Maintaining Motivation to Exercise

Often when people start an exercise program motivation is high.  For the first few weeks workouts may feel new and exciting and there is a determination to achieve a goal.  But after a few weeks some of that excitement wears off, and workouts can start to feel monotonous and too time consuming.  It can become more and more tempting to hit snooze on the alarm clock or go home and relax after work instead of going to the gym.  If this sounds familiar to you, the following are tips to keep your motivation levels up and create an exercise plan that you can stick with:

  • Make sure your exercise plan is realistic. So you started out strong and were exercising 7 days a week for 2 hours straight….but now you don’t even want to think about the gym. Take it back a few notches…instead of working out 7 days, make it 3 and only for 30 minutes. The worst thing you can do is get burned out, and nothing burns you out faster than starting out with an unrealistic workout schedule.
  • Think about what motivated you to start exercising. Was it to be stronger, walk up the steps a little easier, fit into an old pair of jeans or improve cholesterol levels? What ever that reason was, write it down and put it somewhere that you can see it regularly (i.e. write it in your planner, post it on your refrigerator). This will serve as a constant reminder as to why it is important to exercise.
  • Take your focus off of the scale. It takes time for the scale to show you the results you want, so it can be easy to give up in the beginning if this is your primary motivator. Instead, focus on how much more energy you have, how easy it is to carry your groceries into the house or how much your blood sugars or blood pressure have improved. Recognizing these areas of improvement will help you to stick with exercise. Give it time and you will start to notice that your pants are fitting better too!!
  • Add variety to your workout routine. If you are doing the same thing everyday, exercise can feel very monotonous. Try experimenting with new activities (take an aerobics class, try a new piece of exercise equipment, get a new exercise video, etc.). If you like walking, try taking a new rout or finding a nearby hiking path to change things up a little.
  • Pick exercises that you enjoy and think about how to make exercise fun! After you experiment with different types of activities, pick the ones you like the most and stick with them. If you’re exercising indoors, listen to your favorite music or watch a good TV show to make the time fly by. If you’re outside, try to choose a place that offers nice scenery. The more fun it is, the more likely you are to stick with it.
  • Get an exercise partner. Not only can exercise partners make you more accountable, but they can make exercise more enjoyable. The best partner is one who has a similar schedule to yours and who enjoys similar activities. If you enjoy working out with people but don’t have anyone on the same schedule, try taking classes at your gym. A dog can also make a great partner because dogs don’t take excuses.
  • Schedule exercise into your day. People who exercise first thing in the morning have been found to stick with exercise better than those who exercise later in the day. However, if the morning doesn’t work for you, then block off time in your schedule for exercise and make it a priority. If you plan to exercise after work, it is often better to pack a bag and go to the gym before you go home. Energy levels and motivation tend to go down towards the end of the day.

While motivation can be helpful and make things seem easier, it is not a necessary part to a workout routine.  In fact, motivation often seems to come and go in waves.  When motivation levels seem low, tell yourself that you just have to get through that day’s workout and have faith that something will come along to increase motivation in the near future.  Next, review the above information to see if there is something you can do to help put the next wave of motivation into motion.  Not everyday will be easy, but the longer you stick with it the easier it gets!

Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going. ~Jim Ryun