One of the most common things I hear from people who don’t exercise regularly is, “I know I should do it, but I just don’t have motivation. How can I get motivated to work out?”
I understand how they feel, because that used to be me, too. It feels like a mountain to overcome. It feels like you must have something lacking inside. I used to think of athletes and fit people as some kind of unicorn, possessing innate magic and abilities that I just didn’t.
The truth is fit people don’t necessarily have more motivation or willpower than you. They have simply formed a regular habit of exercise. For some of us, this doesn’t come naturally and we may have to work at it, but it is absolutely within your reach.
That’s because exercise success isn’t dependent on motivation or willpower. Rather, it’s about habits.
Here are 10 tips to help you with motivation and establishing a new exercise habit.
Set a specific time in your calendar to exercise.
This is perhaps the biggest secret to exercise success and forming a habit. The right time is whatever works for you, but set it in your schedule and stick to it religiously. Most of us are busy, so it’s probably going to be a matter of making the time, rather than having the time. If you do nothing else, do this. It’s critical.
Pick the RIGHT exercise for YOU.
It’s nearly impossible to be motivated to do something you dread. When you’re starting out, pick an activity you enjoy or at least something you don’t hate.
If you’re not sure what you’d like, try new things. Keep an open mind. All movement counts as exercise. It certainly doesn’t have to be jumping jacks and burpees. Dance, walk, ride a bike, martial arts —whatever appeals to you.
Just because someone on Instagram does high-intensity bootcamp workouts doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Moderate-intensity exercise works just fine, too, and is far less prone to injury for beginners.
READ: Exercises for people who hate to work out: 18 fun ideas to get moving
Start small but be consistent.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is they go from zero to 60, and they can’t keep that up so they drop out and feel defeated. If you are new to exercise, you don’t have to do a whole hour or even 30 minutes for it to be effective. Focus on starting with a small, doable amount that you can keep up with on a daily basis (for me, it was 15 minutes). Then, every week, add on a few more minutes until you eventually get to 30-60 minutes.
Don’t make exercise only about the way you look, or about the scale.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look your best. Exercise can definitely help with that. It can also help with losing inches if that’s your goal. But the benefits of exercise go beyond aesthetics or burning calories.
For most people, focusing only on appearance or weight doesn’t provide enough motivation to stick with exercise for very long. When you’ve exercised for a while and there’s no change on the scale, you may get discouraged and think it isn’t working. When that happens, there’s a high tendency to quit.
The scale doesn’t tell the whole story. If you are exercising regularly, then change IS happening within your body – even if you don’t see it yet. You’ll start feeling it before you see it.
Weight loss is also dependent on how you’re eating and other factors. However, even if you are doing all the “right” things, it takes time to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way. Be patient and persistent. Don’t give up on exercise.