Finding Your Motivation To Get Fit and Healthy

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Whether you’ve already lost motivation to exercise and find yourself not motivated to workout anymore, or you’re just starting out and need some motivation to get started, something that’s lacking in your fitness motivation has drawn you to this post.

So specific was your search that it might feel offensive if we begin this post by asking if we really need motivation for physical fitness in the first place?

But before you click away, just know that I haven’t led you up the garden path. We’ll be covering lots about your fitness motivation. Indeed, we’ll be covering much under and around the whole rubric, including:

Motivation in physical fitness in general.

The rules of fitness and how they can ruin your fitness motivation.

When is the best time to workout? Do you need evening or morning workout motivation?

The 5-minute rule and how it removes the feeling of being not motivated to workout anymore.

Buddying up to increase your fitness motivation.

Plus more.

We have quite a bit to cover to get you up and motivated, so we best get started.

But first let’s go back to the original question.

Do You Need Motivation To Get Fit And Healthy?

You might know that exercising on a regular basis is good for many things, and you may have even chosen some great workouts to do. But you seem to have lost your way and are finding it difficult to keep hold of your motivation for doing exercise.

After all, motivating yourself to continue is completely different to motivating yourself to start.

Fitness, like diets and new hobbies, is often easy in the beginning. You’re excited to try something new, you add them to your schedule, and feel ready to finally make it work.

Indeed, you are determined that it’s going to work this time, even if in the past you gave up.

The trouble though is that if you’re not someone who’s developed and ingrained the habit of regular exercise then the problem is not just about your fitness motivation but is part of a bigger four-fold problem:

Motivation.

Enjoyment.

Discipline.

Identity.

I’m going to cover these first because if you don’t understand these then you’re all but lost and your fitness motivation will be forever stalled.

Without exaggeration, your future motivation to get fit and healthy is dependent on your knowledge of these.

Motivation In Physical Fitness

Motivation

Whatever type of motivation we’re talking about, whether it’s motivation in physical fitness or something else, actual motivation itself is fleeting. It comes and goes.

Of course, it can be given a helping hand (and is what this post is about), but here’s the thing, procrastination is easy, and we often want to be ‘in the mood’ to do something before we perform the action that gets us doing it.

But it often doesn’t work like that. In fact, often times, it’s the other way around completely with mood following action.

Get moving, get doing, get started, and the mood to continue will be found and remain with you for a time. Don’t wait until you’re in the mood to do something before you get started because you might just be sat on your butt for weeks, months, even years.

Further, the less active we are the less energy we have. Said another way, become more active to have more energy. Even something small and simple, such as standing up and stretching your arms to the ceiling every 30 minutes, can raise your overall energy levels.

Quite literally, your fitness motivation can nearly always be found in the act of doing the fitness, so stop overthinking it and weighing the pros and cons in your mind and just start.

Enjoyment

As we move down this list each point has more power than the one that came before, and enjoyment can compel you to become motivated.

This stands to reason, and it doesn’t matter if it’s motivation for physical fitness or motivation for something else, if we enjoy doing something then we’re more likely to do it.

After all, if you enjoy doing something then the actual will and motivation you need to get up and do it is minimal.

Enjoyment is also important because you do want to enjoy your fitness/exercise/workout routines. If you don’t enjoy it then things become difficult very quickly and quitting is highly likely and often just around the corner.

Moreover, the more you do it the more you’ll enjoy it as not only are the dopamine receptors of unfit and sedentary people (as well as the obese) less active than those who are fit and physically active, they also have less of them.

It’s like adding insult to injury, because not only do you not want to exercise, but exercising doesn’t make you feel good like people say it does.

The upside is that, if you struggle through (sometimes regrettably for months) then your receptors will normalise and you’ll start to enjoy it more. You’ll even look forward to it and find yourself compelled to exercise.

Regardless, make sure you do things that you enjoy; don’t like the treadmill but like the bike? Then do the bike and ignore the treadmill.

Enjoyment Isn’t Limited To The Actual Exercises

Moreover, your enjoyment isn’t limited to the exercises themselves.

Maybe it’s your iteration of them, or getting better at them and mastering your technique of them.

