Motivated to Exercise After Work

While I’m fitness nut, there are times I really don’t want to work out, even though I should. Let’s face it, after a long day at work, sitting on the couch watching TV, or surfing the Net can sound A LOT more appealing than slaving away in a crowded gym. Working out in the mornings, while very beneficial is often not an option.

So how the heck do you get motivated after a long day at work to exercise if you’re not a fitness nut and sometimes you HATE the thought of exercising? Well that’s a good question my friend and one that I think about often.

If you seriously don’t like working out, or need a mindset shift, check out my 7 Ways to Increase Your Motivation to Exercise. If you know you need to workout, but sometimes lack the motivation, then try putting these 5 simple tricks into action that can make a BIG difference:

1) Bring your workout clothes to work
The night before you go to work, pack a gym bag with all the clothes you need, then bring the bag with you to work (or just stuff everything in your briefcase). The effect of bringing your clothes to work is very powerful on your subconscious mind, so that you can go directly to the gym straight from work. The minute your butt hits the couch at home, it’s over!

If your gym is in your building, or home, avoid sitting down before you workout. Ideally, the minute you arrive home, change, then go for it. Create that habit. You don’t want to give yourself time to engage in a deep inner monologue about whether, or not to workout.

2) Schedule your workouts
I oftentimes put my workouts on my calendar and treat them like a business meeting. By having them on my calendar for the week, I’m thinking about them and mentally preparing for them. This also helps make working out a priority. My schedule is unpredictable and lacks structure, so this is a big help for me. Ideally, try to workout the same time and the same days to make exercising a habit, but just seeing the workouts on your calendar can be very helpful.

3) Take a class at your gym, or get a Gym Buddy
Working out with other people can help keep you motivated to exercise. When you’re alone, you really need that intrinsic motivation, but exercising with a group of people will help you push much harder. If you belong to a gym, try checking out a couple of the classes like full body strength training, or boxing if they’re offered. Another option is getting a gym partner who may be your coworker, significant other, or friend as your workout buddy. Group support is very, very powerful.

4) Create a Rule
I have a rule that no matter what craziness happens in my life, I won’t workout less than 3x in a week. This means I don’t go for more than 2 days without working out (I almost start getting the shakes!). I think the absolute bare minimum should be to exercise at least 2x per week for 30 minutes. You’re not going to “try” to workout, or say you “should” workout, you “must” workout! If you’re a working professional, you’re sitting on your butt wasting away if you don’t exercise. That’s the harsh reality. Your body is built to move, not sit in a chair staring at a computer screen all day.

Motivated to Exercise After Work 1

5) Reward Yourself
Maybe it’s checking out a movie, buying some new gym clothes, or a massage, rewarding yourself for working out can help you stay motivated. While you certainly can reward yourself with treats without working out, the reward feels much better and more deserved after a good workout.

If any of these tips have worked for you, or if you have any other tips to share about methods, or strategies that help you stay motivated, please leave a comment!



  1. profile avatar
    Mary Morris Aug 10, 2010 - 12:03 #

    My favorite protein bar motivates me to get going at 4:30 am. I have a ritaual of setting out workout wear, packing the shower bag and laying out my chocolate protein bar. I eat while I get dressed, and before I know it, I’m energized! I feel great the rest of the day which is motivation itself when the alarm blows!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Aug 10, 2010 - 13:31 #

      @Mary – thanks for sharing your thoughts. Sounds like a great way to get motivated to workout despite how early you get up in the morning!

  2. profile avatar
    Aleks Kopec Aug 10, 2010 - 12:35 #

    Marc, I like the idea of rewarding yourself after workouts. I do this when I have had a particularly good week of running. But I do not like the idea of rewarding with food or time-consuming activities (like a movie). Other ideas? Would lower-impact exercise be a good reward or is that counter productive?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Aug 10, 2010 - 13:43 #

      That’s a great point Aleks. My original 5th tip on this post that I ended up changing was “Take it Down a Notch”. Just going for a brisk walk maybe with some bodyweight exercises instead of a really tough workout is a great way to reward yourself and help keep your energy high.

  3. profile avatar
    carrie maddox Aug 10, 2010 - 12:45 #

    This may sound wierd, but I buy myself a new article of workout attire every few weeks.I don’t spend a lot, just a few bucks for a new tank top or some new socks. For some reason this motivates me!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Aug 10, 2010 - 13:33 #

      @carrie maddox – I think that’s great. I’ve been begging one of my clients to buy new workout gear. I think it can definitely be helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  4. profile avatar
    Hank Aug 10, 2010 - 12:56 #

    Marc I really like the idea of packing your clothes the night before. I also think of making it like a business meeting works.

