32 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Work Out
Next time you’re tempted to hit snooze or skip out on exercise or you're just dreading your workout, look to these tips to get motivated.
“80 percent of success is showing up.” - Woody Allen
No matter how good our intentions are to workout, we all need some motivation from time to time to stick to our fitness routines. Here are thirty-two ways to inspire you to get moving next time you’re tempted to skip that morning run—again—or don’t feel like following through on your planned sweat session.
1. Define your why
Desiring to look good in a swimsuit or lose weight for an upcoming vacation may encourage you to workout for a period of time, but what happens when summer is over or that vacation comes to end? Having a deeper, personal or emotional reason for exercising will help you stick with your fitness routine. Find your why—increased energy, reduced stress, blood pressure or diabetes management, longevity—and you’ll find your motivation.
2. Layout your workout clothes (or pack your gym bag) the night before—or even sleep in them
Whether you exercise first thing in the morning or later in the day, setting out your clothes (or packing your gym bag) the night before can be a game-changer. It not only saves time in the AM but also reminds you that you have made a commitment to workout that day.
If you workout at the crack of dawn or you are trying to make working out in the morning a habit, sleeping in your workout clothes might also work for you.
3. Buy new workout clothes and the right gear
We all want to look and feel good, even when we workout. Having clothes that you are excited to wear, that you feel comfortable in, and that are appropriate for your activity—and the weather—can make a huge difference. So can investing in the right equipment for your sport. Ever tried swimming without goggles, running in worn-out shoes, or doing Pietra Fitness without a mat? Not the best experience.
4. Do what you love
You will be more motivated to exercise—and to stick to an exercise routine—if your workouts consist of activities you enjoy. Focus on movement that gives you energy and boosts your mood, rather than forcing yourself to go for a run if group fitness, swimming, strength training, cycling, Pietra Fitness, or rock climbing, is more your jam.
5. Have an accountability partner
An accountability partner is someone who will help you identify your goals and action steps and, through regular check-ins, make sure you stay on track. This person could be a coach, a trainer—someone who is willing to be brutally honest with you while remaining positive and encouraging. Since an accountability partner’s job is to . . . hold you accountable, be straightforward, and sometimes say tough things, it’s not advised to enlist your best friend.
“You must expect great things of yourself before you can do them.”
– Michael Jordan
6. Have a back-up plan
When bad weather prevents you from an outdoor run, or an impromptu meeting cuts into your gym time, have a plan B. You don’t have to skip your workout just because plan A got sabotaged.
7. Make a new playlist—or two
Exercise and music make a great team. Studies show that listening to music while you exercise can not only improve the quality of your workout but also increase your stamina and boost your mood.1 Furthermore, songs that synchronize to the pace of your workout make it easy to run or pedal to the beat of the music, and motivating lyrics can inspire you to work harder.2 Create a playlist or two of songs that you enjoy and that fit with your exercise routine. For extra motivation, start your music before you begin your workout to get you in the mood.
8. Leave yourself positive notes or motivational quotes
Reminder yourself to take care of your health and to work out by posting inspiring messages and quotes on your alarm clock, on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, on your computer, or in your planner or car.
9. Schedule your workout on your calendar
Studies show that people who schedule their workouts are more likely to exercise on a regular basis.3 Roger E. Adams, Ph.D, personal trainer, doctor of nutrition, and owner of eatrightfitness says that by making time to work out—rather than just finding the time—you are letting yourself, your family, your friends, and everyone else in your life know that exercise is a priority, and it’s important.4
Take 10 minutes on Sundays to look ahead at your week and block off time to workout.
10. Work out first thing in the morning
It can be hard to have the energy and motivation to workout after a long day. Switching to a morning exercise routine will not only beat that late afternoon fatigue but also help you feel accomplished before you launch into the rest of your day. In addition, studies show that working out first thing in the morning can increase energy and focus throughout the day, improve mood and sleep, and aid in blood pressure management, among other benefits.5
“A champion is someone who gets up when they can’t.”
– Jack Dempsey
11. Mix It Up
Exercising on a regular basis is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but doing the same workout day in and day out can lead to boredom, plateaus, chronic aches and pains, and even injury. Each week, cycle through different types of cardio and resistance training. You can also adjust the frequency, intensity, and duration of your workouts to keep your body—and mind—engaged and looking forward to a good sweat session.
12. Plan your workouts ahead of time
You wouldn’t show up to a big test without studying or try to give an important presentation without preparing, would you? The same logic can be applied to working out. Planning your workouts rather than just winging it can get you excited to exercise, prevent overtraining and burnout, and save you time—especially if you’re prone to wandering around the gym.
13. Join a gym or designate a place in your house for working out
You have a specific place where you eat and where you sleep. Why not assign a room or space in your house for exercise, too? Fill it with things that motivate you to get moving, such as inspiring quotes and pictures, exercise equipment, and bluetooth speakers. If getting out of the house and working out around others is more your style, join a local gym.
14. Join a challenge—or start your own
Healthy competition is good. Whether you join a step challenge, a plank challenge, or a daily exercise challenge—or recruit your friends and start your own—a challenge could be just what you need to get you moving and build your confidence.
15. Commit to doing just ten minutes
Getting started is the hardest part, especially on days when you would rather sleep a little longer or skip the gym after work. Instead of throwing in the towel, commit to doing just ten minutes—there’s a good chance that when the ten minutes are up, you will want to keep moving.
