8 ways to maintain motivation to exercise

maintain motivation to exercise

If I’m honest, I have a love/hate relationship with exercise. I can go for weeks at a time with the motivation of a professional athlete, and then suddenly hit a slump where even the promise of post-gym pizza and ice cream won’t get me off the couch. I have an all or nothing personality and I’m trying to find my way to a more balanced approach towards exercise where I don’t burn out regularly. Here are my best tips to help keep motivation towards fitness goals high when the desire to exercise is low.

(I’d just like to point out that I don’t have a background in exercise science or personal training. These are tips that work for me, but they’re hardly a one size fits all approach.)

Switch up your routine. If you’re feel uninspired about working up a sweat, pick a different form of exercise to get your heart rate up. Not only is doing the same routine day in and day out bad for keeping you motivated, it’s also not great for your fitness goals. Studies have shown that an exercise plateau is a real thing, and that bodies adapt over time to become less challenged by a regular routine. Mixing it up and keeping your body guessing will keep different muscle groups fired up, and you just might find something new that you love! The odd Zumba class or dragging my butt onto the rowing machine is sometimes all I need to feel like I’ve actually achieved something different for once.

Set goals. It’s no secret that I love goals and planning, and setting goals is one of my favourite ways to stay motivated. This might not be the most effective tip if you’re not super competitive, and while I’m not very competitive with other people I am stupidly competitive within myself. I set both short and long-term goals. If I have too many long-term goals, it’s easy to feel like I’m not making progress on a day-to-day basis, so I try to balance long-term goals with short-term goals. Even setting a goal to go to the gym x times per week can be enough to keep me on track. Also, don’t forget the importance of the NSV (non-scale victory). I’ve stopped linking my goals to a number on the scale, and I’m much happier for it. The best part of achieving your goals is to have small but satisfying rewards for yourself. For example, if I reach 21 or more days of exercise this month, I get a one hour massage… bliss!

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My star chart is a daily reminder of my hard (or not so hard) work

Change up the time of your workout. Either schedule a regular time to exercise, or switch up the time you regularly exercise, depending on how stuck you’re feeling. If you find yourself skipping the gym most afternoons because you’re too tired after work or school, try exercising in the morning or on your lunch break. If you’re losing motivation because you exercise at the same time every day, similarly try a different time of day. It’s important to figure out what sort of exercise works for you at different times during the day. I suck at strength training in the morning, but give me some weights after a near-full day of eating and I’m good to go. Don’t force yourself to do exercise at a certain time of day if it’s not working for you.

Have a bad weather/bad day back up plan. Sometimes I have my heart set on going for a run, and then walk out of work to discover it’s raining. Sometimes I schedule a gym session after work, and then have a shitty day and would rather stab myself in the foot than deal with the gym. Shit happens, and backup plans are important. You can pick up free weights and other fitness equipment like medicine balls for very low prices now, and you can even do an ass-kicking workout simply with your own body weight. My point here is to have a plan b. What will you do at home if it’s raining and you can’t run outdoors? What can you do if you have a bad day and don’t want to do a strenuous weights session? YouTube is practically overflowing with exercise videos, from HIIT (high-intensity interval training) routines to yoga flows for all fitness levels, and there’s so much you can do from the comfort of your own home.

Put on your clothes. This sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Truly, sometimes the easiest way to get motivated is to get into your LJ or Lululemon tights, tie your hair up, and put on your sneakers. Make sure you’re prepared. If you normally come home first before going to the gym, take your clothes with you so you have no excuse not to go straight to the gym. Or do as I do during winter (sometimes) and sleep in your clothes. It’s a lot easier to get out of that nice, warm, comfy bed and go running in the dark when I’m already dressed and just need to put sneakers on. (Yes, you heard it here first: sometimes I sleep #InMyActivewear.) Trust me, it works! Also, workout in clothes you love. While our Instagram feeds are full of high-end activewear, you can get super cute gear from places like Cotton On Body, Target, and Kmart if you’re on a budget. If you’re happy in what you’re wearing and it supports your body properly, it might make exercising a slightly more enjoyable task.

Update your music. Sometimes your workout playlist simply needs an overhaul. Or, if you’re like me and can sometimes workout without music, keep a favourite podcast or audiobook solely for listening to while you exercise. Whatever it takes to give you a reason to sweat!

Do it with a friend. Nothing keeps you accountable like a gym buddy, or a running/cycling/swimming/yoga/whatever buddy. It’s much harder to bail on a workout when someone else is relying on you! Take care of your relationship with your workout partner. Don’t repeatedly bail on them, and say no to that next glass of wine if you know you have an early session with them the next morning. Talk about your struggles when you have them; chances are you won’t be alone. Motivate each other and keep each other on track.

Accept that some days it just won’t happen. I’m not training for a particular event or race, so I’m basically just playing the long game with my fitness. I have goals to work towards, but if I miss a couple of workouts because of injury or illness or just plain old life, it’s not the end of the world. I’m only human, you’re only human, and some days there will literally be nothing more motivating than sitting on the couch with a jar of peanut butter and a spoon. Don’t do this every day, of course, but listen to your body and your mind when they’re begging for a night off. Chances are they need a break!

What do you do to keep yourself motivated? I’d love to know, because sometimes even trying all of the above doesn’t work.

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  • Haha, needed to see this one today– i skipped my regular gym session because my gym partner is in Melbourne and because Perth is having an epic heat wave but I should have gone plan b! Thanks for this post.

    • tonile.helena

      Seriously, with the weather you’re experiencing in Perth I don’t think I would have exercised even if I had a Plan F in place.

  • Great tips, I need to put a plan of sorts in place before semester goes back and I’m tempted to sit on my arse all day studying.