Maybe it’s tweaking your set up so it’s all working better, feeling better, and becoming more enjoyable.

It doesn’t matter what it is. Just as long as you enjoy it.

For sure, you can apply discipline for a while, but the more you have to apply discipline to something that you don’t enjoy the harder and harder it gets. And the difficulty compounds, too, because tomorrow will be harder than today. And the next day will be harder than yesterday.

Enjoyment Is Less Important Than Discipline

Saying that, it may come as a surprise as to why enjoyment is above discipline, since I already said above that as we move down this list each point has more power than the previous point.

I mean, if, even with discipline, you still need enjoyment, then why isn’t enjoyment below discipline?

The reason for this is that, even with enjoyment in place and built throughout your fitness motivation game-plan, you won’t always enjoy the idea of doing it. And since thoughts, and this thought in particular, are the cause of our actions, then the thought of not enjoying your fitness program can demotivate you and cause you to procrastinate.

And it’s discipline that pushes you through and over this hump.

Discipline

This is a big one, and anyone who’s ever tried to do something difficult for a long time knows it.

Discipline is what makes you continue even when you want to quit.

When things are down, tough, unpleasant, and demotivating, discipline is what keeps you moving.

It doesn’t matter how much we enjoy the idea of something, or how motivated we are to do it sometimes, we won’t always be like this. Even things we love to do don’t want to be done sometimes. But discipline is the thing that makes sure they get done anyway.

It’s what keeps you pushing even on days when you don’t feel like you have the energy, or you lose your original purpose for working out. In this sense, motivation in physical fitness is no different to motivation in anything else.

However, discipline is nurtured over time, so don’t expect to just have buckets of the stuff by default. Apply a little bit of discipline here, a little bit there, and over time you become a disciplined person.

Identity

Some would argue that discipline is above identity, but I disagree because identity can trump discipline in the sense that if the identity you have of yourself says that you are the type of person to do whatever it is that you want to do (such as exercise), then this awareness can rouse your discipline into action and compel you to get up and do it, even if your discipline had faltered and you were demotivated.

Doing otherwise is contrary to your identity, which very much doesn’t sit well with us and gets us moving. Sometimes we get moving through disappointment (even anger) with ourselves for not momentarily conforming to our identity.

Developing A Fitness Identity

How do you get the identity of someone who’s into fitness and exercise? Well, you won’t like the answer, but you do it for a long enough time that it just becomes part of who you are.

Identity is beyond motivation, enjoyment, discipline, and habits. It’s ingrained deep and become a core part of you.

Of course, you don’t need to have the identity to keep moving, and you shouldn’t really think about it because it’s only something that will come after years of doing.

Indeed, the identity of this lifestyle is just something that comes… in the end. Don’t rely on it. Don’t think about it. Just focus on what’s in front of you today, such as developing habits and beating the log book (always keep a fitness log) .

The Process Of Physical Fitness

So the process of physical fitness is four-fold:

At the start, you rouse some motivation to get moving. It lasts a day, or a week. Maybe even a month.

The motivation is helped by doing movement exercises that you enjoy. And since you enjoy it, you keep doing it and want to keep doing it, maybe even several times a week.

Sometimes (or eventually) your will breaks down. You can’t be bothered to continue. You’re thinking about giving up. And it’s here that discipline comes to the rescue. It pushes you to do it anyway and doesn’t let you quit. Interestingly, the exercise sessions that you have to apply discipline in order to get up and do often turn out to be some of the best exercise sessions you ever have.

Eventually, at some point, you develop the identity of a fitness person. And now fitness has permanent place and standing in your life. Fitness is just something that you do.

The process of physical fitness is 4-fold: 1) You rouse some motivation to start, 2) You do movement exercises that you enjoy, 3) You apply discipline when your motivation falters, and 4) Eventually, you develop the identity of a fitness person. Click To Tweet

That’s the process of fitness, and it’s like that for everyone who’s been doing it for a long time. Ask them if you don’t believe me—they will tell you the same thing.

However, you’re not at point 4 yet. You’re at point 1. So let’s get started.

