Guest Post — 10 Steps to Stay Motivated to Work Out

(that's my plane hair)

World, meet Michelle, who I adore & think is awesome. I think you guys will get along.

Despite having only ever seen each other’s faces one time after an early morning flight I took to Chicago, we are best friends. It’s true. Ask anyone. We know each other through a board, share a lot of the same head space, struggle with a lot of similar things, and generally support each other and kick each other in the face when one of us is being stupid in terms of making smart healthy choices in life and keeping our heads on straight. There tend to be almost daily face-kickings. It’s good stuff.

Someone recently asked Michelle to share, via e-mail, how she stays motivated to work out, and she pulled this (perfect) list together. She told me about it, and I asked if I could share it with the world, because I just believe that most awesome things ought to be shared with the world. So, world, here are my lovely and badass friend Michelle’s 10 Simple Steps to Staying Motivated to Workout. Enjoy!

10 Simple Steps to Staying Motivated

1) It helps to have some reason to keep you motivated.  Yes, it’s healthy and all that, but that’s not really a tangible reason. I workout because I don’t want to be fat for the rest of my life. If your reason to workout is to NOT get fat that, that works.  If you want to look hot in a bikini – then buy a bikini (to help you visualize) and get hot(ter)!  That’s a huge thing for me.  It’s difficult to workout if you don’t see an obvious reason for doing so.

2) Set specific, tangible, attainable goals – distance, time, speed, frequency, etc. – whatever works for you.  I’m very competitive, especially with myself.  When I run, I have to run further than “last time,” every time; that motivates me in the middle of my run to run harder, faster, longer, stronger, etc.  Train for something.  Find a race in your area, and train for it.  I’m training for a 5K, but I’m just not sure which one yet!  I have a few options, but right now, I don’t need that specific date to have in mind to keep me running, so I’m not worried about it.  But if having a race date in mind is something that will keep your head in the right place, then find a race and sign up!

3) Give yourself rewards.   They could be anything, and they don’t have to be expensive or special.  Sometimes, I don’t let myself have my froo-froo Starbucks drink until after my workout.  It’s working TOWARDS something. A reward can be something you were going to let yourself have anyway, you just use it to reward your efforts.  When you’re setting goals, you can set rewards when you get there.   They can be immediate or longer term.  In general, I try not to reward with food (just froo-froo drinks, sometimes).  I try to think of things that reinforce my active lifestyle (new workout clothes, new shoes, paying for personal training, trying new sports).

4) Remember that every little bit counts.  I’m always negotiating with myself.  On days I really do NOT want to go to the gym, I tell myself “Self, go to the gym.  You only have to stay for ten minutes, and then you can go home and place thy butt upon thy sofa.  But you have to go for 10 minutes.”  And of course once I get started, I am good to go for the full workout.  It’s getting started that is sometimes the hardest part for me.  And even if I don’t make it the whole hour, at least I did SOMETHING that day to feel awesome about.  Be your own best friend.  You wouldn’t tell your BFF that they suck because they only made it 15 minutes on the treadmill.  You’d be like “You’re SO awesome! I wish I could run like you, that is a great accomplishment!”  So talk to yourself like you would talk to your BFF.  Be encouraging and supportive, not mean and dismissive.

5) Music is CRUCIAL.  I’m always updating my playlist.  It just has to be music that gets your foot tapping and your booty moving.  It really doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it works for you!  Also? I don’t allow myself to listen to this playlist unless I’m working out, that way I look forward to it.

6) LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION! If you’re an outside exerciser, then this is easy.  Exercise in places you love or want to see more of, and don’t be afraid to take your camera and stop for a second to take a picture – that’s totally allowed.  Especially taking the one-armed-picture of yourself at a cool location wearing workout gear and looking intense, which you then post to FB later and everyone is like “Oh my gosh, you’re so awesome I wish I was as motivated as you to run!” (This is a SUPER motivational activity to do, and I highly recommend it).  If you’re an inside exerciser, it’s a little more difficult.  The scenery doesn’t change much, but your comfortableness in the space is important.  If all you can focus on is the behemoth running next to you, who is about to get sweat all over you as his arms flail about, or Speedy Gonzalez on the other side of you, making you feel self conscious and slow, then that is not good.  You’ll have to learn to turn your focus inward, focus on breathing, form, or how awesome you are (see number 4).

7) The buddy system. Accountability is very helpful in the exercise process.  I don’t recommend running with someone else though, but finding someone else to talk about your workouts with helps.  Running with someone else complicates running – one of you will be faster or able to go further, while the other will be slower and not able to go as far.  And then there’s talking, or trying to.  It’s just too much, in my opinion, to worry about while running with someone. Occasionally is fine but for regular routine, it might be better to stay by yourself. Keeping a log, or reporting to a friend or family member about your workouts is very helpful because even when you don’t feel like getting up and going, you know you’re going to have to “confess” that you didn’t do your workout later. No one wants to do that, so you go and do it.

those are some rockin' kicks!

