How to Motivate Yourself to Exercise

You’ve probably noticed that it’s hard to be motivated all the time.


No matter what you are working on, there will be some days when you just don’t feel like doing anything. Be it household chores, daily responsibilities or exercise, there are some days when your energy levels and motivation are down the gutter.

Casual exercisers looking at getting in shape, know this. They struggle to find the workout motivation to make fitness a part of their daily routine. Missing a session in their routine is common until eventually they fall back to their old habits and don’t exercise at all.

Good news is that fluctuations are a part of life, we all face these motivational challenges. However, top performers have a way to deal with these “off days” by developing foolproof systems. These systems help them to perform well even when not feeling motivated.

Let’s talk about some of these systems and how you can do the same to keep yourself motivated to exercise even on days when you don’t want to.


First Step Is to Make Exercise a Habit

An excellent quote that couldn’t be more true. Being excellent is not an act but a habit. Forming good habits is key to achieving more in life.

The same goes for exercise, you need to make exercise a habit. Habits become second nature and for those “off days” when you don’t want to exercise and have no motivation, the power of habit takes over.


How Do You Create an Exercise Habit?

How to motivate yourself

Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business attributes cravings, as a key factor in creating a habit.

These cravings can be anything pleasurable or rewarding such as treating yourself to an ice cream after doing x amount of work or watching an episode of your favourite TV show after running x amount of kilometres. The rewards are instant, therefore resulting in greater motivation to accomplish any given task because you now crave that immediate reward.

Applying this principle to exercise will lead you to associating exercise with something pleasurable and rewarding. You could for example reward yourself with a delicious fruit smoothie after an exercise session or even reward yourself by watching an episode of your favourite TV show after a workout.

By doing this you will be rewiring your brain to see exercise as something that brings immediate rewards. Rather than forcing yourself to exercise by using threats and fear, “I have to exercise for an hour every day” or “I have to stop eating junk food if I want to get fit”, use rewards as a motivator. Instead say “After I exercise I will watch TV for 30 minutes” or “I will eat junk food of my choice after I complete my workout”.

Creating this reward loop cycle will help you develop a powerful habit to exercise regularly. Rather than seeing your goal of exercise (getting a 6 pack, losing 10kgs, gaining 5 kg of muscle mass) as a distant, impossible mountain to climb, you now see the immediate rewards as you work towards your goal with each exercise session.


Get a Training Partner for Greater Accountability

How to motivate yourself

How many times has this happened to you? You do exercise by yourself, and then on some days when you just don’t have the motivation, your “off days”, you decide to take a day off. Weeks go by, you miss a few more sessions until you eventually stop exercising altogether. You feel guilty for a while and then start exercising again only to fall into the same vicious cycle again and again.

By exercising yourself, you have no one to hold you accountable on your days of zero motivation. Your “off days” when you don’t feel like exercising will surely remain as an “off day” unless you display extreme strength and willpower to overcome this laziness. Failure to do so results in you doubting yourself and wondering if you will ever be able to maintain a regular exercise program.


So what’s the solution? What can we do to stop falling into the same trap?


Get a training partner.


Not just any training partner. Get a training partner who will hold you accountable for missing a session. That way, when you don’t feel like exercising, you know you will be letting your partner down too. Your training partner will provide you with that extra bit of push you need to get up and exercising.

To make things even more interesting and for greater accountability, try involving money. Who ever fails to turn up to an exercise session must pay the other a certain amount of money ($20, $30, $50 etc). Miss a few exercises sessions and you will certainly feel it! Eventually neither of you would be willing to miss any exercise session.

No matter how you get there, you know you’ve won when you’re able to exercise regularly (even on days you don’t want to). Once you develop a fitness habit, you will no longer need to force yourself to exercise, it’ll be a part of your life. Add a training partner, and your workouts are not only more fun, but you are now held accountable and are less likely to miss an exercise session.


What are you waiting for? Go and:

  1. Find something you can reward yourself with after an exercise session (TV, food, buying something for yourself)
  2. Call a friend and get them to join you as an exercise partner.


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