How to Motivate Yourself to Work Out

05/21/2015 12:46 pm ET | Updated May 21, 2016


We all know that working out is good for us and we should do it more often, but sometimes we just can't find the motivation. In my 30 years of teaching fitness classes, I've noticed a few things that help in the motivation department:

1) Enjoy It

If you don't enjoy the exercise you won't want to do it. So find a physical activity you enjoy:

  • If you enjoy being outdoors do something outdoors like walking, biking, running, beach volleyball, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, etc.
  • If you love to socialize join a team: baseball, cricket, volleyball, basketball, soccer or exercise with a friend.
  • If you love dancing take a dance class like salsa, ballroom, hip-hop, ballet, etc.
  • Find an instructor you enjoy and makes you feel good. If you like their class you're more likely to go.

2) Attitude

Your attitude towards working out is very important. If you have a negative attitude and consider it "work" that is how it will feel: difficult and unenjoyable. You will basically feel what you think so regard it with a positive attitude and the positive feeling towards working out will follow. This also applies to how you talk about your workouts. Be positive! Even if you don't feel like working out don't say, "Ugh, I should go to the gym now but I'm just so tired I don't want to go," you will invariably talk yourself out of it. Instead say, "I'm off to my class, I always feel so good afterwards." Focus on the positive.

3) Set realistic goals and expectations

So often when people want to get in shape they set huge unrealistic goals and expectations.

For instance, you wouldn't go out tomorrow and run a marathon. It would be impossible and you would fail, not mention probably injure yourself. Realistically you would make a plan. You would start slowly; long walks at first, building up to walk/run intervals, then just running, then increasing your time, etc. Each step of the way would empower you to move to the next step.

Set small goals that you can easily attain and then when you attain them you can set the goal a little higher and then a little higher. Each small goal attained will feel like an accomplishment and will fuel you to keep going. When we set goals that are too big and unrealistic and then are unable to fulfill them we can feel like a failure and quit.

In terms of expectations, know that it takes a lot of working out and eating right to look like the fitness models you see in magazines. Don't expect that taking a "Six Pack Abs" class once a week will produce six pack abs overnight. Also, people often come to class for the first time expecting to be able to do everything at the top level even though they haven't been working out for while. Patience and persistence is key. Work out regularly and you will see changes in your body, but it won't happen overnight. Depending on how often you work out, and what size you are to begin with, it will take at least a week (if you're working out every day) up to a few months (once a week) to feel and see change.

4) Commit

When people sign-up for a weekly class and put their money down they are more likely to go then if they just have a vague plan. Same goes when we make a commitment with a friend to meet for a walk or run at a certain time on a certain day every week. Same goes if you join a team where other people are depending on you. So make a realistic commitment and then stick to it. And if you're buddying up with a friend make sure it's a friend who will help you, not hinder you.

5) Make It a Routine

Humans love routine. Whatever your form of exercise, slot it into a routine at the same time same day every week and then make it a priority. Put it on your calendar to ensure you don't schedule anything else in that time slot. Once you stick to your routine for a while it will feel like second nature and you won't question it, you will just do it.

6) Connect

Connect with how working out makes you feel. Notice the changes in your mood and your body. When you connect with those good feelings you will want to work out more often.

Connect with the people. If you go to a class every week, chances are you're seeing the same people every week. Yet so often people don't acknowledge each other. If you start to connect with other participants you are more likely to continue to go to the class.

Start by simply making eye contact and smiling. Then say, "hello" and acknowledge that you recognize your fellow participants from the week before. Then, introduce yourself and make small talk. Be friendly. When the class is over say your good-byes and say, "See you next week." Who knows, you may even make some new friends!

I make a point of introducing people to each other and facilitating this friendly exchange in my classes. It's wonderful to see a sense of community build in the class. I have seen many friendships form and even some couples!

7) Music

Music can be huge motivator when you're working out. If you work out on your own find music that gives you energy and propels you forward. You can use this same playlist if you're sitting at home finding it hard to motivate yourself to go work out. I often do this when I've settled in for the evening but I have to go teach a class but am feeling low energy. I put my music on loud and it wakes me up and energizes me, I continue with the music in the car and by the time I arrive at my class I'm full of energy.

Ali has been teaching for 30 years. She loves to inspire people to be fit, healthy and happy. Visit for more tips.