8) Gear/Clothing/Equipment. Being uncomfortable when working out is, well, uncomfortable.  No one wants pants or shorts that ride up or chafe.  Buying the right kind of clothing makes working out that much “less” of a chore.  (This can be used as a reward too.  Proper gear can be expensive.  Reward yourself for hard work by buying good gear to reinforce to your motivation to workout.)  When you are embarking on a project (like working out), you want to give yourself the best tools for the job (appropriate sneakers, comfortable & appropriate pants/bottoms, wicking socks and shirts, and a good heart rate monitor) and you don’t want to feel like you wasted money on those things by not using them.  Plus if you LOVE your shoes (I have neon green and yellow shoes.  What is NOT awesome about THAT!?) and workout clothes, you’ll want to put them on to look and feel super great. Having the right stuff definitely helps me; even just the basics of having a pair of pants that are super comfortable to run in is worth the expense if it gets you out there!

9) Routine.  This is arguably one of the most important parts of motivating yourself to work out, but I put it near the end because it doesn’t come right away.  Making my workout part of a routine is what gets me through many o’ daunting runs.  I workout after work, but I don’t go home first.  I know as soon as I step in that door at home, I will not be going back out to workout.  So I bring my workout clothes to work with me, and I stop at the gym on my way home.  If I’m fighting with myself about going, I put my workout clothes on before I even leave work! It’s much easier to go because I’m already dressed for it then.  If you run first thing in the morning then sleep in your workout clothes, if that’s what it takes.  But making time for exercise, making yourself a priority, and setting yourself up for success is what is going to form that routine and before you know it, you won’t be needing to find the motivation to go out and do it; you’ll look forward to it, crave it, and start feeling awesome.

10) Fake it ’til you make it.  Kind of like number 4, but different.  This is for when nothing seems to be working for you.  Talk yourself up.  Partly because I often put comments about workouts on FB, people know I go to the gym all the time, and then they ask how I stay so motivated!  It’s an expectation.  Sometimes I just don’t wanna do it, but then I’m like, “Yeah I’m a runner.  Yeah I go to the gym all the time.”  Just keep telling yourself what you want to be and it will become true.  Sometimes I bring my workout bag into the office and put it by my coat to remind me that YES! I am going to the gym today… even if I have to talk myself into it!  And sometimes other people ask me and I can’t lie to them…. so I’m like “Yeah I’m going to the gym tonight” (but I’m still grumbling under my breath about it). A warning though: if you are a pathological liar, this won’t work for you.  Just keep reassuring yourself.  If you miss a day, that’s ok, just make it a point to go the next day.  It’s about progress, not perfection.

All right, after reading through all of that, I am debating sleeping in my workout clothes. Actually, that’s a lie. Tomorrow is a day of rest. But I hope you enjoyed Michelle’s tips!



5 Comments to “Guest Post — 10 Steps to Stay Motivated to Work Out”

  1. great post:~)

    when i had a day job, i was most successful with morning workouts when i slept in my clothes w my shoes by the bed. bam! i’m already 75% ready to go when i wake up.

    especially loved #4: “…talk to yourself like you would talk to your BFF. Be encouraging and supportive, not mean and dismissive.” i truly struggle w this one. i have a big problem w negative self talk which holds me back in all areas of my life. *must learn to be nicer to self*

    for #7, i couldn’t agree more! sadly some ppl are insulted that i don’t want company when i run/walk, but it’s a very meditative & peaceful time for me. plus, as a nascent runner, i don’t want to have to worry about what they might be thinking about me as i “run”.

    which touches on #10 – considering my slothful shuffle running. i kinda feel more like a jogger than a runner, because i’m so slow, but why not say i run? same thing, just slower, & i’ll improve. i don’t boast about being a “runner”, but i try not to feel ashamed when i talk about running.

  2. I don’t know you, but I just wanted to tell you that I’m loving your blog; it rings very true for me and I’m getting lots of good ideas. You’re an excellent, insightful, and brave writer, and I appreciate all of the time this is certainly taking. I just stumbled across it skimming through the WW board, and it’s quickly become one of my half dozen daily go-to sites. I used to live in Boston and loved walking along the Charles. Anyway, hello from New Haven and thanks! -Allison

  3. Sarah,
    Just thought I’d let you know I saw a link to this posting on the WW 100+ pounds to Lose board. Someone thought it was a great list and reposted the link. Thanks for passing along such great info. I just started working out 2 months ago when I joined WW and I love it. Thanks for helping me to get to my goal!
    Lexington KY

  4. Great guest post!! Was this your visit to Chicago? I was wondering with the wind blown, off the plane look. You look GREAT as always!!

    I know you had a great visit. I’ll be heading that way in May for the NRA (and it’s not the National Rifle Association), but the National Restaurant Association. I attend a huge convention there every year. It’s brutal because the dinners out and food is too abundant. I will have my walking shoes, pedometer, etc. . . and walk off as much as possible!!

    Love the motivational pieces through this journey. These are steps we can use throughout life that’s for sure.

    Thanks again for taking the time to motivate us too!


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