Ten Tips for Exercise Motivation


This morning I had to get up early in order to fit in my workout. And I was a giant baby about it.

It didn't matter how many times I reminded myself that I used to be up before 5am to get a workout in before heading to my office for 7:30.

When that alarm went off this morning, I wanted to throw it across the room.

And go back to sleep.

What I for sure didn't want to do was put on my workout clothes, lift my weights, and lunge and squat until my legs were wobbly.

But I did it. I took more breaks than usual. And I didn't enjoy it much. But it got done.

It occurred to me that some of the ways I trick myself into working out or set myself up for success on days like today might be useful for other people struggling with getting motivated, whether it's the exception or the rule for them.

So here they are. My 10 Tips for Showing Up for Your Workouts.

1.) Put on the workout clothes. If I can get myself dressed for the part of an exercising person, I'm probably going to act the part too. My little brain says, "You're all dressed up, you might as well."

2.) Only commit to 10 minutes. This one I did this morning, actually. I decided I would just do 10 minutes of my strength training program and then I could stop if I wanted. The upside to this little trick is that even if I stopped after 10 minutes, that's 10 minutes more than nothing. But once I've done 10 minutes, I'm warmed up and I'm committed. And I'm probably going to finish the whole thing.

3.) Exercise first thing in the morning. If I wait until later in the day, I'm way more likely to fill up my time with other things and/or be too tired. This was especially true when I worked 9-5. Working out when the house is still quiet, and I'm not fully awake and immersed in the activities of the day, is actually kind of a meditative experience. I feel like I can focus more on the exercise and on how my body is feeling when I go for it first thing.

4.) Find the fun. My cardio days are kind of a treat, but it's because I made them that way. I have my treadmill in the room in my house with the big television. So, I put an episode of my favorite show on streaming Netflix (one I've seen many, many times), mute the TV, get my headphones on and play my music. I have different workout playlists on my iPhone and I pick whichever one sounds good to me that day. I get quality time with my favorite music, my favorite show and I get my workout done.

5.) Recognize success. I find at least one thing I can celebrate after each workout. Maybe I was able to lift a heavier dumbbell today than I did last week. Maybe instead of having to take a break 3/4 of the way through side lunges, I made it all the way through. Maybe I pushed through planks even when my arms started to shake. Maybe I did one-legged squats without having to hold on to something for balance the whole time. Maybe I tried a new, more challenging modification for the first time. I find one success in every workout and I acknowledge that accomplishment.

6) Bribery is okay. You can bribe yourself. It's totally fine. What this means to me is that I set goals and pick rewards for meeting them. One might be that if I exercise every day this week, I can download some new songs for my workout playlist. Or maybe if I get all of my scheduled strength training workouts in this month, I can splurge on a new pair of workout pants. I don't use food as a reward because I don't want exercise to become a punishment or a price I have to pay in order to eat. But pretty much anything else is fair game.

7.) Literally surround yourself with motivation. Okay, this one I know is going to sound super-cheesy. But. I used to have a workout tank top that said, "Impossible is Nothing." And I loved it. I'm currently coveting this Don't Quit workout tank. I used to have post-its with words of encouragement stuck to my bathroom mirror. I may, or may not, currently have a vision board with words and images that motivate me toward healthy choices. It probably doesn't sound "cool" but bathing my brain in positive, supportive, and sometimes funny messages does help with motivation short and long-term.

8.) Put it in writing. Get a cute little journal and spend a few minutes writing down how you feel after your workouts. Do you feel ready to tackle the day? Do you feel stronger? More flexible? Less stressed? Being aware of how your body feels, both during and after exercise, can be a powerful motivational tool.

9.) Schedule it and make the logistics easy. Plan which workouts you're going to do each day and the time you are setting aside to do them. Write them in your planner. Add them to the calendar on your phone. Get your workout clothes laid out the night before. Make sure your water bottle is full and chilling in the fridge. (Cold water is so much more appealing than room temperature or just-out-of-the-faucet.) Get your pre-workout snack ready to grab quickly in the morning. Make it as easy as possible to get from where you are to where you work out.

10.) Never skip Mondays. I read this one somewhere years ago and it always stuck with me. Mondays are the first day of the week and making sure I get my workout in that day sets up the rest of my week. It's a mental thing. But it works.

I'd love to hear your tips for getting motivated for your workouts! Share them with us in the Comments section below.