You know those people that get up at the butt crack of dawn with the motivation to workout?
I don’t understand those people. Me and 5 am are not friends.
If you aren’t that person either, but still want to learn how to find workout motivation, these tips are for you!
But first, the why… If you hate exercising, what’s the benefit of putting the time and effort into searching for fitness inspiration?
Change is hard and if you are going to be successful with learning how to get motivated to exercise, you have to know that the benefits are worth the effort.
The Benefits of Exercise
You’ve probably heard of many of the benefits of exercise. Let’s see if we can identify a few you haven’t heard, yet.
Exercise does some pretty awesome stuff for the human body, including:
- Strengthens bones and muscles
- Improves Sleep
- Increases Energy
- Can Help Keep Your Mind Sharp as You Age
- Reduces Feelings of Helplessness
- Improves Your Sexual Health
- Decreases Your Risk of Certain Types of Cancers
These are just a few of the benefits of exercise. There are many more.
It’s been well established that fitness can improve our overall physical health. The impact that regular workouts have on our mental health isn’t discussed quite as frequently.
Related: How to Get Better Sleep
Mental Health Benefits of Exercise
The possibilities here are pretty exciting!. Most people have heard that working out can help improve your mood, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Exercise benefits for Depression, Anxiety, PTSD
One study looking at the mental health benefits of exercise found that adults who regularly work out were 25% less likely to develop depression or anxiety over the next 5 years.
Some studies show that exercise is as effective as some medications for anxiety or depression. It has even been effective for helping reduce the symptoms of PTSD.
For some people, exercise works as a replacement for meds. For others, exercise helps reduce symptoms but they may still need the support of an antidepressant or anti-anxiety med.
Exercise has often been a helpful way for me to decrease my anxiety, especially in the moment. Knowing that has been one source of workout motivation for me. Many people can relate!
Exercise Benefits for ADHD
When we exercise, the brain releases certain chemicals that are helpful to us. Endorphines are the most widely known chemical release–it’s what is responsible for the “runner’s high.”
Dopamine, another chemical released during exercise, is thought to play a role in ADHD, Addictions, Depression, and several other mental health conditions.
That dopamine boost leads to improvement in working memory, planning, task initiation, sustaining attention, emotion regulation, and other executive functions.
Basically all of the struggles inherent to having ADHD.
Here’s a freebie for those of you with ADHD: if you need to do something that you are really struggling to start, spend 5-10 minutes doing something physically active. I’ve found it to be helpful in getting things started!
I have to admit, I would usually rather exercise than do whatever boring thing I’m avoiding. That’s been a good source of workout motivation with a bonus of being ready to stop procrastinating when I’m done 🤣
So Why Don’t We Exercise?
With all of these amazing benefits of exercise, why don’t we have workout motivation in spades? We want to. Mostly. We wish we wanted to more. Definitely. But doing it is so hard! Why?
The most common reasons (at least of the 50 women I asked and other research I found) that we don’t exercise when we wish we did:
- I don’t have time
- I don’t know what to do
- I’m too tired
- It’s BORING
- It’s too uncomfortable (ie, I don’t like being breathless or sweaty, etc…)
Learning how to get motivated to exercise starts with knowing your ‘why not.’ Whether it’s one of the reasons I just listed, or another that I didn’t think of.
You have to know what keeps you from wanting to exercise enough to follow through with it.
From there, we can talk strategies. But, similar to problem solving in general, if you don’t know the context of the problem, it’s hard to find a solution that works.
How to Get Motivated to Exercise
Once you know your why not, you can problem solve some solutions.
Let’s take my husbands why not as an example: It’s BORING! (All caps because that’s how he says it! 🤣)
Workout Motivation When “It’s Boring!”
If I’m being honest, this has been my reason for not working out, too. Gym equipment is dull. And if you do the same things every time you go, the bore only increases.
But the great thing about being active is you don’t have to be confined to dull activities. The antidote to this obstacle is to mix it up.
Ask yourself: What would make exercise more exciting?
For me, that answer to that was teaching myself to do a handstand. Since I as a kid, I wanted to do gymnastics but didn’t have the opportunity. Teaching myself to stand on my hands was exciting! It was hard, too.
You might not think that learning the subtle art of standing upside down is rigorous, but you’d be wrong!
And because I was excited about it, I did it more often It wasn’t like pulling teeth to get myself to do it. I wanted to!
This hilarious video is what reminded me of how much I wished I knew how to do a handstand as a kid:
For my husband, workout motivation was harder to figure out. We went through articles about exercise, lists, gym memberships, and just about everything else.
As he did some more self exploration, he realized that exercise has to be mentally stimulating and there had to be a specific goal beyond the vague “getting healthy”. He wanted to be working toward something.
That led us to something unexpected: Karate! As a kid, he got to take a few classes but had to stop soon after. He always wanted to continue and that childhood desire was the inspiration he needed.
