How do you motivate yourself to exercise when there are dozens of things you’d rather be doing?
You know it’s good for you. Exercise helps you reach and maintain a healthy body weight, lowers blood pressure, gets rid of bad cholesterol, strengthens bones, lowers your risk for cancer, and decreases stress.
But we all know the truth: finding the time and motivation to get off the couch and work out isn’t always easy.
Here are seven ways to get—and keep—the motivation to exercise regularly:
1. Find something you enjoy doing.
Many gym-goers spend hours on the treadmill even though they hate it (this used to be me).
Yet there are plenty of other forms of exercise that can be just as (or more!) beneficial for weight loss and cardiovascular health.
Try a new class, substitute long cardio sessions with interval training, join a friendly sports team with your buddies—anything that will help you look forward to exercising, rather than dread it.
2. Keep track of your progress.
Using a journal to track measurements like weight and body fat percentage as well as progress made in your workouts will keep you much more motivated than looking in the mirror every day.
Just being able to see in print (or on the screen) that all your hard work has paid off can be the motivator you need to keep you working out on a regular basis.
3. Notice how you feel after exercise.
If you’re like most people, you may be tired and unmotivated before your workout, but feel nothing short of amazing afterwards.
That’s because exercise releases positive chemicals to the brain that equal greater stress relief, increased energy levels and even an adrenaline rush. And that feeling alone can keep you motivated to exercise.
4. Make clear goals.
What do you want to achieve? Bigger muscles? Less fat? Greater fitness?
Making a goal before starting a new exercise program will help you stay on track and keep you you fired up enough to go to the gym.
But start small—beginning with lofty, unattainable goals or too many goals will only leave you feeling discouraged.
5. Report to others.
Whether it’s a workout buddy, your significant other, or an online forum group, reporting your progress to others can be the single best way to keep on track with your workouts.
When someone else holds you accountable, you’ll be much less likely to blow off a workout you’ve previously committed to than if you’re the only one keeping track.
6. Picture the future.
As much as you want to look good and feel good now, exercise is also crucial to your health in the long term.
So if you think of exercise as a way to prevent disease, thwart immobility and add years to your life, you may be more likely to do it than if you’re just thinking of your current waistline.
Because being able to keep up with your grandchildren may be the best motivator of all.
7. Give yourself a reward.
No, you shouldn’t eat a box of donuts every time you get yourself to the gym (a surefire way to halt or reverse progress), but giving yourself a tangible reward for exercising can be a great motivator.
I like to make a really yummy protein shake or tell myself I can get a latte at my favorite coffee place later. Do whatever makes you happy.
So go ahead and savor the rewards of your hard work. You deserve it.