  5. profile avatar
    Hassan Aug 10, 2010 - 17:00 #

    Dear Marc, i have a different kind of motivation. I have a picture of me from 6 months ago in my closet, in that picture. I look very fat, and when i feel a little bit sluggish to do my workout as planned, I open my closet and stare into myself on that picture and i say what an ugly stomach , and immeditaely i look to myself on the mirror to compare my semi-flat stomach. I find myself wearing my gym clothes quickly…

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Aug 10, 2010 - 20:21 #

      @Hassan – That’s sounds like an “emotional trigger”, which I discussed in my 7 Ways to Increase Your Motivation to Exercise article. It’s brutally effective!

      @Gordon – I think variety is an excellent way to make exercising a more fun and sustainable activity. Me personally, I could do the same 5 strength training exercises combined with some interval training and be happy, but I realize most people really enjoy variety in their workouts. There are so many different types of exercise methods that can help people move around and get in better shape. Happy to hear strength training has helped your shoulder and thanks for leaving a comment!

  6. profile avatar
    Gordon Aug 10, 2010 - 18:26 #

    Variety. Mix up your workout with free weights, kettlebells, plyometrics and good old-fashioned push ups. I work with a trainer frequently. He introduces me to new workouts and ensures that I maintain proper form and protect my shoulder. By the way, I’ve completely eliminated shoulder pain through regular exercise.

  7. profile avatar
    daksha Aug 10, 2010 - 21:21 #

    I work out in the mornings and I also exercise with different workouts every day so it’s not boring and helps to get in better shape. To me the reward with exercising is knowing that I look, feel better and see positive results physically and mentally. I’ve also come to realize that it’s life long commitment and not just a temporary solution for good health.

    All the best,
    Daksha Fata

  8. profile avatar
    Mary Aug 13, 2010 - 23:07 #

    Working out early in the morning gets me ready for the day. I have more energy and feel great. Once it is a habit, you rarely miss a workout.

  9. profile avatar
    Kay Aug 16, 2010 - 22:33 #

    The best advice is taking a gym class/gym buddy. As for me even when I feel sick, my Zumba class is enough to get me working out to the point even when I’m at my worse next a garbage bin just b/c I enjoy “it” that much!!!!

    Great key notes….

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Aug 17, 2010 - 00:00 #

      @Kay – Thanks for the comment. I’ve found with myself when I have a partner at the gym, I put in at least an extra 25% more effort into my workouts!

  10. profile avatar
    Antonietta Nov 02, 2010 - 23:48 #

    I find going to gym in the morning is the best motivation for me, even though it is difficult to get up so early, I know that if I go in the morning then after work I can just go home and relax and not worry about getting to energy together to go after work.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Nov 03, 2010 - 13:16 #

      Thanks for leaving a comment, Antonietta. I think a lot of people agree with you.

  11. profile avatar
    eddie Feb 28, 2011 - 16:39 #

    Im 18 and I know my problem is I don’t see results soon enough and I lose motivation..what is one way to deal with this?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Mar 07, 2011 - 09:55 #

      @Eddie – The lack of motivation you experience when you don’t “see” any results is very, very common, if not the most common reason why people stop working out, or eating well.

      Here are a few tips I hope you find helpful that will allow you to power through your self-doubt/lack of motivation:

      1) Beware of trying to “see” results. Tracking your progress through the mirror is like trying to watch grass grow. In fact, one of my clients ended up gaining 14 pounds of muscle and completely changed his body. He told me he honestly couldn’t “see” the difference. When we compared before/after photos, the differences were striking. The point is you can trust the mirror. I would consider tracking other metrics including body weight, body fat, measurements (arm, waist), and even energy levels. See my free 10 Cut report for more information on tracking:

      2) Exercising is worth it whether or not you see results, or even notice any changes. Here are 31 reasons to continue exercising. Next time you are considering skipping a workout, go through every one of them:

      3) Body change is not only about exercise, but it’s primarily a nutritional challenge. Did you change your eating habits? Assuming you are looking to lose fat, are you eating less calories than you are burning? See: how many calories should you eat to lose weight? In addition, I strongly encourage you to keep a food journal, even just for a few days: See: 7 reasons to keep a food journal:

      Finally, I think it’s important to attach an emotional reason WHY you want to change your body. It needs to be very deep. It’s the type of thing that will motivate you to do something you don’t really want to do, but you know you must do.

      Hope this was helpful and best of luck!