The Beginning

So why are we covering motivation when the others are more important? Well, to be honest, not much more can be said on the others and they’re very much down to you.

Only you know what you enjoy.

Only you can nurture and apply discipline.

The fitness identity will be in your future automatically, if you do it for long enough.

But motivation can be helped by implementing a few basic strategies. Strategies that either help with the motivation directly or remove some of the inertia and resistance to doing it. And we’ll start with skipping the rules.

Skip Your Workout Rules

The very first step to finding the right fitness motivation, and most importantly, sticking to it, is to skip all the current “rules” you have for working out.

Don’t worry so much about what you feel you are supposed to do, whether based on so-called fitness experts or your own hard and fast rules.

Your approach to exercise should not just be pushing yourself now in order to reach your goals, but thinking about a long-term lifestyle change.

After all, exercise is so much more than just losing weight or attaining some idealised fitness level.

Think about the workout rules you’ve set for yourself in the past. They could have included:

Do certain moves.

Do cardio a number of days a week.

Hit the gym 6 days in a row.

Do it fasted.

Don’t do it fasted.

Weigh your protein.

Eat enough carbs for fuel.

Eat every 3 hours.

And on and on it goes.

Throw all these rules out the window.

The goal at the beginning is not only to get you moving but to keep you moving, and if you put a bunch of rules and must-dos in place then this just increases the resistance to doing it.

Which increase your chance of not doing it.

Which is a bad idea.

Remember, we’re concerned about your motivation to get fit and healthy, and very few of the rules that you’ve bumped into are required for that.

The time for all that stuff is later, after you’re already onboard with the lifestyle, your enthusiasm is sky high, and the habits of fitness are robust and likely to stick around long term.

Always keep this idea mind and make it easier for yourself to start working out by removing the resistance to doing it.

To be honest, removing the resistance to working out is somewhat of a trend throughout, and there’s simple things you can do for it, such as having your equipment and attire as ready to go as possible.

In fact, rules seldom work when you’re just beginning your fitness journey, and most often just stop you dead in your tracks after a month or so and your fitness motivation plummets along with it.

Trying to put rules in place only increases your resistance to the task. Remove them.

Workout Timing & The Best Time To Workout

Evening Or Morning Exercise?

The time when you should workout is often in debate, and there is evidence indicating that workout timing can be meaningful where certain times are better than other times for various things (1, 2, 3, 4,), but here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter.

What actually matters is when you like working out, and you shouldn’t allow whether a particular time is better or worse for working out to have any influence over your decision to workout or not.

The whole argument and idea around the best time to workout can just become another arbitrary rule that increases the resistance to actually working out in the first place.

So When Is The best Time To Workout?

Of course, you still want the question answered, and here it is:

The best time to workout is when you feel the best time is.

If you like morning exercise and are most motivated to do so in the morning, then that’s exactly when you should work out.

But if you don’t have morning workout motivation and you prefer and perform better in the evening, then that’s also exactly what you should do.

The goal of a workout is to workout, which requires energy and enthusiasm. So whenever you have the most energy, the most get up and go, and when you feel as though you’ll have the best workout, is precisely the time that you should do that work out.

But Studies Say The Best Time To Workout Is X

These workout timing studies don’t accommodate (nor can they I’d imagine) the energy given (and the subjective effort, drive, and commitment given) in those workouts. So whilst some study says that morning exercise is better for weight loss than evening exercise, this assumes that the commitment and drive of the individual used between these two workouts is equivalent.

But how do we know this? We don’t. Further, it may not be the case at all, and probably isn’t.

If you exercise like a wet lettuce in the morning but an absolute beast in the evening, which exercise session do you think is going to use more energy and have you applying more effort (and therefore be more efficacious in your fat loss and fitness aspirations)?

The evening one, even though it contradicts the findings of the study. 

Finding the Right Time

Of course, maybe you don’t know when you like working out, and none of this means you can’t change your workout timing if you deem it to be beneficial, but to find the correct time for your workouts you just experiment a little with the timing of them.

You’ll know when you like working out and when it suits you the most because you’ll feel yourself more engaged and energised towards it. You’ll have more energy, drive, and get up and go.