“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”
– Thomas Jefferson
16. Hire a personal trainer
Whether you are new to exercise or you are a regular gym-goer, working with a personal trainer can be beneficial. A certified personal trainer can design a personalized workout program for you based on your current fitness level and desired goals.
17. Log your workouts to track your progress
When it comes to health and fitness, it’s been said that it takes four weeks for you to see results, eight weeks for your friends to see results, and twelve weeks for everyone else to see them. When you log your workouts, you are able to see that your hard work is paying off, even if you don’t notice any physical changes yet. Also, tracking and celebrating your progress—whether that’s sticking to a consistent workout schedule, increasing your mileage or pace, or being able to do more pushups or lift more weight—takes the emphasis off of your physical appearance and places it on the goals you are achieving.
18. Use a fitness app
Whether you want to track your runs, try a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout, or start a strength training program, there is a fitness app for you. Some apps can even keep you accountable by acting as a virtual trainer or training partner.
19. Work out with a friend
Skipping a workout is a lot harder when you have someone counting on you to show up. Plus, exercising with a friend is fun and may even take your workout up a notch. Studies show that people who work out with a buddy not only push themselves harder but also exercise longer.6
20. Schedule rest days
Working out every day can take a toll on you—physically, mentally, and spiritually. Avoid burnout by designating at least one day each week to active rest. But resting doesn’t mean you lay on the couch all day. Rest days are days off from your normal workouts and intensity level during which you engage in some other sort of activity, like take a walk, do yard work, or play with your kids. Plus, you will be more likely to stick to your workout today if you have a scheduled rest day to look forward to tomorrow.
“Do something today that your future self will thank you for.”
– Sean Patrick Flannery
21. Listen to a podcast or audiobook
Find an intriguing podcast or audiobook and only listen to it when you work out. This gives you something to look forward to when you’re not necessarily feeling motivated to exercise.
22. Break it down
If carving out time for a 30-minute workout isn’t feasible, break down your workout into shorter sessions throughout the day. Got for a 10-minute walk three times a day. Or go for a quick walk in the morning, do squats, pushups, and planks during your lunch break, and wind down at night with feel-good stretches. Every little bit counts.
23. Envision how you will feel afterward
In the moment, it may feel good to stay in bed a little longer or head home after work instead of going to the gym. But how will you feel later? Before you throw in the towel, ask yourself, Will I regret skipping this workout? If the answer is yes, get going. If the answer is no, maybe your body—and mind—need a rest day (see #18.)
24. Join a fitness community
There is a ton of evidence that fitness communities help people stick to an exercise routine, improve their fitness level, workout longer, and increase their happiness.7 Whether you like running, cycling, weight lifting, CrossFit, or Pietra Fitness, there is a local or online community for you!
25. Set short- and long-term goals
Having something to work toward in both the immediate and distant future can add purpose to working out—and motivate you to get out of bed in the morning. If your goal is to run a 5k or complete a triathlon, find an event, sign up for it, and break down your training into daily, weekly, and monthly goals. (And when you achieve a goal, celebrate your success, no matter how big or small it is.)
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.”
26. Practice habit stacking
In his book Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, James Clear says that “one of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top.” For example, When I get out of bed in the morning, I will change into my workout clothes, or When I put on my running shoes, I will text a friend and tell them how far I’m going to run,or When I brush my teeth, I will do 30 air squats.By linking your new habit to a habit that is already built into your brain, you are more likely to stick to the new behavior.8
27. Reward yourself
Hard work deserves to be recognized—otherwise, what’s the point? Before you set out to achieve a new goal, decide how you are going to celebrate when you reach your target. It could be buying yourself a new outfit, treating yourself to a massage, going on a vacation, purchasing new fitness gear. Determine what appeals to you and let that tangible reward incentivize you to keep at it.
28. Wear a fitness tracker
From counting your steps and tracking your activity level to hourly reminders to move, fitness trackers may motivate you to move more often. A 2017 study found that wearing a pedometer for an average of 18 weeks led to significantly more physical activity, lower blood pressure, and lower body mass index (BMI).9 Determine which fitness tracker fits your lifestyle and fitness goals, and then step to it.
29. Subscribe to health and fitness magazines and blogs
Health and fitness magazines and blogs (like this one) are chalked full of health tips, workouts to try, advice, recipes, pictures of fit people, and more. Find one that piques your interest and suits your exercise style. Read it on a regular basis or just when you’re looking to switch things up.
30. Watch or listen to motivational speeches
Motivational speeches are meant to pump you up—and there is certainly no shortage of them on YouTube. Listen to one right away in the morning to set the tone for the day, on your way to the gym to get you in the mood for your work out, or while you’re exercising to help you push through to the very last rep.
“. . . your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you . . .”
– 1 Corinthians 6:19
31. Make lifestyle changes
A Harvard study found that when people focused on increasing their activity level and improving their diet, they met both goals.10 When you commit to a healthy lifestyle, it impacts everything that you do. Working out, then, won’t feel like a punishment or something you’re forcing yourself to do—it will become something that is part of your everyday life.
32. Say a prayer
We can do all things through Him who gives us strength—so ask God for the fortitude and grace to stick with your exercise routine as you had planned. You can also ask St. Sebastian, the patron saint of athletes, to intercede for you and increase your desire to workout, especially when you’re not in the mood.
Next time you’re tempted to hit snooze or skip out on exercise or you're just dreading your workout, try one, two, or several of these tips for motivation.
- James Clear, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones (Penguin Publishing Group, 2018)