The Framework I use to Always Stay Motivated in My Workouts (And Why Setting Goals Should Never Come First)

The number one question I get from you guys is, “How do you get motivated to workout?”

Here’s the answer none of you wanted: I don’t GET myself motivated—I just AM. I look forward to my workouts. And before you all start throwing things, I want to explain why.

I look forward to my workouts because I only 1) do workouts I love, 2) while surrounded by people I love. If you’re sitting at home reading this, knowing full well you dread hitting the gym, maybe it’s because you don’t enjoy what you do once you get there. Or you don’t find the people all that inspiring.

And that, is something I can totally understand.

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I'm motivated now, but once upon a time I dreaded my workouts. READ: The one time in my life I was NOT motivated to workout

It’s a Lot Easier to Find Motivation Once You Find A Workout You Enjoy

I went to college on a track scholarship. When that ended, running had been my life for so long I didn’t know how else to workout. Even though I hit the weight room twice a week for the better part of a decade, my brain was like, “Well, I’m a runner...so I guess I’ll just, keep running.”

My solution? I ran marathons. Because it’s a logical next step for a hundred-meter sprinter to prepare for a 26.2 mile race, apparently. It gave me NO joy. The longest run on my training program was fifteen miles and I cut it after eleven.

It took three marathons, dozens of appearances at local running groups that made me feel down about myself (I always finished way back in the pack), and plenty of mornings TRYING TO FIND THE MOTIVATION TO GO RUN to make one deciding realization: Running for three hours makes my skin crawl (apologies to all marathoners, you do you).

5 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Workout

When I kicked off my running shoes for good, I opened myself up to the idea that there are countless ways to workout. My first “studio” wasn’t even a studio—it was a free workout held in an open park. There were high fives and positive vibes and never once did I dread going. I went to EVERY class on the schedule, or roughly three days a week.

And you are going to find a workout you love just as much as I loved crushing circuits in an open-air park.

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#1: Make it FUN

There are so many different ways to move your body that isn’t, quote, working out. Dance. Box. Hike. Go rock climbing. It doesn’t have to take place in a gym.

Find something fun. Find the thing that makes you light up and brightens your day while doing it. If you’re still in college, try an intramural sports team. If you’re an adult (or trying to adult) try ClassPass so you can find new places to enjoy.

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#2 Bring Your Friends

If you’re trying out a new workout, bring a friend. If none of your friends want to go, make new ones. If you’re an introvert, get out of your comfort zone. Just one time. Try a new workout just one time, and if it’s too overwhelming, you don’t have to go back.

There is nothing more inspiring than surrounding yourself with awesome, super positive people. This is another reason I love ClassPass—it’s a cool way to jump into a brand new workout, knowing there are other new people right there with you.

Community is key to motivation. READ: 5 Tips to Always Stay Active

#3 Hold Yourself Accountable (And Hold Those Around You Accountable)

Most people think the first step to motivation is setting attainable goals. I take the opposite approach: Goals should be your last step; getting into a routine is the first.

If you want to stay motivated, you need to first create a habit which then becomes a lifestyle. Stay consistent by holding yourself accountable, and holding those around you accountable as well. This is why finding community is so important. You won’t be skipping workouts if you have several people texting you, “Hey! Where’ve you been??”

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#4 Celebrate Daily

“Celebrate” does not have to mean “celebrate with ice cream.” Just give your permission to be proud of yourself. Celebrate that you showed up. Get excited about moving again. Be proud for staying consistent. Every day is a chance to get up and move, and your reward is going to bed thinking, “I’m so glad I did that.”

And then once in awhile, celebrate with ice cream.

#5 Set Attainable Goals

You found something you love. You found PEOPLE that build you up. You stuck to your routine. You celebrated all the small wins. Only now is it time to set attainable goals.

This probably goes against everything else you read online, so let me explain.

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The times in my life I felt unmotivated to workout were the same times I felt down about myself. If you’re just getting back into fitness, and you set a personal goal—even a supposed attainable one—and you DON’T HIT IT, you’ll only feel bad about yourself.

Demoralization kills motivation. Do you know how many times I set an attainable goal to lose ten pounds? And how awful I felt when I didn’t get there? Screw that. If you set a goal that you don’t reach, it will demoralize you and you’ll have to start all over.

BUT, if you set a goal after you:

  1. Found a FUN activity you can’t go a day without
  2. Joined an INSPIRING community (where half the reason you workout is just to see the people)
  3. Are PROUD of yourself for every last workout, and
  4. Are surrounded by people who hold you accountable

You already have a framework in place to rest, recharge, and refocus after a setback.

Tell me: What’s a workout you once hated (and dreaded), and how did you find a workout you fell in love with?