  12. profile avatar
    Lora Jun 21, 2011 - 16:23 #

    Thanks for all the tips. I’ll try to do them all. I just feel sad because I was so committed before and now that I go to night school and work during the day, all the motivation was gone. I used to work out ever single day and now ibobly go once, twice, or even none in a week. I feel bad and I hate myself. But every time I try, I’ll feel lazy and so many excuses. Do you think it’s because I’m very pre-occupied withy schedule? But that’s not an excuse, right? I just want to do it and I find it difficult to plan my schedule. Eventhough howuch I tell myself to do it, laziness take over me. I hate it much. I really hope you can advice me more. I’ll try harder to be motivated.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Jun 22, 2011 - 08:36 #

      @Lora – It sounds like you have very little time and are in a tough spot. Because you are so busy and may not be getting too much sleep, it’s more important than ever to exercise. One thing I’ve learned is that when I really don’t want to exercise, that’s when my body needs it most. With that said, you definitely can get back into the swing of things and start exercising consistently, even with a busy schedule. I did notice you said , “I’ll try to do them all”. Unfortunately, “trying” isn’t good enough. Focus on only 2-3 tactics I mention in this article and do them. Don’t “try” to do them. That may sound harsh, but there is a big difference between saying you will try something, then actually doing it without hesitation.

      To take pressure off of you, all you need to commit to is 10 minutes of exercise 3x per week. You don’t need to go to the gym for an hour. Once you commit to something you know you can follow, then ramp it up from there. Here’s a short and simple workout you can try: Just an idea.

      Best of luck and thanks for the comment!

  13. profile avatar
    Lora Jun 24, 2011 - 08:59 #

    Thank you so much. The link you gave me was the best!!!! I’ll definitely do it! It seems that those five exercises are pretty precise for a ten minute work out. I’ll start doing it today and eventually increase my time. Thanks again. You’re the best!!!!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Jun 24, 2011 - 15:17 #

      No problem, Lora! Happy to help.

  14. profile avatar
    Ed Sep 06, 2011 - 23:13 #

    I work 3x a week so thats my workout sched, pack the gym bag the night before then by 4:30am im @ the gym from there I go to work by 7am 12hr shift, on my off days I do cycling 2x min of 10mi to a max 30mi with 3000ft climbs. I hope that motivates you, because if I can do it you can too. Livestrong!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Sep 07, 2011 - 22:46 #

      Thanks for sharing, Ed!

  15. profile avatar
    Angel Nov 02, 2011 - 01:05 #

    I feel less motivated to work out. I found that your tips are logic and I hope it helps me. Starting to work out again today. Good tips. Thank u for sharing :))

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Nov 02, 2011 - 18:54 #

      @Angel – Good luck! See if you can find a buddy to workout with. Make exercise fun. We all need it!

  16. profile avatar
    gary Jun 12, 2012 - 17:19 #

    The issue im having is working a new shift. I was working 3pm to 3am,then go to the gym..Now im working at 5am.Having a hard time getting to gym.Any ideas?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jun 14, 2012 - 19:12 #

      @gary – wow, that’s tough. I’m assuming you are working 5 days per week, so you have at least 2 days when you can get 1-2 solid workouts per week. So now you can get one solid one during the week, let’s say on a day that is less stressful, or when you have more time. While in many cases the more movement and exercise the better, I think given your tough schedule, you may consider 2 solid workouts per week as an achievable goal. My guess is if you try to workout much more than that, it will be very difficult to sustain with your job. Also, 2x per week is very reasonable and will likely be more sustainable for you. Not sure if you have more of a manual job vs. sedentary one, but if you can move around a bit at work, that would be ideal.

  17. profile avatar
    Thad Jul 20, 2012 - 07:28 #

    “Trick” yourself. Tell yourself that you will only do a short routine today, “20 minutes tops”. Chances are that once you are at the gym and the 20 minutes have gone by, you will keep on going and complete your normal routine.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jul 25, 2012 - 14:10 #

      Thanks for sharing, Thad!

  18. profile avatar
    Ady Udyavar Oct 16, 2012 - 11:31 #

    The tips sound pretty useful and motivating. Thanks!

  19. profile avatar
    uncadonego Oct 21, 2012 - 08:16 #

    Hi Marc,
    Regarding this part of your article:

    “I have a rule that no matter what craziness happens in my life, I won’t workout less than 3x in a week. This means I don’t go for more than 2 days without working out (I almost start getting the shakes!).”

    A question-

    Yesterday is the first day in 12 weeks that I didn’t work out in some form or another. I don’t do the vigorous weights more than 3 or so times a week, but I’ll do bike and calisthenics, or the Medecine Ball 200, or at least SOMETHING.

