Exercise motivation can be hard to find and even harder to keep.
If you relate, try this simple four-step process to keep yourself moving—and improving. And even if you’re naturally motivated, this strategy can infuse fun and intentionality into your workouts and lead to greater gains.
- Test. If you’re having PTSD flashbacks to the Presidential Physical Fitness test from gym class, you can relax. This doesn’t have to be torture. Simply turn your next workout into a measurable gauge of where you’re at physically. You could time how long it takes to you walk or run a mile or swim five laps in the pool. Or track how many squats/pushups/[you fill in the exercises here] you can do in a minute, resting a minute between each exercise. Whatever type of exercise you do, establish a baseline for how well you can do it. Then write it down. If your performance seems pathetic, don’t let that discourage you. Rather turn it into motivation fuel.
Tip: Choose a test that’s challenging but not overwhelming.
- Improve. Put in two to five workouts over the next week—whatever you need to improve. When the week is up, test yourself again and record the results.
Tip: Incorporating a variety of strength and cardio exercises during the week is usually more effective that just doing the exact same workout over and over. But when it comes to the test, try to do it in the same place and at the same time of day as the original test for the most accurate measure.
- Reward. This is the key: Plan in advance what your reward will be for beating your previous week’s performance. Make sure it’s enticing enough that it will motivate you to exercise, but if it’s food-related, keep the amount in check to avoid sabotaging your hard work.
Tip: No gain is too small! Celebrate even little improvements.
- Repeat. Don’t give up now! Keep testing each week, and keep the rewards coming. Some might call it self-bribery, but I call it “a better, fitter you.”
Tip: That’s always worth celebrating.