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Maintain Your Exercise Motivation

Apr 30 2021
6 min read
man's back as he stands with his hands on his hips overlooking a sunny valley

Some people truly enjoy working out, while others find it tough to maintain the motivation to exercise day in and day out.

Plus, if you’ve been sidelined for any length of time, for any reason, that killer class you took twice a week might look intimidating to you now. You don’t have to love exercising — but your body needs it nonetheless. So give yourself a break: Start at whatever level you’re at today to get back into a fitness routine.

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 toward the results. “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 it brings,” says Mike Siemens, MS, Canyon Ranch corporate director of exercise physiology. “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 for a bike ride around a park your friend raves about. You might 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. That increases 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 getting outdoors for an early morning run.

Sign Up For An Event

Many people get motivated to achieve a higher fitness level by signing up for a charity event. It’s motivational to be part of a team and to be helping a good cause. You can search for in-person and virtual events that match your interests and fitness level.

Entertain Yourself

Turn on your favorite tunes to add joy to your workout. 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, for instance, your usual elliptical session may not feel quite as hard. 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, Fitbits, and pedometers can give you instant feedback about your mileage, pace, calorie burn, and effort. There are 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 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 — like a colorful tank top or new workout shorts — can add motivation. 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.

A headshot of the Director of Performance Science, Mike Siemens

About the Expert

A headshot of the Director of Performance Science, Mike Siemens

Mike Siemens

MS, RCEP, Director of Performance Science

Mike works one-on-one with our guests, creating customized exercise programs for a wide variety of fitness levels and movement goals. He also hires, trains, and mentors our team of Exercise Physiologists, and develops programming for the department.

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