How to Get Motivated to Work Out

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Do you want to get in shape or stay in shape? Here’s how to get motivated to work out and achieve your goal.

Everyone knows that working out creates both immediate and long-term improvements in health, vitality, and even life expectancy. But it’s one thing to know this, and it’s another to pull together the muster and actually do it.

How many times have you started a new workout plan with the best intentions, only to fail? How often have you rushed into action with all the power and inspiration of an ancient Greek athlete, breezing through the first couple of workouts like it was nothing, only to lose your enthusiasm just as fast?

How many times have you embraced that momentum, suddenly feeling more alive than you have in years – maybe even bearing that pain for the first few days with pride – only to get to a point weeks or months later where you just threw in the towel?

Or maybe something more pressing, like a work obligation or even an injury, interrupted your pattern, and you never got back on course.

How to Find Motivation to Work Out

So how do you find the motivation to work out? You have to break the predictable pattern of failure. If you’re like most well-intentioned people on this planet, this predictable sequence of events has happened not only once but many times over.

And no matter how much willpower you conjure up to return with a vengeance, you just can’t make a habit of working out stick.

So, how do you not only create the motivation to work out but make that new motivation stick for the long run? To make your workout routine far more than a fad – a lifetime endeavor?

I want to introduce you to a method of workout motivation that’s so simple it’s nearly foolproof. You may even slap yourself in the noggin for not having thought about it yourself.

Let’s also look at the hidden power of physical fitness in modern day life – because deciding right now that fitness will be a part of your life forever becomes much easier when you realize the powerful leverage it brings to your reality.

Understand Nature’s Magic Is Based on Habits

The power of habits is one of the major keys to success in life.

Successful people don’t become that way because they are special or somehow “gifted.” Sure, some direct energy into areas where they show a bit of potential, but there are countless Mozart’s, Einstein’s, Michael Jordan’s, and Stephen King’s in the world who never become anything because they never used the power of habits to orchestrate their life.

Successful people become that way because they have ingrained habits that lead to success. Habits always win. They take time to develop, but you don’t have to think about them once they are there. For instance, you don’t have to think about how to tie your shoes every morning or how to brush your teeth.

Are there any other tasks you’ve performed in your life that seemed complicated at first and then became like second nature to you? I’d be willing to bet the answer is yes.

Your body, brain, and subconscious are built to take on tasks and make them habitual. And if you learn to create the right habits and set them in motion – the type of habits that lead to success, the end result is a successful life. It almost becomes inevitable.

Now imagine if you chose the most life-transforming habits and made those automated routines in your life.

If you think about it, this power of organizing and automating life applies to humans and all of nature. The seasons come and go in the same exact order every time, and this natural law makes it possible for plants to work their magic every year.

The sun rises and sets at roughly the same time each day, and the days begin to shorten at the same time every year. A certain type of seed always sprouts the same type of tree – it doesn’t decide to sprout a tomato plant one day.

All of nature exists and functions via the power of habits, and if these powers were thrown off kilter even just a bit, life as we know it would cease to exist.

Thus it becomes clear that you gain far more power in your life not by focusing on losing that thirty pounds you’ve been carrying around for too long or getting that six-pack you’ve always wanted but rather by focusing mainly on building a habit, all else be damned.

Look at Physical Fitness as a Keystone Habit

Perhaps you’ve heard of the concept of a keystone habit before. Essentially, there are certain habits that, once developed in your life, not only affect one part of your life but become the foundation of many other good habits, as if our habits are a web.

In essence, these keystone habits can potentially create a snowball effect that can radically transform your experience on Earth. And fitness is one of the most obvious keystone habits out there.

Let’s break it down. You already know that fitness will make you stronger, give you more energy, help fight disease, and make you a more emotionally satisfied person.

The instant health benefits of working out on a regular basis alone are life-transforming and reason enough to make working out a priority.

