It’s impossible to live a happy and healthy life without regular physical activity.
Human nature is formed when our ancestors lived in physically demanding environments. Since evolution is a slow process, our nature hasn’t caught up with the sedentary lifestyle enabled by modern comforts.1
Our ancient metabolic and cardio-vascular systems don’t function optimally without sufficient physical activity.
Nevertheless, modern living doesn’t have physical activity built into it. Unless you work a physically demanding job, you must go out of your way to integrate physical activity into your life.
Why Workout Motivation Doesn’t Happen Organically
Understandably, people seek workout motivation because motivation is what drives us into action. Unfortunately, the motivation to work out doesn’t happen organically.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t need workout motivation. Physical activity for them was a matter of life or death. They needed to get up off their asses and hunt, or they died of hunger.
We no longer need to hunt for our food yet we still need physical activity in order to function optimally. However, most people aren’t even aware of this reality.
The dangers of a sedentary lifestyle are not immediately obvious to a modern human being. Sure, their quality of life sucks but modern people can live for a very long time with little to no physical activity.
It takes years, if not decades, to pay the price for a lack of physical activity so people don’t bother to work out at all, not realizing they are setting themselves up for a variety of illnesses most of which are terminal.
Since hunger and the danger of starvation were good enough motivators to be physically active and hunt when our nature was formed, there’s no such thing as “workout motivation” in the human genetic makeup.
There are indirectly motivating factors to work out such as our desire to be healthier, fitter, more attractive, etc., but the lack of urgency causes most modern humans to put off regular exercise, often indefinitely.
We can’t pick the era we are born so we have to play the hand we’ve been dealt to not only protect ourselves from the hazards of a lack of physical activity but also to enjoy the benefits of it to live a happier and healthier life.
For the simple reason that there is no such thing as workout motivation, relying on motivation to regularly work out is a fool’s errand. Consistent physical activity is too critical to our well-being to be left to motivation. For every day you are pumped up to work out, there will be five days that you don’t even want to lift a finger.
Since one or two workouts get no one anywhere, you have to get your beliefs and personal systems in order so that you can work out in a consistent fashion.
14 Ways Get Motivated To Work Out
Here are 14 ways to get motivated to work out. You don’t need to apply all of them but the more items you apply, the more you’ll be motivated to work out regularly:
1. Prioritize Working Out
Since regular physical activity isn’t seen as an urgency, modern humans regard working out as optional. Nothing can be further from the truth.
Regular exercise isn’t optional. Our nature might not align with modern living but it perfectly aligns with consistent physical activity. The benefits of working out and the dangers of not working out are so decisive to our well-being that no one can afford to not work out.
Let’s first look at the benefits of working out.
Working out regularly…
- Makes you happier and healthier,
- Improves your attractiveness. Not only you look better when you’re leaner, but you also look younger. Your skin becomes more vibrant and your posture improves. Last but not the least, fit people look better naked,
- Is proven to improve productivity,
- Expands your freedom by allowing you to do a lot of things that unhealthy or out-of-shape people can’t do due to physical limitations,
- Improves your social life. Fit people are held in higher regard by other people. Also, since people often come together for fitness-related activities, it will increase your opportunities to meet new people,
- Reduces the stress hormone cortisol which in turn makes you feel happier,
- Makes you an inspiration to your loved ones,
- Improves your self-respect and confidence,
- Allows you to eat more of your favorite foods without feeling guilty and also motivates you to eat healthier,
- Makes you likelier to develop other good habits.
On the other hand, a sedentary lifestyle is the primary cause of common modern diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc. People who don’t work out regularly are also likelier to develop other bad habits.
I listed the benefits of working out and the dangers of a lack thereof because a lack of conviction is a major reason why we procrastinate. We tend to procrastinate when our brain isn’t convinced that the juice is worth the squeeze.
We are no longer hunter-gatherers so we must find other reasons than avoiding starvation in order to integrate regular workouts into our daily lives. Since this will not happen organically we must prioritize physical activity.
Being aware of the benefits of regular exercise and the dangers of a lack of it can make it easier to convince your own brain to work out regularly.
