Sometimes it can be more difficult to keep up a workout routine for the long haul than to start exercising in the first place. Work, personal and family responsibilities, and just general lack of energy can make it easy to skip a workout one day, and then the next, and before you know it you feel like you have to start all over again from scratch!
One of the keys to maintaining a consistent exercise routine is to find what best motivates you to workout. If you can give yourself that little extra push to start your workout each day, you'll be much more likely to keep it up long term. Below are 7 tips on how to stay motivated to work out day in and day out.
Set Manageable Goals at First
One of the best tips for staying motivated to keep up a workout schedule is to set goals you know you can actually achieve. If you're just getting back into exercising after a long break, don't jump to super intense workouts right away—you'll be more likely to get burnt out or injured, which will only set you back more. Start slow with a few workout days each week, aiming for shorter workouts that involve manageable exercises you feel confident doing. You can always add a few reps or an additional set once you get started if it feels too easy.
Plus, in terms of actually making progress it's better to get a few short workouts in each week than it is to constantly plan and miss—or not be able to finish—longer workouts. You'll also get a mental boost and feeling of accomplishment every time you complete a workout, and this can translate to heightened confidence and enthusiasm to keep up your routine. Once you more firmly establish how to find time for exercise in your larger schedule, then you can start to push for more extensive workouts a few additional times each week.
Keep a Workout Journal
Another great way to maintain your workout motivation each week is to keep an exercise journal. If you like keeping everything on your phone or computer this can be a digital journal, but it doesn't need to be an expensive app or anything fancy—a regular notebook will do just
fine. If you're especially visually motivated, a wall calendar with spaces to write in workout goals and notes each day can be useful.
A workout journal helps keep you motivated to exercise in a few key ways, including helping you visualize and establish a workout plan for each week. Having your planned workouts written down can help you stay organized while also giving you a distinct boost each time you mark one complete. An exercise journal can also give you space to think about how each workout went: what felt good, what was especially challenging, whether you noticed any soreness or other obstacles. In addition to creating an opportunity to fully appreciate how good you feel after a workout, this will help you concretely track your improvements (higher weight, more reps, increased time per exercise)—both of which can keep you motivated to come back and do it all again the next day.
Devote a Specific Time of the Day for Working Out
Creating quick, consistent habits around exercise can make it easier to get started—which in turn reduces all the little opportunities to get distracted or convince yourself you don't have time to work out today. If possible, try to establish a set routine around when you will exercise. Many people find that working out first thing in the morning works best. This is especially effective if you make it a habit to change into exercise clothes as soon as you get out of bed and have the coffee maker and a quick breakfast prepped the night before.
If mornings don't work, you can still create some consistency by fitting your workout into the same place in your schedule each day. For example, make it a point to stop by the gym on the way back from work, or exercise as soon as you get home before you're able to get distracted by other daily tasks.
Quality Over Quantity
The quicker you can get through an intense workout, the sooner you can get on with the rest of your daily responsibilities. (Plus, it's harder to make excuses for skipping shorter workouts.) There are a number of ways you can structure your workouts to get the most out of every exercise. Try to maximize your time and results with exercises that target multiple muscle groups at once through complex movements. Adding a balance or stability component to familiar exercises is also a great way to create maximum muscle activation and engage often-neglected stabilizing muscles in the process. By working smarter and more efficiently, you can pack more activity into the minutes you do have available each day.
Find Exercises You Enjoy
It's a whole lot easier to work out when you're doing something you actually enjoy. Activities like yoga, rock climbing, biking, running, or even taking long walks can be great ways to get everything from strength training to aerobic workouts. Chances are you'll still have to incorporate some exercises you're not super enthusiastic about to get a well-balanced workout plan—but having even 1 or 2 workouts a week come from activities you genuinely look forward to can go a long way to keeping your motivation up.
Get a Workout Buddy
Whether we like to admit it or not, many of us are more likely to make good on plans if there's someone else to hold us accountable. Having a friend to work out with can help provide that extra bit of motivation you need to go to the gym or to lace up your running shoes. Plus, in addition to offering encouragement and support, a good workout buddy can help offer a quick spot and keep an eye on your form.
Rather have your privacy when working out? There are all sorts of virtual workout guides, exercise podcasts, and online communities that can help you stay motivated by reminding you that you're not alone on your exercise journey.
Plan for Missed Workouts
This can seem like a bit of an oxymoron, but the truth of it is that everyone's going to miss a workout here and there. Whether due to illness or injury, an especially hectic work week, or other unforeseen circumstances, sometimes you just can't get your workouts in. When you're planning your workout schedule for each week, remember to give yourself some evenly spaced rest days. These days can double as makeup days for workouts you miss, and having this flexibility already planned into your schedule can help keep you on track.
The more workouts you miss in a row, the harder it can be to get started again. During especially busy periods, try holding yourself to a 3-day rule: barring injury or illness, no going more than 3 days without a workout (even just a short one). This can help stop those shame cycles where you beat yourself up over missing so many workouts rather than just getting back on track and doing what you can.