Do you want to exercise and get fit, but lack the motivation to get started? Perhaps you want to lose weight or build muscle, but you just can’t get yourself to workout. You’re not alone. Workout motivation is a common challenge for a lot of people, but it doesn’t have to be your challenge.
There’s a variety of strategies you can use to make exercise a routine part of your week. Ideally, you want there to be as few obstacles as possible in your path to exercise. The more obstacles there are, the more excuses you can create to skip your workout. So a few qualities of the most effective approaches include simplicity, accountability, enjoyment, achievability, and investment.
You might find that one or another of these strategies is enough to get you into the workout habit, or you might implement more than one. Test them out, and see which ones work best for you.
All too often, people want to exercise but they don’t know where or how to start. That’s why I recommend starting simple. Workouts that are too complicated, require a lot of equipment (& financial investment), or are too hard present major obstacles that make you much less likely to exercise.
Instead, focus on workouts that you can do on your own and without a gym membership. Walking, hiking, bodyweight training, and yoga are all great ways to exercise that require no more than a pair of shoes. In fact, you can even do bodyweight exercises and yoga barefoot. No equipment, no excuses.
Planks, push ups, bodyweight squats, lunges, and jumping jacks are just a few of the bodyweight exercises you can perform in your home or outside. Alternatively, you can follow a yoga workout on YouTube. Or, put on your shoes and head out the door for a walk or jog.
Keep it simple.
Many people want to workout because they either have a goal of losing weight or building muscle. While these are fantastic goals, there are a few problems with them.
Weight loss and muscle growth are outcome goals, which means they focus on your desired end-result. These are typically longer-term goals, and they aren’t completely in your control. Along the journey of a body transformation, many people often hit plateaus, or their weight fluctuates, which can be incredibly demotivating. At the same time, the weight you think you want to be at might not actually be realistic or healthy for you.
Additionally, weight-related goals don’t address the process of getting there. Without a plan of action that includes shorter-term goals to reach the bigger end-goal, many people fall off the bandwagon.
How do you plan to lose weight or build muscle? This is where performance goals come into play.
Performance goals are about developing mastery. They take your focus away from your aesthetic goal (weight loss or muscle building) and reorient it towards immediately actionable items like consistently exercising 4x per week, being able to squat heavier, or being able to run further and faster. These goals give purpose to your workouts and help you have small wins along the way so your motivation stays high.
What do you want to improve at? How often do you want to exercise? Answer these questions to set a few performance goals.
Is there an exercise or workout that you get excited about, look forward to doing, and makes you feel good? There’s a good chance that activity is your active passion.
Finding your active passion is the key to lifelong workout motivation. It’s an activity that you wake up excited to do, and that easily gets you out the door. Your active passion is something that becomes a part of your lifestyle, and often shapes the decisions you make around exercise and nutrition.
For example, if you enjoy rock climbing and want to become a better climber, you’re probably going to climb regularly, strength train to improve at climbing, and eat in a way that gives you energy but also improves your power-to-weight ratio. The same applies to weight lifting. If you want to be stronger, you’re going to train and eat to increase your strength.
Your active passion could be anything – running, swimming, biking, martial arts, kayaking, surfing, rock climbing, hiking, dancing, yoga, skiing, soccer, etc. And it’s entirely possible to have more than one.
People are socially motivated. They tend to exercise more frequently, more intensely, and longer when they’re with other people. They also tend to enjoy their workouts more.1
When people have a strong social support network around being active, they are more likely to stay active for the long-term.2
Do you have any friends, family, or acquaintances in your life right now that are fit, active, and healthy? Ask if you can join them when they go to the gym, take a class, or exercise outdoors. They could be the key to getting you motivated to exercise.
If you don’t have any active friends right now, find out if any of your friends or family members share your goals. The two (or more) of you can then hold each other accountable, workout together, and motivate each other.
Even if you don’t have active friends right now, there are great alternatives where you can meet new people and build an active community. In most cities, you can find boot camp or fitness classes (like crossfit, yoga, dance, spin, etc). Some of these options only last for a set period of time (like 4-, 8-, or 12-weeks), while others are ongoing.
What’s great about boot camp and fitness classes is that you don’t have to think about your workout. All you need to do is show up, and a certified fitness professional will tell you exactly what to do, how to do it, and for how long. They’ll motivate you, push you to challenge yourself, and correct your form.
This option usually requires a financial investment (like signing up for a gym membership, or paying for classes), but that investment holds you accountable. You’re investing in your health and in the guidance of a certified fitness professional. After a while you might even be able to expect your coach and the friends you make in your group to hold you accountable as well.
This is a fantastic place to start, and continue your fitness journey.
If you need something that is scheduled, will hold you accountable, and will tell you exactly how to workout and eat to achieve your goals, then a certified personal trainer is the ideal solution for you. This option requires the biggest financial investment of all of these strategies, but the benefits of working with a knowledgeable and experienced fitness professional are invaluable.
A qualified personal trainer will teach you correct exercise form & technique. They’ll create a workout program that’s tailored specifically to you and your goals that safely & progressively becomes more intense and challenging. They’ll tell you what workouts (if any) to do at home on your own, and will help you create a nutrition plan that ensures you see the results you want.
Working with a trainer can be life changing, and could be the solution you need to actualize your fitness goals.
Maybe you know how to exercise, but you don’t have an effective program to follow. You can get yourself to the gym, but you don’t have a reliable workout routine to do once you’re there. Investing in a proven and effective workout program designed for your goal (for example, either weight loss or muscle building) could give you the direction you need.
This option requires you to have some motivation to begin with. If you’re determining whether investing in a workout program is ideal for you, I recommend that you ask yourself these questions:
1. Am I self-disciplined?
2. Do I have the motivation to workout?
3. Can I confidently perform basic strength exercises with good form & technique?
If you answered yes to all three questions, then you’re a solid candidate for a pre-designed workout program. The key to success here is that you must be able to hold yourself accountable, and be willing to dedicatedly follow a 1-3 month workout program.
There are so many incredible benefits to exercise – it improves your health, increases strength and endurance, decreases stress, and improves your self-confidence. But exercise alone often isn’t enough to lose weight or build muscle. Nutrition and exercise work together to shape your body. When it comes to losing weight and staying lean, nutrition has the biggest effect. You must eat fewer calories than you burn. And in order to build muscle without gaining fat, you have to pay attention to what and how much you’re eating.
You’ll also want to think about your sleep, stress management techniques, and habits. All of these lifestyle factors work together to make you a healthier, fitter version of yourself.
Getting motivated to workout and actualizing your fitness goals is totally within your reach. Try out one (or more) of the strategies above, and let me know how it goes! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out in the comments below.