7 Strategies on How to Motivate Yourself to Work out

Maybe you like hiking in the park, taking in the sights and sounds of nature. Or perhaps you like to push yourself with spin classes and work up a real sweat. Maybe basketball at a local recreation league is your thing. Only you know how to motivate yourself to work out with your favorite activities.

But even though you enjoy these activities, and you like the way you feel when you are doing them, you haven’t been able to muster up the energy to participate lately.

There’s a catch-22 that often happens when you’re wanting to work out, but you’re not in the mood. Working out will boost your mood and make you feel better, but because of your current mood, you don’t want to work out.

Does this conundrum sound familiar?

Anyone can get stuck in this rut from time to time. It could be that work has been taking too much out of you, or your family and personal commitments are eating up a lot of your time and energy. You’ve got to find a way to break this cycle.

How can you get started?

Here are 7 strategies to help you learn how to motivate yourself to work out.

1. Don’t Get Sucked Into the Black Hole of the Couch

As soon as you come in the door from work, get your workout clothes on and hit the door again. If you sit down on the comfy sofa, it will take more fortitude to get yourself going. Think of your sofa as quicksand, and don’t get pulled into the trap.

It’s a simple law of physics—Newton’s first law: An object at rest tends to stay at rest; an object in motion tends to stay in motion. You can nestle into the comfy couch after your workout. But first, while you’re in motion from your day, stay in motion and find a workout to keep you moving.

2. Find an Accountability Partner

Studies show that having an accountability partner greatly increases your exercise frequency and success. Talk to some of your friends and find someone who has the same schedule as you, and you’ll find it easier to motivate yourself to workout.

If you want to know more on how to choose an accountability partner, check out this article.

Maybe you have a friend who would love to hike in the early morning before work, or maybe you know someone that would like to hit a dance class right after work ends. Knowing that you have to meet someone else will make you think twice about blowing off your workout.

You don’t have to have all your workouts include your partner, but even if you meet this person once a week, that will give you a boost to want to keep your workout going on other days. If you really feel that you need an accountability partner all the time, then find 2-3 people and meet them 2-3 times a week.

One caveat: if your accountability partner cancels on you, be prepared for that and keep to your schedule. Everyone has things come up every now and then, but if you find your partner is frequently trying to cancel or reschedule, you probably need to find a new partner.

If a friend isn’t doing the trick, consider hiring a personal trainer for a month or two to get you into the habit of being accountable with someone.

3. Make Yourself Accountable

If you want to learn how to motivate yourself to work out, commit to 30 days of an exercise plan. Look at your calendar and plan out which days and times you are going to work out, including what that workout will be. Allow yourself two “do-overs” for random life events or illness—but only two.

For example, let’s say you have a fitness goal to go to a spin class after work on a Tuesday, but a family member calls whose car broke down, and you have to go assist.

You will rearrange that date of your spin class and find a different date to put it on the calendar, but you only want to do that for necessary, external life events. Hitting the snooze button because you woke up too tired isn’t a good excuse.

If you can stick to 30 days of this plan, it should feel more like a habit going forward as you reap the benefits of having more energy.

4. Integrate Some Mini-Movement Into Your Day

If you go into work and sit at a desk most of the day, it will feel good to get out and move your muscles afterward. But sometimes, it seems difficult to get out of that sedentary rut.

One solution is staying in touch with your body all throughout the day. Set a few timers on your phone during the day, and when they go off, take a few minutes to do different physical movements.

Stretching and doing forward bends or side bends are great ideas. You can stand against the wall and “peel” off of it, feeling each vertebra and releasing your lower back. Take off your shoes and wiggle your toes around. Do calf raises, standing up and lifting your heels up and down.

Office stretches help you learn how to motivate yourself to work out

For some quick office stretches, check out this article.

These small movements done 2-3 times throughout your workday may seem insignificant, but they will keep your attuned to your physical self a bit more so that you will be more motivated to exercise with some bigger, longer, “real” workout sessions.

Think of them as appetizers and your workout as the big meal.

5. Eat Something Fresh

Speaking of a big meal, what we eat and drink is related to how we feel, so if you don’t know how to motivate yourself to work out, start with a healthy snack. If you’re not eating particularly well these days, commit to at least eating one fresh item daily. Maybe you have an apple as an afternoon snack or a little salad with dinner.

Sometimes, we’re so busy that we don’t realize we’ve not been eating as fresh as we’d like. By making the conscious choice to seek out some fresh food, you’re taking care of yourself, which, in turn, will make you think about those same kinds of choices when it comes to exercise.

Another benefit is that if you’re eating well, you may feel “lighter” and have more energy to workout.

6. Create an Alter Ego

It may sound kind of crazy at first, but employing the use of an alter ego can be a great way to break out of a habit or create some life changes you desire. In his book The Alter Ego Effect, Todd Herman illustrates how an alter ego is a mental trick to improve your life. Many famous entertainers have used alter egos to overcome stage fright.

How could this work for you? You may be too tired to work out at the end of the day, but your alter ego isn’t.

Let’s say you create a character named “Ironman.” Sure, when you come in from a long day at work, you can talk yourself into wanting to relax on the couch. But Ironman doesn’t feel that way—he’s ready to throw on his sneakers and go for a run!

7. Drink Lots of Water

Sometimes the simplest rules are the most important. We all know we are supposed to be hydrated throughout the day. However, if you’re busy all day at work, and you’ve nursed a big tumbler of coffee all morning, suddenly it might be early afternoon and you realize you haven’t had any water today.

Drinking water boosts mood and decreases fatigue. One study in particular found that “restricted water intake resulted in a significant increase in thirst and a decrease in contentedness, calmness, positive emotions and vigor/activity”.

Drinking water, therefore, is one of the simplest, most effective ways to boost your motivation if you’re learning how to motivate yourself to work out.

Make sure you’re getting your water intake all throughout the day, and if you’ve had coffee, drink some extra water to counteract its dehydrating effects.

Final Thoughts

How are you planning to stay motivated and get going this week?

Motivate yourself to work out—pour yourself a big glass of water, get out your calendar, and think about what types of workouts you want to do.

You can use any of the above strategies to get you back on track and make it to the finish line.

You know how good you feel when you do, so give yourself that gift. You don’t have to wait until tomorrow—go get your sneakers on!

More on How to Motivate Yourself to Work out

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

More About Working From Home

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