We all do it every year. We start the new year with a resolution to exercise more, eat healthier, and improve our habits. And yet by mid-March, nearly all of us are back to our old, unhealthy behaviors.
Why is it SO HARD to stay motivated?
If you struggle to maintain a regular fitness routine or stick to your healthy habits and goals, you need to look carefully at your motivation. It is not enough to want something or to know it is the healthier decision for you. You have to find the motivation to actually make it happen on a consistent basis.
If you are ready to get fit and healthy but need help getting or staying motivated, we’ve got you covered. From setting yourself up for success in the beginning to digging deep on those cold dark mornings when you REALLY don’t want to get out of bed, our motivational strategies can help keep you going.
Performing your healthy habits regularly is the key to making these permanent lifestyle changes and staying motivated over time is crucial for developing this regular routine.
Setting The Right Goals For Fitness
One of the reasons it may be hard to stay motivated when trying to lose weight and get fit is we set unrealistic goals for ourselves. Getting fit and learning healthier habits requires the right foundation, which means setting realistic goals for yourself.
Goals that are too aggressive or unrealistic will almost always end in failure, so get yourself up for success by deciding what you plan to achieve and being clear with yourself about what you can realistically achieve.
Your weight is not a perfect indicator of fitness, so don’t rely solely on a weight loss aim to help you obtain strength and build better health.
Your goals should focus on a broader range of healthy habits, including how much you are sleeping, how well you are managing your stress, and how under control your medical issues are. When you focus on becoming healthier, not just skinnier or fitter, you incorporate a broader range of healthy habits that will contribute to your long-term success.
Getting fit requires proper goals, a good plan, commitment to your process, and motivation to stick with it over time.
Real health and fitness take time to achieve and then sustain, so don’t think about what you can do quickly but instead what you can do permanently to better your health.
Figure Out What You Want to Achieve Long-Term
The first step to getting fit and healthy is determining your goals. Is your intention to adopt healthier habits, to commit to working out at least four days per week, to be able to hike long distances, or to weigh a specific amount? Many find it more beneficial to focus on process goals rather than outcomes to keep themselves motivated in the long-term.
For example, a goal of riding your bike to work at least three days per week is a process goal, while being able to bench press 75 pounds is an outcome. Weighing 110 pounds is an outcome but eating at least five servings of vegetables every day is a process goal. Only you can decide which type of goal will help you reach the level of fitness and health that is right for you.
Whatever you decide, you need to be realistic. You did not adopt your poor health habits overnight, so you will not unlearn them quickly, either.
Weight loss goals should be practical for your frame and height. Fitness goals should be realistic for your physical capabilities. And regarding time, plan for at least six months, if not longer, to realize the full extent of your plan.
If you want to lose weight, it is realistic and healthy to expect to lose about one to two pounds per week. This is a safe rate that also increases the likelihood that you will maintain your weight, once it’s off. If you set fitness goals that are unrealistic for your current level of strength or stamina, you risk injury, so be sure you start slowly and build up.
Patience and Time
Developing healthy, positive behaviors will take time. If you are doing things correctly, and not trying to do too much or focus on too many things, real behavior change takes a long time to become a permanent part of your life.
You may have had some of your unhealthy habits your entire life, so it will take a while to retrain your brain to embrace and automatically practice your new behaviors.
Long-term change is the result of small, incremental adjustments in your daily routines over an extended period. This process allows your mind and body to embrace and accept your new, healthier habits, and you are much more likely to keep up your new behaviors once you’ve reached your ultimate goal if you embrace the slow, gradual process of behavior change. Progress is much more important than outcomes when it comes to long-term change, so focus on that.
You need persistence and patience to stick with your plan over that long time it will take to ingrain your new habits, which is why staying motivated is so crucial. Next, we’ll share with you our top twenty strategies, tips, and tricks for driving yourself to get fit and stay healthy.
20 Ways To Stay Motivated in Health and Fitness
Psychologists and behavioral science researchers have been studying motivation for decades, and we have a lot to learn from them. We all know what is best for our health, and yet we continue to make bad choices or neglect the healthy behaviors that are in our best interests.
Overcoming these natural instincts and motivating yourself to practice healthier habits regularly is vital to your long-term health and happiness.
Motivation can be a tricky notion, as what motivates you one day may not necessarily get you moving the next. So, in order to combat the motivational slump, we’ve given you tons of strategies for keeping your motivation high.
When one isn’t working, reach for another, or something new. Most of all, don’t give up. You can achieve anything with the right mindset and some daily motivation. Here are our top twenty strategies for keeping you motivated to accomplish your health and fitness goals.
1| Think Positively About Your Health
When you are looking for some motivation to get you ready for your next workout, visualize the positive benefits to your newfound habits. Close your eyes and see how strong your muscles are becoming.
Imagine the fresh air filling your lungs as you gaze into the sun while you exercise outdoors. Visualize your strong body performing the tasks you long to be able to do. Imagine how much healthier your heart is without the extra pounds.
