We all know that being active and participating in a regular workout program is good for our mind, body, and soul. But sometimes the internal dialogue that tells us to skip our workout or grab takeout and work a few hours more takes over.
When this happens, it can be hard to follow through on your plan to make it to the gym and prioritize fitness.
That’s when having a list of motivational tips and tricks can help you be consistent. We’ve compiled a list of 32 practical ways to help you stay motivated and on track to meet your fitness goals.
1. Define your ‘why’
You can’t always rely on external factors, such as a vacation, to motivate you. Defining your “why” for exercise will give you a personal or emotional investment in your goals.
2. Pick a cause
Whether you’re a runner, walker, or CrossFit fanatic, choosing a cause to compete for can really help motivate you. There are tons of competitions that support causes like:
- Alzheimer’s research
- cancer research or funding for families
- cystic fibrosis research
- suicide prevention
- diabetes research and advocacy
3. Always have a backup
Put a “just in case” bag in your car with a change of workout clothes and a pair of shoes. Also, have an alternate workout ready, such as a walking route by work, when plans change.
4. Follow the 3 x 10 rule
Short on time? No problem. Take a 10-minute walk, three times a day. Swap out the evening walk for a few squats, pushups, and crunches, and you’ll have a total-body workout. All of these mini-workouts add up quick, and make a big dent in your overall exercise minutes for the week.
5. Post-it power
Label sticky notes with positive messages about working out. Plaster them on your alarm clock, bathroom mirror, or computer at work. They’ll serve as a constant reminder to take care of your health.
6. Use social media
Skip the selfies and daily check-ins and opt for using social media as a way to stay on track with your fitness goals.
One study found that the support, accountability, and even healthy competition in online groups can help you adhere to an exercise routine.
7. Schedule it in your calendar
Decide what type of workout you’ll do, for how long, and where. Then, spend 10 minutes planning your activity for the rest of the week.
8. Watch and work out
Just can’t say “no” to your favorite TV show? Hop on the treadmill or other cardio equipment, turn on the TV, and watch the time fly by. You can even make it a habit to only watch your favorite show when you’re exercising.
9. Set a date
Training for a race or special event can push you to get out of bed in the morning and get moving. Find an event to train for that is a few months away. Commit by signing up and paying the entry fee, then get to work.
10. Find a challenge to join
You name it; there’s a challenge for it. The squat challenge, plank challenge, daily exercise challenge, the list goes on. The good news? Since there are so many to choose from, you’ll have no problem finding multiple challenges to join and complete.
11. Sleep in your clothes
Yes, this trick really does work! If setting your clothes out at night isn’t enough motivation, try wearing them to bed.
12. Put your alarm out of reach
If you’re a snoozer, you need to put your alarm clock on the other side of your room. This forces you to get up and out of bed. And, if you already have your clothes on, you’re halfway to your workout.
13. Gather your squad
Working out is a lot easier when you have a friend waiting for you. Skip the coffee date and instead head to a cycling class or run the trails. Plus, research shows that finding a fitness buddy increases the amount of exercise you do.
14. Listen to a podcast
Choose a podcast you’ve been wanting to listen to, and only cue it up when you’re working out. This gives you something to look forward to when a gym session doesn’t sound all that appealing.
15. Create a space
Designating an area in your house or apartment for exercise can help you get in the right mindset and minimize distractions that could be a real motivation killer. Spare bedrooms, basements, or even partitioning off the corner of the living room will give you a sacred space to practice yoga or bust out a round of burpees.
16. Use a fitness app
There are hundreds of fitness apps with workouts ranging from yoga and Pilates to high-intensity interval training and bodyweight circuits. Choose one app and schedule daily workouts that focus on different fitness goals. For example, cardio on Monday, yoga on Tuesday, strength training on Wednesday, and so on.
17. Put your phone in another room
Texts and emails from your boss are a motivation killer when you’re trying to work out. To avoid losing your steam halfway through a set of air squats, put your phone in a room far away from where you’re exercising.