But beyond that are the less obvious effects that stem from physical fitness. For example, have you ever noticed that when you start working out, you start eating better without effort – even if it wasn’t part of your immediate plan?

Working out also often makes you more productive and gives you extra energy, which can lead to more success at work and, thus, better control over your finances, which can affect every area of your life.

We could go on and on all day about little things like this that all stem from the basic decision to get a minimal dose of physical exertion every day. This is the very definition of a keystone habit and why getting control over the motivation to exercise can be a paramount decision that radically transforms your life.

Isn’t that incredible? Picking up just one new habit can have so much effect.

Herein we find our method.

How a Simple 5-Minute Commitment Can Change Your Life

Have you ever heard the saying that “showing up is half the battle?” Well, this was actually derived from a quote by the famous Woody Allen, but the true sentiment was a bit different than the one we know.

He said, “Showing up is eighty percent of life,” and I point out this distinction because the latter of the two is far more accurate, especially when it comes to working out.

The key to developing a habit of working out every day for the rest of your life is committing to nothing more than showing up, even if that means just showing up at the gym every day and changing into your gym clothes, putting your regular clothes back on, and heading back home.

Why is this so powerful?

Because most people will go through the workout 80% or even 95% of the time, showing up is the most important part. And once you’re there, you’ve already defeated the challenge of pulling yourself out of bed and dragging yourself across town to the gym. You’re already on-site, and it’s just human nature to shrug and decide to lift some weights or do a bit of cardio.

The Real Trick to Making it Work

The trick, however, is to minimize the pressure as much as possible. Don’t force yourself to work out if you don’t feel it, or this strategy won’t work as it should. You need to create a low-pressure situation. Our tips on workout motivation will go into more depth on this. If you need a break, then take a break.

If you show up and you just don’t have the energy and do nothing more than walk out and take a drink out of the fountain or do one rep or hit the hot tub in the locker room, no biggie. Let yourself off the hook and leave.

Can you see how genius that is?

Meanwhile, you’re establishing a habit of going to the gym. Each day you show up, and nearly each and every day, you actually work out because you’re already there.

And over time, this habit becomes a natural part of your life that never wavers. You’ve set the forces of habit in motion, establishing the most important tool in workout motivation.

Over time, whether you set your willpower on doing so or not, you will see the results in your waistline eventually spilling over into other areas of your life.

Do You Need to Have a Gym Membership to Do This?

Absolutely not. You can use this showing up method in any type of setting and with any type of physical exercise. If you don’t have a gym membership, just set aside a corner of your home as a workout station, get up every morning at the same time, change your clothes, and go to that corner.

Don’t feel like breaking a sweat this morning? Who cares? Go back to bed.

Trying to establish a morning run? Commit to walking to the end of the block – or even just the end of your driveway. Or commit to nothing more than getting up and putting the running shoes on.

Want to start swimming every morning? Establish the habit of just getting up and getting in the pool (or whatever body of water) every day, and if you don’t feel like laps, it’ll be nothing more than a refreshing dunk that starts your day.

Whatever you do, make sure you do it day in and day out without fail.

Finding Other Ways to Leverage the Showing Up Strategy

By the way, it probably hasn’t escaped your notice that you could apply this ingenious approach to other areas of your life. If you want to write a book, commit to writing a page daily or just sitting in front of your computer.

If starting a side business, set the wheels in motion with an hour of planning or working on your project.

Of course, if you want to make the most of it, aim to identify the keystone habits that would transform your life in other ways besides their immediate benefits. These are the ones you want to spend the most time putting into action.

Still No Motivation to Work Out? Try These Tips!

If you recently started a new fitness program but quit shortly after and still have no motivation to work out, you may need a few more pointers. You should also know that you are not alone; it happens to the best of us.

Set Realistic Goals

When looking for the motivation to work out, you need to set realistic and attainable goals. Begin with simple goals that allow you to progress to reach your long term goals. These goals should be both realistic and achievable, or else you will find yourself getting frustrated.

