How Do I Motivate Myself to Exercise and Avoid Procrastination?

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How Do I Motivate Myself to Exercise - two women lifting weights
Author Name: Beth Rush
Date: Wednesday May 22, 2024

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“How do I motivate myself to exercise,” is a question you’ll hear a lot from fitness newbies who want to ritualize their fitness. Signing up for a gym membership is easy — showing up is hard, and many struggle with it. To achieve results, you must consistently spend several minutes of hard work at the gym, even on bad days. But how do you keep moving when you don’t feel like it? Here are six ways to empower yourself to hit the gym consistently. 

1. Reframe Your Mindset

Motivation stems from the mind. If you think of exercise as a hassle, trouble or torture, you can’t expect the body to move willingly. When your behavior and brain contradict, the latter wins most of the time, leading to missed sweat sessions at the gym. Throw this kind of mindset out of the window.

Instead, thinking of it as the best part of the day is an empowering perspective to adapt that makes you look forward to the next day. More importantly, those grunts you make every time you lift a dumbbell or endure a final push-up can act as a stress reliever. It increases the production of endorphins in the brain — the happy hormones that boost your mood. It enhances your immunity, digestive system and cardiovascular health. There’s not a single negative reason not to keep moving.

2. Invest in Workout Clothes and Tools

How Do I Motivate Myself to Exercise - a group of women doing donkey kicks on a mat

Have you tried going out with friends wearing your favorite tee, dress or accessory and felt like you’re the most beautiful person in the crowd? Clothes are powerful, and they can surprisingly motivate you to exercise. The concept of “enclothed cognition” argues that what you wear influences the people you interact with and your own psychological processes. 

An earlier experiment found that people who fitted a lab coat had better focus on tasks compared to those who didn’t wear one. Additionally, those who wore a doctor’s coat experienced increased selective attention or the ability to select and focus on a particular input while suppressing irrelevant information compared to those who donned a painter’s coat. 

In a similar study, employees agreed that wearing a well-designed uniform can influence productivity. Applying the facts from this data, investing in workout clothes can make a difference in your motivation to continue exercising. 

For women, compression leggings can make movement easier and a medium support sports bra for yoga, pilates or weight training can help wick away moisture to avoid the sticky and gross feeling. Meanwhile, an elasticized short and breathable tee is perfect for men. Look for good shoes, too.

3. Have Backup Clothes in the Car

If you’re busy with no regular schedule and rely on bouts of short breaks to squeeze in some training, include backup clothes in your car. If someone cancels an appointment or your calendar suddenly changes, stop by the gym anytime to get your heart pumping on a treadmill. Having your workout uniform available at all times can motivate you to exercise.

3. Set Realistic Goals

How Do I Motivate Myself to Exercise - a group of yogist doing side bends

Setting a goal of losing five pounds in a week with exercise doesn’t make sense for first-timers. 

It’s like saying you will win the Olympics with only a few weeks of training. What this often leads to is frustration, disappointments and feeling like you’re a failure.

Tailor your fitness goals to your current levels to avoid being overwhelmed. Aim to meet simple goals at first to gain momentum. Those small wins can motivate you to exercise and achieve more. Then, work your way up with better challenges. Listen to your body as exercise can be more debilitating than helpful if you overdo it. 

4. Build an Exercise Plan

It’s basically creating a schedule for your fitness regimen. If you work with a coach, they’ll give you a document showing the sequence of your workouts based on their assessments. Traditionally, a balanced exercise plan includes the following:

  • 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly
  • Two or more strength training sessions per week with 48 hours internal for muscle recovery
  • Balance exercise for seniors to reduce falls

If you can’t compress a 30-minute daily exercise for five consecutive days, chop the time off into smaller chunks. For example, three 10-minute walks, stretches or cardio before work starts, after lunch and at night your daily recommended activity. This way, you can still stay active. 

5. Post It on Social Media

How Do I Motivate Myself to Exercise - a woman taking selfie after exercise

Flexing your daily grunts in the gym on Facebook or Instagram is a good source of motivation, not only for yourself but for others, too. If used appropriately, social media is a powerful tool to spread awareness about health and inspire others to give up their sedentary lifestyles.

In a study, researchers found that some people who see images of their friends exercising, wearing workout clothes and posting about their fitness accomplishments on social media increased their motivation to move. Meanwhile, others are concerned about its negative effect on body image. It’s all about how each handles their feelings when scrolling through fitness posts. 

Hopefully, the people who’ll see your post will be as enthusiastic as you to improve their health and change their lives through movement. 

6. Place a Bet on Yourself

By incentivizing, you can motivate yourself to exercise and achieve your set fitness goals. One study found this strategy to be effective for men. After offering a $150 incentive for a self-administered program, 20.9% of men lost 5% of their weight compared to only 5.9% of the no-incentive group. On average, the incentive group lost 2.4% of weight in three months. 

However, the same strategy wasn’t effective in women since no significant difference was observed in both the incentive and control groups. However, don’t let that stop you. See for yourself if it works. Indulging yourself to a fancy dinner or new workout clothes may work well in spurring your motivation to shed those excess pounds. 

Motivate Yourself to Exercise for Your Benefit

Exercise offers a long list of benefits to physical and mental health. It’s a stress buster and a mood booster. While all of the upsides should be enough to motivate you to tie your shoelaces and run, the excitement of starting a new routine is often a passing fancy. The enthusiasm slowly wanes after a few days or weeks you don’t see visible results. 

Try these six strategies to keep your motivation high and sustain your fitness growth. Remember, fitness rewards manifest slowly but they’re worth working hard for.

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