18. Lunch break workout
Log off, get up, and get moving! Ask a co-worker to go for a walk or head to the gym for a quick lunchtime workout. You’re more likely to exercise if it’s a convenient part of your day.
19. Go beyond the gym
Exercise can happen just about anywhere, anytime. Each time you climb the stairs, do 25 squats. Balance on one leg while brushing your teeth or make calls while walking.
20. Mix it up
One workout plan can work temporarily, but it won’t work forever. To keep your motivation running at top speed, periodically change your workouts. It’s also a smart idea to cycle through different fitness classes and modes of cardio and resistance training within the week.
21. Make sure to rest
Working out every day can take a toll on your body. If you like to exercise most, if not every day of the week, make sure one of those days is devoted to active rest. Too much of a good thing can lead to overtraining, which can land you flat on your backside.
22. Exercise before you go home
Find a gym, track, or trail close to your work that you can head to before going home. Change your clothes at work and go immediately to your exercise destination. No stopping for groceries or dry cleaning along the way.
23. Think in small increments
Sometimes the idea of exercising after a long day feels totally impossible. Rather than giving up before you even start, tell yourself that you’ll just get dressed and do a 10-minute warmup before you even think about going home. After you get moving, there’s a good chance you’ll want to keep going.
24. Do what you love
Exercising after work should give you an energy boost and help take your mind off of the day. Choosing activities and workouts that you enjoy and look forward to can help keep you motivated more often.
25. Set small goals
When it comes to losing weight, small goals win out every time. Start with daily goals, then weekly goals, monthly goals, and finally, aim to hit your target.
26. Surround yourself with like-minded people
Let’s face it, losing weight is challenging. But trying to reduce the number on the scale is almost impossible if you surround yourself with people who have poor eating and exercise habits. To keep yourself on-track, choose your company wisely and interact with people who have similar goals.
27. Make your eating program work for you
If you’re constantly altering items on the menu or packing food so you can stick to your diet, then you might want to rethink the plan you’re on.
28. Always take a to-go container home
When dining out, ask the server to bring a to-go container with your meal. Immediately put half of the meal in the container and only eat what’s on your plate. Not only do you save calories, but you also have lunch ready to go for the next day.
29. Meal prep one day a week
Choose one day each week to shop, prep, and cook at least two to three lunches for the week. A few foods for on-the-go meals include:
- chicken breast
- brown rice
- sweet potatoes
- fixings for burrito bowls
Divide each meal into small containers so you can grab and go when heading out the door.
30. Focus on adding not taking away
Rather than getting rid of everything you think is unhealthy, shift your focus to adding food that might be missing from your day, such as fruits and veggies.
31. Try one new recipe a week
Choose one new healthy recipe to prepare that includes a lean protein source such as chicken or fish, vegetables, a complex carbohydrate, healthy fats, and fruit for dessert.
32. Swap sugary drinks for flavored water
Ditch the soda, juice, and fizzy water with sugar, and try adding some natural flavors to plain water. For a refreshing and tasty drink, try adding one of these to your water:
Scheduling time with a personal trainer is beneficial for all fitness levels. If you’re new to exercise, working with a pro can get you started on the right track. They can design a program tailored to your needs and observe you to make sure you’re performing the exercises correctly.
If you’re a seasoned gym-goer, an experienced trainer can breathe some life into your current fitness routine, which will both challenge and motivate you to push past your current fitness levels.
Personal trainers can also provide sport-specific training and specialized instruction for certain health conditions. If your fitness plans include working with a personal trainer, make sure to look for trainers with credible certifications. Some of the more reputable ones include:
- National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), which also oversees the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
- American Council on Exercise (ACE)
- National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
- International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
Of course, having a college degree in exercise science is also a good credential. To find a trainer in your area, use the online search tool on one of the certifying bodies’ websites.
Finding the motivation to exercise starts with carving out time in your day to make fitness a priority. So, the next time you’re thinking about ditching your workout, try one (or two, or three, or even 10!) of these motivational hacks.
Addressing a fitness slump is a lot easier than you might think, especially if you have the tools you need to get back on track.