Now he’s excited about being active, because it’s mentally challenging, he’s working toward the next belt, and it’s fun. (And way harder than I thought…)
New and different can be more exciting. Like these…
Out of the Box Exercise Ideas:
- Ice Skating
- Ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop dancing
- Ballroom dancing
- Belly Dancing
- Aerial Fitness
- Mountain biking
- Compete at something
- Rock Climbing
In case you love The Office as much as I do and don’t remember the episode with Parkour…
Workout with Someone
For many people, exercising alone is the part that’s so dull. Sometimes people get motivated to workout alone by listening to music, podcasts, or books on tap.
Other people find that, even with those strategies, it’s still too boring. Exercising with someone is a good fix and you can do it in a variety of ways.
- Find a Group Exercise Class. The community aspect is way more fun.
- Ask a friend to workout with you. The companionship is helpful.
- Join a team sport or community league. Adult Volleyball leagues are a thing, you know.
- Coach or help coach your kid’s team, then exercise with them. It’s good for you AND them.
- Crossfit. It’s group fitness but not what you think of when you hear “exercise class.” It warranted it’s own spot.
- Join a fitness meetup group.
Exercising with other people also introduces an extra element of accountability that can help us find that workout motivation we’re looking for.
Use a Fun Fitness App
Gotta love technology. Now, we can use our phones to pretend we are running from zombies or trying to escape the mob. We can get paid to exercise or bet on ourselves and face the penalty of losing money if we don’t.
Here are some fun and motivating apps!
There are SO many exercise apps out now. This doesn’t even come close to a comprehensive list of the especially fun fitness apps. But, it’s a start.
Workout Motivation When You Don’t Have Time
All you working moms out there, I know this one probably resonates. You work (in the home or out), keep the house together and the kids alive (and the husband probably counts as another kid, right?!) Many of you buy, cook, and serve the food and clean up afterwards. And that’s just the start.
Where do you find time to exercise when there’s nothing to take off your plate?
Incorporating Exercise into Your Everyday
If there isn’t a way to clear your plate a little, these strategies may help. Some ideas you may have heard before, like parking at the far end of the parking lot or taking the stairs. If you haven’t though, those are good ideas.
Here are a few more:
- Swap out your chair for a yoga ball
- Do a wall sit every time you go to the bathroom
- Squat to pick things up, rather than bending (it’s better for your back anyway)
- Pace when you are on the phone
- If you work out of the home, take a walk on your lunch break
- Do leg raises while you’re working
- Walk in lunges, or do those on your bathroom break
- Do push-ups on the side of your desk or table
Here are a few more ideas for being more active in the office:
And some exercises you can incorporate while cooking or other home activities:
Of course, many need ways to exercise with littles:
When you have kids, it’s a great idea to be active with them. Play with them outside for a while, do a home workout with kids, learn yoga together. Exercise is super helpful for everyone, kids included, and it’s great for them to learn workout motivation from you!
Of course, sometimes there are actually ways to fit a full fitness routine into our schedule, we just haven’t thought of it yet. If none of these appeal to you, look at ideas for how to fit it in.
Workout Motivation When You are Too Tired
When you are busy, you’re often pretty tired too. It’s hard to want to exercise when you are already exhausted.
Many people tell you to exercise before work, before you’ve had time to get tired. I’m not a morning person and waking up early to exercise is recipe for failure. I’m much more successful in getting myself to exercise a bit later in the day.
If you are more of a morning person than I am, run with that idea, but if not, here are a few other things to try.
- Try incorporating exercise into everyday life like in the videos above
- Use your best time of day to your advantage. If you are best in the middle of the day, schedule exercise on your lunch break.
- Address things that may be causing you to be extra tired: sleep, caffeine, diet.
- Take a 10-20 minute nap, then exercise. Apparently that short duration is the ideal nap. We just started experimenting with this for my husband who works 50-60 hours a week. So far so good!
- Push through the tired, even for just a 10 minute session. Over time, exercise boosts your energy and you may find it easier to engage longer. But even if you don’t, a 10 minute exercise is still helpful.
Exercise Motivation for “I Don’t Know What to Do”
I’ve been that person who walked into the gym and stood there staring dumbfounded at all the equipment. And I’ve been that person who avoided the gym for the same reason.
I’ve also been the person who figured out ways around that. Here are a few things I learned.
- Ask for help. Most gyms have staff that will guide you through using the equipment and help you adjust anything to the settings you need. Some even have orientation classes that teach you exactly how to use everything.
- Start with group fitness. The benefit is you have an instructor who’s telling you exactly what to do and other people around to “cheat” off of if you get confused. Despite being an introvert with social anxiety, group fitness is my favorite thing to do at the gym.
- Start with at Home workouts. There are some great at home workout programs with instructors that tell you exactly what to do and show you how. No one knows if you don’t know what you are doing so no one can care. 😉
Some of my favorite At Home Workout Programs.