If your brain isn’t convinced that you should work out, it will keep coming up with excuses to not work out. For example, the common excuse that “I don’t have time to work out” can be rephrased as “I don’t prioritize working out.” As for other excuses, we’ll get to them in a minute.
2. Don’t Frame It As A Sacrifice
A common mistake that wreaks havoc on your workout motivation is to frame it as a sacrifice.
Sacrifice, by definition, is to give up something of higher importance in favor of something else of lower importance.
Working out is the opposite of sacrifice. In fact, you’re making a sacrifice if you skip your workout in favor of an inferior activity.
There’s nothing sacrificial about working out. Don’t needlessly demotivate yourself by framing it as a sacrifice.
3. Set Workout Goals And Write Them Down
Spare a few minutes of your time to write about your workout and fitness goals. Investing a few minutes in writing your fitness-related goals can have huge returns as it boosts the likelihood of achieving your goals.
While you are at it, write about a future you want to avoid as well. You don’t want to develop cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, etc.. because of a lack of exercise. You also don’t want to go through life fat and/or out of shape.
Negative motivation is as effective as positive motivation, if not more. Unfortunately, modern humans avoid negative emotions like the plague. This is the wrong mentality to have.
Negative emotions have a purpose. For example, if you are fat, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol to make you feel bad about yourself in an attempt to push you towards taking the necessary measures to lose the extra fat. If you were happy being fat, you wouldn’t bother to go through the ordeal of dieting and working out to lose fat.
Since modern humans feel entitled to feel good all the time, they attack the negative emotion instead of attacking the source of the negative emotion. Rather than losing the fat to feel better about themselves, they either try to convince themselves that fat is beautiful and healthy or they pop antidepressants.
Never neglect to pay attention to your negative emotions. They might be trying to tell you something.
Another benefit of writing your workout-related goals and a future you want to avoid is that it helps keep your eyes on the ball.
Your goal is not to work out per se, but to get in better shape, improve your health and enjoy the other benefits of working out as well as to avoid the dangers of not working out. Working out regularly is not the goal itself but the vehicle that gets you closer to accomplishing your goals.
Keeping your eyes on the ball helps you avoid being stuck with a particular type of exercise that might not align with your goals.
For example, my preferred type of workout used to be long-distance running. Later, I discovered that strength training is more aligned with my circumstances and my fitness goals so I switched to strength training. When I finally built the body that I wanted, I integrated walking into my life to help keep the fat off.
Be flexible with the type of exercise but inflexible with your determination to work out regularly.
4. Stop Forcing Yourself To Love Working Out
Modern people have this weird obsession with positive emotions. Mantras such as “do what you love”, “love what you do”, “chase your dreams”, “pursue your passion”, etc. are dime a dozen.
Entitled snowflakes are all over the media, poisoning the minds of unsuspecting readers or viewers that you must somehow love every frigging thing you do. People then start wondering if there is something wrong with them that they don’t love working out or what they do for a living, etc.
Take it from me. There’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t happen to love working out.
Look, life is not a fairy tale. If you only did the things that you love doing, you would get very little done, if that. Sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do even though you hate doing it. A lot of times, actually.
Do you think our hunter-gatherer ancestors loved putting their lives in danger trying to hunt predatory animals? They did it not because they loved doing it but because their livelihood depended on it. Love was never a part of the equation.
There is nothing wrong with you if you don’t love working out. Loving to work out is obviously a bonus but it’s not a requirement. By all means, try to find a workout that you love doing, but it’s foolish to count on love in order to be able to work out regularly.
Love is an emotion. Emotions are volatile. Volatility directly contradicts your workout goals because you need consistency.
Stop forcing yourself to love working out. Be an adult and do what you have to do. If you’re looking for an emotion, you can be ambitious or obsessed with your workout goals.
5. Don’t Think It’s Necessary To Join A Gym And/Or Buy Fancy Exercise Equipment Or Expensive Supplements
Fitness is a multi-billion dollar business. They need to sell those gym memberships, fancy exercise equipment, and expensive supplements. Fortunately, none of them is essential for working out regularly, especially if you are a beginner.
