Whether you’re a fitness guru or a workout novice, going to the gym or making time for exercise can sometimes feel like the last thing you want to do — especially after a long day at work.
While studies have found that exercise is good for you whatever time of day you do it, and that it can bring both physical and mental health benefits, finding the motivation to actually get up and do it can sometimes be tricky.
“In order to be motivated you need to have a solid understanding first about exactly what your motivation is,” Jessie Jones Williams, personal trainer at OriGym Centre of Excellence, tells The Independent.
“Try to turn inward and come up with totally positive reasons to workout. Reminding yourself of these will affirm the positive reasons to exercise as well as acting as motivation to actually get you working out.”
With this in mind, we asked Jones Williams, along with personal trainers from PureGym, Ian Scarrott and Emma Vincent, about the best ways to stay motivated to workout.
How can you stay motivated to workout and do exercise?
All three personal trainers say setting goals is a great way to stay motivated and encourage you to do more exercise.
“My best advice for staying motivated to workout is to remind yourself of your goals as much as possible, and integrate this into your schedule,” Jones Williams says.
Vincent adds that it can be a good idea to make a plan for the week ahead, as seeing something visually can help to keep you accountable. She adds: “Put inspirational quotes somewhere like your mirror to look at every day. This alone can give that little burst of motivation you need to get to the gym or to workout.”
If you’re someone who doesn’t love exercise, how can you find the motivation to do it more often?
Scarrott suggests working out as part of a group or with friends. “You can keep each other accountable and find fun in the process,” he adds.
“Try out classes, they are a great way to learn new exercises, exercise with others who have similar goals, and to meet new people.”
Vincent adds that keeping a record of your progress can be a good motivator. “You can look back to see how far you’ve come,” she explains. “This will show you why you’re doing it in the first place, and back up the reason for keeping going, even when you don’t want to.”
How many times should you be doing exercise during the week, and what are the best exercises to do?
As much as it may feel tempting to workout every day to see quicker results, Jones Williams says rest days are just as important.
“You’ll see the best results the more you workout, but you need to be mindful of including enough rest,” Jones Williams says. “You should start by doing two to three days per week, for at least half an hour each time, and build up to four or five days. This will get the best results and make sure that you don’t hinder your future workouts by burning out, overtraining, or getting an injury”
Vincent adds that making exercise a habit is key, and that you are more likely to stick to a routine if you do it two to three times per week.
In terms of what exercises you should be doing, Vincent says: “If you’re looking to build muscle, get stronger or tone up, ensure you’re using weights. For improving your mental health, any form of exercise is amazing.”
Jones Williams adds: “You should mix strength training and cardio, depending on your fitness levels and any health conditions you may have. You will get a hit of endorphins with any exercise that raises your heart rate, which can include everything from resistance training to a Zumba class.”
How can you make exercise or going to the gym not seem like a chore?
The most important thing is to find an exercise you enjoy, this way it won’t feel like a chore when you go to do it.
Love swimming? Sign up to your local lido. A running fan? Your local Park Run is free. Or why not take up badminton, rock climbing or simply go for a brisk walk? Any movement you do will be beneficial.
Vincent adds that variety is important. “Mix up your routine,” she suggests. “Try different classes and different training styles. Change scenery from home workouts, gym workouts and outdoor workouts.”
What are some good health and fitness goals to set?
Jones Williams says it’s important to set long-term goals as well as short-term, and that all of your goals should include intrinsic motivation.
“Intrinsic motivation is that which comes from within rather than an external reward or reaction,” they explain. “So, instead of pushing yourself to workout so that you can reward yourself with a takeaway, think about some more personal, emotional benefits.
“For example, you may want to boost your state of mind, gain confidence, or even something like being fit enough to walk to work in the summer. Goals like this are proving to be easier to use as motivation and more effective long term.”
Vincent says that no goal is too small, and it can include anything from walking up the stairs and not feeling breathless, to completing a triathlon.
“To start with, try writing a schedule of what days to exercise, preparing your food the night before, trying one new class a week, drinking more water and whatever else may tie to your own personal goals,” she advises. “Break them up into attainable chunks.”
How can you stay motivated if it’s taking longer than you would like to see results?
Everyone hits a plateau — even if you are staying consistent with your exercise routine and are eating a balanced diet.
Hitting a plateau or not seeing results as quickly as you would like can be frustrating, but there are things you can do to help keep yourself motivated.
“Remind yourself that Rome wasn’t built in a day,” Vincent says. “Trust the process. You’ll find that you’re a lot further down the line towards your goals than you were at the start, even if it doesn’t feel like it.”
Jones Williams suggests reminding yourself of your short-term goals when it’s taking a while for your long-term goals to actualise.
“This is why it’s great to have a mixture,” Jones Williams continues. “Short term goals will give you frequent feelings of success and boosts of achievement that you can use to sustain yourself when you’re struggling to reach longer ones.”
How can you make time for exercise when it feels like you have none?
One blessing the pandemic gave us was more time. Working from home meant less hours spent commuting, so we were able to utilise that time how we saw fit.
But with workers returning to offices, or embracing the new hybrid way of working, it can feel hard to prioritise and carve out time for exercise.
Scarrott says finding time for exercise is all about making it a priority. “Include it as a reward for a hard day’s work, or a way to wake you up in the morning. Tag it on to the end or beginning of your day,” he suggests.
“Ask yourself what are your priorities in life — do you really want to hit your fitness goals? If you do you will carve out time for it. No one else will train for you.”
Jones Williams suggests planning as much as possible and trying to fit exercise into your everyday routine.
“Think realistically about the windows of time that you’ve got,” they advise. “Is it an option to walk during a time when you’d usually drive? Does your place of work offer a cycle to work scheme?
“Brainstorming about how to utilise the time you have, even if they’re very small windows, is the best way to motivate yourself to carve out time. Be honest with yourself and your diary and explore new and exciting ways of exercising.”
Vincent adds: “Write out what your daily routine looks like from when you wake up to when you go to bed. Then put in half an hour, whether that’s going to require recording a TV show to watch later, or getting up 20 mins earlier in the morning. Starting small and manageable will help rather than going in at the deep end.”