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15 Fitness Motivation Tips For When Exercise Seems Impossible

At one stage or another, we all struggle to find fitness motivation, especially if we’re not quite reaching our goals, or we just can’t seem to get to that next weight level. That’s when we need key fitness motivation tips.

Whether you’re a beginner wondering how to get motivated to exercise, or a former fitness expert looking to rekindle your passion for exercise, we’ve put together a complete list of the best fitness motivation tips for those times when going to the gym or getting out for that run seems impossible.

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So, keep reading if you want to know how to stay motivated to work out, to help you achieve your fitness dreams and goals! Or, if you’re already confident in fitness, then maybe a career could be the next step.

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What is Motivation?

Before we jump into the motivational fitness tips, it’s important to understand exactly what motivation is. While this may seem a somewhat basic question, it’s vital to address any misconceptions before we start to fully explore the best fitness motivation tips.

Motivation is defined as the driving force behind human actions and explains why we behave in certain ways, at particular moments during our lives. As well as the factors that initiate our behaviours, motivation also refers to the factors that maintain our actions.

For instance, you may have the motivation to get fit in the first place, but do you have the motivation to maintain a certain level of fitness to reach your long-term goals? It’s important that we understand the different factors that motivate us individually, as this can help us to efficiently work towards our goals and avoid unhealthy behaviours.

In the long term, understanding motivation helps to promote an overall sense of well-being and contentment in our lives, as well as helping us to feel in control of our own journeys, whether that is a fitness journey or another element in your life.

There are 3 main components of motivation, which are activation, persistence, and intensity. The degree to which you carry out these components can determine whether you are able to reach your goal in the long run.

As the first component, activation refers to the decision to initiate a certain behaviour. An example of this in terms of fitness motivation could be deciding to try out the benefits of group fitness at your local gym.

Next is persistence, which involves your resilience to continue working towards a goal, despite any obstacles that you may encounter. For instance, continuing to attend a fitness class despite the financial investment, time, and energy it takes you to attend.

Finally, intensity is the effort that you put into pursuing your goal. In terms of fitness motivation, you may, for instance, put complete effort into the exercises performed during your class, whereas another person may not give much effort at all, and you are therefore working at different intensities.

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation

There are two types of motivation for fitness, which are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Let’s look at these terms in more detail. 

Extrinsic motivation comes from outside of a person and involves external rewards, such as social recognition, praise, or financial reward. You might also choose to reward yourself with a treat like healthy ice cream, or a meal at a restaurant - these can act as catalysts in how you strive to achieve your goals.

On the other hand, intrinsic motivation comes from within, rather than from external pressure. For instance, improving your overall wellbeing rather than achieving a beach body to impress those around you would be an example of intrinsic motivation.

In terms of exercise motivation, there is a distinct correlation between self (or intrinsic) motivation and adhering to exercise in the long term.

This is because using intrinsic motivational factors means that you are guided by your own goals, rather than others’ expectations, or what you think others around you view as ideal or good.

Seeking motivation for fitness externally, or extrinsically, often results in people feeling as if they aren’t doing enough, or that they’ve failed to fulfil the expectations of others, meaning that they are more likely to give up before they have reached their goals.

The fitness motivation tips that we will discuss in this article are therefore based around finding intrinsic motivation, to help you achieve your fitness goals and become the best that you can be.

Fitness Motivation Tips

#1 - Set Long-Term Goals

One of the first things that you should do on any fitness journey, but particularly if you’re looking for the motivation to get fit, is to set some long-term goals.

These goals should be SMART, which means that they should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based. This is because the more specific your goals are, the easier and more motivated you will be to fulfil them. Learn more on how to create these with our complete guide to SMART goals.

For instance, a good long-term running goal for a beginner would be to be able to run 5k in 30 minutes within a specific time frame. If you prefer weight lifting, you may want to be able to lift a specific load for a certain number of reps, again within a particular time frame.

When setting SMART goals, it’s important that they are challenging for both your body and mind. If they are too easy to achieve, this can lead to boredom and means you won't retain the motivation to exercise in the long run. 

