How To Train Your Motivation Muscle: Tips From a Personal Trainer

Let’s be real – maintaining a regular workout routine is already hard enough. We know we should be working out because it’s good for our health. But sometimes it’s so difficult to go to the gym, to start a new routine, or to power through when we hit a roadblock. And motivation is only harder to find during a pandemic.

As a personal trainer, one of the biggest parts of my job is helping people find motivation. Getting started is one of the hardest parts about working out, and various roadblocks will pop up from time to time.  

I’ve hit plenty of roadblocks. After getting sick and missing the gym for a couple weeks, I had to muster up the motivation to go until I built the habit again. I’ve also hit plateaus that were really discouraging. There have been times when I wasn’t able to squat a heavier weight for months. I was so discouraged that I wanted to give up on squatting altogether. When you lose momentum, you have to motivate yourself again and make some changes to power through.

Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been working at it for a while and have lost motivation, here are my best tips for making fitness a habit.

Make fitness part of your routine

I always recommend my clients schedule their workouts just like they would a doctor’s appointment. Put it into your planner or calendar. This way, you can make sure you’re prepared. If you schedule a cardio session right after work, you can plan to bring anything you need with you to the office. If you tend to lose track of time, set an alarm in your phone to remind you. This helps to make exercising a priority, which will in turn make it a habit.

Set SMART goals

SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. In order to achieve your goal, you need to make it as clear as possible. 

For example, instead of setting a goal to “do more pushups,” you could set a goal to do 20 pushups. That makes your objective specific and measurable. Achievable means setting a realistic goal. If you’ve never done a pushup before, setting a goal of “doing 100 pushups” isn’t achievable in a short amount of time. Set a realistic goal that you’ll be proud to achieve.

Relevant means it’s relevant to your goals. If you want to focus on pushups, you wouldn’t set a goal of running a 5k. Time-bound means that you set a specific deadline. For example, a SMART goal would be “I want to be able to do 20 pushups in two months.” 

It’s helpful to set one larger goal, and then break that goal into weekly or biweekly goals so that you can track your progress. If your goal is to do 20 pushups in two months, you could set a goal to do 10 pushups in one month.

Reward yourself

Everyone needs some type of accountability. If you don’t have a personal trainer or a gym buddy to keep you accountable, you have to get creative. Setting rewards for yourself can be a great motivator. For example, “If I work out four times a week for three months, I will buy myself a new outfit.” Make the reward something that you want and will look forward to. It could even be a day at the spa or dinner at your favorite restaurant.

Do workouts that you enjoy

This might seem obvious, but many of my clients think that fitness has to be miserable or they won’t achieve their goals. After a session, I’ve had clients tell me that they didn’t feel like they did enough because they weren’t covered in sweat or struggling to breathe. You don’t have to feel terrible to have had a good workout .

You also don’t have to do workouts that you don’t enjoy. If you hate running, you can find another type of cardio that’s a better fit — biking, dancing, kickboxing, etc. There are so many different ways to work out, and I promise that you can find one that you enjoy doing. I personally love weightlifting and kickboxing, so you will rarely find me running on the treadmill. I just don’t enjoy it, and kickboxing is a great cardio alternative.

Exercise in a motivating environment

Your environment can have a big impact on your motivation. Think about your bedroom. Do you enjoy being in it, or does it make you anxious? You’ll want to work out in a space that you feel comfortable in. I prefer working out at the gym because it helps me to focus. At home, I find myself turning on the TV and getting distracted, or thinking about work or chores I have to do. 

Right now, most of us are choosing to work out at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re working out at home, designate a specific space for exercise. I have a spare bedroom that I turned into a mini gym. This allows me to separate myself from the rest of my apartment and get away from my couch and TV.

Even if you don’t have a separate room, make your space enjoyable. I recommend making a specific playlist of your favorite, upbeat songs. Even better, only listen to this playlist when you’re working out. That can encourage you even more, because you’ll want to workout so you can listen to your favorite songs! I’ve been working out at home lately, and I’ve made a playlist of my favorite Taylor Swift songs. The only time I listen to it is when I workout, so it definitely makes me motivated to get started.

Originally published on March 11, 2021. 

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