1. Turn a favorite leisure activity into your workout of choice.
Lots of things you’re already into — dance, roller derby, hula-hooping, really anything with vigorous movement — can be turned into a workout. Weighted air drumming for fitness? Yup.
Research has shown that people who have a desire to work out because they enjoy it are actually more likely to work out.
2. Do a partner workout with a fitter friend.
Doing a partner workout that requires you and a friend to collaborate means bonding over shared suffering and cheering each other on. Bonus: It’ll strengthen your commitment knowing that bailing on a workout means flaking on a friend.
If you don’t feel like sharing your workout, there’s still good news. A 2012 study found that subjects exercised longer when they worked out alongside someone they believed was fitter than they were.
3. Use an app like Workout Plan to schedule workouts and reminders.
Making specific plans to exercise — that is, committing to the how, when, and where — will help you stick to the commitment. Michelle Kerulis, director of sport and health psychology at Adler University in Chicago, advises people to write their workouts in a calendar and “keep that appointment as if you’re keeping a meeting for work.”
Workout Plan allows you to plan exercise in advance, log progress, and make notes, and then sends you notifications about upcoming workouts.
4. Reward yourself for completing those scheduled workouts.
Research has shown that certain kinds of rewards systems increase motivation. Decide what to give yourself for different milestones: a 30-minute massage after two weeks of consistent exercise, a one-hour massage after one month, and after six months? Spa day!
Co-founder of Cressey Sports Performance Tony Gentilcore says that rewards “can have a profound effect on keeping people motivated towards a goal.” He recommends non-food-related rewards, like a new outfit or a trip. “I’ve heard of people rewarding themselves with a weekend getaway. Rewards work; there’s no denying that.”
5. Replace long, tedious hours of cardio with short, high-intensity workouts.
6. Use Fitocracy to track your progress.
There’s basically no exercise or workout you can’t log using Fitocracy, which has a pile of other features like pre-made workouts, achievements to unlock, and more.
Research on the effects of self-monitoring (by way of an online log or written diary) on weight loss efforts shows that subjects who recorded their workouts exercised more often and had fewer difficulties with exercise.
7. Smash the scale. There are better ways to measure fitness.
Say buh-bye to weigh-ins and instead pay attention to how energetic you feel, whether you’re crushing and enjoying workouts, and how you feel in your favorite outfit. In the market for a health and wellness-related resolution that has nothing to do with weight loss? Here you go.
Kerulis points out that a disappointing weigh-in could mean that “the person becomes discouraged, and that can result in a downward spiral that could lead to giving up on exercise plan.”
8. Get inspired by Instagram and Pinterest.
Repeating a short phrase that resonates with you and your motivation for wanting to get in shape can be gas in the fuel tank.
Both Instagram and Pinterest are treasure troves for inspiring mantras (thanks, FitFluential and MizzFIT!)
Bookmark your favorites and revisit them often. Kerulis believes that developing mantras helps with motivation and focus, and gives you an opportunity to “reflect on the reason you decided to engage on this journey.”
“When people start to feel discouraged or think negatively about their exercise plan or their goals, switching that negative thought into a positive statement can provide motivation to get to the gym,” she says.
9. Celebrate yourself mid-workout.
If you’ve ever noticed a connection between how good you feel about yourself and how good you feel about kicking ass in a workout, that’s because positive self-talk — that is, saying or thinking affirming and encouraging statements to yourself about you — does in fact improve self-confidence and exercise performance.
One study showed that saying motivational phrases (like “I can,” I’m strong,” and “I’ve got it”) to yourself while training makes you feel more capable and improves your performance.
10. Rest and recover. Trying to work out while exhausted is a motivation-killer.
Not only does it feel miserable to push through a workout when you’re not well-rested, but sleep and well-planned recovery are also crucial to working out and increasing fitness.
If you notice that you’re persistently fatigued or extra sore, not making it through workouts, or fighting off a cold that never seems to go away, your body might be telling you that you haven’t been taking enough rest and you need to chill.
11. Game-ify fitness with an app and then crush your opponents.
Fitocracy allows users to compete, challenge, and cheer each other on. Sure, according to research, there’s a good chance that head-to-head competition will help you perform better.
But more importantly: BRAGGING RIGHTS.
12. Use missed workouts as opportunities for rest or active recovery.
Making yourself feel terrible about bailing every once (or thrice) in a while isn’t going to motivate you to get back to working out. Kerulis says that missing a workout is OK (and hey, maybe you can chalk it up to a much-needed rest!). And when things come up that keep us from working out, “…It’s important not to think too negatively … and to move on to the next plan.” She recommends using a missed workout as an opportunity for recovery. Gentle yoga, taking a walk, or a leisurely swim or bike ride are great ways to stay moving on an off day.
13. See yourself as an exerciser.
If you think of yourself as an exerciser, you’ll work out more. According to a 2010 study, people “are more likely to engage in longer bouts of physical activity if they feel that exercising is consistent with their identity.”
Don’t wait till you finish a marathon to think of yourself as a runner or refuse to call yourself a yogi till you can strike a one-handed tree pose. You’re allowed to call yourself a runner, a yogi, a CrossFitter, a weightlifter, right now.
14. Don’t focus on how much the very beginning of a workout sucks.
What’s worse than the first few minutes of a workout? Your body is getting used to moving and your brain is doing a helluva job of registering the discomfort. But those moments aren’t representative of how the whole thing will feel. One study found that people underestimate how much they actually enjoy exercise because they’re so focused on how miserable the beginning feels.
Focus instead on how it feels to be in the zone, working hard, and feeling strong, or maybe just proud that you got yourself to the gym. This tiny mental tweak will help you focus on what you enjoy about exercise, which in turn will make you more likely to exercise.
15. Run to music that matches the workout you’re doing, right down to the tempo.
Research shows that listening to music while you exercise can distract you from discomfort and fatigue. It can also improve your mood, help your endurance, and make you feel like you’re not working as hard.
Apps like RockMyRun and Songza allow you to create or select from pre-made playlists that provide just the right songs for the kind of workout you’re doing — search by beats per minute or genre, or play songs that match your pace or cadence.