However, whilst your long-term goals should be ambitious, they should also be realistic; you’re much more likely to give up if they are completely unachievable, or seem out of reach.

#2 - Set Smaller Goals Too

Alongside setting long-term goals, one of the best fitness motivation tips that we can give is to set smaller, short-term goals too.  Smaller goals should act as stepping stones towards your ultimate fitness aim, making it seem much more accessible and achievable for you.

For example, if your goal is to be able to run a 5k race in under 30 minutes within the next 8 weeks, then try setting pacing or distance goals each week, until you’ve built up your cardiovascular fitness levels.

You’ll not only start to notice an improvement in your running abilities, but one of the main benefits of running is that it can also improve your overall fitness levels and health, especially in conjunction with a healthy, balanced diet.

Using small goals in your workouts allows you to feel a sense of achievement more often, which will continually provide you with the motivation to exercise and will help to keep you on track towards your fitness goals!

#3 - Create A Plan

If you’ve set yourself some goals and want to know how to stay motivated to work out in order to achieve them, the best way to do this is to create a workout plan. It’s often the main reason people look at how to choose a personal trainer, to create those bespoke plans.

Workout plans help you to know exactly what you should be doing daily in order to achieve your fitness goals. It allows you to put a schedule in place, and having some sort of structure to your workout routine means that you won’t always have to rely purely on motivation to get you moving.

For instance, knowing how many sessions a week you should complete in order to make progress allows you to plan these sessions into your schedule, meaning that you’re less likely to skip them due to being too busy. 

Also, knowing exactly what you’re doing in each session gives you a mini goal to aim for each time, keeping you on track and allowing you to progress towards your overall goal at a steady pace.

When creating a plan, it’s important to be realistic and start small, as jumping into an intense routine can lead to disappointment, injury, and a loss of motivation when you can’t keep up.

If you’re struggling to create a plan, you could ask a personal trainer or coach for help, or use running apps such as Couch to 5k, which provides a ready-made running plan designed to gradually build you up to running 5km in 30 minutes!

#4 - Record Your Progress

Another way of gaining the exercise motivation that you need is to keep track of your progress.

Whether through a written fitness journal, fitness tracker, or app, recording your progress in some form will remind you of how far you’ve come, and is great to look back on.

If you’re wondering how to be motivated to exercise in the long term, recording the weights that you lift, or the distance and pace that you run, is a great place to start. This is because there’s nothing more motivational than seeing your stats improving as you dedicate time to working on yourself.

Also, recording your progress will help to keep you moving forward and will ensure that you don’t regress. For instance, if your goal is to build muscle, then recording the weights that you lift ensures that you are able to continue progressively overloading the muscles by lifting heavier weights each week.

Seeing visual progress is one of the best ways of keeping your fitness motivation high, as well as helping you realise where you’ve come from, and how far you’ve progressed since starting.

#5 - Be Organised

Many of the fitness motivational tips we’ll cover in this list all relate to this - organisation. Without a good level of organisation and control over certain aspects of your life, you simply won’t be able to find time to be motivated.

This is because being organised means that you’re ready to go and get your workout done in any situation. It also ensures that you have no excuses to skip it, such as not being able to fit it into your schedule, or not having the right clothes or equipment to hand.

A great way to organise yourself is to lay your exercise clothes out the night before, or take your best gym bag to work if you plan on training in the evenings. These are simple ideas, but they can make a huge difference.

You could also prepare your meals in advance, as ensuring that you have healthy food ready to eat is good for when you’re particularly busy, and means you’re less likely to grab a takeaway every night.

If prepping your food is a consistent issue, you could opt for meal preparation kits - explore more with our comprehensive guide to the best recipe boxes on the market

#6 - Eat A Balanced Diet

Speaking of meal prep, another of the best fitness motivation tips is to ensure that your diet consists of foods that will help to fuel your workouts.