    Yesterday I didn’t work out because of tightness and soreness and tiredness that is not the norm these days.

    Well, today I had a HUGE vigorous physical 10 hour night of work to do. I am now home and have had a couple hours to have some nice steamed salmon and vegetables, relax a bit etc. I AM going to work out when I’m done posting this, but I still have the same symptoms as yesterday. I’m going to work out even though I feel the same as yesterday because I don’t want to develop an “excuse habit”. I realize it may be a whole week before you even see this, so I’m not sitting by the computer waiting for the answer (LOL!), but in general, am I doing the right thing, or is the pinch in my lower back and the tightness across my upper back and the soreness in my shoulders sympomatic of over working or doing it wrong, and am I right to ignore it and work past it?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Oct 23, 2012 - 10:40 #

      @uncadonego – Taking a few days to catch up on some sleep and also do some foam rolling and stretching can make a lot of sense if you are feeling very tired/fatigued. I would consider spending a little bit more time warming up your next workout to see if that helps. A good 10 minute warm up can likely improve how your body feels. Keep in mind you should not feel any join pain as you exercise, only the pain of sore muscles from exercise. Finally, if the tightness and fatigue continue, you may want to check in with your doctor to make sure nothing is wrong (just a safety measure).

  20. profile avatar
    uncadonego Oct 21, 2012 - 11:28 #

    For additional info to help answer the question, 15 minutes of pushups situps medicine ball stuff etc for warm up, 30 minutes pretty hard on stationary bike, the full regimen for the Everlast Triceps Crunch Bands plus all the usual weight workout except the squats and lunges because of that pinch in my lower back, totalling about 50 minutes, then finished off with 15 minutes more on the bike pretty hard. The upper back feels better, the lower pinch is no worse, and the left shoulder is sore…and clearly falling behind my right arm in strength. I can’t say I worked past it, but overall at least I’m about the same.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Oct 25, 2012 - 16:13 #

      @uncadonego – I think the lower pinch in your back is definitely concerning, so please keep an eye on that. Stretching out your quads, hamstrings, and hips along with foam rolling can help lessen the pressure on your lower back. If the pinching continues, or becomes more painful, I would set up an appointment with a doctor/physical therapist ASAP.

  21. profile avatar
    Vrisha Malan Dec 23, 2016 - 09:37 #

    motivate yourself to go to the gym

    Comment: It was a lot natural to encourage myself to go to the gym once I began to work at home and saw how uncomfortable I was getting from lying on the office chair all the day. I began doing muscle training instead of concentrating on cardio, and that benefits amazingly. I still do cardio, but when I go to the gym, and I’m low on time, if I need to choose between the two, I prefer strength training.

    Every two months I keep going to the gym I treat myself with some new workout clothes or equipment. It seems cool to have new clothes; it strengthens the idea that “I am the kind of man who loves to work out,” and I get to order large sized outfits every once in a while as all the weight I’m gaining…

    That Works for me. There’s nothing quite like feeling better and being pain-free to motivate me to go to the gym!

    1. profile avatar
      Kristin Dec 23, 2016 - 10:42 #

      Vrisha, that’s an awesome story! Thanks for sharing. Rewarding yourself with new workout clothes is such a great idea to keep yourself excited and motivated to workout. Keep it up!
      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

  22. profile avatar
    Subhash Chakraborty. Jan 04, 2017 - 14:08 #

    Sir, I m Rly employee and doing my job as a computer operator. After my duty is over at 7.30 pm I became very boaring because I do not have any friend to spare time. So I straid go to my home and passed my time watching TV or sometime work on Facebook. I am staying alone at my home. Kindly give me some advice to make myself busy in some profitable outcome.

    1. profile avatar
      Kristin Jan 04, 2017 - 16:04 #

      Hi Subhash – From a fitness standpoint, I would recommend that you either join a gym, get a personal trainer, sign up for a small group bootcamp, or start going to fitness classes (like boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Yoga, etc.). That will help you get out, meet new people, and improve your fitness. Determine a fitness goal that you want to work towards, and do something every day to get a little closer to accomplishing that goal. Hope that helps!
      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

  23. profile avatar
    Danni Black Jan 16, 2017 - 16:49 #

    I really like your tip about making sure that you schedule your workout when it comes to exercising. That is definitely something that I will have to keep in mind! I have been looking for a new gym to go to so I’m sure that these tips will be really helpful. Thank you so much for sharing! Wish me luck in my weight loss journey!

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