Some “gurus” will promise you overnight success when it comes to fat loss and muscle gain. But science has always backed that proper nutrition and regular exercise are the main keys to sustainable long-term health and fitness. It can be discouraging to work out, though, because the simple fact is… it’s hard work and it takes time. Between long work hours, social commitments, and other personal affairs, it can be challenging to muster the energy and drive to exert additional physical effort. So, how can you motivate yourself to work out when, plain and simple, you just don’t feel like it?

9 Ways to Push Yourself When You Feel Unmotivated to Work Out

1. Remove Any and All Friction

Make it easier and more convenient for you to exercise so that you can’t talk yourself out of showing up. If you’re working out at home, place your exercise mat and dumbbells out by your bed or couch so that they’re visible and accessible, especially when you’re tempted to take a four-hour nap. Set your exercise clothes out the night before, so that you’re reminded first thing in the morning that you need to work out.

Do you frequently use the excuse that you don’t have time? Just as you would any important activity or to-do list item, plug it into your daily calendar or block off a specific window of time for it. You’ll be more likely to exercise when you know you specifically set time for it, instead of just waiting for whenever you’re free.

The less friction there is, the likelier you are to do it.

2. Pump Up the Jams

Time to curate a playlist and blast your favorite tunes next time you’re out for a run! Research has shown that listening to high-tempo music while working out, particularly when engaging in endurance exercises like walking or running, can increase one’s heart rate while lowering the perception of effort exerted.

Simply put, you work out harder and reap the physical benefits, but the music distracts you from feeling tired and uncomfortable, so you feel like you’re not trying as hard.

Don’t have time to make a playlist? Some music platforms like Spotify have workout playlists curated with songs hitting a specific number of beats per minute to help you pace yourself while jogging or running.

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3. Work Out with A Friend

A lot of people are great at talking themselves out of exercising. If this sounds like you, a workout buddy might be what you need to stay on track. One study showed that having an exercise companion promotes emotional support, which leads to increased self-regulation.

Over the last year, many have turned to virtual fitness classes to regain a sense of community even when working out at home. It also adds a layer of accountability as you won’t only have a trainer monitoring your progress, but you also come to expect the same people to show up at each class.

4. Do What’s Fun, Not Trendy

As wisely advised by Marie Kondo, if it doesn’t spark joy, then do away with it. There are so many paths to fitness, and what’s effective for others may not necessarily be effective for you. Don’t waste money on a gym membership if you don’t genuinely enjoy that setting. Try a new sport, jog down a scenic route in the neighborhood, or take a Zumba class and dance the calories away.

You’ll be more inclined to keep exercising if you have fun doing it.

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5. Track Your Progress

Monitoring your progress, whether big or small, can help you stay motivated to keep going. Instead of having one big goal, break your journey down into smaller milestones. The mirror or scale may not always reflect how far you’ve come. Be proud of the days you ran an extra half-kilometer, you lifted two pounds heavier, or even simply reached your toes with less effort. Even a centimeter forward is still a move forward.

Psst! Read our blog on 6 PRs you should always celebrate!

6. Set Realistic Goals

One of the most common barriers to working out is a lack of time and energy. But fitness doesn’t have to be this big, awful thing that you need to rearrange your life around.

Aim to set goals that are reasonable and achievable. It’s better to do a little over a long period, instead of pushing your body into an unsustainable routine. For example, opt to take a walk around the block for 20 minutes every other day, instead of aspiring to hit the gym for 60 minutes daily. If your goals are too ambitious and unrealistic for your current level, you might end up frustrated and more inclined to quit.

Do you hate having to learn workout techniques? Investing in your physical fitness doesn’t have to be inconvenient. For days you can’t squeeze in a proper workout, small tweaks to your routine can make a difference. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, do a set of jumping jacks in between video conference calls, or stretch your back and legs every hour if you’re seated for most of the day.

Baby steps really add up.

7. Find Your #Fitspiration

Social media, when used carefully and mindfully, can be a powerful tool of inspiration and motivation. Check out relevant hashtags around fitness and nutrition to learn about how others are staying healthy. You might even have a favorite celeb or #bodygoals success story whose tips you can incorporate into your fitness regimen.

One study has also shown that you can use social networking platforms to find like-minded people or online groups who can help support you through your journey, share insights on how to exercise more efficiently, and keep you accountable to your promise of self-improvement.

8. Focus on You

As much as social media can be a motivator and educator, it can also mislead many into warped perceptions of perfection, beauty, and health. Use social media to gain inspiration, but don’t compare your journey with someone else’s. There will always be someone “better,” faster, stronger, than you. But their progress, whether faster or slower, does not take away from yours. Your training time is about you and for you only.

9. Treat Yourself

It’s easy to tire of chasing a long-term goal without any gratification, so treat yourself for smaller achievements along the way. This gives you something to look forward to that’s not so far off in the future and motivates you to show up consistently.

Try this tip from Claire Fountain, the founder of Trill Yoga. Plan your workouts near restaurants and meet up with friends afterward. If you’ve been working hard and also eyeing a new pair of training shoes, treat yourself! Or maybe what you’d prefer is a trip to your favourite fro-yo place.

We know how hard you’re working to reach your health and fitness goals. Try these small tweaks whenever you’re feeling unmotivated to work out. We’re confident they’ll help!