As is the case with nearly every aspect of life, you’re not alone if you’re struggling to rekindle exercise and weight loss motivation. This issue is something that many people have dealt with. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to get exercise motivation back—even if you’ve lost it. These tips will help get you back on track:
1. Revisit your goal.
In light of your current lack of motivation, it may be helpful to revisit your goal. You might find that you’ve outgrown it or that it’s no longer relevant to where you are in your life. You may have set an unrealistic goal for yourself or one that doesn’t match up with the other elements of your life. Or maybe you need to make some adjustments to feel successful even when things don’t go the way you hoped. Here are some things to think about:
- Write down your goal using SMART criteria (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound). Putting this in writing will help bring your goals into sharper focus and give them more permanence.
- Put your goal in a visible place (for example, on the fridge). Physical reminders can help keep us focused on what we’re trying to accomplish.
2. Keep short-term goals insight, too.
Setting and meeting short-term goals can help break down that overwhelming. Instead of making a long-term goal to lose 20 pounds, try breaking your progress into smaller goals. Make a goal to lose two pounds in the next month or work towards walking five miles every week for three weeks. These are more manageable and easier to maintain, which will help you feel more in control.
And if you hit that short-term goal? Treat yourself! But maybe not with chips—unless it’s a salad of carrot chips or some other healthy option.
3. Make dates with the scale.
- Weigh yourself once a week at the same time of day, with little or nothing on your body (or make sure apparel is consistent). I’m not suggesting you become obsessive about it—but research shows that people who weigh themselves regularly are more likely to shed pounds.
- Use an app. With all the weight-loss apps available now, there’s no reason not to be using one. Some great options include MyFitnessPal and LoseIt! Suppose you don’t even want to input your information. In that case, there are also plenty of apps that will automatically log your food when you scan barcodes with your phone camera and record workouts through a step tracker like FitBit or Apple Watch; try Weight Watchers Mobile and Noom Coach, which can link up to those types of devices.
4. Track other things besides your weight, too.
If you’re not seeing the scale move at all (or moving in the opposite direction from where you want it to be), a fitness tracker can remind you that even if your pants feel tighter, there is still progress elsewhere. You can use it to track how many steps you took each day, how long and restful or restless your sleep was every night, or how fast and strong your heart is pumping after working out.
Studies have shown that people who track their exercise on a wearable device tend to lose more weight than those who don’t, possibly because simply having the extra accountability of a wearable device increases motivation to keep going with an exercise routine.
5. Think positively to rekindle exercise and weight loss motivation.
Most importantly, remember that it’s not always a linear journey. It’s great to celebrate the big milestones and accomplishments, but being proud of every little bit of progress you make along the way is even more important. If you’re beating yourself up for having an off day instead of focusing on your progress, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
No one is perfect all the time, so be kind to yourself. Remind yourself about how far you have come and how much progress you have made toward your goals. You are doing this for your health and happiness, not anyone else’s.
6. Focus on form.
This is the time to shed any expectations of speed or intensity. It would help if you were focusing on perfecting your form and technique so that you’ll be able to reap all of the benefits of your workout without injury. I also like to focus on engaging my core during a workout—especially if it’s a bodyweight! It’s not just about your arms or legs; it’s about how your whole body moves together.
If you’re doing a squat, for instance, keep your weight in your heels, engage your core (that means tighten everything from belly button to back), and make sure that when you go down into the squat, your knees do not go over your toes. Focus on breathing! Deep breaths help you get through each rep and stretch with grace and ease.
7. Focus on your surroundings.
A big part of mindfulness is being aware. Focus on your surroundings, be aware of your body, and focus on how you’re breathing.
One way to get in tune with yourself is to pay attention to your heart rate and your breathing and muscles.
For example, you may notice that when you run up a hill, your heart rate rises and your breathing gets heavier, whereas when you’re running down a hill or walking on flat ground, the opposite occurs (9Trusted Source).
If it helps motivate you to keep going — especially if running isn’t something that comes easily for you — challenge yourself to maintain specific numbers by speeding up or slowing down.
You can also become more mindful of physical sensations like breath and the feeling of feet hitting the ground. For example, try counting each step after every breath or count steps in sets of 10 breaths (10).
These activities may help take your mind off negative thoughts to focus on the present moment and enjoy what you’re doing rather than fixating on how much effort it takes (11Trusted Source).
8. Divide and conquer.
One of the main reasons people give up on exercise is because it feels too hard. So, don’t make it harder. Break up your workouts into smaller sections and spread them out over the day.
If you start to feel your energy flagging before you finish your workout, do a 10-minute session and come back to it later when you’ve had time to recover. You can break down an hour-long run into three 20-minute jogs with breaks in between. You’ll get all the benefits of an hour’s worth of running but more time for other activities (or napping!).