If you are training for strength, you have no business joining a gym before you can muster at least 20 push-ups and 5 pull-ups in a row. I built six-pack abs without stepping foot into a commercial gym. The only equipment I ever used was a $5 pull-up bar. I don’t take supplements either, other than the occasional fish oil or vitamin D.
Most of the time, walking or running can be done outside.
My mother makes it a point to walk regularly. Walking outside is not always possible due to bad weather, lockdowns, or other reasons.
I sent her Leslie Sansone’s Walk at Home videos so that she can train at home when she can’t walk outside. She’s been training in her living room in front of her TV especially during lockdowns.
Her commitment to training at home increased by tenfold when I told her about Leslie Sansone‘s biological age. Learning that Leslie looks not just years but DECADES younger than her biological age was enough motivation for my mother to keep working out regularly.
In most cases, joining the gym and buying fancy exercise equipment or expensive supplements are pseudo actions that achieve the opposite of what they are trying to achieve.
It makes people think they’re doing something for their workout habits when they’re not.
Joining the gym doesn’t magically ensure going to the gym consistently. Most people who join the gym quit after a few visits. Fancy exercise equipment doesn’t work out on your behalf. Supplements are massively overrated.
6. Schedule Your Workouts
Somerset Maugham, one of the most prolific authors of the previous century, famously said “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”
No wonder why he was the highest-paid author of his time.
Allocate time in your schedule for working out and stick to it bar emergencies. Don’t bother waiting for workout motivation or inspiration to strike. Most of the time they won’t.
Discipline trumps motivation. You need to be consistent with your workouts. One workout here, another workout there won’t get you anywhere. Discipline is what ensures consistency, not motivation.
There’s a reason why routines are so popular. They work. Work, eat, sleep, and exercise are the 4 pillars of a well-lived life. Developing a daily routine for these basics is always a great idea.
7. When It’s Time To Work Out, Put On Your Exercise Clothes But Give Yourself Permission To Not Work Out
I learned this trick from Scott Adams when I was reading his great book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.
Here’s how it works.
Let’s say you regularly work out at 5 p.m. every day but sometimes when workout time arrives, the last thing you want to do in the world is to work out. What do you do?
You put on your exercise clothes and give yourself permission to not work out. Go to the gym if you are a member but permit yourself to come back without training.
Scott Adams says that by this method most of the time he ends up working out.
Your actions have a way of convincing your brain to finish what you’ve started.
Remember that we’ve already talked about how convincing your brain plays a crucial part in beating procrastination. Scott’s method seems to have a similar effect but on a micro-level.
8. Track Your Workouts
I didn’t know at the time about the science of this. I did it because it worked.
I later learned from the world-renowned habit expert James Clear (also the author of the best-selling book Atomic Habits) that keeping track of my workouts (and diet) is a type of feedback loop which is essential for developing good habits.
Keeping track of your reps, sets, and workout time and measuring your waistline, weight, and body fat percentage provide feedback on your progress which makes it likelier for you to stick to your workout schedule.
If your preferred type of exercise is walking then smartphones have apps that count your steps. If you train for strength as I do, you must count your sets, reps, and workout time to know if you’re progressing because progressive overload is the bedrock of building muscle.
Even marking the calendar on the days you worked out can be greatly motivating. Famous comedian Jerry Seinfeld says that his “don’t break the chain” method helped him beat procrastination. Once the marks on your calendar pile up, you’ll be proud of yourself and you’ll not want to break the chain.
Tracking your progress has another great benefit which is to fire up the reward centers of your brain. The dopamine hits you get at the times you make progress will boost your motivation to improve more.
Weighing yourself to notice you’re losing weight, measuring your waist to notice it’s shrinking, completing the exact same workout faster than before are examples of progress that causes dopamine spikes in your brain which in turn makes you feel good about yourself and want to continue doing what you have been doing.
Considering that dopamine is the hormone of addiction, measuring and tracking is a great way to become addicted to progress. An addiction to making progress is probably the only useful addiction that you can develop.
9. Exhaust Your Excuses
We’ve already talked about the “I don’t have the time to workout” excuse when talking about prioritizing your workouts.
People have many other irrational excuses when it comes to avoiding exercise. For example, average people commonly have the excuse that fitness is something for the rich as if someone is asking them for payments for walking, jogging, doing pushups, etc.
