How to Get Motivated to Exercise

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Motivation – it's a powerful emotion that can drive us to work really hard when we're feeling it (5 a.m. workout, anyone?), and yet, when motivation starts to wane, it can feel nearly impossible to walk to the mailbox, much less get in a serious training session. So what can we do about this? How do we motivate ourselves to workout when motivation is low?

Early-morning workouts are a breeze when you're motivated.
Early-morning workouts are a breeze when you're motivated. (Image: Getty Images)

Motivation Is An Emotion

Yep. It's true. Motivation is an emotion, and what do we know about emotions? They come and go. They wax and wane. They ebb and flow. It's nearly impossible to maintain a high level of emotion all the time. It's just too exhausting.

This means that we change our habits instead of relying on motivation to make lasting changes. Habits are easy, effortless and require minimal willpower or mental or emotional energy. Implementing good habits is the key to long-term success.

A good habit is to get up early and eat a healthy breakfast.
A good habit is to get up early and eat a healthy breakfast. (Image: View Stock/View Stock/Getty Images)

Changing Your Habits

So how do we change our habits? Simple. One at a time. That's right. One at a time.

Leo Babauta, author of “The Power of Less,” says that trying to change more than one habit at a time generally results in failure, whereas simply changing one habit a month has a 50 to 80 percent success rate long term. You simply pick a habit you'd like to change (and keep it small at first!) and start doing it every day. If you can do it every day (assuming it's a daily habit) 80 to 90 percent of the time, then you can add a second habit.

Walking is a perfect habit for most people to start with.
Walking is a perfect habit for most people to start with. (Image: Getty Images)

But What If It's Not Enough?

I know what you're thinking. Change one habit? But what if that's not enough? My answer comes from Lisa Ferguson, one of my wonderful clients who, after an "a-ha moment," said, "If you could do it quickly, you would have done it already." And she is so right. If changing multiple things at once worked well and was sustainable, wouldn't you have done it by now? Wouldn't you be where you want to be already?

The answer is yes. And so we know that the key to long-term success is small and sustainable changes. It might not be hardcore, but it works in the long run.

Doing too much, too fast leads to stress and failure.
Doing too much, too fast leads to stress and failure. (Image: Shutterstock.com)

Where Do I Start?

A couple of good starting points for most people are as follows:
  • Lay out your workout clothes the night before if you workout in the morning, and/or take them to work with you if you workout in the evening.
  • Write your workout down in your planner as an "appointment" with yourself.
  • Find a workout buddy/accountability partner.

Getting yourself in the habit of doing each of these things is a fantastic and manageable place to start building a foundation of good habits that will make you successful over the long haul.

Make an appointment with yourself to workout each week.
Make an appointment with yourself to workout each week. (Image: Getty Images)

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