9. Be creative-especially if you get injured.
If you’re injured and can’t run or do the workout you normally do, don’t just sit around because that’s a good way to lose motivation. Find other ways to stay active and keep your body moving—for instance, if running is out, try cycling, swimming, or even Pilates.
If in doubt, ask your doctor for advice. (And if you haven’t gotten injured yet and want to avoid it in the future—and really, who doesn’t?—check out these warm-up exercises.) And as long as we’re talking about injuries: if you hurt yourself while exercising and experience pain for more than a day after your workout, see a doctor. Don’t mess around with potential injuries.
10. Go at your own pace.
Don’t feel like you have to rush through every workout—even if it does start to feel a little monotonous. If you’re starting a new exercise routine or going on a long walk, take your time. You’ll enjoy the experience more and reduce your chance of injuring yourself; this is especially important for people over 50.
If you need to stop for breaks along the way, that’s fine too. Don’t let yourself compare your progress with others because everyone has their fitness level and different goals they want to achieve. Just try not to push yourself too hard all at once. For example, if cardio-walking is new for you, consider taking it slowly by walking one mile in 25 minutes at first, instead of trying to run three miles in 30 minutes right away.
Staying motivated when exercising will help keep your stress levels down and allow you to meet your goals at a pace that feels good for you.
11. Sweat at home.
If you’re too swamped to leave the house or don’t want to, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a good sweat in. A set of dumbbells and a yoga mat are your most important fitness essentials, but there are many ways to get creative without leaving your living room. You can do squats like the prisoner squat, running jumps, and squat jumps when walking up and down flights of stairs in your home (mind your knees). You could also turn on an exercise video for inspiration. Here are some of our favorites:
- For circuit training: Charlene Johnson’s Boot Camp
- For weight training: Jillian Michaels Yoga Meltdown
- For stretching: Rodney Yee Ultimate Power Yoga
12. Start with the hard stuff.
Starting with the hardest tasks can be a great way to get motivated. As the saying goes, if you eat your frog, then everything else will be easier by comparison. Taking on all of your least-favorite tasks first (or funneling them into one day) also clears up more time for doing fun things later on.
But don’t forget to take some time for celebration and self-care! You’re a good person who deserves it.
13. Commit to just 10 minutes.
Let’s say you’ve committed to doing a workout three times a week … but then the first time, you don’t feel like it. Start small rather than ditch your plan altogether — commit to 10 minutes.
If you don’t want to do anything more after that 10 minutes, that’s cool, but your motivation will kick in, and you’ll want to keep going. (Or maybe it won’t — and that’s OK, too.) And if 10 minutes does end up being all you can manage this time around? That’s better than nothing! The most important thing is to remain consistent, disciplined, and patient with yourself.
14. Touch base with an expert.
In most cases, you shouldn’t go it alone when trying to build a new habit, especially if you’re starting on your fitness journey or getting back into working out after some time off. It’s always important to make sure any diet or exercise program is safe for you. Talk to your doctor if you have any medical concerns, and consider talking to a personal trainer or fitness instructor who could help you develop a health plan that fits your goals and abilities. If going in person isn’t an option, look online for advice from an expert or dietitian whose work resonates with you—or pick up a book about weight loss written by someone whose story mirrors your own.
15. Find a new workout buddy or group class for motivation and accountability.
If you’re the type of person who likes accountability and motivation from other people, try finding a workout buddy or group class suitable for you. Look for one that meets at a time that works for you, has goals similar to yours (or is open to helping you achieve your goals), is affordable, and offers conveniences like being close to home.
Also important is to find one where the workout (and instructor!) is fun. If a gym membership isn’t in your budget right now, look online or through local community centers to see what’s available in your area; many programs offer discounts or have low-cost options.
16. Set a new goal.
Once you’ve decided that you want to make a change, you can use the new perspective and resources you’ve gained from your experiences to set a goal. It’s okay if it’s different from your previous one—you don’t have to go back to the same old thing just because it was what you wanted in the past. You might even be able to change your mind about what motivates you.
For example, if before you were focused on weight loss as a way of feeling more confident, now your goals might revolve around simply being healthier and more energetic (and may be thinking less about how others perceive your body size).
No matter what drives us, we all need new challenges. Work with your teammate(s) or coach to develop one based on what you know about yourself and where you are in this stage of life.
And there you have it! By focusing on the positive and setting new, realistic goals, you can rekindle your motivation to work out regularly—even if you’re a little depressed about being injured. Remember that fitness is a long-term process; it’s not about burning out for two weeks before falling off the wagon again. You can work on it little by little to reach your goals without rushing.
If you are injured and feel like you can’t do anything, don’t panic! There are still ways to stay active and healthy when feeling restricted by an injury. For example, try using swimming as a low-impact exercise while recovering from an injury—or check out my recent article on how to continue working out while recovering from a leg or foot injury.
You’ve got this, champ!