The human brain is an excuse factory. Your brain will come up with tens of excuses to stop you from working out because your body is lazy.
I long noticed that my brain is an expert at coming up with excuses to talk me out of doing my workouts but I am so used to its excuses at this point that I easily debunk the excuses and proceed to work out.
I developed an excuse exhaustion method to stop being lazy and start getting things done where you “list your excuses for not doing what you have to do, debunk those excuses one by one until you exhaust all of them, and leave yourself with no other option than to do your work.”
I’ve also compiled a list of the 14 common excuses to not start building muscle and debunked them one by one. If you want to build muscle but can’t start, be sure to read that article.
You can make a list of your own excuses and debunk them one by one until your brain runs out of excuses and gets out of the way so that you can start working out regularly.
10. Keep Your Workouts Short Or Make Them Productive
One major reason I love bodyweight training is that bodyweight workouts don’t take too much time.
I started bodyweight training when I was working as a software engineer. I often worked overtime so bodyweight training was godsent in the sense that I could squeeze into my busy schedule rigorous, complete workouts that took as little as 10 minutes.
If time is genuinely a constraint, you can either increase the intensity of your workouts or do something productive during your workouts.
Walking is another favorite workout of mine. I highly recommend walking for it makes losing fat a breeze. However, walking takes time. Yet, not all is lost.
My line of work requires a lot of thinking which I can do during my walking sessions. You can also listen to audiobooks or podcasts during the time you walk. There are even people who utilize walking as meditation.
Another way to make your workouts productive is to use them as a way to socialize. Socializing is a basic human need anyway. You can work out and socialize at the same time by joining group workout activities. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.
11. Kick Instant Gratification Out Of Your Life
As we’ve already talked about, there’s no such thing as workout motivation.
Working out is rather a vehicle that carries you to achieving your goals than a goal by itself.
The motivation of our hunter-gatherer ancestors for physical activity was to find food.
While we no longer need to hunt for our food, we still have a lot of motivation to achieve many other goals in life.
We want to be healthier, richer, more attractive, and more popular. We want money, success, independence, freedom, admiration. We want to enjoy the food we eat and the beverages we drink.
We all have the motivation to achieve all of these but instantly gratifying activities rob us of our motivation to earn what we want out of life by short-circuiting our brains’ reward mechanism.
- Who needs to work out and become more attractive to the opposite sex when they can just watch porn?
- Who needs to be fitter and richer to enjoy the taste of higher quality food when they can enjoy consuming cheap junk food?
- Who needs to overcome the hardships of life when they can get high by drinking alcohol or doing drugs?
- Who needs to compete and win in real life when they can do the same in front of their computer screen by playing video games?
- Who needs to travel the world when they can just watch travel videos on TV or YouTube?
- Who needs adventure when they can watch adventure movies on Netflix/TV?
Instant gratification teaches our brain to skip the work and directly go to the pleasure which saps our motivation to put in the work for accomplishing our goals.
The problem isn’t necessarily the lack of motivation to reach our goals. The problem is how we arrive at achieving the goals that motivate us. A fat person who can’t seem to find the motivation to work out has no problem finding the motivation to eat ice cream.
Instant gratification removes the need for hard work to attain the pleasures we want. When hard work is removed from the equation, you become less motivated to do the work.
Workout motivation can be tricky but you certainly have the motivation to become fitter, more attractive, and healthier.
Ditch the instantly gratifying activities that sap your motivation to put in the work to become fitter, more attractive, and healthier. Stop watching porn, quit playing video games, ditch the drink, eat more healthy food, less junk food, etc.
Furthermore, regular exercise is the quickest way to witness the superiority of delayed gratification to instant gratification for the benefits of delayed gratification might not be immediately obvious for projects that take years or even decades. The rewards of regular exercise come much sooner.
12. Commit To A Pre-Packaged Workout Program
I was hesitant to include this piece of advice in this article because there are lots of workout programs that are marketed well but don’t work as advertised. Basically, they are marketed by playing to the basic human desire to seek shortcuts.
