Featured in: Fitness & Weight Management  |  June 19, 2020

10 Ways to Find Your Exercise Motivation

By Dale Wallis

The concept that regular exercise is good for you isn’t a new one. Years of research into the physical benefits of exercising regularly has proven that.

But what about the days when it’s just a little harder to talk yourself into working out? These top tips for how to get motivated to exercise are just the thing to help you get off the couch.

1. Set Realistic Goals for Yourself

First, think about the results you want to achieve. Do you want to shed 10 pounds or start a healthy eating-and-fitness schedule? Or maybe you want to set a better example for the kids by incorporating healthier habits in your lifestyle.

Whatever your reasons, use them to set an achievable goal. Then, make it super simple by breaking down larger objectives into smaller milestones. For instance, break down a weight loss goal into smaller chunks, like losing five pounds per month, to achieve your end results. As you see the small advances you make toward your goal, you’re more likely to stay motivated.

2. Track Your Progress

Stay on top of recording your daily progress through a workout log or fitness journal. Document how you feel before and after a workout, even the not-so-good feelings. Take a “before” selfie, and snap photos of your continuous progress toward achieving your fitness goals. When you can see positive change and the physical evidence of your efforts, you’re more likely to stay on track with your objectives. (You can also try making a list of uplifting quotes about health, wellness, positivity and fitness to look at before every workout session.)

3. Create a Workout Routine

Set a weekly schedule for your workouts, including the days when you switch them up. As an example, you could use Monday, Wednesday and Friday for your core and upper body workouts, and Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for lower body and core routines. However you do it, make sure you write it down on a calendar or set notifications on your phone so you can see it every day, making it more likely for you to follow through even when you don’t feel like it.

4. Celebrate Your Successes

Reward yourself when you achieve milestones: You could splurge on a new set of workout clothes or enjoy some froyo. By building an association between your actions (working out) and an extrinsic reward (the treat), you build habits that become second nature over time. And as that time passes, you’re more likely to begin seeing the physical feeling you get from working out as the real reward.

5. Make a Meal Plan

Healthy eating is just as important to optimum wellness as exercise is. Instead of thinking about dieting, shift your perspective to consider all the unique and tasteful recipes you can try when you plan out your meals according to specific diet plans. A good place to start is your taste preferences and health needs.

Consider nutrient and caloric intake, and plan your meals around what you can comfortably adapt to, including vegetarian, paleo, and keto diet plans. Just like planning your workout routines, use the weekends to list some recipes you want to try, and start experimenting with different meal plans.

6. Plan Your Rest Days

Make regular days off a part of your schedule according to the 80%-20% rule, or the Pareto Principle. In this plan, 80% of your schedule consists of working out, and the remaining 20% reflects your rest days. These will be days when you don’t pick up the weights or worry about counting the calories in that dessert.

You don’t have to let your rest days be lazy days, though. Use these days for laid-back activities, like spending time outdoors or getting started on something constructive. More movement throughout your rest days can positively influence your motivation to keep building this habit on a daily basis.

7. Switch Up Your Routines

Don’t just stick to one routine for each muscle group. Sticking with the same routine over time can lead to the dreaded fitness and weight-loss plateaus. Instead, mix up your workout schedule with enough balance between cardio activities (think jogging, biking, swimming and dancing) and anaerobic exercises (weight and strength training) to keep your body adaptive. Just remember to warm up properly before your workouts so your muscles are flexible and you don’t injure yourself.

8. Make Challenge Fun

Step outside your comfort zone with a fun fitness challenge or fitness goal that pushes you outside your workout norms. Get excited about what your body can do by trying new exercises or techniques you haven’t tried before. If you’re not feeling up to your daily routine, forego the structure and do something you’ve been wanting to try, like a challenging yoga pose. Even if you don’t get it right on the first try, the challenge can be enough to make you feel energized.

9. Consider a Gym Membership

If your budget allows it, consider getting a gym membership to participate in some group fitness classes (assuming gyms are starting to open in your area; observe all necessary health precautions). For many, the accountability of a gym session is enough reason to get up and exercise. Some gyms even offer discounts or packages for working with a personal trainer, which can be a huge motivator for achieving your fitness goals.

If gyms aren’t your thing, you can always find a support group or fitness group where you can meet like-minded people with similar values and wellness goals. Having the extra support can motivate you to keep working toward your goal.

10. Take Advantage of Your Tech

Use your smartphone to your advantage and download a fitness app, workout tracker or other tool to help you stay on top of your progress. With apps like food trackers, you can plan your meals, and a lot of these types of apps let you set recipe search criteria for specific diet plans. Workout apps can work the same way, and many come with pre-planned routines to help you get started.

Take it a step further and specify your workout app search according to methods like weight training, yoga , Pilates, etc. Set up your app notifications if you do use your tech for tracking your fitness goals, and if the app strategy isn’t for you, you can still use your smartphone’s calendar notifications to remind you when it’s time for your workout.

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