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The best workout motivation tricks to keep you focused on your goals

9 MIN READ • 25th June 2021
Daniella Gray by Daniella Gray

Okay, so the arrival of January promises a new year of goal setting, forming healthy habits and workout-inspo galore, but when that month is over it can be hard to find the motivation to keep going with your hard work. But don’t fear – we’re here to help, as the experts reveal their workout motivation tips and a fitness routine you can stick to. 

Fitness motivation: how to exercise when you really don’t want to

Not quite feeling those 7am workouts anymore? We get it. When you’ve lost motivation for exercise or aren’t seeing results from your morning workout routine, it can feel like you’re fighting a losing battle. 

What causes lack of motivation can vary from person to person, but there’s no denying that when the kids need help with their homework or you need to get dinner on, an exercise session or yoga class might not be at the top of your priority list. 

Here are a few things you can try to make your Monday fitness motivation stretch to the whole week (and month, and maybe even year).

Try a new workout schedule

Ever heard the saying ‘if nothing changes, nothing changes?’. Annoying as that may seem, it’s true. “Our bodies are specialists of adaptation,” states personal trainer Panu Yagi at Nuffield Health. “If we perform a task repeatedly, our brain will soon learn the most efficient way of performing the task, with as little effort as possible.” 

That’s not ideal. So, how do we shake things up when it comes to our workout motivation routine? According to celebrity personal trainer and ambassador for Bullet & Bone, Winston Squire, you need to find one that motivates you. 

“If you aren’t seeing results after a few weeks, now is the ideal time to vary your routine, so aim to find workouts and different exercises that are going to challenge and inspire you.” That might also answer your question of how long to see results from exercise (hint: it’s more than a few days)!

Track your fitness journey

Something we can all agree on is that when we physically see results starting to take shape, it motivates us to stay on track and keep going, right? “A lot of the time we go from workout to workout without utilising all the variables,” explains David Birtwistle, movement coach and founder of Endeavour Life. “Start tracking the details of your workouts, such as rest periods, weight, reps and sets. 

“When you start doing this, the one percent [that’s missing] will start to add up and the quality of your training will increase quickly.” Now that’s a workout motivation tip worth noting. 

Next on the agenda: accountability. David recommends having someone you can check-in with regularly to help you increase your consistency and frequency of your training. “By having this workout buddy, family member or community of people as a tool, it could lead to an increase in output and therefore results.” Yes, group fitness might be off the cards for now, but we’ll be meeting friends for our local parkrun at some point in the future.

Be realistic when it comes to your goals

Challenges and setbacks are part of life, so set a realistic fitness goal to avoid disappointment, advises Winston. “Give yourself short, medium and long-term training smart goals. You need to be realistic about the intensity and length of training required to see results.” 

Plus, you need to take things slowly if you’re starting a new training routine – going gung-ho on those burpee tuck-jumps and strength training will only lead to injury. “You’ll be learning a new set of skills, so it’s important to master the cardio exercise techniques and posture first. Make sure you warm up thoroughly before starting any exercise programme to prepare your body and reduce the likelihood of pulling a muscle.”

Prioritise sleep

Without sounding like a stressed parent telling her kids to go to bed, sleep is vital for repairing your body and can ensure you’re ready to face the day. Plus, there’s no point in having the motivation to sit less and move more when you’re too tired to exercise. 

“Ideally, try to get seven hours of sleep; it helps to wake up at the same time every morning,” Adam suggests. “Limit blue light exposure at least one hour before going to bed. Pick up a book instead or take a bath to unwind before turning in for the night.”

Panu agrees. Sleep is something that shouldn’t be overlooked, and if you’re upping your training, you’re going to need some good quality Zs. “Training frequently can put a significant amount of stress on the body and if we don’t allow ourselves enough time for the recovery process to happen, then we can end up doing a lot more harm than good.”

Have a change of scenery to kick-start your health motivation

Now that the weather is starting to improve, why not take this opportunity to switch up where you squat? A change of scenery, say from your front room to your back garden, will not only contribute to your vitamin D levels, but give you more space. “One of the biggest contributors to a plateau is your mental approach to training,” says David. 

“You can get stuck in a funk and end up giving a half-hearted attempt to your sweat sesh without even realising. A new environment can be a clean start and a fresh opportunity for you to inject some new workout motivation into your training.”

Turn to your plate for an overall healthy lifestyle

The Body Coach fans among us will be familiar with the mantra ‘you can’t outtrain a bad diet’: you might need to look at your plate, rather than your plank, to break your plateau. “Never before has there been so much information out there on what we should eat and when,” says Adam. His advice for motivation to eat well? Focus on yourself. 

“Ignore what your friends are doing and find what works for you. Then, it’s simply a case of having some discipline and committing to your new way of eating. It will take a couple of weeks before you start to feel and see results, so stick with it.”

Strive for progress, not perfection

You’re not a glass of your favourite vino: you can’t be perfect all the time. Take the pressure off and accept that you’re always going to be a work-in-progress – that’s the real answer to how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Cat Jamison, personal trainer and advisor to FitFoodKitchen, wants you to be patient with yourself when you’re screaming ‘I need motivation!’, and approach your new way of working out with compassion and love: “Stop waiting for Monday to come around – any day is a good day to pick up where you left off. And, if you haven’t started yet, stop procrastinating and repeat these words to yourself: you don’t have to be great to start, you just have to start!”

How to motivate yourself for a tough workout

So you’re a bit fed up with your front room workouts – we don’t blame you. Yes, a 10-minute workout at home can be beneficial, but if you’re keen to get those endorphins pumping and spend a bit more time outside (hello, steps), running could be for you. 

Struggling for the workout motivation? Whether you’re new to running or have lost your marathon mo-jo, Well Far podcast host, Amy Lane has some tips on how to increase motivation and make sure you’re on the right track… literally. 

Invest in the right workout gear

While we’re starting to see the back of dark and dreary mornings (hallelujah), a lot of us will try and squeeze in our runs before work, which can mean stepping out before the sun’s up. “It sounds really simple, but if you’re going out running at 6am, it’s really important that cars are able to see you.

“I buy kit with reflective strips and put it on the radiator the night before, so it’s all warm and cosy. There’s nothing worse than getting out of a warm bed into the freezing cold!”

Map your route

If you’re keen to pound the pavements, but can’t even convince the dog to come along, you might be put off by the fact that you’ll be running on your own. Knowing exactly where you’re going can quell these feelings of anxiety and help you to feel more secure when you’re out jogging solo.

“Running on your own can be frightening, so I always find I’m much better if I plan my route on MapMyRun, even if it’s a 5k. This means I know I’m going the right way and not constantly worrying if I’m going to get lost.”

Think about the start line

Although we’re aware of the physical and mental health benefits of running, spring fitness motivation can still fall by the wayside to lace up those trainers sometimes. When you’ve lost yours, picture getting to the start line, as Amy suggests.

“For me, it’s all in the preparation and getting to that start line injury-free – that’s where you really have to put the effort in. If you’re following a specific exercise routine, you can afford to skip some runs, but if you miss too many, you’re just going to end up sore and hurt.

“Then, when I’m out on my morning runs, I always think that my end goal is to get to that finish line, and that keeps me motivated.”

Try group fitness

Increasing your fitness levels enough to be able to run a longer distance is great, but can be equally as isolating. By adding a social dimension to your training, you can make it more enjoyable and get other members of your family involved.

“When I was doing my long runs in preparation for the London Marathon, I would often meet my husband at a cafe or restaurant afterwards. This way, I could make the day more about us, rather than me going for a long run.”

Focus on you

For first-time marathon runners, the preparation leading up to the big day can seem like a marathon in itself, so Amy advises to find a plan that works for you. “Don’t worry about the plans that your friends are on and don’t freak out if you miss an aspect of your training.

“When making a plan, you need to be realistic. You should be fitting a plan into your life, not the other way around, and the worst thing you can do is to try and play catch up because one run in 12 weeks of running is such a small percentage of your overall effort.”

