As an Olympian, you would think that it’s easier for me to get motivated to work out because it’s somehow embedded in my DNA to lead a healthy and fit lifestyle. However, you would be surprised to know that there are many days when I don’t actually feel that motivated to work out!
Olympian or not, taking the first step toward working out is always the hardest. To help, I’ve compiled a list of 14 tips for motivating yourself to work out out below, including:
Set SMART goals
Start small with your goals
Set micro-deadlines for yourself
Tell someone about your goals
Keep track of your progress
Share your results with others
Share your post-workout selfies
Embed working out into your routine
Work out with others
Prepare for your workout ahead of time
Mix it up!
Listen to your body
Let’s get started!
What drives motivation to work out?
Before I share the tips, let’s first discuss what drives our motivation. There is actually a scientific explanation behind this! Motivation is largely controlled by your brain, whether you are driven by intrinsic motivation (doing an activity for its inherent satisfaction) or extrinsic motivation (doing an activity for rewards).
Motivation comes around when your brain gets excited about something and releases the body’s chemical messengers (also known as neurotransmitters) called dopamine. Dopamine provides you with that intense feeling of reward and pleasure, making you feel more motivated.
However, like everything else in life, motivation has its ups and downs. We have all experienced days when our motivation levels are high and also those days when we’re lacking in motivation. In order to ramp up your motivation — and stay there! — your goal is to build a system for your brain to continue to release dopamine consistently over time. Some ways to keep your brain healthy so it can function well and release dopamine to help you stay motivated include eating well, getting good-quality sleep, and exercising.
Now, let’s talk about some specific things that you can do to help build a system to boost your exercise motivation!
1. Know yourself
Discovering what motivates you and asking yourself why you’ve chosen to engage in physical activity will help you understand yourself better so you can chart out the pathways you can take in your workout journey. Some questions that can help you with this process are:
What drives me?
What are my goals?
What are my values?
What is important to me?
What are my strengths?
What are some of the habits that I need to work on that are hindering my progress toward my goals?
Aquil, a fellow Hydrow Athlete and Olympian with two kids, says he’s driven to stay motivated for his kids. He reminds himself that he needs to be stronger and faster than his kids for as long as possible!
2. Set SMART goals
SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely. Ensuring the fitness goals you have set for yourself fit these criteria will help set you up for success in achieving them.
For example, it’s easier and more measurable to strive towards a goal of “Being able to row for 20 minutes without taking a break” when compared to a more vague goal of “I want to get in shape.”
“Having a goal to work towards helps me stay focused on working out each day,” says Mike, another Hydrow Athlete.
3. Start small with your goals
It’s easy to get ambitious when setting goals, but remember to set small goals on your way toward your big goals. Big goals may seem daunting, which can actually lead to having less motivation over time because your goals may seem too unrealistic to actually achieve.
For instance, start by setting daily goals like, “I want to row on my Hydrow rowing machine for five minutes each day this week.” Then, you can work your way up as you progress over time.
Owen, a yoga instructor at Hydrow, says he creates small goals to make his bigger goal more manageable, like, “putting on workout clothes and leaving the house.” No goal is too small here!
4. Set micro-deadlines for yourself
Pairing your smaller, short-term goals with micro-deadlines will help you feel like you have something to work toward every week or month. This could be something like, “My goal is to row 5,000 meters at least two times this week.”
Reaching your micro-deadlines gives you a confidence boost you may need to sustain that motivation level in the long run.
5. Tell someone about your goals
Some people have found that they are more likely to meet their goals when they share them with someone else. Find a person you trust who can hold you accountable in your fitness journey.
If they are willing to help you, ask them whether it’s okay for you to share your goals with them, how you plan to achieve them, and what they can do to help you.
6. Keep track of your progress
Keeping a training journal can help you identify patterns in your fitness journey and self-reflect after a workout to keep you accountable and motivated. For instance, you might notice that you perform better when you work out first thing in the morning versus working out after work at night.
Using a pen and paper journal works, but you can also use technology to help you stay motivated, such as the Notes app on your phone or fitness apps like Hydrow that let you see which days you worked out each week and rewards you with badges for your progress.
7. Share your results with others
If you’re someone who is extrinsically motivated, sharing your milestone or results after your workouts could actually help you commit to working out in the first place. When others give us a thumbs-up or drop positive comments on our achievements, it feeds the reward system and keeps us going.
8. Share your post-workout selfies
If you feel totally comfortable with taking sweaty selfies (like me!), you are on the right track to staying motivated — studies have shown that people who post selfies after their workouts are more likely to reach their fitness goals. So, snap those selfies, and don’t forget to add the hard work emoji 🥵
9. Embed working out into your routine
Just like brushing your teeth and checking your work email, working out is something that you put in your daily routine. If you intentionally put a block of time to work out in your day, you are likely to train yourself to see it as one of the things that you do, instead of something that you need to do. Getting into a routine helps you to create habits that can be beneficial long term.
“Living a healthy life is part of the long game,” says Hydrow Athlete Laine. “Reminding myself that movement is my future is very powerful and removes decision fatigue because it’s just something that’s forever a part of my life.”
10. Work out with others
Having a community of people to work out with is definitely a motivation-booster. These communities can keep you accountable and motivated.
For example, working out on the Hydrow rowing machine allows you to exercise with other Hydrow members simultaneously. Personally, as a competitive athlete, I use the leaderboard to push me. The best part about it all is the ability to connect with the people on the leaderboard virtually via the Hydrow app. These members keep me accountable, for sure!
For Hydrow Athlete Nick, he says he gets hyped up and motivated by doing challenges with friends!
11. Reward yourself
Motivating yourself with a reward after a workout can serve as a form of positive reinforcement. This ties in to our brain’s reward system that we explored at the beginning of this blog post.
When I was training to run a marathon, the best reward I gave myself was taking a nap after my long runs. Whatever it is that you reward yourself with, do it in moderation and make sure it makes you feel good!
12. Prepare for your workout ahead of time
To cut down on the hurdles that may keep you from working out, put your workout clothes and gear out the night before. This reduces the energy and time that you need in the morning to decide what you need for your workout and what you want to wear.
13. Mix it up!
Make sure that you include a variety of activities in your weekly fitness routine to keep your mind fresh and interested. This will also help you reduce the risk of injury, as it will target different muscle groups and joints.
If you are mostly using the Hydrow rowing machine for your workouts, some cross-training options that you can include are cycling, elliptical, running, swimming, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking. Engaging in a strength training routine can also help you become a better athlete no matter what sport you are involved in.
14. Listen to your body
The final tip to motivate yourself comes from fellow Hydrow Athlete and five-time World Champion and Paralympic Silver medalist Dani: “If you listen to your body, you gain awareness of what your body needs and sometimes, that is the best motivation that you can give yourself.”
I hope you have found at least one thing that you can do today to help you with your motivation when it comes to working out. Find out what works for you and take that first step toward reaching your fitness goals. Most importantly, no one else can take that first step but you!
If you’re looking for a supportive community of fitness enthusiasts to help keep you motivated along your journey, be sure to check out Hydrow. Our state-of-the-art rowing machines offer a fantastic workout, and you’ll be able to stay motivated over time with the support of our Hydrow Athletes and other rowers. Learn more about Hydrow today!