19 Ways to Get Motivated to Exercise

By Claire O'Connor

April 5, 2016   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Even though we know that exercise is good for us, it can still be hard to maintain a regular exercise plan.—or even start one! It’s tough to make the switch from ‘thinking about working out’ to actually working out. So what can we do?

Here are 19 ideas you can try to get round any obstacles you have and start working out:

1. Tell a friend when you plan to work out and what activity you’ll be doing.

Ask them to check in with you afterwards to see if you did it. The threat of your friend knowing you didn’t go to the gym when you said you would is a great way to push yourself to get moving.

2. Create a playlist that makes you get up and move.

Have a little fun getting your songs ready. Put your playlist on loud before you start working out, and let the music do the hard work (to start with). Find the songs you just can’t sit still to and convert that energy into working out!

3. Put on your sports gear and head out the door immediately.

Don’t do anything else. Don’t stop to think about it. Getting out the door is sometimes the hardest part. Once you’re out, it’s rare that you’ll head straight back in again. I promise 🙂

4. Arrange a workout with a friend.

Send a text. Get it in the calendar. Accountability works!

5. Make it fun – do what you enjoy.

A bike ride along the coast… crazy dancing… a walk in a forest… whatever you fancy. Just do it. Anything to get your blood pumping.

6. Incorporate little bursts of activity into your day.

Walk up the stairs. Lift weights while you’re waiting for the coffee to brew. Plank for 30 seconds while you’re watching TV. Granted, it’s not going to change the world, but it will get your mind geared towards fitness, and it will start adding up. Keep adding more of these little practices into your everyday life. It won’t be long before you start noticing changes and seeing yourself as a fit and healthy person. Yay!

7. Plan how far you want to run, swim or walk, and then halve it.

Now that it seems easier in your head, get out there and do it. Don’t worry if it seems like you’re not doing very much. Doing something is better than nothing, and pretty soon you’ll be doing the whole thing. The first walk or run is always the hardest.

8. Buy gear that makes you look and feel good.

This doesn’t mean spending hundreds of dollars on something you’ll use once. I’m talking about some well-made sportswear that makes you feel great when you put it on. You can work out in an old pair of tracksuit bottoms and a faded t-shirt, but it makes you feel crappy while you’re doing it. That’s the opposite of the feeling we’re looking to get!

9. Work out in the morning, whenever you can.

It’s done for the day, and it’s a great way to start the day. Not possible with your job? Test it out on the weekends, and see how it positively affects the rest of your day. After a while, it will start to spill over into your weekdays.

10. Join a sports group.

It’s a great way to meet people with the same interests and you have some accountability. What sport have you always wanted to try? Is there a group you’ve always wanted to join? Get out there and do it – now is the time!

11. Find an activity that’s on your way home from work.

Preferably one that you have to travel right past. Pack some snacks for after work so you can’t use the excuse of being hungry. Get changed into your workout gear straight after work without putting too much thought into it. When you go past the sports center on your way home, you might as well go in since you’re there and wearing your workout clothes.

12. Keep picturing the most sporty version of you.

How do you look? What are you wearing? What difference do you notice? This image is not impossible, by any means. Sure, it will involve work and commitment. But keep focusing on that image in your mind. Our brain has a beautiful way of moving towards what we focus on.

13. Go for ten minutes only.

Similar to #7. If you want to leave after ten minutes, you can. However, the majority of the time, you probably won’t feel like leaving after ten minutes, and you’ll do more. Results!

14. Go to the gym when your favorite TV show is on.

You’re not going to work out. You’re just going to watch TV! You just happen to be on an elliptical at the same time.

15. Give yourself a reward after you’ve worked out.

It doesn’t matter if it’s chocolate or beer. You probably won’t want it as much after your workout, anyway. The point is to get the habit of working out formed. It’s easier to wean out the chocolate or beer than it is to add in the habit of exercising daily.

16. Remember that action creates motivation.

Not the other way round. Motivation follows action. Don’t get fooled by the thinking of: ” I don’t feel like going for a run, so I’ll just wait til I feel like it.” Realistically, you’ll never feel like it. Do the action, and it creates the motivation. Trust me 🙂

17. Set up a 30-day challenge.

30 Days is short enough not to sound like a big commitment, but it’s long enough to make a difference. Some examples might be: taking the stairs every day for 30 days, going for a short run every day, biking to work for a month, or increasing the number of sit-ups you do every day. Just commit to doing something once every day for 30 days, and then you can stop if you want, or you could start another 30-day challenge after that!

18. Don’t focus on the whole workout.

Focus solely on the part you are doing at that moment. A lot of high-level marathon runners don’t focus on running 26 miles, they focus on running one mile 26 times, or they focus on running for 15 minutes at a time, having a break and then doing another 15 minutes. The general advice is to break it down into pieces in your head, and concentrate on the next small stage only. For example, do ten minutes at a normal pace, slow down for one minute and repeat. The change in pace will build your muscles, and you won’t push yourself so hard that you never want to work out again! Ask yourself, “Can I run 10 more steps?” and if the answer is yes, do it. If not, take a break. Then, repeat.

19. Write down the excuses you have for not working out.

All of them. Whenever they crop up. Then write a response next to each one. A genuine response! Some examples might be that you don’t have time. Response: Well, I have time to watch TV/surf the internet, so I don’t know if that’s strictly true. Maybe you don’t have the energy.
Response: Then I’ll take it slowly, and it will likely give me energy. Action creates motivation, not the other way round! What if you just don’t feel like it. Response: And I likely won’t feel like it to start with. That feeling will pass once I get going. And I’ll feel really good when I’ve done it. So I’ll stop focusing on how I feel now, and think of how I’ll feel afterwards. I bet you can find a good response to every excuse you have, if you really think about it. What would you add to this list? What works for you? Remember – healthy people are happy people!

Claire O'Connor

Claire O’Connor works with people who are stuck on their side-hustle, project, or business. Her accountability program (discounted until Dec 31, 2017) gets them moving. Check out her website, where you can pick up a free guide on how to achieve your long-term goals.

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