Eating too little, or the wrong types of food, will leave your glycogen stores depleted, and your overall energy levels low.  It’s therefore important to eat a diet that is balanced with carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

The body uses carbohydrates as its main energy source, by breaking them down into sugars, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to cells to be utilised. You should aim to eat a carb-heavy meal 2 to 3 hours before exercising.

These types of carbohydrates cause a gradual rise in blood glucose levels over time, which will help you to maintain energy levels over a longer period, and is therefore a great way to maintain the motivation to exercise. Examples include pasta, bread, oats, and beans.

Protein is an important macronutrient for you to consume, particularly if you’re trying to build or maintain lean muscle mass. Some good, lean sources of protein include chicken, tofu, fish, and yoghurt, but there’s a wide range of both animal and plant proteins to consider.

You should therefore be consuming a sufficient amount of protein in order to see progress and to retain the motivation for fitness, which is 1.2 to 1.4g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.

Fats are crucial for hormonal health, supporting the immune system and reducing inflammation, which is especially important when you are exercising regularly. Also, failing to consume enough healthy fat foods, which include avocados, nuts, and chia seeds, can leave you feeling low on energy and unmotivated. 

As well as the three main macronutrients, it’s important to include plenty of micronutrients in your diet, which are mostly gained through fruit and vegetables. These foods contain essential vitamins and nutrients, which are crucial for growth, healthy immune function, and energy production, just to name a few important functions.

#7 - Incorporate Fitness Into Your Lifestyle

Even if you follow all of our tips, you’re not always going to have the motivation for fitness - it can sometimes fade over time, or during busy or difficult periods in your life. We therefore all need an element of discipline in our lives, meaning that you don’t have to rely purely on fitness motivation all of the time.

To be more disciplined and begin making fitness a habit, schedule workouts into your diary, as you would any other important meetings or appointments. This is one of the best fitness motivation tips, as it means that you’re less likely to skip exercise when you’re tired after a long day, and can feel your motivation fading.

Another way to incorporate fitness into your lifestyle is to increase your NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. This is the energy expended by your regular daily movements, which includes everything except for deliberate exercise, eating, or sleeping.

Making small changes to your daily habits helps to increase your NEAT. For instance, using the stairs instead of the lift, standing up from your desk every so often, walking to work instead of driving, or even parking further away from the supermarket entrance.

These smaller changes not only help you to burn more calories, but they also create stepping stones to bigger lifestyle changes, which is important for maintaining exercise motivation daily, and in the long term. 

As well as helping with fitness motivation, research has shown that increasing NEAT is associated with an improvement in the symptoms of diabetes for those who suffer with the disease.

A 2018 study found that when patients with type 2 diabetes increased their NEAT, they had improved insulin resistance, as well as reduced blood pressure and visceral fat. Improving your long-term health should definitely be a factor in increasing fitness motivation!

#8 - Keep Your Workouts Short

If you’re struggling with how to get motivated to exercise, why not try reducing the length of your workouts?

Putting pressure on yourself to complete an hour to 90 minutes of exercise several times a week can sometimes do more harm than good, and you’ll probably find yourself both mentally and physically burnt out.

Symptoms of burnout can include exhaustion, frequent illness, muscle pains or aches, as well as general feelings of failure and loss of motivation.

Instead, try planning in some 15-minute sessions, just to get your heart pumping and your body moving. In fact, short, intense sessions can often have just as many benefits for your cardiovascular health as longer, slower sessions - this is perhaps one of the main benefits of HIIT workouts and classes.

The scientific evidence supports this, too. A 2014 study concluded that interval training, using 10-minute sessions that involved only 1 minute of hard exercise, done 3 times per week, stimulated physiological changes linked to improved overall heart health and metabolism health in overweight adults.

Therefore, it’s clear that getting started can sometimes be the hardest thing to do when you’re trying to find fitness motivation. Once you’ve started exercising, you may even find yourself wanting to work out for longer!

#9 - Listen To Something Whilst Exercising

On the days that you’re struggling to get up and out, one of the best fitness motivation tips is to grab your headphones and listen to some music.

A study on the power of listening to music with a consistent and prominent beat whilst running found that the practice encouraged runners to move in time with the beat, and therefore more quickly.

