Motivation is one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of effective and sustained exercise. We’ve mentioned it on the blog before, and we thought it’s important enough to mention again, because finding and maintaining motivation can be hard.

The trick is taking responsibility for managing our own motivation on a daily basis. And in order to do this we need effective strategies to help us overcome our own, often self-imposed, blocks.

That said, what are the tricks to overcoming lethargy, impatience, demotivation, and how can we apply them? In this post we’re going to look at some simple and effective methods for self-motivation that you can use whenever you aren’t feeling up to the treadmill.

Keep an exercise journal

This can be as basic or as in-depth as you’d like, but the key is to always record how you feel before and after an exercise session. It could be a page-long diary entry, or it could be a simple smiley-face sketch of your current emotions.

The secret here is that it’s almost guaranteed you’ll feel better after exercising. And by keeping a journal of these emotional changes, you can refer back to them whenever you’re not in the mood for exercising. By doing that you’ll be reminded of how your mood always changes for the better after working out. So you can say to yourself, “Even though I’m feeling down now, I’ll feel great afterwards.”

Set small goals

If your lack of motivation is arising because you can’t bear the thought of 30 minutes on the treadmill, shrink your goal. Bring it down from 30 minutes to 10 minutes. Chances are that after the 10-minute-mark you’ll keep going, but setting the smaller goal is what will get you exercising in the first place.

Often we feel demotivated simply because we’re daunted by the task at hand. We might feel tired, or too busy, or just plain lazy, and our regular goals can seem too much — in these situations it’s important that we respond to our unwillingness by altering the goal instead of simply foregoing the exercise. By making the workout session as easy as possible to complete, there’s more incentive to actually get up and do it.

Set big goals

Contrary to the above, big, overarching, long-term goals can also work wonders for our motivation. The trick here, however, is not to make them too big. And don’t be confused, these aren’t big daily goals, they’re big long-term goals.

A great example of an effective, larger goal would be a 30-day challenge. With a 30-day challenge, the time commitment is enough to keep you going, but not too much to be off-putting. So on those days when you aren’t feeling up to it, you can simply remind yourself that it’s only for a month, and you only have X-days left to go, so you might as well just do it.

By setting goals like this, where the finish line is reasonably far away but close enough to be within touching distance, you’re more likely to keep up with a daily routine. Just the knowing that you haven’t got long left to go can be enough to get you through.    

Listen to audiobooks or podcasts

This is a great way to pass the time. Audiobooks and podcasts are excellent tools for making tough workouts more bearable. They help to shift your attention away from your current physical circumstances, thus lightening the burden of difficult exercise. And by focussing on something other than your own pain, the time will fly by much quicker.

A good trick is to set aside certain podcasts/audiobooks that you’re only allowed to listen to whilst exercising. That way, if you don’t want to work out, but you do want to listen to your podcast, there’s only one solution. . . . The reason this method works so well because it provides indirect motivation to exercise. It’s a way through the back door.

Read about success stories

Want a super-fuel injection of motivation? Read the success stories of fellow exercisers! Research people who have achieved the same goals you’re aiming for. Read about their experiences and listen to their advice. Or talk to people who are at a similar stage in their fitness journey to you. Talking with others, seeking encouragement, looking at before-and-after pictures — all these things can help keep you motivated!

More motivation!

If you’d like to keep reading about motivation, take a look at our posts on personal trainers and beating the workout blues. Otherwise, hopefully this post has given you something to work with. Happy exercising, and keep focussed!