10 Ways to boost your exercise motivation

Posted on 15 May 2015

You know you should be exercising regularly… but it’s sticking to a routine that’s often the hardest part. Here are 10 ways to get motivated – and to get yourself into the best shape of your life!

1. Track your progress
When performance is measured, performance improves. At least, that’s how the saying goes – and, when it comes to exercise, it’s a great way to stay motivated. Measure your five-rep bench press max, or time how long it takes you to run 2km. Then, after three weeks of working out, measure again. You’ll be surprised – and motivated – by the difference.

2. Set a goal
It’s one of the habits of highly effective exercisers: always keep the end in mind. Make your goal specific, so that you know exactly what you’re working towards. Trust us: when it’s 05:00 on a cold, dark winter’s morning, you’ll want to know exactly why you’re getting out of bed to go to the gym.

3. Reward yourself
So you’ve doubled your bench press? Halved your 2km time? Then reward yourself with a smoothie (or – why not? – a diet cheat day). There’s smart science behind this. Neurologists call it a ‘habit loop’: first comes the trigger (putting on your gym clothes), then comes the behaviour (hitting the gym), which comes the routine (hitting the gym again!), which brings the reward (improved health and fitness, plus that smoothie). That then feeds back to the trigger, because your brain (and body) want to repeat the reward.

4. Get tech to encourage you
Need to move more? Your motivation could be as simple as wearing a pedometer. A wearable activity tracker, such as the FitBit Charge Activity Tracker, will tell you exactly how many steps you’ve taken in a day… motivating you to take a walk during your lunch hour, and beat yesterday’s total!

5. Get tech to nag you
Need an extra boost? Then sign up for Lift, download the app, and prepare to have a community of supporters from around the world sending you regular email encouragement. Sure, it can get annoying… but the only way to silence them is to do the work! The app is free but a coach costs extra. (We’d recommend spending that cash on an actual, real-life, in-gym personal trainer.)

6. Put your goal In your wardrobe
Want to lose inches around your middle? Then go out and buy one set of your goal-sized jeans. When you’re about to torpedo your gym routine by sneaking an extra slice of takeaway pie, your mind will flash back to those Size 34 jeans, and you’ll (hopefully) do the right thing.

7. Stay positive
Whatever your reason is for exercising – whether it’s to look good, to lose weight, or to improve your health – you know it’s a good one. Never forget that. When you’re burning your way through a leg-blasting spinning class, remember the reason – the good reason – why you’re there. Moaning and complaining your way through a gym session won’t make you any more motivated… and it won’t make you any friends either.

8. Make friends
Now that we mention it: a big part of the success of exercise programmes like Adventure Boot Camp and CrossFit is the social aspect. As you regularly attend an exercise group, you’ll get to know the other people there – and, in time, you’ll start striking up some friendships. Those people will help to encourage you and keep you motivated… or, at the very least, they’ll help pack away your exercise mat after you’ve sweated buckets on an exhausting Pilates session!

9. Sign a contract with yourself
A Stanford University study found a link between contracts (as in, ink-on-paper, sign-on-the-dotted-line contracts) and exercise motivation. So write one up: make a deal that you’re going to commit to, say, a 12-week exercise programme. Then get a witness to countersign. Then – and here’s the small print – add in a penalty clause. Say that every time you skip a workout, for example, you’ll buy that witness a cup of gourmet coffee. It’s bad enough wasting your money on a gym contract you’re not using… it’s even worse having to pay up when your buddy busts you for not following through on your promises to yourself!

10. Make it fun
Contracts, apps, skinny jeans… They’re all well and good. But nothing will motivate you quite as much as finding something you love doing. If running is a bore, try trail running instead. If Pilates is a pain, then turn it into a game by seeing how long you (and your friends) can hold the plank position. Find ways to make exercise fun, and you’ll end up doing it because you enjoy it. From there, the results will follow.

How do you motivate yourself to exercise? Tell us on Facebook.



The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.

Published in Exercise

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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