Shimmy: Learn to Belly Dance At Home
This is the workout that got me into fitness to begin with. I loved it! It came on Fit TV and when it went off, I lost my exercise motivation for a while. I was so excited to find it on Amazon! It’s fun and a great workout.
As an added bonus, it taught me some pretty hot moves that impressed my friend that ONE time I actually went dancing on New Years Eve. It focuses more on ab work, makes sense considering it’s call belly dancing 😏
I’m excited to get back into this one. In fact, of all the at home workouts I have listed here, this one is my favorite. You can buy individual episodes, too, so it’s pretty easy and affordable to get started.
Yoga International: Stream Yoga Anywhere
I enjoy yoga but find it challenging to get to classes. What I love about Yoga International is that you can stream hundreds of yoga sessions but a bunch of meditations, too. Meditation is another one of those activities with awesome mental health benefits.
Plus, they let you try it for free, which is nice. It’s long enough to give you a feel of whether or not it’s the right at home workout for you without being out of money.
Beachbody OnDemand: Every Kind of Exercise Anywhere You Want It
The thing I love about Beachbody is it feels like the Netflix of fitness. There is a huge variety of at home workout options ranging from beginner to advanced with everything from body weight workouts to dance and yoga. The variety helps keep it interesting.
My favorites are the dance based programs, if you can’t tell already from this article. I like Country Heat, Cize, Hip Hop Abs, and Yoga Booty Ballet. They have a Pre and Post Natal Series, too, which is pretty cool.
Workout Motivation for “It’s Too Uncomfortable”
This one has definitely been me. Whether it’s the breathlessness that you hate or the racing pulse and sweat, there’s no doubt it can be uncomfortable.
There are two things here for finding fitness motivation.
- Start short and slow. This is good advice in general, especially if you’ve been inactive for a while. Start with 10 minutes at an intensity that feels right to you. When that gets easy, step it up a little. Continue that pattern and before you know it, your tolerating more activity than you thought humanly possible.
- If your symptoms seem worse than what they should be, talk to your doctor. When exercise feels scary or so bad it’s painful, it’s not something to just struggle through. See your doctor and get it treated.
Remember: Shame is Counterproductive for Workout Motivation
When the discomfort is more about being judged than it is physical symptoms, it can be helpful to go with a friend. If that’s not possible and trying to push through it is keeping you from actually going, start with home workouts.
Then work through the shame and perfectionism that’s holding you back because they suck and hurt you in more ways than one. Even if you decide home workouts are the bomb and don’t want to go to a gym or do exercise in public, it’s still worth the putting the effort into the inner work.
Of course you can use coping strategies like journaling to do that or self help books like Brene Brown’s the Gift of Imperfection and the like. But if it hangs around, don’t hesitate to find a therapist that you click with.
Be Careful Connecting Working Out with Weight Loss
We run the risk of “covert shame” with this one. Obviously working out can help with losing weight but when that’s your main motivation to exercise, you may be setting yourself up to fail for a few reasons.
Starting with, “I have to work out so that I can be skinny (because then I feel more acceptable)” is inherently shaming even if we aren’t directly calling ourselves fat, ugly slobs.
It says, I have to work out because I’m not enough as I am. We’re automatically starting out with exercise acting almost like a punishment. And SHAME is COUNTERPRODUCTIVE.
How many people can relate to over eating, shaming themselves for it, then experiencing painful emotions and over eating again? Like I said, shame is counterproductive. We need a better why and a way to accept ourselves as we are.
It Takes Too Long
Working out is far from the only factor involved in weight loss and most experts say losing the weight should be a very slow process to be healthy.
When your motivation to workout is based on this slow progression that often looks like we’re gaining instead of losing, we’re almost guaranteed to give up. Seeing the normal weight fluctuations when we are working so hard is frustrating and discouraging.
Having a stronger why (and one that’s less shaming) is important.
Keeping Yourself Motivated
One thing I’ve learned about keeping momentum going is that it’s important to surround yourself with reminders.
That’s how I manage to get my house clean when I cannot want to do it any less but it’s getting out of hand. I watch Marie Kondo, even though her strategies aren’t for me.
Being surrounded by it, makes it more interesting. Look around on Pinterest for cool new workouts or follow a social media group that inspires each other to be active. Look through an online magazine for women’s fitness tips.
Keeping it at the forefront of your mind helps keep you engaged with it. I’ve even watched a cool dance video just because doing so makes me want to learn the moves.
Then, before you know it, you’re up trying to do them. Or, at least, I am!
Connect With Me
That’s what I’ve got for you today with this super long handbook post to help you find the right tools to get motivated to work out. If the reason for you wasn’t on here, leave it in a comment and hopefully we can find you some ideas!
How do you find your workout motivation? What’s your why or why not?
Remember to talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen.
Also, this post contains affiliate links.