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Let’s face it, it’s hard to stay motivated. Whether it’s working, cooking, or cleaning, motivation plays a huge role in our ability to persevere with, and succeed in, our day-to-day goals. But sometimes our will to work can falter, especially when it comes to exercise, and an evening on the sofa can all too easily win out over an hour at gym.

Fortunately we’re not alone in our struggles. As it turns out, in fact, some of the best thinkers in the world have turned their mighty minds to this problem. The result? A wide variety of perspectives and ideas that help to illuminate the mysteries of motivation, wellness, and commitment.

Here, then, are some of those ideas. Presented at various TED conferences, these endearing talks will help you stay motivated and inspired to stick at the gym!

Emily Balcetis: Why some people find exercise harder than others

In this informative talk, social psychologist Emily Balcetis discusses the idea that what we see (literally) can affect how we perceive diet and exercise.


Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days

For anyone who’s tried and failed to start up a new exercise regime, Matt Cutts offers a reassuring message. Simply put, just commit to try something new for 30 days. Whether it’s running, swimming, or boxing. It’s a small task in the grand scheme of things, but those 30 days might be all it takes to form a new habit and make it stick.


Carol Dweck: The power of believing you can improve

The “growth mindset” (Dweck’s area of research), is the idea that we can increase our brain’s capacity to learn and solve problems. Her talk is based around the two different attitudes we tend to take towards difficult tasks. The first is believing that we’re not smart enough to solve them, and the second is believing that we just don’t know how to solve them.

The idea is that, even in the wake of failure, our brains have the capacity to grow and overcome former obstacles. It’s a powerful message to carry with us when we exercise, especially if we engage in competitive sports.


Laura Vanderkam: How to gain control of your free time

A perceived lack of free time can play a huge part in our struggle to commit to a regular exercise routine. On top of our professional, social, and family commitments, many of us feel that we simply don’t have the time to go to the gym.

Laura Vanderkam, a time management expert, thinks we’ve got it all wrong. She believes that most of us overestimate our commitments, believing that we have far less free time than we actually do. The solution? Set ourselves non-negotiable priorities and commit to them.


Mick Cornett: How an obese town lost one million pounds

In this talk, Mick Cornett tells the story of how Oklahoma City, once one of the most obese towns in America, managed to lift itself by its bootstraps and lose a collective million pounds. And though it may be slightly higher than your personal weight loss goals, this feat of communal commitment to healthy living serves as a powerful motivator. After all, if an entire town can do it, anyone can!


Dean Ornish: You genes are not your fate

Just as the title of this talk suggests, Dean Ornish lays out an argument that our health and wellbeing isn’t necessarily dictated by our genes. On the contrary, he claims that by eating healthier, exercising more, and living better, we can actually alter ourselves right down at the genetic level.


Christopher McDougall: Are we born to run?

Running s a fitness phenomenon. Seemingly ingrained in our DNA, the urge to run is deep and old in humans. In this talk, Christopher McDougall shares stories of runners, and running cultures, from all around the world, exploring the mysterious heart of this long-enduring sport.


Dan Pink: The puzzle of motivation

According to career analyst Dan Pink, the traditional reward system, contrary to popular belief, isn’t always an entirely effective motivator. Here he examines the bare bones of motivation. And though it may seem business-oriented, there are a lot of ideas here that can be applied to health, wellbeing, and fitness.


Diana Nyad: Never, ever give up

Diana Nyad swam 100 miles from Cuba to Florida. In the dark of the night. Enduring hallucinations and jellyfish stings. For pure marvel and motivation, this talk is a gem. And it teaches us that it’s never too late to follow our dreams.


Entertainment and inspiration

To keep up your motivation on the back of those talks, check out these 7 fantastic books on fitness and sports.