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Maintain Your Exercise Motivation

You can beat the urge to skip the gym by trying these strategies
Written by 
Canyon Ranch Staff
Updated on: 
October 9, 2013

There are some people who truly enjoy working out, but for others, finding the motivation to exercise day in and day out can be a little tough. You don’t have to love exercising—but that doesn’t mean that your body doesn’t need it any less. Research shows that while nearly 50 percent of Americans are getting the recommended amount of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week, strength training is often a forgotten part of some workouts. Even when you know all of the heart-strengthening, endorphin-boosting, mood-elevating and other benefits of exercise, the fact is that motivation may wax and wane over time. If the feeling you get when breaking a sweat isn’t enough to get you moving on a regular basis, try these stick-with-it tips to keep your inner drive from fizzling.

Think of what you’ll get from your workout.
You know lifting those weights is good for you—but you just plain don’t want to do it. And that’s OK. Instead of focusing on the task at hand, look ahead to what completing that task will help you do. “I’ll admit it. I don’t love strength training. But when it’s time to do it, I think about the ease of movement that comes as a result,” says Mike Siemens, M.S., clinical director of exercise physiology and director of aquatic therapy at Canyon Ranch in Tucson. “The muscle strength helps make it easier to keep up with my energetic kids, among many other things.”

Work out with a friend, family member or loved one...
Research shows that people who exercise with a buddy are less likely to skip their workouts, probably because they don’t want to stand up or disappoint their pal. Exercising with a friend can also motivate you to try something new—saddle up to a bike in that spinning class you’ve never tried, but that your friend raves about. You might even find that the workout goes more quickly when you have someone to pass the time with.

…or just get them on board with your workout goals.
Sharing your commitment to exercise can increase your resolve to stick with it, according to a Penn State University study. The support of a family member, friend or partner made participants more likely to maintain a new workout program compared to those who didn’t have someone to lean on. You can also rally support from a coach, trainer or fitness instructor. Researchers are investigating how much support is necessary, but an email or phone call checking in each week—initiated by them or by you—is a good place to start.

Share your success.
A study in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that receiving enthusiastic pats on the back when you share your workout successes with a friend, coworker or even on social media can make you value your triumph even more than you would if you kept mum—and increase your desire to feel that way again and again. Your boast can be as big of a deal as taking your first yoga class or as (seemingly) minor as not pressing snooze and making it to the gym before work. Toot your own horn…you deserve it! 

Sign up for an event.
“A lot of people get motivated to achieve a higher fitness level by signing up for a charity race,” says Dawn McCrystal, M.S., an exercise physiologist at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Mass. “Not only is it motivational due to the team work and coaching that often is involved, but the fact that you are raising money for a cause you care about is a huge motivator.” You can search for events that match your interests, fitness level and calendar online.

Entertain yourself.
Turn on your favorite tunes if you want to enjoy working out more than you do right now. Research from Brunel University’s School of Sport and Education in London indicates that up-tempo music not only increases muscular endurance during exercise, but it can also reduce your perceived exertion—meaning your usual elliptical session may not feel quite as hard, for instance. When you know a workout is going to be more fun and feel less difficult, it’s a lot easier to lace up those sneakers.

Invest in a workout gadget.
Designed to inspire and motivate, gadgets like heart rate monitors, GPS devices and pedometers can give you instant feedback about your mileage, pace, calorie burn and effort. There are also many free apps—from pedometers to trackers like MyFitnessPal—that can also be helpful. The data can inspire you into action as you work toward improving your pace and increasing your endurance. There’s nothing like a little self-competition to get you moving. Some gadgets even display cheerleader-like messages to nudge you along. Keep moving! You can do it!

Treat yourself to a new piece of exercise apparel.
Purchasing something that makes you feel attractive while you’re sweating—whether that’s a colorful tank top or new workout shorts—can be major motivation to hit the gym. It’s like buying a new pair of jeans you feel good in: You just want to get out there and show them off. Proper-fitting clothing can also make your workout more comfortable.

Reference(s) 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention