6 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Exercise

Let’s be honest: there are fewer people out there with six-packs than Pinterest would lead us to believe. And frankly, I’m not sure if that many of us want to be totally ripped anyway. I would just like to climb up a few flights of stairs without wheezing or fit into my favorite pair of slacks without sucking in my tummy.

But how to motivate ourselves? If you’re like me, then you know that body shaming yourself into it won’t work. You may succeed for a couple weeks, but you’ll eventually give up and feel worse than ever before. Believe me: I’ve been there more times than I can count.

Our culture doesn’t exactly help. I like shopping at Victoria Secret as much as the next girl, but those models have bodies that just aren’t achievable for the average woman. So, here is a list of some items that help me motivate myself to work out and to take better care of myself when I don’t feel like it:

1. Look to Your Role Model

Something that helps motivate me is to think of my health role models. For me, it’s my mom and aunt. They’re both built very similarly to me, and while there’s a good 30 years between us, they hover around the same weight as I do (despite having two kids apiece). When we all go swimming together, it’s not that they look like 25-year-olds in bikinis — they don’t need to. They’re healthy women who have treated their bodies right their whole lives, and it shows. When I see them, it reminds me that I’m capable of taking care of myself that well too.

This can be a slippery slope because we often fall into trying to make ourselves into someone else. That’s why it’s important to pick someone who already shares traits and body types with you. If you don’t have someone in your life like this, that’s okay. However, rather than going to standard fashion magazines where everyone is photoshopped, try to look for magazines centered around women’s health instead. One company’s magazine that I really like is called Title IX. They create athletic apparel, and what I love about looking through their clothing options is that all of the models look happy, trim, and healthy — and all at weights that feel achievable for my body type.

2. Do It for Your Loved Ones

Another way I motivate myself is when I’m reminded that how I treat myself impacts others too. My husband couldn’t care less what jean size I am, but he does care that I take care of myself, just like I appreciate it when he treats his body with respect. You could also think about your friends. If your best girlfriend is constantly trash talking herself about her weight, you’d want for her to be healthier, right? Why not treat yourself the way you’d treat your best friend? Your friends care about your health, just as you care about theirs. By taking care of yourself, you are encouraging your friends to do the same.

3. Count the Small Victories

When I think about working out, I usually begin dreading a grueling 30-minute weight-lifting session. However, there are little ways to take care of yourself without being at the gym every day. Take a brisk walk. If the weather’s inclement, drive to your local mall and walk around there. Just forcing your blood to circulate more increases your mood and your energy levels. Every little bit counts, so don’t get mad at yourself if all you can manage that day is 10 minutes. Celebrate the fact that even though you didn’t want to exercise, you still showed up, and that can be the hardest challenge of all.

Bonus: If you want a good short workout, check out my review of Jillian Michaels 10-minute workouts DVD.

4. Consider the Next Generation

If you’re a parent or planning to be one some day, here’s a sobering thought: your kids will learn their health habits from you. If you’re always stressed about your weight or are obsessed with exercise, your kids will learn that too. Think about the habits you form now as a way to bring up your kids the healthiest way you can.

If you’re not interested in having kids at all, this still applies to you. Every day, we are all either propelling our culture forward by keeping our hearts and minds healthy, or we are sinking by believing the lies that we all must be size 0 whatever the cost. You have an influence wider than you may think.

5. Challenge a Friend

I’ll admit it, I’m not the best at working out with friends. We often mean to, but time slips away from us, and we find we’d rather get coffee together than sweat together. However, something I’ve tried before is just texting a friend weekly about the progress I’m making as well as the progress she’s making. We don’t have to be exercising at the same time, but we can help motivate each other by being in the same boat.

6. Schedule at Least One Fun Activity a Week

Having a special physical activity to look forward to can really help you exercise the entire week to get excited for it. These don’t have to be at the gym; my personal favorite is a swim or a game of tennis with my sister. You could use this as an opportunity to try alpine skiing or paddleboarding (depending on where you live). Call a friend to go on a walk around a park you’ve never been to before. Try a dance class, or better yet, go out dancing! Even in the wintertime, just going sledding for a few hours can be a great workout.

Whatever it is, remind yourself of one thing: this is your body. You only get one, and despite those days where junk food is the only thing you want, keep reminding yourself that in the long run, taking care of your body is totally worth it.

What other ways do you motivate yourself?

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