What’s the toughest thing about working out regularly? It’s staying motivated. Everyone has their own tricks for staying motivated throughout the ups and downs of a workout routine, but some mental hacks work better than others. Here’s a list of some methods that can work wonders if you use them consistently, says David Reagan, an Atlanta personal trainer.
Keep the end goal in mind
One of the best ways to keep your eye on the prize and stay motivated while working out is to remember why you want to work out in the first place.
For example, visualize yourself with a more toned physique if you desire to be in better shape. If you want to lose or maintain a healthy weight, then picture yourself at that goal weight. When you wake up in the morning, remind yourself of that goal and do so throughout the day.
If you are trying to get stronger for physical activities, such as running or playing sports (or just for everyday tasks), imagine how much more confident and capable of doing things around the house you’ll be with new strength and stamina.
Another great way to stay focused and motivated during workouts is to think about what happens when you skip workouts:
- Your body becomes less strong
- Your mood declines
- Your stamina decreases
- You lose muscle mass
Set specific goals
Set specific and measurable goals as you think about what you want to accomplish during your workout. For example, don’t just say, “I’m going to do a better job of getting in shape,” but instead say, “I will run three miles every day for the next four weeks.” Be precise and use numbers, so your goals are trackable and measurable.
This kind of goal is more likely to hold your attention because it tells you what needs to be done and by when. If a goal takes time or effort but still doesn’t have an end date (such as “I’ll lose 10 pounds”), you likely won’t do it because there’s no incentive.
Make sure your goals are realistic and attainable
If your goal seems unreachable or unrealistic at first glance, think about how you could make it less demanding while still being meaningful enough to make a difference. Being realistic is important because you will inevitably fail if you set yourself up with unattainable expectations. If this happens too often, your motivation will decrease over time. This means you’ll spend less time exercising and working toward achieving something worthwhile. Don’t let that happen!
Break your goals down, too. For example, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds, break it down into smaller goals, such as losing two pounds per week. This would be more achievable, less daunting, and still make a significant difference in your health.
Make a playlist that gets you going
Music is an important part of any workout. It can help you get in the zone, stay motivated, or even pump you up for a big challenge. Make a playlist that gets you out of the chair and into your movement zone. Music is a great way to get into the mood for exercise, whether it’s an upbeat jam or something more mellow that helps calm your nerves.
Listen to music that inspires you and motivates you to push yourself harder during your workout. Listening to songs with lyrics can create mental imagery while exercising — don’t forget you use your mind while working out.
Consistency is key
Consistency matters! Make a plan and stick to it, but not in an obsessive way. Don’t let it get you down if you’re unable to meet your goal every week or even every month. Going to the gym three times a week is better than going once a month. And while consistency is important, so is balance. Avoid both overdoing it and underdoing it.
Try different exercises until you find ones that work for your body — it may take some trial-and-error before finding the right combination of weights, repetitions, and sets for what’s best for your fitness level now. Everyone’s body reacts differently to training. The training routine that works for you may be different from what works for someone else.
Try not to focus on what others are doing at the gym. Focus on yourself; you’ll feel more accomplished when all is said and done because of how much progress your hard work has made over time.
Remember why you started in the first place
Remember why you started in the first place. Maybe it was because of how good you felt after your workout, or maybe you wanted to get fit for a certain event. Either way, it’s important to remember why getting healthy and fit is important to you personally.
These reminders can be as simple as writing them down on a piece of paper before every workout and keeping that piece of paper with you while you exercise or writing in a fitness journal.
Put on your workout clothes as soon as you wake up
If you’re lucky enough to wake up and go straight to the gym or your workout class, that’s great. Regardless, putting on your workout clothes right when you wake up will help you get into the right mindset for movement.
You’ll feel more motivated to work out because wearing comfortable clothes reminds you of all the good things about working out: it feels good, it’s fun, etc. So don’t wait until after breakfast or after checking email — lace up those exercise shoes right away.
This simple act will make it much easier to motivate yourself because your subconscious mind will tell you, “I have my exercise shoes on, so, therefore, today is an exercise day.”
Track your progress and make adjustments.
Did you know tracking your progress can help you stay motivated? Here’s how:
- Start with a journal or notebook.
- Write down your workouts and track how you’re feeling before, during, and after them.
- Look back at these notes over time to see if there are patterns in your performance.
- Is there a workout that always makes you feel awful? Maybe it’s an intensity issue you can fix by modifying the workout slightly (e.g., going lighter).
Get some rest before workouts!
Fatigue is a motivation killer. If you aren’t sleeping enough, getting the most out of your exercise will be hard. Sleep is vital for your body because it helps with recovery, memory and focus, immune function, mood regulation, muscle repair, and weight loss. It’s also important for energy production, which makes sense. If you’re well-rested, you’ll likely feel more energized than if you haven’t slept enough.
Exercise improves your ability to get a good night’s sleep by increasing serotonin levels in the brain (serotonin helps regulate mood). This can help improve symptoms of depression or anxiety and reduce stress levels. Another reason to work out!
Fuel yourself for the day.
If you eat a healthy breakfast, know that it will help keep your energy levels up throughout the day. This can be especially useful when working out; the last thing you want is to feel tired while exercising. A good way to do this is by eating complex carbohydrates, such as oatmeal or whole-grain bread, and a protein source to help your body repair.
Also, make sure you’re consuming plenty of water throughout the day. This will keep dehydration at bay and help improve performance during exercise sessions.
Whether you’re a brand-new gym-goer or an experienced athlete, these tips can help you get in the right mindset to ensure you have the best workouts possible. By setting clear goals, knowing why you started the journey in the first place and consistently tracking your progress along the way, it will be much easier to keep yourself motivated when things start getting tough. So go forth and conquer!
About David Reagan
David Reagan is a NASM Certified personal trainer from Atlanta, GA, who specializes in weight loss, personalized workout plans, bodybuilding, and nutrition. He caters to high-end clients and executives, helping them achieve their fitness goals by accommodating their busy schedules. The client’s needs come first, and David’s fitness plan will set you up on the path to success.