I will still go ahead and recommend you to find a good workout program that actually works and aligns with your workout goals. There are many good workout programs out there put together by a lot of trial and error so that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, especially if you’re a beginner and you have no idea what you’re doing. You just have to find them.
I developed my own bodyweight training/diet program after a lot of trial and error. I wish such a complete program of bodyweight training and diet existed before I decided to build six-pack abs. I would accomplish my goal much sooner.
Picking a program that serves your workout goals can be tricky but it can be done. I wrote about my criteria to find the right beginner weightlifting workout routine. You can follow similar principles when picking the right program for your workout goals.
As I’ve already mentioned, I recommended my mother Leslie Sansone’s Walk At Home program. There are good programs for all kinds of workouts. You just need to find the ones that work.
13. Be Around People Who Regularly Work Out
I started bodyweight training because of a close friend of mine. He had made great improvements to his physique in a very short span of time so I was inspired to do the same.
After I made it a habit to regularly work out, most people in my social circle started to work out as well.
There was a time when I was trying to convince my loved ones to start working out but I’ve long given up on that. Humans are interesting creatures. They don’t want to work out when you tell them to do but they do it by themselves if you tell them nothing and just lead by example.
It’s not a coincidence that many people in my social circle followed my footsteps to develop a habit of working out.
You are subconsciously influenced by the actions of people around you. People who hang out with criminals are likelier to end up being criminals. People who hang out at bars and clubs are likelier to end up being alcoholics, etc.
Find people who regularly work out and hang out with them. Joining workout groups and classes is a great way to meet people who regularly work out.
As a bonus, when you take up working out regularly, your loved ones are very likely to follow your lead. It’s good to witness your loved ones becoming healthier.
14. Find An Accountability Partner
Some people like to find an accountability partner to work out together. Talking about our workouts with the friend who started me on bodyweight training motivated me to continue working out.
Arnold Schwarzenegger became a champion bodybuilder partly thanks to his workout partner Franco Columbu.
Finding an accountability partner can be massively motivating for you to keep working out.
It should go without saying that being around people who regularly work out increases your chances of finding an accountability partner.
When I was a little kid, my uncle had promised to give me his running shoes in the distant future when I grow up and my feet reach the size of his shoes.
When I actually grew up he walked back on his promise saying that he soon plans to start running regularly and he needs the shoes himself. He wasn’t lying. Everybody has plans to start working out someday.
My uncle died 16 years ago due to poor health, never getting around to realize his plan to run regularly.
He knew he needed to work out but that wasn’t enough to motivate him to overcome his procrastination and actually start working out. He probably never found the motivation to run.
Most people are like my uncle. They plan to start doing things that benefit them but days, weeks, months, years, and even decades go by and plans are always deferred to “someday.”
Life is short. Our days are numbered. I hope the tactics and strategies in this article help you find the motivation to start working out before it’s too late.
Your ultimate goal is to make it a habit to work out. The more the number of days you work out pile up, the likelier you’ll stick to working out regularly. When working out regularly becomes a habit, it will consume less of your precious willpower so you’ll rely less and less on motivation.
While I can’t say I always look forward to working out, I look forward to the triumphant feeling after completing a rigorous workout.
I feel uneasy if I don’t train for a few days due to unfavorable circumstances. I always try to find ways to squeeze in a workout even when my schedule is busy. When I can’t do pull-ups due to, say, a shoulder injury, I do bodyweight squats or go out to walk.
Aiming for discipline rather than motivation has been a life-changing mindset shift for me. If you’re having trouble bringing discipline into your life, you can try my 30-day intensive self-improvement program. It also includes a basic bodyweight workout program along with other awesome habits that helps you to get your life in order. I also have a complete bodyweight training program with the accompanying diet program that you can follow if you want to build a lean, muscular body.
There’s no reason why you can’t get to a point where not working out is more painful than working out or being lazy is more painful than being disciplined.
Be sure to read:
- Do You Really Take Responsibility For Your Life?
- How to Be a Superior Man, Chapter 3: Develop a Productive Daily Routine
- How to Be a Superior Man, Chapter 9: What Gets Measured Gets Done
- How Discipline Saves You From Stress, Anxiety, And Depression
- 10 Truths About Fitness That Nobody Wants To Believe