Researchers also found that performance was enhanced, as it helped to improve energy levels and oxygen intake over time, and runners had more exercise motivation as a result of the musical stimuli.

Music can also allow you to time your steps and movements to a specific rhythm, which can act as a fitness motivator in itself, especially as you’ll feel as though you’re part of the music, and continue moving in time.

Alternatively, if you’re bored of listening to the same playlists, why not try a podcast?

Podcasts, and specifically running podcasts, are great for fitness motivation, as they offer interesting information and inspirational stories from different people around the world, which help to keep you engaged and motivated whilst you work out.

Before you know it, your session will be done and you may even have learnt something new!

#10 - Exercise With Others

Knowing how to be motivated to exercise sometimes isn’t enough- you may need someone else there to help you!

Trying to make healthy lifestyle changes by yourself can often be very difficult. For instance, many people find going to the gym alone for the first time very daunting. However, asking a friend along can make this much easier, and makes the experience much more fun.

Finding like-minded people to exercise with encourages you to make connections with those who are pursuing similar goals to yours, meaning you feel less alone on your journey. You’re therefore much more likely to find the motivation to get fit with those in your support system.

If you’re looking for a more intimate support circle, though, you might want to consider personal training in a group setting. Find out more in our complete guide to small group personal training.

Not only will it improve your social life, but having someone alongside you is great for fitness motivation, as they can help to keep you accountable. For instance, you’re less likely to cancel if you have a session planned with someone else.

#11 - Make It Fun

Learning how to motivate yourself to exercise doesn’t have to be boring or monotonous- fitness can be fun, and there are multiple ways to make it much more engaging and interesting.

One of the best motivation tips that we can give for making it fun is to choose a form of exercise that you enjoy. This doesn’t have to be running, or going to the gym - you may find that you prefer the benefits of Zumba dance workouts or attending a sports class, for instance.

If you’re unsure of where to start, or want to test out a few different activities before finding the one for you, there are also many different free home workout styles available online.

You should also try varying your routine to keep it interesting through cross training, which is a great way to maintain focus and fitness motivation. For instance, if you’re a runner, why not try using the elliptical trainer once or twice a week?

This will give your joints a much-needed break, whilst helping you to maintain your cardiovascular health and fitness. You’re also much more likely to stick with fitness if you’re able to maintain interest and are having fun!

#12 - Think Of How You’ll Feel After Exercising

No matter how much motivation for fitness you have, everyone has days where they can feel that motivation fading. It’s important not to be too harsh on yourself, but it’s natural we’d want to continue working out at our usual levels.

If you’re wondering how to be motivated to exercise on these days, one of the best tips to remember is to look to the future, once your session is complete, and picture how you’ll feel once you’ve finished.

We’re sure you’ve heard of the phrase ‘runner’s high’, which refers to that feeling of elation runners get after completing their session. Well, this applies to any form of exercise that gets your heart pumping and blood flowing, although it’s most commonly associated with difficult exercise, like running uphill.

This is actually a proven scientific phenomenon, where the brain releases a type of chemical messenger called endorphins, which help to relieve stress and pain. Your brain also releases other neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which help to regulate your mood and provide you with an overall sense of well-being.

Another of our motivational fitness tips is to visualise the outcome of your session. If you’re struggling to begin, then picture yourself finishing strong, achieving that personal best, or completing that race, and you’ll definitely put yourself in a much more positive mindset.

#13 - Reward Yourself

We may have discussed the importance of intrinsic motivation, but external reward can really help with fitness motivation occasionally, as long as you don’t rely on it all of the time. These additional motivators are often personal to you, and can make the difference on those difficult days,

For instance, if you’re struggling to get yourself out for a run in the rain, or a jog on a cold winter’s evening, then picture that hot bath and comforting meal that you’ll get to enjoy afterwards.

Also, be sure to reward yourself when you reach a longer-term, or more challenging, goal. You could treat yourself to some new exercise clothes, or that pair of trail running shoes that you’ve been considering.

