How to get motivated to exercise

How to get yourself going when you don't really feel like it.

Getting motivated to exercise relies on the same basic mental process as getting motivated to do anything else, whether it’s getting out of bed in the morning or even cleaning the house.  It seems harder to do any of those things when it’s dark outside, or cold, or when you don’t feel 100%; it seems easier when you have someone with you to help or encourage you.
When it comes to exercise, or getting fit, for many of us the goal is something that is at least a few months away – perhaps losing a significant amount of weight, running a certain distance or hitting a strength or endurance goal. For some of us just visualising that goal is enough to get us out of bed early and exercising, and keeping the goal in mind helps us make appropriate choices when eating out or deciding if we really want the instant gratification of that sugary cocktail.
For more of us, however, we are full of enthusiasm on day 1, but when we wake up on day 2, day 5 or day 7 and don’t see much change in the mirror, the temptation to get back into our warm bed grows, and it seems almost pointless to stick at our plan since we tell ourselves it isn’t working anyway.
We tend to either wait for motivation to arrive, or rely on other people to motivate us.  But it is not action that follows motivation, it is the other way around: when you start doing something, motivation grows.
Get motivated to exercise
If you talk to some of our successful transformation clients, some of them will tell you that on days they feel like sleeping in, they get their workout gear on while they are still half asleep. Just getting dressed into exercise clothing can be enough to make you think, ‘Well I’m dressed for it now, I might as well go for a walk/ run/ gym session’. If the thought of a sweaty training session doesn’t get you out of bed, break it into smaller steps. You will almost always find that, somewhere along the way of going through the motions of getting ready, your desire to get back into bed will wane and you’ll be half way through your workout in no time.
The same is true for preparing a healthy meal when it’s late and you are tired – it would be the easiest thing in the world to phone for a food delivery. But in the 20-30 minutes it takes to arrive you could have made a delicious and healthy meal.  Instead of picking up the phone, chop some vegetables. A grilled or pan-seared salmon fillet with steamed vegetables takes about 10-15 minutes to go from sitting in your fridge to sitting on your plate and, by the time you have prepared your meal, you will feel not only a sense of achievement, but also rightfully proud not to have slipped into choosing the easy option.
However, all of this becomes a whole lot easier once you have cemented some healthy habits into your life. And as we know, it takes time (just under a month, to be exact) to form new habits.  Motivation, no matter how strong it is, will diminish eventually, but habits are always there and can be relied upon when motivation has long gone.
The great news is that we can make things relatively simple for ourselves. If the goal is to incorporate exercise into our daily lives, we must first get used to moving our bodies every day, and we are far more likely to do that if we are moving ourselves in a way we enjoy. Whether it is cycling, swimming, walking, dancing or even roller skating, if we enjoy it we will keep doing it.

Motivate yourself to build healthy exercise habits using any or all of these 7 tips:

  1. Remember that motivation will come.
    You just need to start moving first. It could be as simple as lacing up your running shoes or putting on your gym gear, or even just forcing yourself to roll out of bed when your alarm goes off.

  2. Choose an activity that you enjoy.
    Or at least choose one that you think you might enjoy. It’s much easier to overcome a lack of motivation if you are looking forward to whatever it is you have planned.

  3. Incorporate something you already do.
    For example, if you stop for an espresso at your favourite coffee shop on the way to the gym it’s easy for the whole routine to become a habit. Or turn your dog’s morning walk into a run together – your dog will love you for it and you’ll have an enjoyable healthy habit that you never want to shirk.

  4. Write down your goal.
    Or your commitment to yourself (for example a pre-breakfast walk on 4 days this week) and stick it somewhere you will see often, such as your bathroom mirror or fridge door. Seeing it first thing each morning and last thing at night will help you remember why you started and to stay focused.

  5. Be flexible.
    If you had planned a killer leg day at the gym but you feel like you have no energy, make a deal with yourself to go to the gym and just do 2 sets of any given exercise. The way we humans work, it is likely that you will end up staying longer but, if not, at least you have done something towards your goal. If it’s raining and you had planned to do a run outside, consider using a treadmill instead or even switching to a gym session or fitness class. Something is always better than nothing and consistency (moving in some way each day) trumps perfection every single time.

  6. Recruit a buddy or even a team of buddies.
    Some people prefer to exercise alone but others do better with company. If that sounds like you, recruit a friend to be your exercise buddy (but be careful not to use it as an excuse not to go if they cancel on you one morning!) This works in all kinds of settings, from going to the gym or yoga together, to regular weekend hikes or bike rides with friends or family.

  7. Outsource your motivation.
    For many people, especially those with a busy lifestyle the fastest way to learn how to motivate yourself, or how to build those habits that allow you to do so is to make a commitment with a professional coach. At ATP Personal Training, we have developed a holistic approach to health and fitness that is based on what we call D.N.A. (Daily routine, Nutrition and Activity). We focus on building strong healthy habits that you can use for the rest of your life to build and smash whatever goals you might have, both inside and out of the gym. Our clients don’t need to rely on motivation (although many of them are highly motivated individuals), and neither will you.

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