’t carry cash, keep a tally or mark it on your calendar. Then when you hit the amount that you want, do the same thing and reward yourself.

How to Motivate Yourself to Exercise

My favorite rewards are workout clothes. I really enjoy workout clothes, and then it motivates me to continue working out. Or I’ll buy a cute outfit, and feel extra confident because I have worked out to look good in that outfit.

Don’t use the reward system for something that you need, such as new tires for your car or winter clothing when you’ve just moved to a new state with extra cold winters. The purpose of the reward system is to treat yourself when you succeed, not punish you when you don’t follow through.

And let’s be honest: things come up. Maybe you can’t finish the 30-day workout challenge because your parents or sibling or significant other was in an accident. Or maybe something came up at work and you suddenly needed to work a 12-hour day. Or if you sick or injured, you just can’t (or definitely should not) finish the workout challenge.

And that’s perfectly fine.

These motivations are not supposed to punish you. You shouldn’t deprive yourself of new brakes in your car because that’s what you dictated as your reward that you were saving up for.

It’s simply the idea that you worked hard, and you deserve that cute new outfit with no guilt.

And if you don’t get that new outfit, it’s not the end of the world either.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Reward yourself for getting a workout in… and then treat yo’self guilt-free! More motivation here:” quote=”Reward yourself for getting a workout in… and then treat yo’self guilt-free! More motivation here:”]

2. Get Yourself a Workout Buddy

Having a workout buddy is a great way to motivate yourself to workout!

It’s easy for me to skip workout days when the only person I’m letting down is myself. Then I forgive myself, later get annoyed for skipping the day, and then simply move on and try again another day.

But when someone else is counting on you, you don’t want to let them down.

Even better is if your workout buddy is an exercise enthusiast. Then their enthusiasm and motivation pushes you to work harder. You may even end up joining a coach-led physical training group together as it feels less intimidating when you have a familiar face around.

How to Motivate Yourself to Exercise

And I also find that I’m more self-conscious about being lazy or giving myself breaks when someone else is there.

But again, don’t feel bad when something comes up, especially personal emergencies and illnesses or injuries. Your workout buddy should understand.

As long as it’s not a habit, because your workout buddy may be depending on you for motivation as well!

3. Document Your Workout

When struggling to consistently hit your workout goals due to a variety of common setbacks like a no accountability partner, all-or-nothing mindset, or even gym anxiety, finding practical ways on how to regain motivation to workout can transform your fitness journey. These tips can complement personal rewards and buddy systems in rekindling your exercise drive.

Some Victoria’s Secret models document their workouts to inspire others and hold themselves accountable for their own workouts.

If you’re doing a challenge, this is an especially good way to keep yourself accountable.

For example, if you’re doing a 30-day workout challenge, take pictures of yourself every day to see the progress.

Or for those of us that don’t work out every day (don’t worry, this includes me), take a week by week picture.

For those that haven’t worked out much at all beforehand, I encourage just twice a week of a light workout and working your way up from there. Try a ten or twenty minute run. Or lift weights while watching TV. Or I also recommend the Nike Training App, which has a lot of workout routines by celebrities and star athletes for you to follow. During the lazy streaks in my life, I would push myself to do a 15-minute workout on the app. But don’t always expect an easy workout just because it’s 15-minutes. Once, I was struggling to walk for a week after the workout.

But no matter how you decide to work out, do whatever works for you. Some of us will do thirty days straight to ensure that it becomes a habit. Others will do two or three times a week and gradually build up to four or five times a week.

And documenting your workout and your progress is a good way to hold yourself accountable. It can be everyday or week by week, depending on your workout regime and what works for you.

And don’t worry, you don’t have to post these pics online like the Victoria’s Secret models do.

But it’s fun to look back on how much you’ve grown, and remind yourself that real progress takes time.

There’s no time like now to work towards your fitness goals! How do you motivate yourself to exercise?

About the Author

Lindsey Zawila

Lindsey graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015 with a B.A. in Global Studies and Communications. She studied abroad in Austria (Summer 2013), Switzerland (Spring 2014), and India (Winter 2014). Her previous internships include the World YWCA in Geneva, Switzerland, the Foreign Service Institute at the U.S State Department in Washington, D.C., and CNN International in Atlanta, GA. In her free time, you'll find her reading, writing, making jewelry or friendship bracelets, sewing or refining her photography skills.