There’s no better feeling than exercising in new workout gear, and if you’re wondering how to motivate yourself to exercise, then this is a great way!

#14 - Regularly Remind Yourself Why You Want to Get Fit

If you’re trying to find out how to stay motivated to work out during a period of low motivation, then try taking it back to basics, and remember why you started your fitness journey in the first place.

For instance, remind yourself of your goal and assess whether or not this is still your aim: why do you want to lose weight or get stronger? If you know why you’re on a fitness journey, you’re much more likely to be intrinsically motivated to achieve your goals.

A great way to maintain your fitness motivation is to identify what really inspires you, and then keep constant reminders of this. For example, if you’re aiming to run a charity race and are hoping to improve your fitness, why not consider carrying photos of the people you’re trying to raise money for? 

If you’re looking for ways to run for a charitable cause, we’ve compiled a complete guide to the best virtual marathons and races. These will allow you to give to charity without having to travel to a specific race location.

Visual reminders are a great way of maintaining exercise motivation and ensuring that you do not lose sight of your goals.

#15 - Listen To Your Body

One of the most important fitness motivation tips is to listen to your body.

If you find yourself feeling more motivated than usual, then see this as an opportunity to learn! Use this extra energy and try to pinpoint exactly what it is that is adding to your motivation levels, then ensure that it becomes part of your daily routine. 

For instance, you may be going to bed earlier, have found an activity you love, or are fuelling your body with the right nutrients.

However, if you’re struggling to exercise, the motivational fitness quotes aren’t quite cutting it, and you’re feeling tired and achy, then it’s okay to take some time out.

In this situation, allowing your body and mind to rest may actually be more beneficial than pushing yourself too far. Rest periods from exercise are crucial for proper recovery, which is the time that your body takes to adapt, grow, and become stronger.

Failing to take enough time for recovery can lead to overuse injuries, such as stress fractures and sprains, as well as mental and physical burnout.

If you’re wanting to know how to stay motivated to work out in the long term, then try and be flexible with your schedule. If you’re too busy or simply don’t feel like exercising, then it’s important to know when to push yourself through, but also when to give yourself a break, before getting back on track as soon as you feel recovered.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Benefits Of Maintaining Fitness Motivation?

Although you now know how to get motivated to exercise, you may still be wondering why this is so important. So, if you want to know the benefits of maintaining fitness motivation, keep reading to find out!

#1 - Improves Long-Term Health

One of the greatest advantages of maintaining the motivation to exercise is that it helps to improve several aspects of your long-term health.

Having the motivation to get fit means that you are likely to exercise regularly, which increases the blood flow to your lungs and allows them to deliver more oxygen to your working muscles. In the long run, this helps to strengthen your cardiovascular and respiratory system.

Exercising regularly also improves cholesterol levels, as it improves the balance between low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), which are known as the ‘bad’ type of cholesterol, and high-density lipoproteins (HDLs), the ‘good’ cholesterol. 

To learn more about cholesterol levels, and how effective exercise and diet can make this much more balanced, check out our comprehensive guide to the benefits of healthy eating.

Lower levels of LDL allow the blood to travel through your body more efficiently, which raises oxygen levels and improves your cardiovascular fitness levels. Once you know how to be motivated to exercise, you’re more likely to add it into your daily routine, which also reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. 

#2 - Helps You To Achieve Your Fitness Goals

Once you know how to get motivated to exercise, there’s nothing stopping you from achieving your fitness dreams and goals, and that can be a huge motivation factor in itself.

If your goal is weight loss, then maintaining fitness motivation ensures that you are able to stay in a caloric deficit. This means that your body burns more calories than it consumes, which, alongside benefitting from regular exercise, is the key to losing weight.

Keeping the motivation to get fit over a long period of time will help to increase your metabolic rate, particularly if you are building muscle through resistance training. This means that you will burn more calories and are more likely to achieve your fat loss goal.

If you are aiming to build muscle, then this goal relies on progressively overloading your muscles with an increased form of resistance over time, which forces your muscle fibres to grow and adapt. This can therefore only be achieved if you maintain the motivation to exercise in the long run!

