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How To Motivate Yourself To Exercise (When You Really Don’t Want To)

I get it. I really do. Exercise is a big part of my life and I still find exercise motivation hard when I’m pulling on my running shoes and getting out the door. How to motivate yourself to exercise is something we all need to learn.

There’s always some distraction. I’ll go when I’ve finished this. Something’s just come up. I’m feeling tired today, maybe I should take a rest day.

Before you know it, the day’s over and your fitness plans have evaporated. There’s always tomorrow…

And I enjoy exercise! I love to be fit! When you’re someone who really hates it, just sees exercising as one big chore, the exercise motivation must be really hard to find. Here are a few tips I hope will help…

exercise motivation

How To Motivate Yourself To Exercise When You Really Don’t Want To

Find A Buddy

I’ve put this tip first because I think it makes the biggest difference. Especially if you can find a buddy who’s at the same fitness level as you, but just a tiny bit keener. Someone who can guilt-trick you into getting out the door.

Arranging to meet someone for exercise takes all the pressure off. It’s a done deal. You will be exercising at a certain time. No buts. A no-show would be letting your partner down. I will frantically get ready to meet a buddy on time for a run. I never have the same level of exercise motivation when I’m running on my own.

Exercise Early

I’m notoriously a big failure when it comes to exercise motivation in the morning. But it is a good idea. If you can trick yourself into exercising early, it’s a big win.

What do I mean by trick yourself? Try getting fit at home. Rolling out of bed and hitting the yoga mat you laid out the night before. Lacing up your running shoes and heading out before you’re fully awake and able to object. These are both ways to slip in a bout of exercise before the demands of the day take over.

Plus you get to spend the rest of the day feeling terrific and just a little bit smug.

Build An Exercise Routine

This one is linked to exercising early. If you always exercise at a set time every day, you’re less likely to skip your session.

Over time this routine could even become a habit, a routine that’s so familiar it’s hard to break.

Just tell yourself you’ll exercise at a set time every day. Set an alarm and just go!

Set A Goal For Exercise Motivation

Setting a goal can make a big difference to exercise motivation especially if it’s a real challenge. Just look at all those people who’ve never done any real exercise in their lives and then decide to run a marathon. Amazingly most of them manage it!

Spring can be a good time to set a goal with the added advantage of getting fit for summer!

To work as an exercise motivator, the goal has to be big. It’s got to be something you’re excited about and it has to be achievable.

What counts as achievable is down to you. When you set your goals don’t listen to the naysayers. If you think you can do it – go for it.

Wear Your Favorite Workout Kit

If you’re having a tough time finding the motivation to exercise, wear your favorite workout kit!

Somehow pulling on your bouncy new trainers, dressing in the kit that makes you feel good, can make a difference. Feeling good will make you more motivated to have a worthwhile session.

Set Low Exercise Expectations

Okay I know, this is the exact opposite of setting big goals. What I mean is if it’s a day when it’s a tough call getting out the door, don’t expect too much.

It’s easier to make yourself go out for 10 minutes than a hard 60-minute session. If you can’t face the hard session you pre-planned, just go and do the warm-up.

See how you feel once you’ve started. Sometimes starting is all it takes to shake off your lethargy. Plus ten minutes of exercise will always be better than nothing.

Don’t Overthink It

Try not to make a big deal out of your exercise routine. It’s a time of the day when you just put your kit on and go. No big deal. You need to stop chasing perfection. Don’t wait for the perfect time to start exercising, feeling completely ready, just go!

Don’t think about your session until you’ve actually started. Make it just one of the things you do, no different to all the other activities you squeeze into your day.

Promise Yourself A (Non-Food) Treat

Now if you’re exercising to lose weight, the last thing you want to do is see food as a treat for completing your session. That doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself.

I’m sure there are all sorts of wonderful treats you can think of and you don’t need my help with this one. So promise yourself the set of tickets to watch your favorite performer, a new eyeliner, the latest novel, a cute top…

Focus On How You’ll Feel Afterwards

Rather than stressing about and overthinking your exercise session. Think about how good you’re going to feel when you’ve finished.

That glow from completing a session is such a great feeling. It leaves you thinking, “of course I’m motivated to exercise!”

How To Motivate Yourself To Exercise – Next Steps

I hope these tips help if you’re someone who struggles to head out the door for your exercise session. If you have tips of your own I’d love to hear about them! Looking for some fitness ideas, try my 47 Tips, How To Get Fit

There are so many different ways to get fit – it’s always best to find an activity you enjoy. It could be something you tried as a child – such as roller skating!

If you’ve found this post helpful, you may enjoy my other fitness-related articles:

Sometimes being able to motivate yourself to exercise is hard. Even when you enjoy exercising! These tips will help if you're struggling to find your mojo! #exercise #exercisemotivation
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Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get motivated to exercise when you hate it?

The best tip is to find a type of exercise you enjoy. Just because a lot of people walk, run or go to the gym for exercise doesn’t mean you can’t do something completely different. Salsa, frisbee, jump rope, hula hoop, slacklining are all ways to exercise. Set a regular time to exercise, have a goal, and reward yourself with a non-food treat.

How can I get motivated to exercise when tired?

Set yourself low exercise expectations. Go for your exercise warm-up rather than your planned session. After 10 minutes assess how you feel. If you’re still tired take a rest day. You may find warming up has got you motivated to complete your original session. If you only manage your warm-up, 10 minutes of exercising is still better than none.

Is walking enough exercise?

If your goal is general fitness, brisk walking is excellent exercise. Try and walk every day. Our bodies are designed to move! If you’re aiming for overall fitness and a muscular, lean body, combine walking with upper body exercise. Walking will help if you need to lose weight but watching what you eat is equally important. Combine exercise with healthy eating.

JL Nich, SF/F Author

Tuesday 13th of October 2020

great tips. i especially like the promise yourself a non-food reward and the Exercise early. Both are a great fit for me. I tend to peter out after 2pm in attitude toward exercise. Ive spent the last 3 months struggling to do the deed. I have no problem getting up in the morning and walking my dogs. So i'm going to try it in the morning. Thanks.


Wednesday 14th of October 2020

Hope it works for you. Setting a non-negotiable time for exercise can also help. Especially when you're working from home and you can kid yourself you'll just go out later. Give exercise the priority it deserves - top of your daily to-do list!

bethan taylor-swaine

Wednesday 13th of May 2020

Such great suggestions! When I really don't want to workout I'll often tell myself that I'll 'just see how it goes'...9 times out of 10 the run will be awesome and it'll give me the boost I need to get out of my motivation rut! x


Wednesday 13th of May 2020

Thanks Bethan - love the pics of you on your site!