For example, if you haven’t exercised in a while, try making a short term goal of walking at least 10 minutes a day, five days a week. Once you get used to this new routine, you can up this to a 20-minute walk or mix in another exercise program to spice things up. 

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that we get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week, or a combination of both. The more exercise you do, the greater its impact will be during your fitness journey.

Make Sure You Are Having Fun!

To stay motivated for your regular workout, you need to find things you enjoy doing and have fun with, so it is easier to stick with a fitness routine. If you don’t enjoy your current workouts, find something new.

Maybe there is a class you have been thinking about taking, like martial arts, kickboxing, or yoga. Now is the time to sign up!

If you prefer home workouts, find fun video workouts online you can engage in or take a walk around the block and meet the neighbors, or see if you have any other talents or interests you want to explore.

Don’t think of it as exercise. Instead of saying you will play tennis, say you will hang out with some friends. You are giving new meaning to your physical activity or exercise routine while making it fun, which can be a motivating factor.

Make These Activities a Part of Your Routine

When you get busy and it’s difficult to find the motivation to work out, you will easily start falling to excuse after excuse. To avoid this, make physical activity part of your daily routine.

It can be something as small as parking a bit further from the office or school or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Have a dog? Make it a daily routine to walk them at night or in the morning.

Make physical activity a priority in your life. Instead of considering exercise optional, consider it an essential part of the day.

Find Support

Still have no motivation to work out? It may help to have a support system or get a workout buddy to stay motivated.

Get together with friends, family, or neighbors and go for walks, play a sport, or take fitness classes together. You will motivate and push each other to stick to your fitness goals and follow your new workout routine.

Your workout buddy will prove to be someone to help hold you accountable. A workout partner can also be a cheerleader on the sidelines, encouraging you to keep going and reach each fitness goal you have.

Get a Personal Trainer

If you feel discouraged by your fitness journey or aren’t making progress, consider getting a personal trainer for exercise motivation.

You can set SMART fitness goals together while having a persistent and consistent workout partner who can help make your exercise routine more fun and rewarding. A personal trainer can also use incentives to reward your efforts.

A personal trainer or fitness expert can guide you through a regular workout and emphasize other workouts you want to focus on, including strength training and resistance training, or offer a customized plan to help you lose weight or increase your energy level.

A personal trainer is also well-versed in sports medicine and can help tailor an exercise program to your particular needs and wants. They can create your workout playlist and offer fitness tips.

Reward Yourself

After each tough workout, don’t be afraid to reward yourself. Start by taking some time to reflect on the benefits your workout awards you and then solidify a long term commitment to stick with it. Not only does this strengthen your mental health, but it also offers fitness motivation.

When you reach one of your goals, go ahead and treat yourself to something. Maybe you have wanted a new pair of jogging shoes or to upgrade your gym membership to include a spa experience. New workout clothes to reward your recent weight loss is another great reward and gives you more exercise motivation.

Don’t Forget to Be Flexible

Finally, to stay motivated to work out, you need to remember to stay flexible with your workout schedule. If you are too busy and simply can’t find the time, take a day or two off your workout schedule, but make sure you get right back to it when things aren’t as hectic. If you need a break, take it. Just make sure to get right back on track.

Get Started Today!

Don’t let this article be a mere mental exercise and nothing more. Want to know how to get motivated to work out? Put this concept to use in your life now.

Decide now that you’re going to start “showing up” today. Pick a time that you’ll make consistent and decide exactly what showing up will mean. Set two alarm clocks if you have to.

Do you have the willpower just to show up to the gym or change into running sneakers every morning or evening? I think you do; it is, after all, so very little to ask.

Now that you know how to get motivated to work out, the next step is doing it!

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Quincy Seale

Quincy is KIM's lead editor and content writer, and has collected and shared inspiring quotes and stories since 2005. Quincy holds an MBA from the University of Dundee and an MSc from the University of Edinburgh, and lives in San Antonio with his wife Natalie, son Alex, and his dog Oban.