#3 - Better Mental Health

As we’ve already discussed, exercise is a great mood booster, and so maintaining the motivation to exercise over a longer period of time has been proven to decrease feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety.

In fact, one of the key mental health benefits of running is that it can significantly aid those who suffer with longer-term psychological health issues, and even help to alleviate some of the symptoms associated with those conditions.

Incorporating fitness into your routine regularly also leads to better sleep, which helps to reduce stress and improves your overall mindset. This is because regular physical activity wears you out, which increases the need for sleep to allow your body to rest and recover. 

It also means that you spend more time in the deepest sleep phase, which is when growth hormone is released from the pituitary gland. This aids repair and recovery, for both the mind and the body.

This also works the other way round, as maintaining the motivation to get fit means that you will exercise more, which helps to relieve stress, a key cause of insomnia.  

#4 - Improves Cognitive Function

Not only is maintaining exercise motivation great for improving mental health, it also helps to actively increase your brain power, and provide an increased capability for your creative pursuits.

This is because keeping up with regular exercise has been shown to stimulate growth of the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that controls learning and memory. In the long term, this protects brain function and memory skills, which are particularly important as we age.

It also stimulates the production of hormones, which helps to create a good environment for the growth of new brain cells, as well as stimulating the growth of new connections between cells within important areas of the brain.

Furthermore, exercise has been found to reduce the risk of developing dementia, as well as reducing changes in the brain that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease. We’ve explored these ideas in further detail in our complete report on the mental benefits of exercise.

#5 - Improves Skin Health

Knowing how to motivate yourself to exercise not only improves your internal health, but also ensures that you’re glowing on the outside, too. 

This is because exercising regularly helps to improve circulation, which stimulates blood flow and carries oxygen and nutrients to the skin cells. These nutrients help the body to produce collagen and encourage the growth of new skin cells, which help to keep those wrinkles at bay.

It also helps to increase the production of natural antioxidants within the body, which protect skin cells, and allow your complexion to stay smooth whilst helping it to glow. We’d strongly advise coupling this natural production of antioxidants with the right antioxidant-boosting foods.

While skin health improvements aren’t immediately visible, they can develop over time into more recognisable benefits, and incorporating regular exercise (alongside our top fitness motivation tips) into your daily routine will make sure you get the most out of it.

Before You Go!

We hope that our fitness motivation tips have given you the inspiration you need to rediscover your passion for exercise again, or to start incorporating physical activity into your routine.

Whether you’re just beginning your fitness journey, or you’re seeking the right fitness motivation to keep on going, our guide explores everything you’ll need to get you through that next difficult session.

Or, if you’re already knowledgeable about how to motivate yourself and others, then a career in personal training could be perfect.

OriGym’s prestigious, CIMSPA accredited PT diploma offers a complete experience, with expert guidance available 7 days a week, unlimited support throughout and after your course, and a guaranteed interview after you graduate.

Download our FREE prospectus today, or submit an enquiry to hear back from one of our knowledgeable team.

References

  1. Hidekatsu Yanai, ‘Effects of Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) on Metabolic Parameters in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes’, in Journal of Metabolic Syndrome, (June 2018, Vol.7)
  2. Jenna B. Gillen et.al., ‘Three Minutes of All-Out Intermittent Exercise per Week Increases Skeletal Muscle Oxidative Capacity and Cardiometabolic Health’, in PLoS One, (Nov 2014, Vol 9, Issue 11)
  3. Robert Jan Bood et.al., ‘The Power of Auditory-Motor Synchronization in Sports: Enhancing Running Performance by Coupling Cadence with the Right Beats’, in PLoS One, (Aug 2013, Vol. 8, Issue 8)

Written by Rebecca Felton

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

Graduating from the University of Liverpool with a first-class degree in English, Rebecca’s combined passions for fitness and writing are what brought her to OriGym. Rebecca is a keen gym-goer and specifically enjoys lifting weights. Outside of fitness and writing, Rebecca enjoys cooking, reading, and watching the football.

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