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7 Effective ways to stay motivated to work out, backed by science

People who don’t exercise may be hindered by many factors. The good news is that even if you hate working out, it’s not hopeless.

Losing weight is one of the most common and most compelling reasons why people begin and continue to exercise. But despite wanting to lose weight, you may still find many reasons not to: the weather is too hot or too cold, you don’t have workout clothes, you’re too busy or too tired, and so on.

You know that a 30-minute run, a powerful HIIT workout, or an invigorating kickboxing class will do wonders for your physical and mental health, yet you can't find it in you to be motivated enough to exercise. It’s not uncommon to feel this way. According to University of Texas professor of psychology Art Markman, “As humans, it’s hard for us to make a decision to do something because it’s good for us over the long term.”

On the other hand, some reasons not to work out are understandable. A highly stressful day at the office may leave you bone-tired and deplete what little energy you have left. Instead of working out right away, watch a rerun of Cheers, Friends, or any of your favorite TV shows. A study revealed that watching a rerun of a favorite TV show may help regain one’s drive to get things done, such as exercising.

That doesn’t mean it’s okay to binge-watch Netflix and set your fitness goals aside. It is just one of several ways to motivate yourself to work out when you’re feeling exhausted. Here are other, no-frills workout motivation tips.

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1. Engage in a positive self-talk

If you think you dread exercising, have a little chat with yourself, but do so as if you’re speaking to someone else. Giving yourself a pep talk in the second person is more effective than talking in the first, according to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology. The study revealed that “second-person self-talk strengthens both actual behavior performance and prospective behavioral intentions more than first‐person self‐talk,” and is, therefore, more effective.

2. Discover a different reason to exercise

A good reason to go out for a run or hit the gym when you have no motivation to exercise could be anything unrelated to fitness. It seems counterintuitive, but it may just do the trick. Getting out of the house after working from home the whole day, listening to a newly created music playlist, or taking pictures of a scenic jogging path can all motivate you to exercise. Working out can also be an excuse to pass by a well-loved restaurant where you can reward yourself with a cheat meal (but only on cheat days).

3. Switch things up

Hate training? Hit two birds with one stone by bundling your workout with an activity you want to do. This ties in with a strategy called temptation building, which involves “coupling instantly gratifying ‘want’ activities with engagement in a ‘should behavior’ that provides long-term benefits but requires the exertion of willpower.”

For example, if you love listening to music for hours but consider it an indulgent activity, you can load up your device with your favorite songs, playlists, or albums, which you can listen to while you exercise. If you're the type to engage in activities such as listening to an audiobook of a guilty-pleasure novel, bundle it with an undoubtedly valuable activity such as exercising. This and other similar strategies are proven to help solve willpower problems and help you get into a workout groove.

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4. Find a workout buddy fitter than yourself

The saying “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” applies to keeping oneself motivated to exercise. The fact is, training with a workout buddy who you perceive to be fitter can motivate you to train longer and more intensely by as much as 200%.

Don’t have a workout buddy? Buddy up with one of our personal trainers at our EaDo or Heights gyms in Houston.

5. Get competitive

One research found that seeing others’ running performance, either via a fitness app or on social media platforms, is proven to boost one’s desire to perform better. So whether you’ve been planning to rank high in a marathon or you just want to beat your personal training record, add a competitive element to the mix to boost your motivation.

Share your milestones on social media; some of your friends may even join you for a little friendly competition. A study published in the Preventive Medicine Reports revealed that healthy competition rather than friendly support is a greater motivator to exercise for people in social networking platforms.

6. Treat yourself

Having washboard abs, fitting into your old clothes, and growing stronger are all rewards in themselves. But these are impossible to achieve if you can’t even commit to start working out, much less stick to a week- or month-long training routine. As such, a different, more palpable reward system must be in place. Rewards can be in the form of a cheat day meal or new workout clothes you’ll love. This way, you feel good about yourself while reaping the benefits of exercise.

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7. Join a community

Perhaps you don’t like to exercise alone, or you think buying a monthly gym membership is a long-term commitment you’re not quite ready for. If so, make a short-term commitment in the meantime. There are many benefits to group class exercises, such as getting accountability partners and diversified workouts. And trying out a class may just be the thing that helps you get over an exercise slump.

Buy a single-pass drop-in just to get your foot in the door. If you tried and didn’t like cycling class, try barre, yoga, or other fitness classes. Buy a 10-day pack if you want something a little more long-term.

Facet Seven gyms in Houston offer a variety of group training classes offered as a single pass, any class, and 10- and 20-day packs. When money is involved, it will be hard to neglect working out.

Need a little extra push?

Choose a gym near you. Truthfully, when your gym is located near or in the same neighborhoods as your office or home, you are less likely to avoid going to the gym.

Our fitness playgrounds in EaDo and Heights in Houston can help you get out of an I-hate-exercising phase and turn you into a fitness addict. Visit one of our gyms or call or leave us a message to learn more about Facet Seven’s fitness facilities.

About The Author

Layn Chess

Founder & Training Director

Layn has spent his life immersed in the worlds of fitness and physical performance. As an athlete, he’s completed multiple endurance events such as the Texas Bandera 50k Trail Run, Austria’s Ironman 70.3, and the Alaskaman Extreme Ironman. He’s been coaching since 2008 with certifications in USA Weightlifting Level 1, CrossFit Level 1, Strong First L1, and the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

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