6 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Actually Go to the Gym

by | Sep 2, 2013

Photo by Abdullah AL-Naser

Joshua Hardwick is a fitness enthusiast from the small town of Chesterfield, UK. He loves the internet and runs his own fitness blog over at www.iwantasixpack.com. You can keep up-to-date with his posts on Twitter or Facebook.

6 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Actually Go to the Gym

by Joshua Hardwick

If you’re anything like me working out makes you feel energized and clear-minded, but actually gathering enough motivation to go can be difficult. While it isn’t so bad in the summer months, I find it extremely difficult to make it to the gym on cold winter mornings when I know it’s well below zero outside.

When I manage to drag myself to the gym in the evenings I usually feel exhausted from work, and more often than not I’d rather just go home, watch some TV and go to bed.

When I don’t workout though, I always regret it. Here are some tips I’ve found that keep me motivated.


1. Remove invisible barriers

As I mentioned, it can be difficult to drag yourself out of bed and go to the gym on cold winter mornings. One reason for this is that cold weather makes getting out of bed unpleasant, creating an invisible barrier that prevents you from getting to the gym.

Identify the series of steps required to get you to the gym and systematically remove the barriers for accomplishing them one at a time. For instance, if getting out of bed is difficult because of the cold, lay out your gym clothes the night before so you can bundle up straight away and make getting out of the house less painful. Alternatively you can try a Teasmaid or coffee alarm clock.

If you also need to bring a lunch with you, make sure to pack it the night before as well so you don’t have to spend time thinking about what you’ll eat in the morning. Finding simple ways to remove invisible barriers can make it far easier to get to the gym on a regular basis.


2. Get a gym buddy

When I first joined the gym, I signed up at the same time as my brother. We both joined for a period of three months (the minimum membership length at our local gym) and would meet each other most days after work.

This worked out well. We rarely missed a day, largely because we enjoyed each other’s company and saw it as an opportunity to chat. But after the initial three months my brother didn’t renew his membership, which unfortunately left me without a gym buddy. That’s when I got lazy.

To regain my motivation I convinced a friend to sign up and (almost instantly) I couldn’t wait to get started again. A gym buddy not only makes the workouts more fun, but also keeps you accountable.


3. Join a gym you like

The gym I originally joined was fantastic. It had lots of equipment, a swimming pool, sauna and was generally a nice place to be. Not surprisingly, it was quite expensive.

To save money I decided to give another gym a shot. It was around half the price, but offered less equipment and didn’t have a swimming pool. I love to swim, but I thought the lack of a swimming pool was a small sacrifice considering the huge savings.

I hated not having access to a pool. I also hated the lack of air conditioning, the locker shortage and the broken showers. It was a place I didn’t want to be and thus, I stopped going.

Ironically, even the low cost of the gym decreased my motivation further. With the more expensive gym I felt I had to go, otherwise I’d be throwing money away every month. My new gym was so cheap I didn’t really care. Of course, this meant I was throwing money away too.

It’s worth it to join a gym you actually like and that offers the facilities you need if it keeps you motivated to go, even if it’s a little more costly than the alternatives.


4. Track your progress

Nothing kills motivation like going to the gym for months on end and feeling as though you’re getting nowhere. Chances are that you are making progress, but it can be difficult to notice if the process is gradual. This is why tracking is so important.

Keep track of your progress by weighing yourself at the end of each week and keeping a record. I use a free online tracking tool such as MyFitnessPal for this as it makes the process much easier. It also plots your weight on a graph which gives you a visual representation of your progress over time. You can also get a wifi Withings scale or Fitbit Aria.

It’s good to track and measure your body fat percentage too. This allows you to make sure that you’re losing fat rather than muscle.


5. Don’t set overly-ambitious goals

When I joined the gym, my goal was to get a six pack. I thought I could do this in 2-3 months, but soon found out this was an overly-ambitious goal. By the end of those three months I was nowhere near reaching my goal. This made me discouraged and I lost motivation to keep going to the gym.

It’s important to set goals, but you need to make sure that they’re achievable and not overly-ambitious. If you set an achievable goal you’ll feel a huge sense of achievement when you reach it, which will have a positive impact on your motivation.

Set yourself another achievable goal when you reach your initial target, so you’re always working toward something.


6. Reward yourself

For those that like to exercise, this enjoyment offers enough motivation in itself to actually go to the gym. For those that don’t like to exercise it can feel as though you’re putting in a lot of effort without a clear reward, and it can be hard to stay motivated.

One way to combat this is by giving yourself a reward for regularly visiting the gym. It could be as simple as some relaxation time to yourself after each workout or a small indulgence at the end of the week if you reach your goal. Rewards reinforce habits, and once your gym routine is habitual it won’t require willpower.

Exercise is an essential part of your healthstyle, so understanding what motivates you to hit the gym is your key to success.

