To stick with an exercise routine, you need to get out there when that little voice inside you says, "I'll do that tomorrow. Or the day after -- maybe."
Motivation does that, and it's not about just powering through.
1. Lighten Up Your GoalsYour fitness goal may be too big for you right now, especially if you're new to exercise.
Beginners "want to go for maximal goals, but they tend to get overwhelmed," says Gerald Endress, exercise physiologist at Duke Center for Living in North Carolina.
So don’t start off trying to work out an hour every day. Instead, set more reasonable, achievable goals, like exercising 20 to 30 minutes two or three times a week.
2. Track Your ProgressChart your workouts, whether you do it online or in an old-school fitness journal. Seeing improvements, whether running faster, doing more reps, or working out more often, makes you want to keep going.
3. Delete GuiltGet real. You're going to miss a day or two. If you accept that there will be some side steps on your fitness journey, you’ll be better prepared mentally to deal with setbacks, Endress says.
Don’t let a misstep be an excuse for giving up.
4. Focus Only On YourselfThere will always be someone fitter, faster, or more flexible than you.
Don’t compare yourself to them, Endress says. Forget about them. Do not let them deter you from your goal. Your workout time is for you, and about you.
5. Get a Cheering SquadFind people -- friends, family, co-workers, neighbors -- who will encourage you to stay on track. Ask them to do exactly that.
"The person should be in support, but not say, 'Why can’t you? It’s so easy,'" says Carla Sottovia of Cooper Aerobics in Dallas. If helpful reassurance turns into criticism, gently remind your pal that you don’t need nagging.
6. Find the Fun in ItIf you can't get motivated, maybe you're doing the wrong activity. Or you used to like it, and now it's gotten stale. Pick activities you like the most, and they become something to look forward to. Remember, exercise does not have to happen in a gym. Maybe you'd rather go hiking or horseback riding, do a charity run or walk, or dance.
7. Break It UpTalk yourself into exercising for a few minutes. You may want to keep going. If not, you can do a couple more mini-sessions during the day, instead of one long workout.
8. Make It ConvenientWhen you're busy, don't spend 30 minutes driving to a gym. Use online exercise videos instead. If you're too tired to work out at the end of the day, set your alarm a little earlier and exercise in the morning.
9. Forget the PastSo maybe you weren’t the most athletic kid in high school and were the last chosen for class games. That was years ago. Your goal now is not to win a letter jacket or make the cheerleading squad. You want to exercise to stay healthy and enjoy your life.
10. Reward YourselfTreat yourself for working out.
Choose rewards like a new outfit, a massage, new tunes, a ball game -- whatever you enjoy.