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Get and Keep Motivation to Workout

It may take 21 days to build a habit, but there will be days or even 2 years in when the weather is gross or you’re just a tad tired.  What will you do to get motivated to workout then?  Motivation to workout is something that will likely wane as external variables change so be prepared.

We all know what happens with the first real snowfall of the season – it’s just too gross and cold to go to the gyms in Harrisburg, PA!  So, what, no cardio?!  Work is going to lay it on you some weeks and you’ll much prefer happy hour cocktails over working out.  There’s always tomorrow, right?!  Random and sporadic workout sessions will leave you feeling frustrated with the lack of results.  It’s why it’s not just about motivation to workout, it’s about tactics.  That’s because you need to workout consistently to have a shot at weight loss and fitness progress.  You’ll need to have a few readily available practices and resources to get and stay motivated to workout even on days you really don’t want to.

Discover and remember WHY

Perhaps you’ve started working out (or any journey!) before and fell off track and an obstacle derailed you.  You need motivation to workout.  Good news – you’re totally normal!  No one is fully motivated 100% of the time, not even fitness trainers.  It’s  important for you to really identify your personal values because they shape your belief system and lead in the decisions you make and thought patterns.  The goal you have is formed around your reason…your why, and will help you to make the best decisions each day.  Filling up the gas tank in the car is a non-negotiable…we may not feel like it, but we want the car to run well and efficiently because we value our safety, and the income we get from getting to work, and the quality time it enables us to spend with family.  Maybe we need better analogies, but you get the point, right?

Keep a workout log

Create a workout program that is based on progression.  Write out the variables (reps, sets, rest periods, etc.) and track them each workout session.  The simple act of logging or journaling will help hold you accountable and can highlight any avoidant behaviors.   Our bodies physically works during the workout and our brains cognitively works during the journaling.  Workout logs also help us to make data-driven decisions on what to do and how, as your body adapts.  Find a mobile workout app that allows you to track your workouts on your phone if you prefer techy convenience.  If you’re a pen-to-paper-person, find a workout template sheet to print and write it out or use an old school composition notebook.  Journaling is also about recording how you feel and what you’re thinking.  My workout logs have notes for when I haven’t slept well or am stressed out.  It is your review and projection tool and also a great way to better understand yourself.

Measure progress

We cannot measure what we do not track, but if you’re logging your workouts you’ll have some data. Measure your weight loss progress by weighing yourself weekly (we do not recommend everyday weigh-ins for the average person).  Take your body measurements every 10 weeks or so. When aiming to increase strength, you can compare the weight or by the total volume (sets x reps x load) from one time period to the next.  Other ways to measure your progress is by your perceived exertion and overall mental or physical well-being assessment.  Taking regular inventory on your progress will help guide you in how to best plan your future efforts and to keep your eye on the prize while respecting the process.  Try a pattern of comparing measurables every 8 or 10 weeks.  You’ll see the weight loss report from week to week then the big showcase every 8 to 10.  Cue the “ooh”s and “aah”s!

Make an appointment with yourself

This needs to be a commitment.  Period.   Missing work meetings is not an option, it’s part of the job requirement but also built in to enable you to do your job well.  Look at your workouts the same way.  Consistent exercise a requirement to help you be healthy and enable you to live a high quality life.  You, yes YOU, are that important.  We all have busy schedules, how do you keep yourself straight?  I’d imagine it’s by scheduling your commitments and preferences out.  You’ll make time for the manicure if you really want it.  You’ve already decided what you want to do and why, this is how you plan the how.

Choose your perspective

Emotions are driven by our thoughts, so change your thought process on what working out is.  When you dread the gym it’s because you think of the gym as a dreadful thing.  Change the way you think and choose a better perspective.  Reconditioning your thought patterns will take time, just as anything worth doing does…but it’ll be worth it!  “I get to go to the gym” rather than “I have to go to the gym” – simple word changes, when repeated, can retrain your thought patterns.  Envision yourself as if you’ve already had the weight loss you’re aiming for.  This is about a lifestyle habit, not a short-term project.  Check out this clip for the 5 mindset techniques from MindPump fitness pros.

Reward yourself

I don’t suggest rewarding yourself with food or drink because I don’t believe it helps to nurture a healthy relationship with food particularly if weight loss is your goal.  Choose other facets of what you enjoy as motivation to workout.  Going to the gym an average of three times per week for 4 weeks might mean you schedule that manicure you’ve been wanting.  Weight loss and fitness progress is about more than just losing fat and strength gain, it’s always about creating new habits.  It’s also about shifting your mentality, being disciplined, and being flexible.  Reward yourself by sleeping in on Sunday because you missed your usual gym session but found a way to improvise to still workout this week.  Be both an accountability coach and cheerleader for yourself.


Join a gym with your friend so you can double dip on working out and social interaction.  Fitness classes are great to give you a sense of community in your fitness journey – they’ll notice when you don’t show up for class and encourage you during it.  Personal trainers are trained to find ways to hold people accountable so they will adhere to the program that is designed specifically for their needs and body.  There’s no motivation to workout like having a professional on your side.  You can simply search ‘personal trainer near me’ to get you options.  Get your family involved.  Ask the kids give YOU gold stars on the days you workout and they get to pick the chore you do when you do not do what you committed to.

Employ some or all of these tactics to set yourself up for success.  Surprise – the process will benefit you more than just achieving your original goal.  So then it’s on to the next one…..