How to Motivate Yourself to Work Out–Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

The key to exercise consistency is crowding out those excuses with the right motivational system. Here are some ways you can get prompt yourself to hit the treadmill, trail, bike, or field. Really, it's not as hard as you think.

July 1, 2015
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Over the years, writing about health and fitness, I’ve talked to tons of trainers and athletes about their workout habits, tips and tricks. And after all my anecdotal research, I’ve come to one conclusion:

Pretty much everyone has days when they’d rather do anything but workout.

You’re tired. You’re hungry. You’ve been working too much. It’s that time of month. You have a headache. The pillow is calling. The TV is calling. Your cat is calling… Should I keep going?

The key to exercise consistency is crowding out those excuses with the right motivational system. Here are some ways you can prompt yourself to hit the treadmill, trail, bike, or field. Really, it’s not as hard as you think.

Tip 1: Toss any ugly, uncomfortable gear.

I was recently talking to a super-marathoner—which means she’s a gamer, guys. She regularly signs up for races in excess of 30 miles. She will even run races up to 100 miles (!!). And you know how she motivates herself to train? Just like I do, actually: by buying the best, coolest, cutest outfits possible. Fashion mavens, don’t lie. You know great clothes are all you need to up your workout game.

This tip isn’t just for the trendsetters, though. Comfort is essential. Throw away any items that are too small or don’t stay in place, swapping them with workout gear that feels as good as it looks.

If your clothes don’t fit well, you’re not gonna wanna to workout. If you look good and feel good before get up and move it, move it? You’ll enjoy yourself more, and you’ll be more likely to workout every single day.

Tip 2: Sleep in your workout clothes.

Getting a workout in before you officially start your day is the surest way to make sure you don’t skip it; let’s face it, after you spend the day at the office or chasing kids, exercise will be the first thing to fall off your plate. But changing from your PJs to your workout wear for that a.m. run? Oddly taxing.

Don’t give yourself any reasons to hit snooze. Try sleeping in those comfy workout clothes you bought (see tip No. 1), keeping your running shoes right next to your bed. The process is then this: wake up, lace up, go. No excuses.

Tip 3: Break it up.

Sometimes, though, I get it. You’re busy. Maybe it’s been a long day at work, a long weekend, or you just couldn’t fit your entire workout in before you had to start your day.

I often feel best when I break up my exercise into manageable chunks throughout the day. If your schedule is tight, try doing 30 minutes in the morning. Then at lunch, take a 15-minute power walk if you have some downtime. Do another 15 minutes when you get home before dinner—and then another 15 minutes after you fuel up on a meal.

Guess what? You just notched a whole hour of exercise! Plus, it’s better to keep moving throughout the day anyway; research has shown getting the recommended 45-minute block of physical activity daily isn’t enough to counter the health issues associated with sedentary lifestyle, like heart disease and type-2 diabetes. When in doubt, move your feet. Every hour, if possible. It all adds up and keeps your metabolism chuggin’.

Tip 4: Use “rewards” effectively.

Did you know there are lots of different kinds of rewards? Yup! According to Harvard Business Review, using that motivational system effectively can help you get stuff done—including those oh-so painful workouts, as I’ll explain.

Try using three different kinds of rewards to fuel your exercise game: regenerative, concurrent, and cumulative. Regenerative rewards are those that help keep your energy up for a challenge; so allow yourself a healthy snack or 20-minute power nap before your workout. Concurrent are rewards you get while you’re completing that tough task; so, yes, you can feel free to binge-watch some Scandal while you’re on the treadmill. Cumulative rewards are those you rack up with time; try setting aside $1 for every day you exercise, and eventually you’ll be able to withdraw that dough and treat yourself to a gift for your ongoing workout consistency.

Trust me. Rewarding yourself like a champ will make that hour-long workout way more fun.

Tip 5: Mix it up and make it social.

Lots of people get into the habit of doing the same workout over and over, over and over. This isn’t a good idea for a couple reasons. First of all, the more you exercise the same way, your body gets used to the workout. You’ll build up strength and endurance to complete that specific set of exercises, and you’re going to stop seeing results. You may hit a plateau.

Secondly, you might bore yourself right out of your routine. If your motivation to get up and get moving is waning, it’s time to mix it up. Enlist a pal to keep you accountable, and join a gym or yoga class. Get involved in a team sport, like soccer or softball, to supplement your runs and weight work. Basically: have fun!

Workouts don’t have to be so serious. At the end of the day, if you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong. #Protip.

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