The road to self-improvement isn’t always smooth. Sometimes it’s rewarding, and sometimes, it’s hard to fit it into a busy or tiring schedule.
However, a good sweat is about more than burning calories, daily goals, and gains. Regular exercise is the key to a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
We’ve gathered some helpful tips to guide your motivation, whether you’re just starting a new routine or you’re seeking to recapture the passion you once had.
Tip: Find Your Motivation
The first step to working out is understanding why you want to work out. Whether you want to build your physique, improve your health or psychological wellbeing (workouts are great for helping anxiety and depression), improve flexibility, look better, jumpstart weight loss, or any other equally valid reason, knowing why you’re working out gives you power.
Whenever you feel unmotivated, seeing a clear picture of your end goal can help you power through the bad days and help you give it your all on a regular day. Setting goals is all about understanding the “why” and giving yourself attainable feats, room for struggle, and positive rewards (drinks, anyone?).
Tip: Get a Buddy
When working out by yourself, numerous things can go wrong. Getting to the gym or wherever you plan to work out, attempting to set a regular schedule, and putting off your workout for five minutes can easily turn into not working out at all.
Getting someone to work out with offers a wide variety of benefits. Most significantly, having someone to work with keeps you accountable. Having someone else there means that you’ll both be there for better or for worse, meaning that even if neither of you feels especially motivated to work out, you can turn working through your lack of motivation into a communal activity.
Having someone to compare progress with can also inspire you to work out a little bit harder, longer, or with a greater degree of organization. You can go for a bike ride together, set a workout time, force yourselves to get off the couch and trick yourselves into enjoying your workouts.
Your workout buddy doesn’t have to be your best friend. Find someone from any group you interact with who has similar availability and wants to work out with a similar frequency to what you desire.
Whether you work out together regularly, once a week, or once in a while, a buddy can be someone to compare progress with and keep you invested in your own growth. Comradery powers the armed forces, and it can give you the boost you need to push your limits.
Tip: Stick To the Same Schedule
People are creatures of habit. The key to a consistent and good workout? Sticking to a regular workout schedule. It’s helpful in numerous ways. Firstly, if you are targeting specific muscle groups, it becomes easy to designate certain days of the week for certain types of activities.
Secondly, making your workout a regular part of your scheduled calendar makes it easier to stay consistent. Working out with a set schedule takes the mental energy away from figuring out when to get out there, making it all the easier to devote your energy to the workout.
So gear up a weekly podcast, create a playlist for each workout, and find a way to motivate yourself to get some physical activity in.
Tip: Start With What You Like
In the long term, evenly formed fitness routines matter. When just getting off the ground, however, it’s best to start with something you like.
Whether tackling the muscle groups you find easiest, grabbing a yoga mat and heading to a group class, walking on the treadmill, or getting a personal trainer, start with routines you are most excited about. Jumping that hurdle can be a great way to get serious (buying great workout clothes helps, too).
Tip: Be Gentle
This isn’t just a dictum not to overexert yourself at the gym, though that’s important too. Some days, real-life might get in the way, whether it’s a total emergency or just a meeting that ran on too long.
Other times, the motivation just might not be there. Don’t beat yourself up when this happens. Growth is not always a linear process, and a missed workout can easily be made up later on. Maybe you eat an extra vegetable, cook a recipe with healthy ingredients, or skip the pizza to counteract missing the workout.
Issue: You’ve Hit a Plateau
Rather than a tip, here we’re going to discuss how to get over a dreaded issue that can potentially kill motivation if it stays around too long: plateau-ing.
After you’ve been at a certain intensity level for a while, you might hit a plateau where your body has adapted to what you’ve been putting it through, and further growth is difficult. Fortunately, there are a few ways to break through a plateau:
Up Your Intensity: Sometimes, simply increasing the intensity of your routines by upping either your targeted weight, using heavier dumbbells, increasing duration or reps (try adding 20 more push-ups or squats), or adding cardio is enough to power through that plateau barrier.
Change Up Your Routine: Sometimes, changing the way you hit a muscle group is enough to affect your growth. This can be done either by varying the order in which you perform your exercises or by changing up the exercises which make up your routine. You can also make some new small goals to accomplish in your routine.
Take Care of Your Body: Working out doesn’t just start at the gym. Getting enough sleep, making sure you give your muscles ample recovery time, and proper nutrition are all critical to making sure you’re keeping yourself in top form at all times. And don’t forget to reward yourself with a treat every once in a while; you are human, after all.
Tip: Be Positive
You aren’t always going to be fully into what you’re doing, and sometimes inclement weather, juggled schedules, uneven recovery, or other unknown mishaps may throw you for a loop.
You don’t have to be the embodiment of Bob Ross or Mr. Rogers, but keeping a positive attitude goes a long way. When you’re in the gym working on your fitness routine, chase that satisfying feeling of exhaustion (without that sickly feeling of overexertion).
Tip: Keep Track of Your Progress
This one doesn’t have to be written down, though it can help. Keep track of your best workout, your heaviest bench and other lifts, your fastest mile, and other measurements can be cathartic to break, especially early on when the most growth is to be had and when overcoming plateaus.
If you want to keep track of your progress on paper, however, you may be impressed to see how far you’ve come over a long period of time, especially in your first year or so of working out!
Tip: Take a Break (If You Need It)
Sometimes, taking a break from working out can be helpful, so long as you don’t let it become a total hiatus. Maybe you’re putting in a lot of overtime or otherwise have a super busy week, or maybe you’ve overtrained yourself and find your muscles aching for days on end.
Your days out of the gym matter just as much as your days in them. If a certain muscle group is giving you trouble, you can try targeting a different group or try some low-intensity activities like stretching, yoga, or even meditation to give yourself a break while still keeping yourself fitness-oriented.
Tip: Get Your Workout in Early
If you put something off until late in the day, it gives you plenty of time to psych yourself out or get busy with other things to do in the evenings. By working out early, not only do you get it out of the way, but you start your morning off already being highly active and productive.
If you don’t have enough time, you can try setting your alarm (which you should choose based on your own sleep needs) so that you are slowly waking up a little earlier each day, until you have enough time to work out.
If you are concerned about being sweaty for work or other daily activities, you can do a morning workout on the weekend, or else shower at your gym if they have that amenity.
Tip: Write Your Routine Down
If you physically create your routine on paper, it helps make it real. Read that sentence over again. Try writing down not just your full exercise routine, but your entire week from getting up, to working, to working out.
It might take a bit of time, but having your routine written down makes it a promise and a goal to yourself, and not just a tentative thing you have to get done at some vaguely defined point.
Tip: Understand That Your Body Is Unique
Nutrition, proper form, and proper recovery all play a part in how your body grows, but one aspect of muscle growth can’t be impacted by the individual: genetics. Studies show that genetics play a major, though not life-altering, part in how our strength expresses itself.
Strength, muscle appearance, and physical muscle growth can all be impacted by genetics, but everyone can put in the work to sculpt their body in a manner that they like.
Issue: You’ve Never Gotten Into a Groove Before
Hitting your stride, where you have a chosen location and set of activities you like, that you are able to reliably perform week after week, can seem daunting. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the perfect routine.
False starts and experimenting to find what works best for you are all part of the process. Remember that any progress is better than no progress.
Final Tip: Find What Works for You
Once you’ve found the techniques that really work for you, put on your training gear, and get ready to get to work.