5 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Work Out

If you want to get in great shape but have trouble maintaining a fitness routine, you are not alone.

Everyone wants to be athletic and have a great physique, but actually getting in shape involves more than just wanting. You have to exercise on a regular basis. And that's harder than it sounds. Sure, once you reach a certain level and settle into a routine, exercise becomes one of the most enjoyable parts of your day, and your workout schedule becomes as automatic as getting up in the morning. But at the beginning? Working out can be hard work, and making time for it in your schedule every day can be even more difficult.

Motivation: The Key to a Successful Workout Routine

So, how do you reach that point where working out becomes a fun, easy-to-make-time-for routine? What's the difference between those who reach their peak and those who find the going too tough? Motivation. You have to be able to get started and keep going even when you feel more like sitting on the couch and watching TV. Here are some ways to get and keep yourself motivated.

Keep a Workout Journal

Once you get used to seeing multiple sets of "10 x 45" or "10 x 100" or "25 pushups" or "100 situps" written down every day, whether in a notebook or on your computer, being able to document your daily exercise accomplishments will become a powerful motivational force. Even the first couple of days, writing down what you've done can be a way to give yourself a little pat on the back. And every day, you'll be that much more motivated to work out at least a little just so you can write down something, and not have an empty space staring up at you when you look down at your journal.

If you feel comfortable with where your fitness level is at, or at least comfortable with your friends knowing where your current fitness level is at, you might consider keeping your workout journal online. Making your workout journal public gives you two extra layers of motivation. First, your friends can encourage you. Second, public scrutiny can make you push yourself harder (or make sure you work out at all on days you might otherwise skip). You don't want your friends thinking you're a slacker.

Look at Photos

This idea sounds so simple you may not think it would work. But looking at photos of someone who has the body you wish you had--especially right before workouts--is a powerful, positive motivating force. You will probably want to choose someone with at least a vaguely similar body type to yourself, so that there is at least a theoretical possibility you can achieve a physique resembling that in the photo.

Conversely, keep a photo of yourself at your absolute worst to look at on days where you contemplate taking time off. Or a picture of who you really don't want to look like a few years down the road. This dual photo set makes a great motivational carrot/stick approach.

Work Out with Others

Whether you sign up for a class or make a habit of going to the gym with a friend, working out with someone else can make the whole experience more fun, and help you accomplish more than you would have on your on. But first and foremost, it accomplishes the all-important goal of actually getting you to the gym. On day 1 or 2 or 3, part of your brain might be trying to talk you out of your new routine. But if your friend shows up at the door, no way you're going to tell them, "Hi, sorry you drove out here, but you have to go work out by yourself. I'm feeling sedentary today."

If you do say, "I think maybe I'm destined for lifelong couch potato status," they'll almost certainly convince you to work out with them. Encouraging friends is a natural human reflex. And once you get to the gym, having a friend to spot you on free weights and encourage you in all your activity will nearly always increase the amount of weight you lift and the repetitions you put in.

Taking a class accomplishes a lot of the same purposes as having a workout buddy. If you paid money, that's encouragement to get your butt to the gym right there. And once in the class, you'll want to keep up with the others no matter how tired you are. It doesn't really matter whether it's aerobics or yoga or or CrossFit or kickboxing or Tai Chi. Any type of class that involves physical fitness will give you an organized warm-up, stretching, exercise and cool-down routine. And all of these classes come with a friendly and supportive atmosphere that give you an incentive to keep showing up.

Make a List of Your Reasons for Getting in Shape

There are a lot of good reasons to work out and get in better physical condition. What are your reasons for getting in shape? Write them down. Review them. Want to be healthier and live longer? Have a burning urge to run a fast 10k or gradually work your way to a black belt? Want to feel better about your appearance? Fit into your skinny clothes again? Be more attractive to others? All of these are good reasons for working out. Write them down. Post them somewhere on your computer or in your home where you can review them--maybe put them next to the pictures or your workout journal! It always helps to remember why you're working out!

Hire a Trainer

A personal trainer is like your own private coach. Part of the trainer's job is to motivate you. They're good at this and know how to guide you through workouts for the best results. A good trainer combines the benefits of a workout buddy and a class with professional instruction in one, with an added intensity of focus. If you can afford a personal trainer, it's certainly an option to consider.

Eventually, starting your workouts will be easy for you, and the workouts themselves will be an enjoyable, stress-relieving, endorphin-producing part of your day. But in the beginning, it's always a good idea to remind yourself of your ultimate goals. Keep working out and you will be on your way to better health, increased energy, and a more attractive appearance.