How to get motivated to work out: 6 foolproof ways
In a slump? Not sure where to start? Coaches offer their top exercise motivation tips.
You want to exercise more … you really do. You may already know movement can improve your body, your mood and your long-term health.1 But when it comes down to it, you have trouble getting into a workout groove.
Sound familiar? You’re definitely not the only one who feels that way. It can be hard to get the motivation to work out, even for people who do it a lot, says Billy Ryan. He’s a certified Rally Health coach, part of Optum, in Chicago.
“There’s this misconception that athletes just have bottomless motivation to work out,” says Ryan. “But the truth is, they also struggle to get going some days.” Yet they still get up and get out. And so can you. “Just because you’re not feeling it doesn’t mean you can’t do it.”
Certified health coach, Adam Ortiz, agrees that it can be hard to find the motivation some days. But that’s normal.
“Get used to having ups and downs with motivation,” says Ortiz. He trains people at Rally Health, part of Optum, in Denver. “That’s just part of the human experience. Accept that you’ll have periods of low motivation and don’t beat yourself up about it.”
But how do fitness fanatics move, even when they don’t want to? Where do they find that inner drive? And how do they psych themselves up to keep pushing their limits?
Here, Ryan and Ortiz serve up fresh strategies to help you stir your motivation and stick with your goals.
For more health tips you can trust, sign up for our newsletter today.
Find your why
One of the first places to look for motivation is inside yourself, says Ryan. “Take a hard look inside and ask yourself why you want to work out,” he says. Your answer to that question could hold a lot of motivational power.
To find your why, try to look past external factors. Those are things like what others want you to do or be. Or what you think society expects of you. Instead, think deeper. Your why could be aging with independence and grace. Maybe you want to be able to play with your kids, feel good in your body or keep doing the work you love.
At the end of the day, the more value you find in an activity, the more likely you are to do it.
Pick activities you look forward to
This may seem obvious, but far too many people force themselves to do exercises they don’t like. And it’s no wonder they drag their feet to do it again and again.
So it’s time to think outside the box. “There is no best exercise,” says Ortiz. “The best one is the one that you enjoy and can be consistent with.”
The best exercise for you could be totally different from what works for your co-worker or best friend. Maybe you’d have a blast kickboxing or going to group yoga classes. Or maybe you’re more at home hiking around your local trails or lacing up and going for a run.
The exercise choices are endless. “There are so many options, it’s really just a matter of finding what works for you,” says Ortiz. “If you haven’t found something you like, keep looking.”
Another major barrier to being active? Thinking each workout has to be a Herculean effort. (Or that it will take a ton of time.) But it certainly doesn’t have to be.
Physical activity guidelines stress that any movement is better than none.2 “If you exercise for two minutes 10 times a day, that’s still 20 minutes of exercise,” says Ryan.
He recommends thinking about where you have downtime. Use it to get in a few minutes here and there. “It’s all going to add up.” Ortiz agrees: “Something is always better than nothing.”
Schedule it into your day
For most of us, our motivation to work or do household chores waxes and wanes. But we still get them done because we have to. They’re a part of our day. Try thinking about exercise in the light.
Book your workout time and treat it like one of your most important engagements, says Ryan. That will make it harder to skip it for other priorities.
Being active first thing in the morning isn’t always possible. Yet it’s a great strategy to make sure it gets done. “Get yourself out the door as fast as you can in the morning,” says Ryan. “If you sit and wait too long, you may find an excuse to skip it.”
Create an accountability system
Finding people who can lift you up and remind you of your why is important. Maybe that’s a friend or a co-worker. Or maybe it’s a reward system that’s just for you. For example, you treat yourself to something special after working out for a certain amount of days.
Some people also enjoy signing up for races or events where they test their fitness. Having a hard-and-fast date on the calendar can give you something to look forward to. (You can also jumpstart your routine with our two-week fitness challenge.)
Or you can go pro. Work with a personal trainer to create a game plan, if that’s available to you, says Ortiz. They can help hold you accountable.
We have mental health resources to help you stay accountable, too. Work one-on-one with a virtual coach from AbleTo. Explore now.
Treat movement like a science experiment
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to exercise. So be flexible and find what offers you the most benefits and helps you feel your best. “The more aware you are of the benefits, the more likely you are to keep exercising,” Ortiz says.
If long-term goals aren’t right for you, just think about how you can make the most of today. Just commit to one day and time and see how you feel, says Ortiz.
Once you start working out, it will become easier to keep going, our trainers promise.
“If you find ways to make working out part of your routine, it will become a habit, and then it will be much harder to break,” says Ryan. Eventually, you’ll miss it if you skip it. And you’ll be really surprised by how easy it is to keep going.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Benefits of physical activity. Last reviewed April 27, 2022. Accessed June 30, 2022.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical activity guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Published 2018. Accessed June 30, 2022.
© 2022 Optum, Inc. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce, transmit or modify any information or content on this website in any form or by any means without the express written permission of Optum.
The information featured in this site is general in nature. The site provides health information designed to complement your personal health management. It does not provide medical advice or health services and is not meant to replace professional advice or imply coverage of specific clinical services or products. The inclusion of links to other websites does not imply any endorsement of the material on such websites.
Consult your doctor prior to beginning an exercise program or making changes to your lifestyle or health care routine.
Stock photo. Posed by model.