How To Motivate Yourself To Work Out

Photographed by Caroline Tompkins.
Call me crazy, but I love a good run. The second I get out of the door and hit the pavement, I’m glad I did. I use the time to parse through tough situations in work and life, and also to jam out to both Lizzo and the Les Mis soundtrack. 
But here’s the thing. Before I leave my apartment — before I even lace up my tennis shoes — jogging is often the last thing I want to do. Especially in the mornings when my bed feels so warm and the rest of the world seems so chilly.
On those dark, early mornings (or even at night after a long day at the office) I need extra help to get me going. Starting is hard. And that’s just for me, a person who generally likes a good sweat session. But research shows that many people don’t like aspects of exercise, in part because so many of us feel intimidated in the gym. Another reason: Some people are genetically predisposed to get less pleasure from working out, as one study found. Even pro athletes feel this way sometimes. Tennis star Serena Williams once told Star Magazine: “I hate working out more than anything, but I have to — when I’m running, I think about how much I want to win. That’s the only thing that keeps me going.”
But fear not. There are tons of tactics you can use to motivate yourself to workout if you want to get moving more. We asked coaches and health experts to give us their best tips so you can get yourself out of the door in 2020.

Find your purpose. 

You need to figure out a reason to train that’s bigger than the exercise itself. An example: Exercise can improve longevity and you want to live long enough to see your child get married. Or it could be wanting to spend more time with your best friend, who’s always asking you to accompany her to boxing class. Whatever it is, it can’t just be that you want to do push-ups so you can say you did. That’s boring, says health strategist and fitness professional Jay Cardiello.
“You have to know your ‘why,’’' he says. “How do you go from ‘I have the desire to do this’ to ‘I must do this?’ Everyone needs a ‘why factor’ and you can go from there.” 

Figure out what kind of exercise you like. 

Just because you hate lifting weights, doesn’t mean you won’t like another kind of workout. Maybe yoga will make you feel totally zen — while also causing you to break a sweat. Or perhaps you’re more of a barre or bootcamp kind of boo. Play around until you find something that doesn’t make you want to throw your sneakers in the dumpster. 

Wear your gym clothes to bed. 

This will give you one less excuse to sleep in instead of getting #Sporty, explains John Honerkamp, an NYC running coach and the founder and CEO of Run Kamp. If you find your leggings less comfy than your jammies, just laying your leggings and sport bra out the night before can make it easier on yourself.

Just do a little.

It’s easy to psych yourself out of a workout by telling yourself you have to do a full hour every time. Just a mile, or even a walk around the block counts. “Initially people think they have to ‘go big or go home,’” says Honerkamp. “And often they go home.” Instead, Honerkamp recommends starting with something that seems short or even too easy. Then, the next day, you’ll come back rearing to go harder. “It’s the carrot on a stick approach,” he says. 

Build time into your calendar.

Fitness influencer Kayla Itsines previously told Refinery29 that it can help to build a block of "exercise" time into your calendar, like you would a meeting or a dentist appointment. This will help you mentally prepare, and not push it off until tomorrow.

Have a killer playlist.

Honerkamp recommends having a power playlist, or listening to podcasts. It gives you one more thing to look forward to about working out that isn't the workout itself. Another tactic: Have one show you love that you only watch on your smart phone when you're on the stair-master, treadmill, or elliptical.

Build good habits.

Of course, motivation isn’t everything, Cardiello adds. Many researchers believe building healthy habits is the best way to succeed, rather than leaning on willpower. Many researchers believe the best way to build a habit is to start small, as BJ Fogg, Ph.D., the founder and director of Stanford University’s Behavior Design Lab and co-founder of the Tiny Habits Academy. This comes back to Honerkamp’s “carrot on a stick” approach. Try doing five squats every time you make your morning coffee, or three push-ups before every shower. This will get you into the swing of things.

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