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Motivation, honestly, is half the trouble when it comes to working out. You can have all your plans made, alarms set, exercise gear ready, and class booked, but if you don’t have that internal push to get you up and out of bed, the planning is futile. And the hardest part about motivation isn’t always the process, but the fact that you’re the only one who can get yourself to where you want to be.

Coaches and trainers can push you, friends and family can support you, and you can read as many self-help books as you can get your hands on. But at the end of the day, getting yourself to the gym or fitness studio is on you.

If you feel you’ve been lacking motivation lately, if you’re exhausted before you even begin, or if you feel like you’re in a total rut, here are a few self-motivation strategies to hopefully turn your fitness journey (and self-confidence) around.

1. Remember that YOU are in control.

Motivation is largely based on control. You can change all that you actively play a role in, and in this case, you play the major (and really only) role in getting yourself where you need to be. If you’re feeling discouraged, first remember that you are the one who can change your direction. You have the ability to shift your mindset, your focus, your attention, and your positive self-talk in order to propel you forward. Although this might seem scary or intimidating at first, knowing that you are in the driver’s seat will give you the push you need to get your own butt into gear.

2. Create a list of goals and ‘whys.’

When you’ve hit a major rut, one thing you can do to self-motivate is to create a list or vision board of all that you wish to accomplish (in the next week, month, year, etc.) By creating a tangible and visual aid, you can use this as a means of extrinsically motivating you to reach where you want to be.

You can also create a list of ‘whys.’ This is a list of the reasons you’re pushing towards these goals. For example, maybe you want to strengthen your endurance before a marathon, feel comfortable in a swimsuit before a summer cruise, be in your best shape pre-wedding, etc. As you list out your goals and ‘whys’ you’ll have, right in front of you, something to reference when you have the temptation to skip your workout.

3. Use the buddy system.

Having someone alongside you can make all the difference, especially if you feel like you’re stuck. Whenever possible, tap into the buddy system. Call up a friend and offer to take her out to a healthy lunch instead of grabbing fast food. See if someone will go with you to the morning workout class to stay accountable. Go for a walk after work. These are small, but easy ways to get yourself ‘unstuck’ as well as motivating a friend in the process!

4. Make yourself accountable to someone else.

Accountability is one of the best self-motivation strategies. You can be accountable to yourself (ex: Signing up for a 6AM class that will charge a fee if you no-show). You can also be accountable to others (ex: Promising a friend you’ll be at the 9AM Saturday class, or scheduling an individual session with a trainer). When you create opportunities for accountability, you’ll be pushed to follow them to not let yourself or others down. This can be an easy way to get yourself out of a rut and back on track.

5. Listen to your body.

Hitting a rut doesn’t mean you have to throw yourself into overdrive just to get back to where you were before. If you’re feeling exhausted, ask yourself why. Tune into both your emotions and physical self. Are you getting enough sleep? Eating well? Balancing work and your personal life?

When you take the time to listen to what your body needs, you may realize that you actually have the motivation—something is just in the way—and as you take steps to remove it, you’ll be back to where you were.

6. Take it one day at a time.

You don’t have to go from zero to one hundred. Take each day, each workout, and each exercise as it comes. You have the ability to get yourself to the place you want to be, but you won’t get there overnight. Give yourself patience to rebuild and refocus, one moment at a time.


Marisa Donnelly

Marisa is a full-time freelance writer, editor, and fitness enthusiast located in Ocean Beach, San Diego. She is the author of the poetry collection, Somewhere On A Highway and founder of Be A Light LLC, a remote writing coaching/tutoring/editing services company.

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