Exercise motivation can be an issue for many people – and it’s understandable. You know how important it is to get regular physical activity for your overall well being, but it can sometimes be hard to get off the couch or out of your favorite chair and get moving.
If you’re looking for ways to stick with your regular exercise program, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some tips on how to stay motivated for the long term.
Get Motivated To Exercise When You’re Off Track
First off, don’t feel ashamed if you lack the motivation for exercise. It happens to everyone. At the same time, you don’t want those feelings to stick around too long.
Whether you find your exercise intensity has dipped, or you’ve stopped exercising altogether, you know you’ll need to get back to your normal routine. These are some of the ways you can do just that.
- Have a backup plan. There are going to be setbacks with any sort of exercise program, but that doesn’t mean they have to knock you off track for good. Have a backup plan for when those setbacks occur. For example, if you usually run a mile a day but the weather is too nasty to go outside, find a way to work in some physical activity while you’re stuck indoors.
- Make it convenient. By making it easier to exercise, you may work out more. Pick a gym as close to your home as you can find. Who wants to drive an hour or more just to sweat? If you work out at home, do it in a place where you’ll be close to your equipment most of the day. For example, if you spend most of your time in the living room, don’t keep your workout equipment in the basement.
- Wake up earlier. As you go through your daily responsibilities, you might find yourself getting more and more tired. This can drain your workout willpower. If you typically work out in the afternoon or evening, try getting up earlier and working out in the morning instead.
Identify Enjoyable Exercise Activities
It’s easy to get bored if you’re running on a treadmill or banging weights day after day. Try to make exercising fun. You can volunteer to walk dogs around your neighborhood, or you can go hiking through the woods. Your local community center probably has some dance classes that will not only help you stay healthy, but will also be a blast.
Participation Motives And Exercise
One of the best ways to stay motivated is to find something that creates a positive association in your mind with exercise. It could be the way you feel after a workout or the way you look. It could be the satisfaction of reaching a goal. Whatever it is, this “exercise context” could go a long way toward helping you stick to your workout routine.
Research shows that self efficacy, or a person’s belief that they can reach a goal, is a major factor in exercise behavior.1,2
The Scientific Approach
A lot of research has been devoted to what drives exercise participation and what might discourage someone from continuing to work out. The same principles that apply to motivation in general can be applied to either wanting or not wanting to hit the gym.
One of the main types of motivation is known as intrinsic motivation. This basically means that you’re motivated by something internal, such as reaching a workout milestone or dropping a certain amount of weight. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is motivation provided by an outside reward. You might be working out in order to win some sort of competition, for example.3
When it comes to health behavior, there are also certain types of “regulators” that help influence motivation:
- External regulators, for instance, may include money, trophies, or other types of rewards. Introjected regulation can motivate through trying to avoid feelings of guilt.
- Identified regulation can drive motivation by pushing someone toward achieving a particular goal – even if that person doesn’t find the activity that enjoyable.
- Integrated regulation is a sort of “agreement” between your values and the way you behave. You exercise because it’s good for your health, and you value your health.4
There’s yet another type of behavioral regulation known as autonomous regulation. Autonomous regulations are those that you control on your own – striving for goals that are in line with your personal interests. Non-autonomous regulation, on the other hand, involves motivations controlled by external forces. According to researchers Richard Koestner, Natasha Leaks, et al, your ability to plan may have a major impact on whether autonomous or non-autonomous regulations determine your motivation levels.5,6
Exercise Motivation Your Heart Will Love
You don’t have to read a systematic review of factors that control motivation to know there are some things that will pull you off the couch to exercise. Here are a few things to remember.
- Keep the big picture in mind. One thing that might help you fight through that set of push-ups (or get you to the gym in the first place) is to remember why you started working out. It could be because you wanted to get healthier or it could be something as simple as wanting to dance with your granddaughter.
- Keep track of the progress you make. Are you trying to get to a specific weight? Every time you make progress toward that goal, make a “self report” of sorts. Write it down, and post it on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror. That might help keep you going.
- Find a sport you love. As stated earlier, there’s no reason why exercise can’t be a fun activity instead of something you dread because it’s so intense – or maybe even boring. Play some pick-up basketball, get in a couple of rounds of golf a week, or take up racquetball. As long as your doctor says it’s safe, go for it.
Don’t Get Discouraged (And Don’t Quit)
Don’t get down on yourself if you’re just not as motivated to exercise as you used to be. Hopefully, these tips will help you regain that motivation – and keep it for the long run. As always, consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen.
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