Updated: Jun 18, 2021
We’ve all had those days or weeks — or let’s admit it, sometimes months! — where the idea of working out is exhausting enough, never mind actually getting up off the couch to do it.
The need for rest is valid, but sometimes we suffer from an abundance of excuses and a lack of motivation. On the days when the act of getting to the gym or rolling out the mat feels like pulling teeth, turn to these fitness motivational techniques for an extra push.
First things first
Listen to your body
Listen up! Before you start labeling yourself as unmotivated first take some time to listen to your body. It’s important to understand the difference between unmotivated and exhausted. If your body is telling you that you need a rest day– take a rest day!
Sometimes the answer to a lack of motivation is a lack of sleep, sore muscles, or an exhausted body or mind. It might be better to hit the recharge button instead of the workout button. Only you can be the best judge for what your body needs. So tune into the signs your body is giving you and know when it’s time to push and when it’s time to back off.
Set SMART goals
Before we start talking about motivation we have to start with goal setting. If there is no rhyme or reason for your workout then you are going to have a hard time motivating yourself to stick to a routine — no matter what motivational tricks you use! When you have something to work towards, that drives your motivation.
So ask yourself, what are your goals for working out? Start thinking about what you want to accomplish and what your end goal is. Once you have an idea of what you are working towards, frame that goal as a SMART goal.
SMART goals are:
SMART goals help you define exactly what you are working towards and get you away from the open-ended “I want to lose weight” or “I want to feel stronger” goals that offer no direction or deadline. Goals like these very rarely make it past that first week. Think about all those unaccomplished New Year’s resolutions and you get the picture.
Instead, make your goals SMART such as “lose 20 pounds by August 31” or “squat 100 pounds by the end of the month”. Then, outline a game plan that’s going to get you to the finish line. Now your workouts serve a purpose and skipping them will be a whole lot harder.
Build new habits
Change up your workout
If you dread doing it, you won’t do it. Sure, we all have workout days we love to hate (I’m looking at you leg day!) but if your routine isn’t cutting it anymore then it might be time to switch it up.
Your brain — and your muscles — prefer new routines and exercises to keep things fresh and to continually challenge your body. Sometimes, a lack of motivation is a lack of interest in the exercise or workout routine you’ve fallen into.
Take a hard look at your routine or workout schedule and think about how you can swap in new exercises or activities. For example, it might be time to turn that dreaded treadmill run you hate into a full-body AMRAP session instead.
Or do something different and outside your usual comfort zone — like one of these outdoor workout ideas! Exercise doesn’t always have to look like dumbbells and treadmills. Feeling excited about a workout might just be the kick in the butt that your motivation needs.
Set reminders (and commit to them!)
It’s easy to skip your workout when it was never part of your schedule to begin with. When you live and breathe by your calendar, it’s important to pencil in your workout and treat it like any other meeting, event, or commitment. Like that meeting at work, if you can’t make it you better reschedule or have a good enough excuse for why you couldn’t make it in the first place.
Use an app, a planner, or Google Calendar to map out your workouts for the week and hold that time sacred. If something comes up and you can no longer work out then take the time to look at your calendar and re-schedule. Don’t just let the time fly by unnoticed!
As soon as you start letting the calendar holds and reminders sail by, you lose that sense of commitment. By treating your workout time as a top priority, you will start building the habit of taking your fitness calendar reminders seriously. If you keep ignoring your calendar holds then you might need to take a harder look at when you are actually available to work out.
Switch up your schedule
If you find yourself hitting snooze every time your alarm goes off and skipping your workout it might be time to stop feeling guilty and just admit that you aren’t a morning person. And that’s okay! Sometimes the key to motivation is learning what works best for you.
If you get to the end of your workday and the last thing you want to do is work out, then try a lunchtime class or an early-morning workout sesh instead. When it comes to switching up your schedule it’s all about trial and error. Give different workout times a try and see what sticks and make sure to check in on this regularly because preferences and situations change.
Easy-win motivational tricks
Turn on the tunes
Create a workout playlist of songs that make you want to get up and dance or boost your confidence. For those lazy days on your couch, hit play and let the music guide your way to your workout.
Music has a powerful way of changing your mood and elevating your energy levels, and that is key to motivation. It’s hard not to get up and feel motivated when you hear your favorite song.