After you have a clear picture of your intended outcome, consider what could be holding you back from achieving this. Once you identify the trigger that keeps you from regularly practicing this habit, the more likely you are to be able to find solutions to this problem. To overcome these kinds of obstacles, you need a plan, so visualizing what is in your way can help you develop a healthier path to achieving your wishes.
2| Take it Slowly
One of the main reasons so many people have trouble sticking to a fitness goal is they try to change too much too quickly. When you are attempting to change a ton of your behaviors completely, you will soon struggle because CHANGE IS HARD.
The key is – Go Slow.
Pick one thing, and work on that. If you try to change too much, your brain will resist, and you won’t be able to stay motivated.
If you are not much on exercise but are trying to work out more, start with slower workouts for short periods. Add five minutes every time you work out. Once you are comfortable at this pace for 30 minutes, increase the intensity but cut back your time.
Slowly build back up to 40 minutes. Then repeat this cycle, slowly and methodically either changing your intensity or the length of your workout but never both at once.
One of the reasons people give up is that exercise can hurt, it is too hard, or they do not think they can keep going. Doing a little bit is better than nothing.
Walking slowly is better than sitting. Walking briskly is better than walking slowing. Once you build up stamina, you’ll find you can go longer and harder.
3| Reward Yourself
Sometimes the promise of stronger muscles or a leaner body is just not enough to get you up off the couch. When it is hard to get going, promise yourself a reward. Keep your rewards healthy and proportionate to the activity. Your brain will soon start to link the exercise or other healthy activity with this positive feeling, and over time, this will become an intrinsic motivation. Until you begin to crave the endorphin rush of a good workout (which will happen if you stick with it long enough), reward your positive efforts with a small treat.
Examples of positive rewards include a new shirt for working out, a stop at your favorite tea shop, or an extra episode of your favorite show in lieu of doing the dishes.
4| Place Health on Your Schedule
If you are always telling yourself you don’t have time to work out, then it is time to get serious. Like any other commitment you value, you have to make time for working out. So, put it on your calendar, just like you would a meeting or appointment.
Set up a reminder 30 minutes before, so you’ll know to be ready when it is time. Schedule things around this dedicated commitment, and do not let people try to take this time away from you.
5| Have Your Gear in Sight
One motivator that works for many people is to keep your workout gear, gym bag, or sneakers right where you can see them. When you see these items regularly, they serve as a visual cue that you need to follow through on your commitment to yourself.
If you workout first thing in the morning, lay your workout clothes out right next to your bed, so they are the first thing you see when you get up. Don’t stash your yoga mat in a closet, because you will forget all about it. Out of sight, out of mind. So, keep it where you can see it.
6| Get Motivated By Music
The right playlist can be extremely motivating. Music activates many parts of your brain and can lift your mood and provide you with the energy and motivation you need to stick with your workout, even when it gets hard.
Always Keep an upbeat playlist on your device and update it regularly. Over time, you’ll start to notice you become energized and feel better when you hear these songs, even when you’re not exercising. Music is a powerful tool for motivation.
7| Write a Contract with Yourself
You are much more likely to stick to a promise, whether it is to yourself or someone else, if you’ve written it down and others know about what you plan to do. Write a contract of your goals and promises, then sign it in front of someone.
You can even set up a punishment for not following through on your promise, such as paying a fine to your partner or friend when you skip your workout or splurge on unhealthy food.
Whether the penalty is monetary or some form of embarrassing or unpleasant activity, you need a consequence for not keeping your promise.
There are websites that you can join that allow you to incentivize your workouts and where others hold you accountable to your stated goals. Use the tools that exist to help you stay on track.
8| Get Some Fitness Friends
One of the harder aspects to changing your behavior is doing it alone. When you have others in your life who are interested in the same goals or committed to the same activities, it becomes easier to stick with it. After all, if your friend with three kids and a full-time job is going to get dressed and go to yoga, you should be able to make it, too.
A supportive network of the right people can help you when your motivation is lacking, so find the right group for you.
Whether it’s a fitness class, a running club, or an online community, having the help and support of others makes a tremendous difference when you just aren’t motivated to move.
9| Make it a Game
Enlist the help of others with similar fitness goals and create a contest. Determine who has made the most progress every four to six weeks and reward the victor with a prize. If you are competitive by nature, this can be highly motivating, as you will remain committed to your new habits just to be the best in your group.
When doing this with friends, it is also still fun and supportive, rather than just a contest, which can make it stressful.
Your goals can be simple or complex, and battles with between four and ten people seem to be the right size to keep everyone motivated.
10| Just Put Your Shoes On
Sometimes, when it is really hard to get motivated to go for your walk or run, it is necessary to start small. First, start by putting your shoes on. See, that was easy! Now, walk out the front door and close it behind you.
There, you are outside and ready. You have done the hard part, now just go! The simple act of getting ready to workout is often enough to guilt you into actually doing it. After all, going back inside and taking off your shoes would seem silly at this point, right?!
11| Workout on Your to Work
Whether you enjoy walking, running, or cycling, all of these are not only enjoyable forms of exercise, but they also get you places. When you cannot seem to make a trip to the gym, make your commute your workout.
If you don’t want to worry about feeling sweaty or smelling during your day, use the trip home as your workout, instead. This is a great way to fit in your exercise, and it allows you to enjoy your community in a totally new way.