How do you stay motivated to keep working out?

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27 Responses to “6 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Actually Go to the Gym”

  1. I made it harder to avoid going to the gym by putting the gym in my house. I bought a second-hand set of dumbbells from Craigslist (5 to 40 lb pairs) and a weight bench. Voila!


  2. Every 3 months I keep going to the gym I treat myself with some new workout clothes or equipmene. It feels cool to have new clothes, it reinforces the idea that “I am the kind of person who like to work out”, and I get to buy smaller clothes every once in a while because all the weight Im losing.

    Works for me.

  3. Bella says:

    I hate going to the gym, so I started doing Zumba. Not only do I feel like I get more of a work out there, I also feel more motivated, the time flies and I have a lot of fun.

  4. Erin says:

    It was a lot easier to motivate myself to go to the gym once I started to work at home and noticed how sore I was getting from sitting at the desk all day. I started doing strength training instead of focusing on cardio, and that helps tremendously. I still do cardio, but when I go to the gym and I’m low on time, if I have to pick between the two, I do strength training.

    There’s nothing quite like feeling better and being pain-free to motivate me to go to the gym!

  5. Geoff says:

    These are great tips at a great time for me. My Dr has ordered me to started exercising or risk developing a heart condition and/or diabetes so thank you Joshua (and Darya) for these well-timed tips!

    • You’re more than welcome Geoff! If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably enjoy exercise once you’re actually at the gym; it’s just getting there that can sometimes be difficult.

  6. Milan says:

    Another technique that I use is I tell myself that I will work out for 15 minutes only, and then after 15 minutes I can decide whether I want to continue working out. It gets me to the gym and once I’m there I usually work out way past 15 minutes. 🙂

    • Ris says:

      This trick has worked for me, too! If I’m feeling unmotivated, I’ll walk for 15 minutes, or tell myself I’m just going to do a very light workout. I usually surprise myself. Some of my best workouts have been on these days!

      • Grainne says:

        I do this all the time. On Saturday I dragged myself to the gym. I knew I was short on cardio for the week. I got on saying if I at least do 20 mins that’s fine. I did 10 miles. Mentally this strategy always works for me.

    • Jenava says:

      Ha, I do that, too! My workouts are really ambitious, so days when I’m truly tired I often don’t complete the routine, but I usually get in at least 45 minutes when I just tell myself “just go for 30”. 30 minutes seems so REASONABLE.

  7. Donna says:

    As a mother of small kids, I started a boot camp with 30 minute intense workouts. I love it and I’ve worked out more in the last 6 months than the last 6 years. Now I throw in more walks and hikes with the kids on the weekends since I have more enery and am seeing results. Family time is now more exercise.

  8. Dee says:

    I pack my gym bag once a week with extra clothes/ gear so I always have a change of clothes with me. I just get to the gym same time, same place at least 4 days a week… And the workout happens wether I feel like or not… 🙂

  9. Nikki says:

    the one thing that has made it easier for me to get out of bed in the cold, rainy winter and go to the gym? I have a timer on my thermostat, most of the time I keep my home fairly cool (like 62-65 degrees) but 30 minutes before I need to get up my thermostat is set to start heating things up (like 75 degrees.) Suddenly, getting out of bed isn’t a big deal at all. And 30 minutes later the thermostat allows things to cool back down.

  10. Swati says:

    This is helpful inspiration. I agree with you when u point out summers is a good time to be regular at the gym but winter time really does need some techniques to push us out of the bed and in to the gym!

  11. sally says:

    I park my car behind my husbands so I have to get up to move it as he refuses. That gets me going

  12. ibsn says:

    When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox
    and now each time a comment is added I get four emails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove me from that service?

    Thanks a lot!

  13. Georgia B says:

    I know it would really help me to get a gym buddy, like you mentioned. However, I often don’t like to work out with anyone I know because I don’t want anyone to see me work up a sweat! I’m hoping I can find a friend that I can go with to keep me accountable, but that I’m comfortable enough with to be around while working out. It would be fun to have someone to team up with in the effort to be more healthy!

  14. kevin says:

    I am motivated by my girlfriend. Just the thought of her makes me excel, sometimes beating goals and doing more reps.

  15. Grover Knox says:

    Well that is a good little article. Thanks for sharing your beautiful message and I hope you have a great day and I hope you have a good night.

  16. Susan Thomas says:

    My progress at the gym motivates me to get up and go to the gym.

  17. Pooja says:

    I get bored of gyms easily, what to do?

  18. Avneet says:

    Amazing Article:)

  19. Christina says:

    Since i have always been overweight, i joined a healthywage, its an online program where you bet money on how much weight you are going to lose in specific period of time. I dont want to lose money and the rewards are pretty high, kinda vacation money if you get healthy. That motivates me to go to the gym.

  20. Aaron says:

    I joined the infantry. PT or jail, you choose.

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