You’ll probably be able to lift heavier weights, or do more reps, and with less fatigue.

You’ll be able to run faster. Harder. For longer. And easier.

This is when you know you’ve found the right time to workout.

Changing The Time

However, perfect workout timing aside, sometimes the times when you want to workout is not a good option, such as you like exercising in the evening but it’s almost impossible because the gym is full and the machines are always taken.

This is when you know it’s time to change things because even though you have the most energy in the evenings you’re not actually getting to use that energy, which obviously makes your sessions subpar.

Sure, you could switch to a home workout, but many don’t like that and the gym motivates them, so you really want to switch the time of your workout instead.

And that’s fine, because know this:

The decreased efficacy of your workouts when you don’t do it at the time that you like to do it is only temporary.

After some time you adapt to the different time and you become just has energetic, able, and competent as you were previously with your original workout timing.

So don’t fret about it too much because your body adapts to the changes, it can just take a while.

There’s also other, often outside, reasons to change, such as the summer is approaching and now you’re struggling with the afternoon hikes because it’s getting too hot. Well, switch the time, such as try to fit a hike in the morning, or switch to an air-conditioned gym through the summer months instead.

Don’t be afraid to make changes if things aren’t working.

Wear Your Activewear Whenever You can

This is a little trick that can make a drastic difference to your fitness motivation and how easy it is to workout as it removes a seemingly small, but notable, resistance. It also helps with mindset.

I use it all the time myself. In fact, I could get up right now, change my shoes (currently in slippers), and be ready to go.

When you wear your activewear while running errands (or to work if that’s an option), you:

Don’t have the excuse of having to go home first in order to change before you can go to the gym,

You don’t have to bring your clothes with you, which can also be inconvenient and increase resistance.

It really helps with your motivation because you know you are already dressed and ready to workout.

You’re perpetually in the semi right frame of mind for working out as you’re always feeling a little ‘sporty’.

It actually has a much larger impact on motivation for fitness than you might think—fashion is not the only reason that those into fitness and working out are always in the gear for doing it.

It’s also comfortable and completely normal these days. Give it a go.

Use the 5-Minute Rule

While you should give your body a break when you need it, some days when you say to yourself that you’re not motivated to workout anymore it’s really because you’re just making excuses.

And in such cases here is a super easy trick that will help. You can use it on the days when you’re really not in the mood or just have almost zero fitness motivation.

The only caveat is that you still need to muster a little bit of discipline to put it into action. But you should be working on that anyway, so this is a good bit of training for it.

How It Works

Pick a workout you want to do, usually something that doesn’t require a lot of effort, like walking on a treadmill.

Promise yourself that you will do just 5 minutes of it. Set a timer.

After 5 minutes, if you’re still exhausted and just don’t feel like continuing, feel free to stop. At least you put in an effort.

Most of the time though you’ll keep going and do another 5 minutes.

Keep repeating the 5 minutes until you’ve had enough.

Doing just these 5 minutes will likely spur you on and make you want to do your entire workout.

More often than not, it’s getting started that’s the problem, not the actual working out, and you should definitely use the 5 minute rule if you are at a place in your fitness journey where you keep making excuses to not get up and start moving.

Just A Little Bit

The 5-minute rule is a particular take on the idea of “just do a little bit”, and it can work on many more things that just doing an exercise for 5 minutes.

I’ll just do 5 minutes work.

I’ll just lose 1lb.

I’ll just drink 1 more glass of water a day.

I’ll just weigh 1 item in my meal.

I’ll just do this one little habit…

And on it goes.

These decisions of “just a little bit” more often than not turn into something much bigger… in time.

So again, as has already been said, just start.

Buddy Up

This one is entirely subjective, with some people very much liking it and some people not.

And for sure this won’t be the first time you’ve gotten this advice when looking into fitness motivation, but the reason for this is that it can work.

Not only can buddying up with someone to workout with make it more enjoyable, but you have someone to keep you both motivated and accountable—if they rely on you and you rely on them, then not working out is going to be harder for the both of you as it’s letting the other person down.

Tips for Choosing a Workout Buddy

The trick here is to choose the right person that you want to go on your fitness journey with.