Live too far from your job?
Then, just park your car an appropriate distance from your office or job and then walk or ride there and back. Or, you can carpool with a friend in the morning and have your partner pick you up at a designated spot in the evening as you walk or ride part of the way home.
12| Stop Worrying About if You’re Good at Something
You may have some notion that you are not a good athlete or aren’t built to be a runner. Whatever your preconceived notions about yourself and your capabilities, you can do anything you think is enjoyable.
Explore new activities, including those you haven’t tried since you were a kid. You may find some genuinely engaging that you can’t wait to keep doing. There are so many ways to get activity into your life, so don’t limit yourself to what you can do at the gym or what you think you’re good at. Get out there and try some new things!
13| Get Yourself Some New Gear
Buying new sneakers or workout clothes can be very motivating for some. Feeling good about yourself can make it even easier to get dressed and get out there, so invest in quality gear that makes you feel happy. Use the promise of new equipment as an incentive for reaching certain milestones in your plan.
When you have the right gear, you think of yourself as someone who exercises. You identify with that persona. That can motivate you to want to get back out there and do it again and again. Have enough clothes that you can work out all week without having to do laundry, which eliminates a possible excuse not to do it.
If you exercise outside, be sure to invest in the right gear for all seasons so that a little rain and cold temperatures won’t also be an excuse not to go. A good motto: There’s no bad weather, only bad gear.
14| Keep Track of Your Progress
A great motivator is to keep track of your daily activity. When you post your efforts publicly, as through social media, this can become highly motivating. You are likely to get comments and support from others, and you may inspire someone with your efforts.
Social media and other websites provide social support, which can hold you accountable and also gives you that extra little bit of guilt that’s sometimes necessary for achieving your goals.
Start a group of like-minded people on Facebook, gather your friends in a challenge on your favorite fitness app, or find another website that meets your needs, but use the tools that exist to motivate you to keep moving.
15| Connect Your Fitness Goals to Other Priorities
Whether you have firm political beliefs or love to support animal charities, you can connect your health and fitness goals with the causes you support. For example, you can commit to donating a certain amount of money to your favorite charity when you reach your goal. Or, as a punishment, you can commit to giving to a cause you firmly disagree with if you break your promise to yourself.
If you have strong feelings about certain ideals, causes, or beliefs, capitalize on those to keep you motivated. This strategy works best when you’ve made your intentions public.
16| Prioritize Your Health
One way to stay motivated is to decide that you value your health and fitness just as much as your job or other aspects of your life. When you make this promise to yourself, you learn to stop placing other parts of your life before your fitness and health needs.
While work is important, there is nothing more important than your health. Without it, you have nothing. Make a commitment to valuing your fitness activities just as much as the other things you do in life, and you will soon notice it’s harder to find excuses not to do something.
17| Make Friends in a Class
Whether you like spin, yoga, HIIT, or some other form of activity, find a class you love and make friends with all the regulars. Once you get to know these people, it becomes harder to stop attending or to skip days.
When you are comfortable and familiar with those in the group, it becomes motivating just to get to the class, and the workout feels like a bonus.
Plus, you get to combine socializing with exercise, which is an added bonus. Get there early when you first start attending to observe how others interact, how seems comfortable, and who is talking to who? This will tell you where to start. Instructors who foster this type of interaction and atmosphere are a bonus.
18| Get Rid of All-or-Nothing Thinking
It’s okay. You missed a day. Or two. You had a misstep. It happens. That doesn’t mean everything is ruined and you might as well give up. Each day is a new opportunity to try again. It’s another chance to recommit to your goals and learn from the reasons why you fell off the wagon.
One flat tire does not mean you should poke holes in all the others. Get it re-inflated and get back on the path to your goals.
19| Post Photos or Words of Inspiration
Some people find visual reminders to be very helpful. Perhaps you are trying to return to a former state of fitness? Post old photos of yourself around your house to remind you what you are working toward. Sign up for daily inspirational emails or text messages or leave yourself motivational notes where you can see them.
Some people find an “emergency” file to be helpful, where you post reminders to yourself to read when you are ready to call it quits and give up your hard-earned successes.
20| Use the Online Community To Help You
There are so many sites dedicated to helping people stay motivated, remain on track, and reach their goals, that it’s easy to take advantage of these services. Explore the multitudes and find one or more that work for you.
Set up incentives, join a chat room, try out a new, healthy recipe, or watch videos of inspiring stories. Take advantage of the capacity for sharing that exists and use the tools that work well!
It’s Time To Make A Commitment To Yourself
Any fitness or health goal is going to improve your life in some way. When you make a commitment to yourself and your health, you are valuing your life and happiness above all other things. The time and energy necessary to reach your goals are tremendous, but so are the rewards.
Without clear goals, you won’t be able to stay motivated and keep moving, so be sure you know what you are trying to accomplish.
Once you have a plan of action, be prepared for setbacks by having a plan for when your motivation starts to lag. Keep a list of strategies handy, and don’t be afraid to try something new when you notice you are beginning to falter.
Stay well and Get Fit!