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How to Stay Motivated to Exercise

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Updated June 14, 2012

If you're trying to lose weight or get in shape, you may find yourself losing interest a few weeks into your program. If you're struggling to stick with your weight loss or exercise program, read on to learn where the love has gone and how to get it back.

Re-Visit Your Past

Think back to previous attempts at losing weight or exercising. What made you quit before and are you on the same path now? If so, you may be stuck in a pattern you haven't noticed before. Break it by figuring out what went wrong before. Some possibilities:

  • A diet that's too strict or difficult to follow
  • Feeling deprived of your favorite foods
  • Feeling tired and sore from too many workouts
  • Confusion about how to exercise the right way
  • Being so busy, you can't figure out how to fit it all in

Make your own list and then figure out how to get around these issues. If the diet is too strict, make smaller changes you can live with every day. If you're busy, try shorter workouts. Change what you're doing until it works.

Get Real

Most people fail at their fitness goals because they're waiting for something spectacular to happen. Losing weight isn't always a spectacular process...in fact, it isn't even a linear process sometimes. What you may find is that you lose a little, gain a little and repeat the process again and again.

There are no shortcuts to weight loss so, even if you're frustrated that your body hasn't changed, don't give up. If you're burning more calories than you eat, your body is changing, even if it's slower than you'd like. Make sure your goals are realistic and, most importantly, that you give your body the time it needs to respond to what you're doing. It can be weeks, often months before changes start to show.

Get Pumped

We all get a spurt of motivation when deciding to lose weight and that energy carries us through the first few weeks of a workout and diet plan. However, it's normal to lose some of that energy after a month or two and wonder if you should just give up. Before you do, try these tips for

  • Revisit your goals - Do they still mean something to you?
  • Think about how far you've come - Don't just look at how much weight you've lost, but other ways your life has improved. Are you stronger or faster? Do you feel better about yourself? Could you use those feelings to keep going now?
  • Change things up - Variety can infuse more energy into your workouts. Try changing your workout schedule or trying something new to stay interested in exercise.

Reward Yourself

It's surprisingly easy to get excited about exercise and it's called massage. There's nothing that feels better than finishing up a week's worth of workouts followed by a relaxing massage. Schedule one once a month, if you can or, if massages aren't your thing, try some other ideas:
  • Buying new workout gear
  • A weekend getaway
  • A night chilling out with your favorite TV show
  • A new book or song you've been wanting
  • An MP3 player for your workouts
  • A new computer game you can only play after exercise

Exhaust Every Avenue

Before you quit, try everything you can to stay on track. Instead of drifting away from exercise without acknowledging it, give yourself a minimum amount of exercise to get in each week. When you dip below that (or stop altogether), promise yourself you'll try other things before you quit altogether:
  • Hire a personal trainer or work with one online
  • Find a workout buddy
  • Join a fitness group or gym
  • Try a new way of exercising - a video, a class, a sport, etc.
Sometimes you just need something new and fun to keep you going. Visit my Workout Center for new ideas on strength, flexibility and cardio workouts.

Stop Waiting for a Miracle

Some people think if they exercise long enough, they'll wake up one day and suddenly love exercising and eating healthy. While it does get easier, you'll always have to find ways to motivate yourself for your workouts. If you're waiting for a shining moment of excitement, you might be waiting for a long time. Instead, make it happen with these resources:

Lose the Excuses

Every day is different. What motivated you yesterday may not work today, so sift through what inspires you to find that one thing that will get you out the door. It may be pants you want to fit into or competing with your friend (he's working out--you don't want to fall behind, do you?).  Before you skip your workout, try these ideas to get moving:

  • I'll feel good about myself if I finish my workout
  • I'll just warm up and, if I want to stop, I can
  • I'm going to dinner tonight, so I know I need this workout to balance my calories
  • This workout will give me more energy for the rest of my day
  • If I finish this workout, I can spend some time reading, watching TV or playing around on the computer

Open Your Mind

Being bored is the perfect time to try something new. You'll be more willing to try things you may have dismissed because they didn't fit within your definition of exercise. It could be bellydancing, a latin dance class or that spinning class at the gym. Or try something more mind/body like Pilates or yoga

 

If what you're doing isn't working, it's time to find something that will. Sometimes even just a new piece of equipment or a workout is enough to get you moving again:

Track Your Progress

One simple way to stay motivated is to look back on how far you've come. Keeping a simple calendar of the workouts you've done gives you something tangible you can happily flip through, adding up all the days you exercised. Plus, knowing you have to write your accomplishments down may give you that extra push you need to get moving.

Regularly weighing yourself, taking measurements, getting your body fat tested or even doing your own fitness and endurance tests can help you stay on track. This Progress Chart is a great way to track how you're doing.

Have Consequences

If your child doesn't do his homework, there are consequences. The same should be true of sticking with exercise. If you don't do your workouts, there should be a consequence. Have someone hold you accountable or take away something you enjoy until you get back on track. Another idea is to think of the long-term consequences of not exercising:
  • Gaining weight
  • Feeling bad about yourself
  • Possible health problems like diabetes or heart disease
  • Lower quality of life
  • Not being a good role model for your family
  • Not being able to do all the things you enjoy
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