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5 Research-Proven Ways to Motivate Yourself to Work Out

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Amy is a Registered Dietitian and avid ultra-marathon runner. She mixes her love of science, nutrition, and athletics to enhance performanc

Working out is hard, sometimes near impossible. Setting your alarm early or buying a new pair of shoes may not give you the motivation to stay consistent with a workout plan.

You don’t always have to be hard on yourself; skipping a workout here and there may not sabotage your success, but skipping your workouts regularly will bring you away from your goals. Consider this quote by Arsene Wegner; it may help put motivation into perspective.

When you look at people who are successful, you will find that they aren't the people who are motivated, but have consistency in their motivation.

— Arsene Wenger

Mentality and motivation often hold the keys to success for anything. Once you succeed in your mind, having your body follow is simple. A common phrase I have heard many times is: If I could just get to the gym, I would work out. This statement depicts just that. The physical activity of exercising isn’t hard, the mindset of committing and actively getting to the gym is. If you need a little inspiration before your next fitness session, check out these research proven methods to increase your motivation.


5 Research Proven Tips for Motivation

  1. Tell people you are going to workout. Yes, we’ve all seen the annoying Facebook or Twitter updates of friends notifying everyone how many push-ups they did, how far they are running, or what their Crossfit workout will look like that day, but there is actually science behind this. You don’t need to announce it to the world, but telling some close friends will keep you accountable and more likely to follow through. It is motivating to know that your friends might ask how your workout was, and explaining you “blew it off”, may be too embarrassing.
  2. Feel good about yourself. A research study published this year, surveyed 317 American individuals and asked them to identify three main factors: their motivation toward exercise, self-control, and subjective wellbeing. The study showed a strong correlation between perceived wellbeing and motivation toward exercise. It is unclear whether frequent exercise exerts strong feelings of wellbeing or whether the feelings of wellbeing motivate individuals to exercise more. Either way, having positive feelings about yourself, can result in a positive cycle of consistent exercise.
  3. Write down your goals. Writing down and looking at your goals daily can have a significant impact on your success. If you don’t know what you want to achieve by working out, how can you get motivated to do it? A quote by Lewis Carroll says, Any road will get you there, if you don’t know where you are going.” If you are exercising to train for a race, trying to get more muscle definition, or simply trying to maintain your weight, write down specific guidelines to make these goals happen. Clinical psychologist and Professor of Psychology at Dominican University of California, Gail Matthews, performed a study on how goal achievement is directly related to writing down your goals. Matthews found that the participants that wrote down weekly goals and sent them to friends were 70% more likely to succeed in achieving those goals. The participants that chose to keep their goals to themselves only showed a 35% success rate in achieving them.
  4. Get paid to work out. Yes, money talks and if other attempts at motivating yourself have failed, why not try a new approach? A newer app called Pact is mixing up the motivation world by keeping users accountable with financial rewards or punishments. The app works by having members set a health goal for themselves, track their progress and get paid for meeting their goal. The caveat is that if you are not diligent in making your goal, your money will be going to members who met theirs. Another way to money motivate yourself is to pay in advance for fitness classes. There is no way you won’t want to drag yourself out of bed if means throwing all that money away.
  5. Have an amazing music playlist ready to go. A research study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences evaluated perceived enjoyment, attitude and intentions held by athletes performing high-intensity interval training. The participants were broken into two groups: one group was given music and the other group was not. Attitudes were significantly more positive when participants were listening to music vs. those with none. The study concluded that listening to music while working out could determine whether individuals continue to engage in consistent training over the long-term. Try to create a playlist that you can’t wait to listen to, and make yourself wait until you workout to hear it for the first time.

What If I Still Can't Get to the Gym?

Exercise shouldn’t just be work, sometimes playing more can give you the workout you need. Try out some of these activities on days you are just can’t muster up the motivation to go workout. Just getting your body moving can have many health benefits.

  • Go to a dance class
  • Walk a dog (if you don’t have one volunteer at your local shelter)
  • Play games outside with your kids
  • Catch up with friends over a walk instead of coffee
  • Clean the house (think floor scrubbing, window washing fun)
  • Join a Rec League (softball, soccer, kickball and other intramural sports are becoming more popular for adults)
  • Bike or walk to work

Surround Yourself With Motivational Media: One More Step

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We all know exercise is important, but finding the motivation daily can be a struggle. Once you start implementing these strategies, research shows your motivation will grow.

Start thinking of yourself as someone who exercises, eventually, that will become your identity.

— Hoefs


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Amy (author) from Colorado Springs on November 19, 2016:

You are so welcome! Music can really get you in the zone on those hard workout days.

D-townDebbie on November 19, 2016:

I needed a pick me up this morning. I'm putting together a sweet workout playlist as we speak! Thanks for the tips!

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