The best workout ever can’t happen without getting up and getting yourself to the gym. We’ve got expert tips for harnessing a healthy dose of motivation when you’re not feeling like working out.
Workout motivation is sometimes in short supply. After a long day — or before one when you’re staring at the ringing alarm clock — it’d feel so nice to just skip exercising.
Still, the benefits of working out usually outweigh the temporary pleasures of lingering in bed or crashing in front of the TV. Regular exercise boosts energy levels, supports a healthy weight, and reduces the risk of tons of chronic diseases.
So c’mon, let’s do this! Here are 10 ways to get your butt in gear for workout motivation.
Here are 10 tips to help you get (and stay) motivated:
- Find your “why”
- Choose an activity you enjoy
- Work out with a buddy
- Get a trainer
- Take it outside
- Set a timer
- Pop in the earbuds
- Sign up for an event
- Make it a game
- Don’t burn out
Most of us don’t just work out for the heck of it. There’s likely a reason why you want to make exercise a regular practice. Is it to bring down your A1C to manage your diabetes? To set a good example for your kids? To feel better in your own skin?
Really dig deep to determine a goal that’s meaningful to you.
“A superficial goal of losing 10 pounds won’t keep you motivated. You need to take the time to ask yourself why losing 10 pounds is important,” says Raphael Konforti, MS, senior director of fitness at YouFit Gyms. “When you were 10 pounds lighter, what was different? When you lose the 10 pounds, what will be different about how you feel and your life?”
Konforti says identifying this intrinsic motivation is a driving force for even the toughest of workouts.
“If you have a big enough why, you can endure almost any how,” he adds.
Do you actually like spending those 30 punishing minutes on the treadmill? No? Then why are you doing it?
Choosing an exercise you don’t enjoy is a surefire route to abysmal motivation. If you look forward to your daily stint on the rowing machine about as much as a root canal, you’ll never feel like getting off the couch to do it.
Instead, consider which physical activities bring you pleasure. (We promise, there’s always an alternative to work the same muscle groups or get your heart rate up.) If running isn’t your jam, perhaps salsa dancing could serve as your cardio. Or if you don’t relish working your core with crunches, consider Pilates.
There’s even science to back up the notion of exercise enjoyment for better motivation! A 2022 study found that taking pleasure in workouts led to improved habits and greater intention to continue exercising.
Nothing boosts motivation like an accountability partner. Research shows that having an exercise companion reduces stress and promotes exercising more.
As they create accountability for you, you’ll do the same for them. It’s a win-win!
Just like having a workout buddy holds you to your exercise commitment, getting a trainer can do so too. “When someone is expecting you to work out, you’re much more likely to show up,” says Konforti. “Trainers and workout partners point out your progress and remind you of why you’re exercising in the first place.”
The gym environment isn’t for everyone. If intimidating gym bros and a bank of blaring TVs don’t speak to you for workout motivation, that’s OK. Maybe it’s time for a change of scene. Try taking it outside for a literal breath of fresh air! Activities like walking, running, biking, and rollerblading are all great choices for exercising in nature.
Or, if you already regularly exercise in your own neck of the woods, consider occasionally relocating your workouts. Is there a cool neighborhood you’ve always wanted to live in? A local hike you’ve never tried? Go check it out!
Even if you’re content with regular gym-going, you might want to make the most of the nicer months of the year by exercising in the great wide open.
“Gyms have lots of equipment and options to keep things fresh, but getting some sun goes a long way,” Konforti says. “Mixing up the regimented sets and reps with outdoor sports, cycling, or walking does wonders. Many people who train outdoors end up feeling more energized so they have better gym workouts.”
Even a little workout is better than no workout. What about if you just did 10 minutes of activity?
“When you’re faced with a day you really don’t feel up for a workout, set a timer for 10 minutes and press start,” recommends Konforti. “It doesn’t matter what you do with that 10 minutes as long as you move. By the time the 10 minutes runs out you’ll have turned on your nervous system and hormones, so you’ll likely keep exercising.”
Psst. Try these 7 mini-workouts to get started.
Motivational quotes are all well and good, but when push comes to shove, having a sticky note on your mirror probably isn’t gonna do the trick for workout motivation. What will get your booty moving and grooving: a killer playlist.
Turning on the right music legit improves your workout performance and pushes you to achieve a higher heart rate, according to 2017 research. Tee up some up-tempo beats with our hip-hop workout playlist or HIIT workout playlist. Start listening while you lounge on the couch and see if it doesn’t get you ready to rock.
Oh, and if you’d like a change from music, consider popping in your earbuds to listen to your favorite podcast or the latest Netflix comedy special. Anything that keeps your interest will keep you going strong during your sweat session.
Sometimes knowing an athletic event is on the horizon is all it takes to get the ol’ motivational juices flowing. We’re wired to look ahead once we’ve made firm plans. Give some thought to what type of active event would suit you, whether it’s as low-key as a 5K race or as committed as reserving a campsite for a hike you want to try.
“Most people think they need to sign up for a big event like a triathlon or Spartan race, but any event works,” Konforti says. “Having an event builds excitement to train. You’ll want to be prepared and do well, so you’ll find yourself exercising more consistently. Plus you get to see your hard work pay off in the end.”
Humans have been playing sports for thousands of years. You know why? ’Cuz they’re fun! Sports are, at their core, a physical form of entertainment — and a means of friendly competition, to boot.
If a solo sojourn on your bike or daily neighborhood walk isn’t doing it for you lately, try getting involved in a sports league. Maybe you’ll check out the adult soccer team at your local YMCA or hop on the pickleball bandwagon. Between the possibility of making new friends, the healthy competition, and the fact that you’ll have regularly scheduled practices, it’s an excellent motivational boost.
Even though it might not provide the exact same workout as your usual gym routine, Konforti says that’s no biggie.
“While you may not get up to the same intensity as the gym or isolate certain movements and muscles, you will move,” Konforti says. “Associating fun with movement changes the story from discipline to excitement.”
Sure, moving your body is recommended on most days of the week, but there’s an important flip side to the workout coin. Your body may be a well-oiled machine, but it’s not invincible. You do need rest.
By pushing yourself to exercise on the daily, you’re not actually doing yourself any motivational favors. Rather, you’re setting yourself up for workout burnout. The same goes for doing the same workout in the same way at the same time every day. Vary it up and be sure to include rest days to keep from landing in the burnout zone.
You’ve got this! Shake off the sluggishness and unleash your inner beast mode with any of the tips above. The more you motivate yourself to keep your date with your workout, the more second nature it’ll likely become.
You might even see the motivation trickle out to other areas of life.
“Once you get over the initial hump, exercise actually increases your energy and it makes everything outside of the gym feel easier,” Konforti says.