Going to the gym can feel like a chore, but these science- and expert-backed tips will motivate you to never miss a workout again
When that alarm rings at 6 a.m. for a morning run, it’s easy to hit snooze (twice). And after a long day at the office, it can feel easier to order takeout and binge on Netflix than it would to hit the gym. We get it! Sometimes you need a little extra motivation.
We combed through the research and asked the experts for their best advice, so you never have to miss another workout needlessly. Use these eight hacks next time you’re tempted to be a couch potato. (And when you're finished, make sure you do these 3 Things Immediately After a Workout.)
Whether you’re stressed out because you’re planning a wedding or close to a deadline at work, new research shows you’re generally not any busier than usual. People simply tend to feel busier the closer they get to reaching a goal—despite the fact that tomorrow, next week, or next month, there will be just as many tasks to work on. This often causes people to delay activities (like workouts!) that could better their wellbeing. So, next time you’re “too busy” to hit yoga class, remember: You do have time, because you have to make time for your workout—all the time.
Want some extra motivation to workout? A new study from Johns Hopkins University shows that when one spouse met the recommended fitness levels for American adults (150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise) at a doctor’s checkup, the other was significantly more likely to meet those standards at later visits. Turns out fitness-junkie partners provide just the right amount of friendly, helpful peer pressure to hit the gym. (Start off with The Perfect Total-Body Workout for Couples.)
According to personal trainer Jimmy Minardi, founder of Minardi Training, workouts are way easier to maintain when your team is counting on you. “Join a team or league like basketball, soccer, tennis or running, or become part of a group endeavor—something that gives you a sense of community,” he says. “Your recreation should be enjoyable, not a chore, so I always tell my clients to find something they love to do. When putting in that work feels more like play, you’re more motivated to stay in shape. And two years from now, you’ll still be at it,” Minardi says. (And check out these 18 Inspirational Fitness Quotes.)
Working out doesn’t always have to be an event. Simply start taking the stairs whenever you get the chance, or find excuses to use them more often—like making a trip up and down that massive flight during your lunch hour. “Using the stairs requires no special skill, equipment or clothing and it burns twice as many calories as walking,” says Minardi. “It’s a great way to get into shape, improve cardiovascular function and strengthen and tone the legs muscles. You can try climbing every other stair to enhance the results.”
When you’re financially invested in a gym membership, a spin class, or a yoga session, you’re much more likely to get yourself there and power through morning or after-work fatigue. “The name of the game is to organize your incentive structure for success,” says personal trainer Kyle Fields of Peak Performance in NYC. “Pre-paying for your session keeps you financially accountable for days you'd rather skip the gym or take a nap.” (While you're at it, find out How to Save Money on Your Gym Membership.)
If you’re vegging on the couch after dinner and think you’d rather shut your eyes than drive to the yoga studio, try this psychological trick: “If you ever find yourself glued to the bed, not knowing how you could possibly get up and hit the gym, give yourself a countdown from 10 down to one—out loud," says Fields. "I've never failed to get up after using this technique, and I plan on staying undefeated.”
Use this trick the next time you’re dragging: drink a cup of coffee, knowing your workout will be easier as a result. According to a 2014 study, participants who downed the caffeine equivalent of two 8 oz cups of joe before their workouts said the exercise was less difficult and more enjoyable than those who weren’t caffeinated. On top of that, research from 2013 showed that guys who had caffeine before their workout weren’t as sore in the days following...so hit your local Starbucks on the way to the gym. (Find out more of the Workout Benefits of Coffee.)
If you track your mood by writing it down, you’ll probably see those endorphin-boosted days are providing real results. “We all know that when we're regularly working out, we feel better than when we're not,” Fields says. “The trick is keeping this thought present in our minds, so keep a journal of your mood and how it improves with your workouts.” This will reinforce the positive effect, and help you lace up your gym shoes when motivation is lagging.