Motivation. It’s a hard thing to muster and an even trickier thing to keep—especially when it comes to exercise. A recent survey by research firm ReportLinker showed that although 77 percent of Americans say being in shape is very important to them (hmmmm), 45 percent never manage to exercise at all (among females, 59 percent don’t exercise).
Among those who do work out, the survey identified a few key factors that motivate them to keep on keeping on. Thirty percent of respondents are in the sweet spot: Exercise has become such a regular habit that they don’t need additional motivation. (For tips on reaching that coveted state of being, click here.) For the majority, here’s what keeps them going.
The Buddy System
Motivation comes in the form of family, friends or a personal trainer for 34 percent of Americans who exercise. To employ this method, recruit a friend or family member to exercise with you. Carve out your fitness appointments on your calendars, and set a specific length of the commitment—say three or six months, at which point you both can reevaluate. Then, neither of you feel like you’re signing your life away or backing out on a commitment if schedules change over time. If you can’t find a workout partner, hire one in the form of a personal trainer. For a more affordable option, look into group-training sessions, where you also may find like-minded people to train with after the group sessions are up.
Another third of Americans set goals to stay on track. Many Americans choose events to train for, such as summit hikes, mud or obstacle runs, and full- or half-marathons. If you use this strategy, start small, doing shorter hikes and races before you attempt something big. Another common approach among survey participants is to track their performance—such as running times and distances, or amount of weight lifted—and aim for personal bests. One caveat with this method: Avoid injury and overwork by improving in increments versus huge bursts.
Keeping It Fresh
Nearly 20 percent of surveyees said they employ my favorite motivation tactic: Switching up the types of exercise they do. This can also help you make greater strength and skill gains by challenging your body in new ways. But be smart: Get direction from an expert to make sure you have the right form before you try a new sport or exercise.
Try one of these tips—or all three—or let us know what motivates you. Personally, I’m surprised no one mentioned chocolate. I guess that’s just me.
Kellee Katagi is one of those strange souls who actually enjoys working out for the sake of working out. She’s spent most of her 20-plus-year writing and editing career covering fitness, nutrition and travel, as well as outdoor sports ranging from skiing to spelunking to street luge (yes, that’s a thing).