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Best Motivators for Exercise

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Updated October 13, 2011

Getting motivated to exercise isn't easy and it usually starts from within.  Having reasons to exercise, whether it's to lose weight, feel good about yourself, improve your health or look good at a wedding is essential.  Internal motivation is great, but there are tools you can use to make exercise more interesting and fun.  Being able to see how hard you're working, with a pedometer or a heart rate monitor, or having support, from a friend or personal trainer, can be just the nudge you need to keep going.  The following tools, tips and gadgets will help you stay motivated to exercise.

1. Pedometer

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Pedometers are one of the best ways to stay active throughout the day.  If you've never used one, they're simple and easy.  You simply clip it to your belt and it records your steps throughout the day.  What makes this so motivating is that you can see in black and white just how much (or how little) you're moving.  You can set goals based on how many steps you currently take, working to add more steps each day.  The more you move, the more calories you burn and the easier it is to lose weight.  You can also try a pedometer app to your smartphone to track your steps, mileage and more.  Below are a few resources to get you started.

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2. MP3 Player

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Music is incredibly motivating when it comes to exercise.  In fact, one study, published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, found that listening to your favorite song can decrease feelings of fatigue, making exercise more comfortable.  The right song at the right moment can give you the extra energy you need to finish your workout strong and the right MP3 player can add even more to your workouts.  If you use a smartphone, there are apps that find music at certain tempos (such as Pace DJ) or  provide workouts with music included (such as Motion Traxx).

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3. Personal Trainer

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Hiring a personal trainer isn't just for Hollywood celebrities.  In fact, a personal trainer can do wonders for your workouts and having an appointment and someone to hold you accountable can be an invaluable addition to your motivational resources.  Not only do you get custom workouts that fit your fitness level, likes and dislikes and schedule, you have someone there to support you, answer questions, track your progress and keep you on track with your workouts.

4. Heart Rate Monitor

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Intensity is one of the most important aspects of your workout, especially if your goal is to lose weight.  There are a variety of ways to monitor your intensity and you can always use a Perceived Exertion Chart to keep track of how your workout feels.  However, a heart rate monitor gives you instant information about how hard you're working and it isn't subjective, like perceived exertion.  You can look down at your watch, see your heart rate in beats per minute and instantly know exactly where you are in your target heart rate zone

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5. Exercise Variety

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Another key to being motivated is having choices. If you feel like you have to get on the treadmill every time you workout, there will come a day when you can't stomach the idea and skip your workout completely.  Successful weight losers find activities they enjoy and cultivate a number of interests so that they always have a choice. For example, If you get tired of the gym or can't exercise outside, having workout videos at home can give you more options.  Don't feel like you have to do the same workouts day after day.

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6. Workout Buddy

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Having a workout buddy, whether it's a friend, a family member or a pet, can give you that extra motivation you need to show up for your workouts.  It's not easy finding a workout buddy who can exercise at the same time, day and fitness level, but one way to start is by asking a friend to meet you for a walk, a pickup basketball game, tennis, etc. once a week.  You'll find you naturally establish a pattern to your workouts that works for both of you. 

7. Rewards

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Rewarding yourself for completing your workouts is a must if you want to stay motivated.  We often use things like guilt or shame to motivate ourselves, but postive reinforcements often work even better.  Having something to look forward to can help you stay on track with your workouts and  enjoy your success, something many of us don't do very often.  Try schedulng a small reward each week you complete your workouts and a bigger reward at the end of the month. Some ideas:

  • Schedule a Massage or other spa treatment
  • New workout gear or clothes
  • A vacation
  • New workout music
  • Exercise equipment
  • An evening reading your favorite book
  • Lounging in the hot tub after your workout
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