Take care of your health Sign up for boutron newsletters:
Healthy Living > fitness
No More Excuses! Five Easy Ways to Find the Motivation to Exercise

No More Excuses! Five Easy Ways to Find the Motivation to Exercise

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 07/01/2010
Last Updated: 01/10/2018

Share on:

When my phone rang at 7:30 this morning, my first reaction was fear. Something about a phone call too early or too late always sends me into a bit of a frenzy.
My mind, like a runaway train, started speeding in the wrong direction.

And then she started laughing.
My friend, M, who had recently lost 15 pounds after swearing off home-made desserts and taking up walking and Zumba classes was in crisis mode. She told me that for the past week, she'd been unable to stop eating and had not gotten anywhere close to lacing up her sneakers. "Everything else comes first," she admitted. "I pour myself a second cup of coffee, get on the computer, get lost in emails, and then...it's too late."

"How do you do it? How do you stay motivated?", she moaned.

I'm not perfect; not nearly. There are times I feel unmotivated, too. I feel lazy and tired and some days would rather do anything - even scrub toilets - than exercise.
Her question got me thinking of all the traps we all get ourselves into, and self-talk that helps us (but can alternately sidelines us, too).

We all need motivation, yes. But sometimes motivation is not enough. Sometimes we need to examine how to get past the things that are sapping our motivation and do some specific self-talk. Personally I'm willing to admit that talking and listening to myself can get me into a deep depressing hole at times – but at other times it can be most enlightening and helpful. I can be my own therapist by telling myself how I really feel and reasoning with the devil on my shoulder (or trying to, anyway).

When I feel like being a big lazy slob, I tell myself these things:
You need to exercise. It's important for your mental state.
You need to exercise. It's important for your blood pressure, cancer prevention, heart, lungs, bones, joints and overall health.
If you don't exercise, you'll feel sluggish and depressed the rest of the day.
If you don't exercise, it's going to be harder to get back in the habit.
If you go to the gym, you might not be happy walking in but you'll be oh-so happy when you leave.
Just go and work out for 10 minutes, then see. (Those 10 minutes invariably lead to much more).

This Matters> It helps to get in touch with why you want to exercise in the first place.

If you're reading this, tell me: what is stopping you? Here are some possible fixes:

If you tell yourself…I'll do it later today.
Instead…Do 15 quick minutes in the morning. Getting up 15 minutes earlier is not too hard (even if you're not a morning person). Studies show that morning routines increase the odds you'll stick with your workout. If you get in 15 minutes early in the day, chances are you'll either want to stretch it to 30, or do another 15 minutes some time in the afternoon or evening. Breaking exercise into smaller chunks can benefit your body just as much, some experts say.

If you tell yourself…I can't afford a gym.
Instead…Go outside. Remember when we were kids and gyms only existed for PE classes during school? We walked. We biked. We ran around in the street. And chances are, we were happy and didn't have a weight problem. Walking and biking outside is great exercise, and with the longer summer days, there's more time to do them. And here's another motivator to think about: Recent studies show that bicycling and brisk walking are associated with less weight gain among premenopausal women, especially those who are overweight and obese. Of course, there will be days when it's too hot to go outside. How about an exercise DVD (try Collage Video www.collagevideo.com) or a day pass to the local Y or other gym for those times? Or use the stairs in your house: run up and down for 10 minutes; more if you can stand it!
If you tell yourself…I’m bored
Instead...Find an exercise buddy. That will not only keep you accountable, but can give you incentive and a chance to catch up. For me, listening to my IPod loaded with energetic tunes or interesting podcasts really helps fight boredom. Or you can try books on tape or watching television. I find it helpful to switch up my routine - using the treadmill for 15 minutes, the bike for another 15 and the elliptical for the last 15 (when I'm feeling really energetic) helps to break up the monotony.
If you tell yourself…I always get hurt
Instead...Start slowly. An hour-long high-intensity aerobics class on your first time out will only send you searching for a hot bath or painkillers. Then, you'll swear off exercise for good. Work your way into your routine to stay injury-free so you'll want to go back again and again.
If you tell yourself...My calendar is so busy.
Instead...Write it down – in ink – like you would any other appointment. You need to decide to fit it in and keep a promise to yourself that you will not let anything else get in the way. Granted, there are those times when emergencies come up. Make it a priority and somehow you'll see that it can be done. To make it even easier, pack your gym bag the night before and leave it in the car; lay out your workout clothes and put them on as soon as you wake up.

So, what do you think? Still not clicking? Send me the story of what's getting in your way and I'll pass it on to a motivational expert for some answers.


I'm big on walking myself. Once you walk out, you HAVE to walk back! I've currently got my bike inside cross-training on raining days.

I'm especially big on being realistic about yourself. If you really hate doing something (that would be lifting weights for me), then you probably won't do it. Pick an exercise you enjoy.

I have an excuse until Sunday: taking doxycycline for a tick bite so cannot be in the sun and I exercise by walking. Promise that I will start up again next week. Thanks for this reminder!

