5 Tips for Motivating Yourself to Exercise

You guessed it: Motivation. The mini Greg Glassman (founder of CrossFit) in each of us. Motivation is key to the success of just about any health…

Let’s face it: If the secret to exercising consistently was the knowledge that it’s good for you, we’d all look and feel like CrossFit champs. So what’s missing when we hit the “Snooze” button on the alarm clock and sleep through Pilates class—or choose a re-run of Seinfeld over laps at the pool?

You guessed it: Motivation. The mini Greg Glassman (founder of CrossFit) in each of us.

Motivation is key to the success of just about any healthy habit:

  • Kicking an addiction
  • Losing weight
  • Mastering a new hobby

Exercising, too. The expression, “No pain, no gain,” doesn’t just sound twisted. It’s wrong. “No motivation, no gain” is more like it.

Where does that leave us? If you’re like me — in need of a few good tips for motivating myself to exercise in those times of anticipatory dread — try out these tricks. And let us know if you’ve got others

1. Do a quick visualization exercise

Woman lifting dumbbells in the gym

 You can do this by playing the mental tape forward or backward. Picture just how good you’ll feel after working out. Or remember how good you felt after you last exercised. (Chances are that if you reluctantly went to the gym feeling tired after a long day of work, you re-emerged later feeling almost brand-new.)

2. Give yourself a compelling incentive to exercise

You don’t have to search far to find one that resonates. If looking and feeling good isn’t enough, get creative. Maybe it’s a quarter in your Harley fund for every day you work out or a whole new wardrobe in a smaller size. Maybe it’s being able to bench more weight than your teenage son.

3. Diversify your workouts

Woman relaxing after a workout and drinking whey protein

If the same daily five-mile run is starting to grow old, mix things up a bit. Your knees may thank you for it. Join a jazzercise class. Try weight lifting. Take up swimming. Cycle to work. A little variation in your workout routine may be just what you need in the way of motivation.

4. Make it fun

Happy woman holding a yoga mat at the beach

 This could mean finding ways to exercise with others or introducing a new element into the same routine. Join a tennis club or an Ultimate Frisbee team. Play volleyball or softball in a company league. Or, get a fast-paced playlist to accompany you on those long runs. Exercise gadgets and smartphone apps also abound. Why not try one to spice up your routine?

5. Set a small goal that you know you can fulfill

If you’re really struggling to find motivation, set a minimum bar for yourself. Maybe for today that’s committing to only running one mile or doing 10 minutes on the exercise bike. Sometimes we can psych ourselves out before we’ve even started—when the goal seems so big and our motivation so small. Shooting for a smaller goal can help get you going, which can be half the battle when motivation is lacking. Once you’re off, you may surprise yourself. You may just want to keep going.

About the Author

Dr. Edward Zawadzki, or “Dr. Z” as his patients affectionately call him, is the Medical Director at Beach House Center for Recovery. Dr. Z is board-certified in forensic psychiatry, having completed his residency at New York’s esteemed St. Vincent’s Hospital. He earned his medical degree at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, and he has been helping patients with addictions and co-occurring disorders get well for roughly a decade.

Track your exercise with Lifesum! Find out the benefits of exercise tracking here.

All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice.

Read this next

Screenshot from the Lifesum app
  • Apple AppStore:
    4.6 average rating
    Google Play:
    4.4 average rating
  • Editors’ Choice, App Store 2018
  • Best of Google Play 2017 & 2018

Gain control of your nutrition intake and boost your health.

Learn more