If you choose someone that doesn’t show up or just doesn’t have the same goals as you then, well… that’s not a good workout buddy.

Find Someone You Know You Can Count On

They must be reliable. They are there for motivation and accountability (as well as company, of course), the same as you are for them.

Choosing a workout buddy who is your friend can seem important, but if they don’t acknowledge the implicit accountability then they’re not a good workout buddy.

You could try making the accountability explicit, but it doesn’t sound like a good bet to me if they need to be told.

Regardless, don’t pick someone just because they’re a friend, pick someone to be a workout buddy.

Choose a Workout Buddy with Similar Goals

You also want to think about their goals and your goals, getting down to specifics.

Most generally, there’s 2 types of workouts:

Resistance training.

Cardio.

If resistance training then what type:

Hypertrophy (muscle building)

Strength.

Power.

The same with cardio, what type:

Running.

Cycling.

Swimming.

Rowing.

Hiking.

Rock climbing (although this is both resistance and cardio).

Etc.

Come up with a plan where you will go to the gym or meet at the same outdoor hiking spot at the same time.

Make sure your goals, frequency, and type are aligned.

The longevity of your fitness goals might be different, but that’s in the future and no real need to think about that at the moment.

Think Outside the Gym

This tip for battling lack of fitness motivation has to do with the type of workouts you do. Everyone comes to a point where the routine they’ve been working on has gotten stale and boring or isn’t as effective as it used to be.

For sure, you can just switch up your exercises, such as changing the reps, weight, or machines.

But even still, you might be ready for something new.

After all, the gym certainly isn’t for everyone, but even if it is and you’ve been going for a while but don’t seem to want to do it anymore, then don’t go!

Give yourself a break where you do something else for physical fitness instead.

This might mean going for walks by the beach, going on a hike, a bike, swimming, or climbing all those steps that you avoid, using the stairs to go up and down at work rather than the lift.

Even picking up a new activity entirely. Maybe dance or rock climbing.

It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you keep moving your body, as all movement is, basically, exercise, whether it’s planned or not.

The point is, don’t get stuck in a rut. If you want to change, change.

Bonus Tips

Take The Gradual Approach

It can be important not to rush or force your fitness journey. If it’s something you want to do long-term then your goal is to turn it into a lifestyle.

It can be important not to rush or force your fitness journey. If it's something you want to do long-term then your goal is to turn it into a lifestyle. Click To Tweet

As cliché as this might sound, it’s true, and is the only way you will really be doing it long term and getting all the benefits that can be had from it.

This is why you should:

Start with 2 days a week.

When this becomes not enough for you and you want more, add another day.

Repeat step 2.

The same applies to the intensity of your workouts. Don’t go hammer and tong at the start as it’ll just cause exhaustion and burnout. Break yourself in.

Keep in mind that a journey is never linear. There are a lot of ups and downs, and plenty of curves. Take each thing as it comes, and don’t be afraid to go slow and steady until you’re ready to go harder and faster.

Buy New Fitness Gear or Equipment

This one never gets old, even after over 30 years of exercise and fitness. Getting new stuff feels good and motivating, and that is exactly why you should consider buying some new fitness gear to begin your journey.

Even if you bought some last time you tried, if you can afford it then buy some new stuff again because last time didn’t work so remove the memory. This time is going to be different and fresh.

You can also buy stuff every now and then when you feel things getting a little stale. A new gizmo, widget, or piece of attire is sometimes all you need to get your mojo back.

Of course, always keep your budget in mind, but getting a new bit of kit can not only motivate you to continue but can also be a great way to reward yourself for your hard work.

You could even do is as a reward for hitting a goal you’ve had.

Finally deadlifted 200kg? Buy that new bar you’ve been looking at.

Dropped 10kg of body fat on your weight loss journey? Buy that new piece of clothing.

■ ▲ ●

That’s the end of the motivation hacks—save for music, don’t forget music if it helps, which it often can in the moment—but keep the beginning of this article in mind, as it’s that knowledge that will see you still in the gym 20 years from now!

All the best with your fitness motivation and on your fitness journey!

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