Good list. So important to do little bits throughout the day, too. I also vote for mixing it up a bit, doing something different.

I second your vote for mixing it up, too. Otherwise it can get old...fast.

I think it helps to find intrinsic motivators--things that get you to exercise because you enjoy them. Like I love being outside, so I walk and run outdoors. I enjoy making my dog happy, so he comes with me. A lot of my exercise involves being a fun mom--I tread water in the deep end as I wait for my kid to come down the water slide so I can catch her. Stuff like that.

Those are things that make exercise so much fun. You have the right idea!

I am usually very good about making time for exercise. It's just part of my daily routine. My routine has been shot to hell by having the kids home for the summer though.

Great to hear that you are good about making the time. But yes, I do know that many times life (aka kids) can disrupt your well-intentioned schedule in a big way. Maybe they'll join in so you can go out all together.

It seems like every day I wake up (and it's early) and the fires start immediately. Between 3 young kids (that I can't leave alone) and being on my own here.. going out for a short run (or even a walk) is nearly impossible. It does help when I have an event that I need to train for--last year I did a 1/2 marathon and somehow managed to train for that. I have a 5k coming up in Oct and I think that in my mind I know it's not a big deal so I'm not training for it. But I'm going to try. We'll see.

How about bringing the kids along with you on your training run (or are they too young?) Maybe they can ride their bikes while you run? I think it's great that you are doing events - what a fabulous way to get yourself in shape.Good luck~!

I am now trying to take an AM walk--and you're right, it feels great and since I often take a PM walk with my dog, I get twice the exercise. Happy Fourth!

Two walks a day - that's great. Walking is one of my favorite things to do!

I also tell myself that the first day is the hardest..and that if I just "start" even if I hate it and I don't notice anything that in five days, tops..I will feel like a different person. usually even in two days you notice a difference..its like jumping into a cold pool.

So true, Nora, about talking to yourself and convincing yourself you'll feel the (good) effects - they always seem to creep in after a few days.

SUCH good suggestions. My dad always says "A day that you exercise in the morning is a day that you exercise." Tomorrow morning (I am exercising today but it's not morning any more) I am SO hitting the pavement!!

Susan, Jennifer-
I trust your good intentions paid off. At least you are dressed in the clothes (which always helps get me going) and you are thinking about hitting the pavement. That's a positive start, in my opinion!~

Great tips, Sheryl! (Writes the girl in her workout clothes who's sitting at the computer instead of running outside.)

I volunteered to teach a class on Tues and Thurs figuring I would do it if I made the commitment. Now, I need to do more because a couple times the class was rained out! And I keep making excuses not to go.....what is wrong with me?

I think you're no different than the rest of us, Janis.At least you are on the right track! Hope the rain stays away for your classes from now on.

count me as a compulsive exerciser -- until a few medical mishaps side-tracked my hiking-dancing-yoga routine.

four months later and with the all clear at last, finding it tough to get back into the routine again (where did i find the time for two hour walks?)

but also know, of course, that physical activity to maintaining health and preventing injuries and illness.

so, this post is timely for me, thanks.

Yes, Sarah, I can identify. After some surgeries and injuries where I was forced to take time off, it was so, so hard getting myself back into the routine. But since you've been a compulsive exerciser, I know you'll find a way to ease back into it in time. Good luck!

What works for me is meeting friends for walks, finding classes I like that I'm motivated to return to, and also reminding myself to focus on the aftereffects. In other words, I hate to run, but when I'm not wanting to go I remind myself how great I feel afterwards.

I couldn't agree more, Melanie. Taking a walk with a friend to catch up - rather than sitting over a glass of wine (well, this sometimes is nice, too:)) is a great way to kill two birds with one stone.

Lordy lord, I've definitely used a few of these. These days, I get a lot of power walking in, and the occasional callanetics class, but I definitely miss my hoop dancing and belly dancing classes. I stopped those b/c of $, but perhaps it's time to make room for them in my budget again? Loved the format of this post.

Hoop and belly dancing class sounds like too much fun to give up. Hope you can find a way to re-work those into your life (and think I might have to look into these for myself!)

I'm an excuse maker, honestly, so this is just what I needed to read. Thanks!

Well, I sure hope you found something helpful here, Kris!

I like the conversation you have with yourself. I think I need to mimic it!

Kundalini yoga has helped me! I go to class on Saturdays--and amazing thing, that is the only day I willingly pop out of bed and get dressed, because i need to leave my house an hour before class to get tehre and get a spot! Now I have two kundalini yoga videos and somehow I am making the time to do them in the am--at least 2 other days...and row on the rower 200 meters is 10 minutes--that usually gets me past the slump

Thanks for writing, Rosie. That sounds fantastic...you must be very dedicated to leave an hour ahead to get there on a weekend. But I guess that's what happens when you find something you love.

I cant seem to get myself motivated no matter what.


Add new comment