13 Tips to Improve Your Exercise Motivation That Actually Work

But that also means that any time you’re embarking on a new fitness routine, there’s often a frenzy to expect to reach these goals immediately, certified personal trainer Maryam Zadeh, CPT, founder of Brooklyn-based HIIT BOX, tells SELF. You put in hard work at the gym for a week and are then bummed when you can’t yet do a perfect push-up. In reality, though, depending on your current fitness level, perfecting that move may take weeks or even months of hard, consistent work. This disconnect between expectation and reality can be seriously demotivating.

A better approach is to acknowledge that lasting changes don’t come overnight, and that by being patient throughout the process and committing to follow through, you will see results in the long run. Remind yourself of this any time you start to feel antsy for those workout benefits. Good things take time, especially when it comes to fitness.

3. Ditch your all-or-nothing mindset.

The all-or-nothing approach to physical activity is common, Chicago-based personal trainer Stephanie Mansour, CPT, tells SELF. People either believe that they have to do a workout exactly how they imagined it—a full 60 minutes of cardio at 6 a.m., for example—and if any element of that plan falls apart (they wake up at 6:30 instead of 5:30, for instance), they’ll throw in the towel completely.

But having impossibly rigid standards doesn’t allow for any adaptation when life gets in the way. And it’s going to. When our too-high standards aren’t met, it leads to “a lot of discouragement and feeling overwhelmed,” explains Mansour.

So when things don’t go exactly as planned, instead of believing that you’ve blown your workout for the day, do as much as you can anyway—even if that’s only five or ten minutes, NYC-based certified strength and conditioning specialist Mike Clancy, CSCS, tells SELF. 

“Ten minutes is better than five, and five minutes is better than zero,” he explains. With this mindset, “It’s not about having a perfect workout every single time,” says Clancy. “It’s not a failure if you didn’t hit every target.” 

4. Enlist outside support.

Once you’ve hammered out some realistic goal setting, share it with someone, says Thompson—a friend, family member, coworker, neighbor, even all of Twitter if you want! The point is, sharing your exercise intentions with others can then help you stay accountable for actually following through on those goals. 

Additionally, by telling people your goals, they can often help you work toward them, says McArthur. Maybe your coworker will want to carpool to Tuesday night yoga,  perhaps your early-rising mom will give you pep talks before your morning workout or run, or maybe your next door neighbor will join you for at-home strength sessions. “Those are people who now know your goals,” says McArthur. “You can call them and get support on your bad days, and they can cheer you on on your good days.” And if they’re not into fitness themselves, maybe they have something else they’re working toward—and you can maintain a source of support for each other simply by checking in.

5. Accept that fact that you won’t always want to work out. And that’s totally normal.

Even the most motivated of exercisers will have days when they just really don’t want to hit the gym, NYC-based certified strength and conditioning specialist Mark DiSalvo, CSCS, tells SELF. On those days, avoid judging yourself or reading too much into the fact that you temporarily lost motivation to exercise. This nope-not-today is completely normal, adds Scantlebury, and understanding that up front can help you embrace those difficult feelings and move past them, rather than internalizing them or viewing them as signs of weakness.

6. Avoid making judgments about your day first thing in the morning.

Say you wake up after the weekend feeling stiff and lethargic. You remember you’ve signed up for a strength-training class that night and immediately begin dreading it. Your Monday workout motivation is totally shot. Yet instead of canceling it from your phone while still snuggled in bed, tell yourself that you’ll focus on simply getting through the work day and then reassess your workout plans when the time gets closer, says DiSalvo.

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