Put on workout clothes
This is one of the most motivating tricks in the book. Something as simple as putting on cute Born Primitive leggings, FLEO shorts, or your favorite sports bra can change your whole mindset and motivation.
Before, when you were lounging in bed wearing sweats the last thing you wanted to do was move your body. But with your favorite workout clothes on, now it seems like the only thing you want to do is sweat it out with some burpees or squats (okay, maybe not the burpees).
Next time you feel a lack of motivation, give yourself the easy-win first step of putting on workout clothes. It’s a lot harder to say no to a workout when you are already dressed for it.
Invest in new workout gear
At Barbella, we know how fun (and motivating!) it can be to get new workout gear in the mail every month. New equipment such as a sandbag trainer, mobility strap, or resistance bands can open up new possibilities for your workout. With new gear, you can switch up old workout routines with new ones or feel inspired to try something you’ve never done before (like jump roping using the Double Under Wonder jump rope coming up in the May Barbella box!).
Whether you want to switch up your workout routine or you need more inspiration for your at-home workout, new gear can be a great motivator. Each Barbella box includes 5-7 premium fitness apparel, gear, snacks, accessories, and more. Just like putting on your favorite joggers or leggings, sometimes it’s the little things that motivate us into action.
Tell yourself “I’ll only do this 10-minute workout…”
It’s a lot easier to motivate yourself into action if you give yourself something small to start. If you get to the end of that 10-minute workout and you still aren’t motivated to do more then today is not a day to push it. But sometimes a 10-minute workout turns into a 30-minute workout or an hour-long workout and all it took was a little push to get going.
Keep in mind that an effective workout is not measured by how long it takes, but by the quality of the workout. So if all you have time for is 10 or 15 minutes, don’t let that stop you!
Throw on a workout video
Sometimes the act of working out sounds exhausting after a long day and not just for your body but your mind. Give your brain a break if you aren’t feeling motivated. Instead, turn on a workout video or load up an app.
The instructor has done the work for you of figuring out your workout routine, all you have to do is hit play and follow along. Follow the instructor and eventually, you will either get into it or get through it.
Chances are you’ve been sitting inside all day and a new perspective and fresh air might be all the motivation that you need. Roll out your mat outside or opt for a quick walk and see how you feel.
Sometimes all our body needs is a little bit of movement. But if you still feel sluggish after your walk, chances are that you need a down-day to just relax. Or you might find that you come back refreshed, energized, and ready to tackle a bigger workout.
Need some outdoor workout inspiration? Check out our blog for eight fun outdoor fitness ideas.
Grab a buddy
Working out with a friend or as part of a group or community is a great way to stay motivated and hold yourself accountable to the goals you’ve set. Not only that, but it can make the idea of exercising enjoyable and something you look forward to, instead of putting off.
Find a gym buddy or workout partner who has similar goals to you and decide on a schedule that works for both of you. You’ll find it’s a lot harder to flake on workout plans when someone else is expecting you to show up.
Connect with a pro
It’s okay to not know what you are doing when it comes to working out or feel intimidated by the equipment in the gym. But don’t let that be your excuse for not working out. It might be time to connect with a personal trainer, sign up for a workout program, or join a gym. Or maybe you just need to find an upbeat personal trainer on Instagram who pops up into your feed every once in a while with some fresh motivation and workout tips*.
It’s a trainer’s job to motivate you to reach your fitness goals. Lean on their professional input for motivational support when you need it. Before you know it, you will be a pro at the gym with no excuses holding you back.
* P.S. Find inspiration on your socials but don’t get bogged down in the comparison game (“she looks so thin!” “Why can’t I do that!”). If an account is making you feel diminished, small, or incomplete hit the “unfollow” button and replace them with someone whose account inspires and motivates you.
Some days it takes a lot to stick to your workout routine and motivate yourself into action. Implementing a regular workout schedule is not easy! Make sure to factor in needed rest days and trick your body into action with some of these motivational techniques. But if you take a lazy day off, don’t be too hard on yourself. There’s always tomorrow!
What motivational techniques do you use to start your workout? Drop your ideas in the comments below! Need some more motivational techniques? Check out our blog post on How to Stay Motivated During Quarantine.