Let’s face it: it’s much easier to motivate ourselves to do things when someone else tells us what to do.
That’s why so many people have jobs with bosses, instead of striking out on their own. Or why someone pays tens of thousands of dollars for a grad school degree instead of reading books from the library.
Heck, that’s why people paid upwards of $120 an hour to hire me as a personal trainer when I was working at a gym in NYC. It wasn’t because they couldn’t figure out how to do the exercises I assigned them. It was because they wanted—and craved—the accountability.
Because there’s no doubt about it: doing things on your own can be hard.
And sticking with a fitness habit is no different.
You’re no longer in gym class
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably tried the 12 Minute Athlete workouts (or intend to) at some point or another.
And most likely, you’re not doing the workouts in a group environment. If you’re like me, you’re probably not even doing them at a gym. Without a doubt, most of you are working out at home, in your garage, or maybe (if you’re lucky enough to have nice weather this time of year) outside in a park.
But wherever you do the workouts, most of you have one thing in common: you do them completely alone, without a coach, a trainer, or even a friend to cheer you on.
And that’s tough.
So how do you keep motivated to keep working out and pushing as hard as you possibly can, when there’s no one there to force you to do it?
Here’s how I stay motivated:
1. Make a schedule, and stick to it
How many days a week do you want to work out? Get really clear on this ahead of time—then actually schedule your workouts in your calendar, just as you would with any other appointment.
It may seem unnecessary, but when you start planning your workouts beforehand, you move them from ‘optional’ to the ‘must do’ category.
And if you know things are destined to come up, you can always build in a buffer day or two in case something happens and you’re forced to reschedule.
2. Find a community
Just because you don’t belong to a gym doesn’t mean you can’t find some like-minded people to help keep you on track with your workouts.
Whether it’s just a few people you meet with once a week or even once a month and do a workout in the park, or an online community (like this awesome one at Nerd Fitness), finding a community of some sort can give you a huge motivational boost.
Heck, you could even do a group workout over Google Hangouts or talk to other fitness-oriented people on Twitter—whatever it takes to get the support you need to keep working out.
Isn’t technology cool?
3. Keep a workout log
I can’t stress the importance of keeping a workout log of some sort.
Using a physical book or just an ongoing note in Evernote 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.
4. Create goals
When you work out day after day on your own with no coach or trainer to push you, it’s easy to fall into a slump. That’s why you have to create goals for yourself.
Fitness goals can be anything, small or big—you might have a goal to be able to do 10 burpees in a row without stopping, or a goal of doing a handstand push up without a wall (my goal for the first part of this year).
Signing up for some type of race or event can also be a good goal and motivator. I’ve done a triathlon, which was awesome, and a lot of people enjoy challenging themselves with half marathons or marathons. Whatever sounds fun to you.
Goals will keep you motivated, because you’ll always be working toward something tangible rather than just exercising because you know you should be.
Ideally, you’ll combine this step with step #2 and share your goals with others to keep you even more accountable.
5. Give yourself rewards
No, you shouldn’t eat a candy bar every time you get yourself to the gym (an easy way to halt or reverse progress), but giving yourself a tangible reward for exercising can be a great motivator.
Try setting a number of days you want to exercise for and give yourself some kind of reward when you meet your goal. This could be a nice dinner out, a new piece of home exercise equipment you’ve been eyeing, new workout shoes, or something different entirely.
Just make sure your reward is motivating enough that you really, really want it. A kale salad at the end of your desired workout period probably isn’t going to do it for you.
You can do it
Yes, working out alone can be hard at times.
But as Woody Allen famously said:
“80% of success is showing up.”
So show up. Get out there. Work your ass off.
I know you have it in you.