Motivation tips: how to move more at work 

Whether we’re chained to a desk or struggle to find the time to exercise, a lot of us question how to get motivated to workout after work. But, sitting for longer than we should, or lack of physical activity in general, is responsible for over three million preventable deaths worldwide each year, so we think it’s time to switch up our sedentary lifestyles. Follow these simple hacks from our experts to incorporate more movement into your day and increase that all-important workout motivation.

Schedule walking meetings

You know the drill: work-related meetings involve a lot of sitting, but there’s a good reason Public Health England is urging staff to conduct meetings on foot. “By suggesting walking meetings, you can escape the office environment and get a breath of fresh air,” explains Pilates teacher, Kerrie-Anne Bradley.

And it’s not just your step count that will thank you, as Kerrie-Anne suggests your best ideas can come from a small brainstorming sesh: “Movement yields circulation; circulation yields energy and energy gets creative juices flowing.” Lucy Gornall, Instructor at Digme Fitness, agrees, adding that if the meeting doesn’t require a presentation or screen, walking and talking could be the way to go. “Meetings that are sat down can be incredibly draining and tiring, so being outside will clear your head and give your mind a boost.”

Keep a glass of water by your desk

Tea and coffee are considered the drinks of choice in a work environment, and while a warm cuppa can seem like a daily ritual, drinking water may be a better option. Can’t face making the switch? Kerrie-Anne Bradley has a simple hack to make it more manageable. 

“Keep a glass on your desk, rather than a bottle,” she says. “This way you’ll need to get up more to refill the glass, and if you’re drinking eight of those a day, that’s a lot of getting up and down!” Water reduces headaches, helps to flush out toxins in the body and aids concentration, but if you want to make yours more exciting, try infusing it with fresh fruit, such as lemon and lime or strawberry and mint for a burst of flavour.

Use your lunch break as a workout class

A lunch break can help maintain your energy levels and boost productivity for the rest of the afternoon. A new study has shown that more than a third of British employees don’t leave their desks at all to get some regular exercise during their lunch hour. 

Lucy wants to encourage us to utilise this time better by taking a brisk 20-minute walk. “It’s a chance to rack up some serious steps, increase your heart rate and give your eyes a break from screens,” she says. Wearing heels to work? “Leave a pair of trainers in the office or carry some in a tote bag so you can really get a pace on when walking.”

Self motivation and weight loss

Whether it’s relying on the scales to measure your success or the fact that you don’t have a training plan when you arrive at the gym, lots of us make mistakes when it comes to working out, especially when it comes to the workout motivation to get healthy. 

With this in mind, we called in the experts to tell us what the most common errors are, and what to do instead. While you may think that the fixes seem counter-intuitive (why is it important to throw away the scales if you’re trying to lose weight?), they could actually be key to helping you reach your goals.

Motivation mistakes

“If you are purely motivated by changing a dress size, or looking great for a specific occasion, you’re unlikely to see long-term success,” says Vicki Anstey, leading fitness expert and founder of Barreworks

“It’s the same for ‘transactional exercise’ where you are doing it purely for a direct ‘reward’ (such as cake or wine). These are extrinsic (or superficial) motivations. Find a deeper motivation that means something to you and you’ll keep going. 

“If you’re motivated by wanting to live longer and be healthier for your children, or to participate in a sport because you love it and it makes you feel good, you’ll stick with it. If there’s no tangible goal in sight, but the process itself is just personally rewarding, then you’re already winning.”

“I think quite a common misconception with training is that speed will make an exercise harder when actually, often slowing an exercise down does that,” says former Health & Wellbeing cover star Davina McCall AKA the queen of workout motivation!

“I’ve learned that it’s much better to have an amazing technique and do something slow and controlled than to crack out 20 sit-ups that have terrible form and might harm your back. Ed Lumsden [Davina’s PT] taught me that it’s more effective to do 10 press ups from your knees, where your chest touches the floor and you are slow and controlled down and then fast coming up, rather than 20 little dips.”

Meet the writer
Daniella Gray
Editorial assistant

Being able to write about everything that's important to me (exercising for mental wellbeing and delicious food, of course) to help people meet their health goals is pretty special. Before emails, I'm usually in the front-room with a dumbbell and on weekends, there's nothing better than the Kent countryside for a leisurely stroll.

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