Don’t Feel Like Working Out? Here are 7 Science-Based Ways to Find Motivation

By Beth Rush

January 10, 2024   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Don't Feel Like Working Out? Here are 7 Science-Based Ways to Find Motivation

If working out was easy, everyone would do it. We’d exercise every day and have a simple meal plan to lose weight or accomplish any health goal we want. That’s unfortunately not the case for most of us. Sometimes we need to use creative motivational tactics when we don’t feel like exercising.

Here are seven science-based ways to find motivation on the days you’re feeling down.

1. Remember Why You Started

When motivation levels are low, remember why you started your fitness journey. Recalling your “why” will help you refocus and power through difficult workouts. Ask yourself these questions to put yourself in the right state of mind:

  • Why did I start my fitness journey?
  • Who am I exercising for? Myself? My significant other? My children?
  • What is my final goal?
  • What can I do today to reach that goal?
Remember Why You Started
Photo: mensjournal

A lack of motivation shouldn’t slow your long-term progress. You might not feel ready to exercise today, but you’ll regret skipping the gym tomorrow. Don’t let your lazy side talk you out of doing the right thing. You need to monitor your behavior and keep your negative thoughts in check.

A person’s behavior starts to change when they compare the advantages and disadvantages of the change. Your “why” is the greatest advantage of them all. It should come before everything else, including your temporary lack of motivation. Evaluate your behavior and get your priorities in order.

2. Make Your Routine Fun

Have you wondered how gym rats find motivation every day? The answer is simple: they don’t. They exercise every day because they enjoy their routines. They don’t need motivation to have fun. If you dread your workouts, you simply haven’t found the right exercise program.

Make Your Routine Fun
Photo: thelist

You need to find a routine that fits your schedule and lifestyle. Include fun exercises and activities that will brighten your day. If you like a specific sport, play that sport more often. If you prefer to use specific gym equipment, do more exercises with that equipment. There’s no template to fitness success. The best training program is whatever works for you.

However, don’t confuse a fun workout with an easy workout. Your training should still challenge your physical and mental toughness This concept even has a scientific term: hedonic motivation. You’re more likely to follow your training plans if you have fun executing them.

3. Exercise With Other People

You don’t have to rely on yourself for motivation. Get a boost from a workout partner or join an exercise group. You’ll be more likely to follow through so you don’t let your friends down. Studies have also shown that people can work out longer and harder in groups. This pattern happens for several reasons:

  • We feed off of each other’s energy and behaviors.
  • We don’t want to be the first person to quit.
  • We hold each other accountable.
Exercise With Other People
Photo: elevate585

Group or partner exercise is also more accessible for older adults. It delays age-related decline in walking speed and other physical functions. Instead of looking inward for motivation every day, join some friends and exercise together.

4. Reward Yourself

Some people find motivation from simple goals, like “lose weight” or “gain muscle.” If that doesn’t work for you, extrinsic rewards are sometimes more powerful than intrinsic goals. Beginners especially benefit from rewards because they can’t experience the “high” that veterans get from their workouts yet. They need something else to energize them.

Reward Yourself
Photo: elitedaily

If you have a simple meal plan to lose weight, throw in some cheat meals. Treat yourself to a smoothie or shake after a tough workout. These small things can keep your morale high and help you stay on track. Your brain makes a link between the workout and reward. Your routine will be mentally easier if you have something to look forward to later.

Just make sure the rewards don’t sabotage your goals. They should be little treats, not vacations. Remember what we said in the first section about your “why.” Long-term goals come first. Temporary rewards come second.

5. Write Things Down

You can’t chase unclear goals. Write down the details of your fitness goals and reread that paper every day. You should also put every workout’s details in writing. You can see your progress more clearly and become more involved in your routine. Writing is also more effective than typing for several reasons:

  • Handwritten notes can be more personalized.
  • Writing triggers greater brain activity.
  • Writing is associated with better memory.
Write Things Down
Photo: orthoindy

Record every exercise and your performance with each one. You will pick up more details from your workouts and make better adjustments. Most importantly, you have a written reminder of how far you’ve come.

6. Make a Financial Commitment

Spending money on your fitness goals can increase your motivation. You’re more likely to hold yourself accountable when you commit more resources to something. To be clear, we don’t want you to get the most expensive gym membership in town. We’re talking about small everyday purchases like gym clothes or a better meal plan to lose weight.

Nobody likes wasting their money. If you spend more on your fitness habits, you will feel more inclined to maintain those habits. Your workouts will become a higher priority as you devote more money to your body. This advice primarily applies to people who recently started their journeys. You don’t need to spend more if you already have solid habits.

7. Listen to the Right Music

The music we choose during our workouts matters more than we think. Listening to music leads to far more productive workouts than not listening to music. It temporarily improves our strength and endurance by raising our heart rates and giving us mental/emotional stimulation.

Listen to the Right Music
Photo: cabothealth

Some genres of music might also benefit your performance more than others. Upbeat, loud music is generally more effective than relaxing music, for example. A specific song or artist might also evoke powerful emotions that impact your workout. The optimal workout music varies for each individual.

Make sure you listen to the right music during your workouts. Pay attention to your reaction to different songs, artists and genres. Put together a playlist to avoid skipping songs and save time.

Rethink Your Fitness Journey

Motivation alone won’t carry you to your goals. You need to rethink your fitness journey and find new ways to develop healthy habits. Create a fun training program, work out with friends and reward yourself in moderation. Write things down and commit more finances to your health. Choose the right energizing music when you exercise.

Above all else, remember your “why.” Your final goal should provide plenty of motivation for you to exercise. You won’t feel 100% ready to exercise every day, but you should be 100% committed to your “why.”

Beth Rush

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