Okay, so you know that you should go to the gym. You’ve heard about the many benefits of exercise. New research even suggests that it can even ward off depression. There’s a whole laundry list of reasons to hit the gym. However, sometimes we find that the last thing that we want to do is work out. Despite the money spent on a gym membership thinking it would provide the motivation to hit the treadmill hard every day, we might find that we only set foot inside a couple of times. In fact, many of us can think of a million things we’d rather do, and none involve a treadmill.
Love It or Hate It
If those of us with an unused gym membership exist on one end of the spectrum, on the other end you’ll find those who can’t seem to live without the gym. They talk about how exercise gives them a “Runner’s High.” For them, exercise seems to be addictive. They don’t give being active a second thought. It’s just something they do every day without even thinking about it. You have read dozens of articles on how to develop workout motivation. You’ve tried all of the tips. Yet, nothing is working. So, how come exercise motivation comes so easily for some people and not others?
Most online articles that give advice on workout motivation contain good information. But, they miss the mark when it comes to workout motivation. As someone who has spent years studying motivation and has also been a certified fitness instructor, I truly understand why workout motivation comes easy for some people and not others.
Finding the motivation to work out consistently really comes from making it a part of your daily life. That is the key to getting and staying motivated when it comes to working out.
First, Choose Something You Love
This seems easy enough. But, how many times do you hear people talk about begrudgingly going to the gym like it’s some form of punishment? If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t be motivated to do it. You don’t have to be happy doing it all the time, but it should be something that leaves you feeling good on most days.
There’s tons of advice on exploring new types of fun new activities. You might be told to try pilates or join a workout class. But what one person enjoys might be boring or torturous for the next. Our personalities and interests largely impact the kind of fitness activity that we will enjoy long term.
People who are extroverted may feel at home in a group fitness or dance class, while a person who is introverted may enjoy solitary early morning runs. Whatever it is, it has to be something that you enjoy. You may have to try many different types of movement. The thing is to keep trying until you find something you genuinely enjoy.
Then, Make it Easy
The first piece of the puzzle when it comes to workout motivation is choosing something that you love. The second piece is finding a way to make it easy to do the type of workout you like. You have to incorporate daily movement into your life in a way that is seamless. It must become a part of your daily schedule or routine. This is called automaticity.
Automaticity refers to the idea of doing something automatically, without thinking. It’s like remembering to brush your teeth every day. It’s not hard because you are used to doing it every day. A research study conducted by fitness giant Les Mills found that automaticity is the key to sticking to a workout routine. In the study, participants were divided into two groups of people. One group was comprised of people who are regular exercisers. They worked out on average 150 minutes per week over the last ten years. The second group consisted of people who rarely worked out. The critical difference between those who worked out regularly and those who didn’t was automaticity. All of the participants, 100 percent in the active group, said that exercise is part of their routine. Among the inactive participants, more than 92 percent said that fitness was NOT a regular part of their routine.
So, how can you make exercise automatic? A part of your daily routine? Here are some tips.
#1 Find A Time that Suits Your Internal Clock
Some articles suggest working out first thing in the morning. They say that people who work out first thing in the morning are more likely to follow a fitness program — that’s it’s all about finding the willpower to just do it. If you are not a morning person, this simply won’t work for you.
For those who are NOT early birds, advice to wake up early to get in some gym time won’t work. Some people are just genetically programmed to not function at their best early in the morning. There are hundreds of genes that influence whether a person prefers mornings or evenings. Trying to go against your genetics will get you nowhere. You’ll just end up feeling like a failure when you’re unable to pull yourself out of bed for those 5 A.M. workouts. So, identify what times of the day are best for you, whether that’s mornings, lunchtime, or in the evening.
#2 Schedule It
How often have you made plans to go to the gym and canceled at the last minute when something else came up? Schedule your workouts just as you would any other appointment. I use apps like Mindbody and ClassPass, to schedule workouts ahead of time. I’ve found that this makes it much harder to blow off workouts, especially since there often is a cancellation fee associated with not going most of the time.
Putting your workouts into your calendar in this way can give you the motivation that you never knew you had.
#3 Make it Effortless
Contrarily, If you struggle with scheduling your workout sessions during the day and following through, try to do it first thing in the morning regardless of your routine. Make it as easy as possible to work out by removing any obstacles. For example, keep an exercise bike in your bedroom room you can hop on as soon as you wake up.
#4 Be Prepared
After you have your workouts scheduled, make sure you are prepared with the things that you need. If you are working out at home, pick up any equipment you need for your workouts. If you plan to do yoga after work, make sure you have a yoga mat, towels, and other essentials like an eye pillow in your bag. Cycling to and from work each day? Pack waterproof gear so that you will be ready no matter the weather. Also, pack some healthy snacks for your gym bag to replenish your energy after your workout.
Related article: How Good Nutrition Supports Athletic Performance
#5 Up the Stakes
Another way to ensure that you keep up with your workout routine is to put some money behind it. You can sign up for a subscription to a workout subscription app, like Pelaton or Apple Fitness Plus. This makes it more likely that you will make working out a part of your everyday life.
You Are On a Roll, What Now?
Sticking to a workout routine is really about playing the long game. At first, you’ll be motivated and excited. However, it won’t always be this way. It will take months — maybe even years of hard work to make it a part of your life. There will be times when you feel unmotivated, discouraged, or overwhelmed. Here’s how to deal with these feelings.
#1 Cut Yourself Some Slack
There will be days that you won’t be able to get your workout in, even with the best planning. That’s completely fine. Some days, you just won’t be feeling good. Even the most motivated people have days that they don’t want to work out. Avoid reading too much into it. Simply move past it, and get back to your workouts as soon as possible.
#2 Get Back on Track
Everyone falls off track sometimes when it comes to working out. This can happen for various reasons, from schedule conflicts to injuries. During COVID-19, many people who regularly worked out stopped. According to research, physical activity levels dropped significantly after the pandemic struck. Even people who exercised every single day stopped working out.
Keeping up with your daily workouts is a habit. Once you get out of the habit of working out, it’s easy to fall into a rut. The key is to get back into the habit of exercising again as soon as you realize that you have become off track. Don’t wait until the perfect time. Just start.
#3 Pay Attention
When you notice that you are working out more than usual, take a moment to pay attention and think about why. Try to figure out what’s behind your motivation. For instance, perhaps you get more workouts in when you sleep better. Or, perhaps you work out more often when you attend a specific fitness class. Search for your motivation and take actions that support it.
The motivation to work out comes from making fitness a daily part of your life. You can’t think of it as punishment. You have to decide to make movement an essential part of your routine. Do that and staying fit will be easy.