Fitness Workout Motivation: How To Find and Keep It

Two young women in sportswear high fiving together while planking on the floor during a gym workout class

Key Points

  • It’s common to lose motivation when attempting to adhere to a workout regimen.

  • Motivation is an internal process that’s unique to everyone.

  • Find fitness workout motivation by setting goals, using reward systems, and making exercise more enjoyable.

  • Motivate yourself by finding a gym buddy, using technology, improving convenience, increasing enjoyment, adopting a growth mindset, and combining tasks with exercise.

It doesn’t matter how much you want it, sometimes you just can’t find or maintain that fitness workout motivation.

It’s a common cycle. You crush it the first few weeks. Those workouts stand no chance against you. You are committed and unstoppable!

Then life happens. You put off a workout because your kid has a baseball game. You sleep in one morning instead of getting on the treadmill. Those feelings of hope and excitement that once created fitness workout motivation have disappeared.

Losing motivation is frustrating. The benefits of exercise are well-known, but gathering the motivation to go through with the workout is tough–even for seasoned workout-doers. Getting motivated — and learning how to KEEP it — will help you get back into the routine!

Finding Motivation

Motivation takes many forms. It’s important to distinguish the difference between internal motivation and external motivation. Knowing the difference helps you learn what drives you.

Internal motivation is the drive you have for success. It’s the satisfaction you get from being healthier. It’s the excitement you get when you look in the mirror and see results. Internal motivation comes from within.

External motivation drives you from the outside. Do you have a friend who motivates you to work out? Does your insurance or employer offer incentives for exercising? External motivation can come from many places.

Everyone gets motivated in different ways. Some rely more on internal motivation than external, while others need both forms. Do you know what motivates you? Start there. Knowing how you get motivated will help you find your fitness workout motivation.

Person flexes arm muscles looking into the sun

How To Find What Motivates You

Think about past times when you’ve been motivated to work out. What was it that made you get up, put on your workout clothes, and get started?

When you watch a fitness video on Facebook or a model’s latest Instagram reel, do you feel motivated to jump up and join in? When you’re around a friend who runs a lot, do you feel compelled to hit the trails?

Motivation is a personal concept, and only you know what fully motivates you. Listening to yourself is the first step in fitness workout motivation. If you’re having trouble, get inspired by some common motivators that work well in getting people moving.

Three Motivators for Exercise

Three main motivators for exercise are setting goals, creating a reward system, and making it fun. If you set effective goals, develop a motivating reward system, and have a good time, it’ll be harder for you to lose motivation!

Setting Goals

Setting goals allow you to track your progress. Seeing your progress will motivate you to keep going by registering milestones and focusing more on your next benchmark. Focusing on success keeps your eyes on the prize.

Using SMART goals creates a map for you to follow when achieving your fullest potential. SMART — an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely — are goals designed for accountability, planning, and implementation.

For example, one SMART goal could be to run a 10-minute mile. This is better than saying, “I want to run.” A 10-minute mile is measurable because at any time in your progress you can time yourself to measure how far you’ve come. Depending on your fitness level, you can determine if this is achievable and realistic by starting with walks and building up to runs to determine a timeline for your goal.

Decide what you want for yourself. More energy? Less stomach bloating? Losing weight? Find what you want, then decide how you’re going to get there by setting goals. Staying motivated throughout the process can be tough. Using a reward system will motivate you to maintain a routine.

Adult wearing smartwatch during workout

Using a Reward System

Using a reward system is exciting! When your abs are on fire from that last set of crunches and you think about giving up, replace those negative thoughts with the reward. Rewards can come in lots of forms, including internal and external.

Internal rewards are great for health and well-being. Exercise reduces the risk for many conditions and diseases, improve mental health and mood, improve brain function, and better control insulin and sugar levels. These internal benefits are a reward for hitting the weights.

External rewards can be used to get you through a tough workout. You can set external rewards for yourself such as buying yourself a new pair of shoes, meeting a friend for a protein shake, or buying something you’ve been wanting — though preferably it's not something counterproductive that will undo the work you just put in!

Although reward systems are beneficial, they don't always work. Finding a fun workout that you enjoy will keep you motivated.

Making Exercise Fun

Making your workout more enjoyable puts you in a better mood — even if you’ve never really loved exercising. This positive experience helps fight the dread!

One option to make your workout more fun is an outfit you love. Ordering a matching gym set or a new tank top can help you look forward to the workout. After all, when you look good, you feel good.

Working out doesn’t have to include torturing yourself by staring at a blank wall while on the elliptical. It could be dancing with a friend! Dancing is great for cardio, burns calories, and improves your mood. Who doesn’t love a dance party?

Playing a sport also elevates your physical activity. Instead of sweating it out on the StairMaster, put together a pick-up game of soccer with some friends or meet new people at the park. Skip the weights and go shoot some hoops instead.

Although these are common motivators, you'll need to find your own recipe for what keeps you passionate about exercise, mixing and matching depending on your mood or even the time season. The next step is to put a plan in place that will actually motivate you.  

Man stretches leg on fence before run

7 Ways To Motivate Yourself To Exercise

It seems so easy in the beginning to meet your weekly exercise goal. You’re getting up at five in the morning and working out before clocking in. You’re feeling great, but then the glamor fades and the workout simply becomes another part of your daily routine.

Learn how to keep yourself motivated by trying some of the tips below:

  1. Get a gym buddy. Partner with a friend, coworker, or family member and make a schedule. Stay accountable and be persistent with each other, rather than trying to take on your regimen solo.

  2. Use technology. Tons of apps will get motivated, track your progress, suggest workouts, connect you with other fitness people –both professional and novice — and more.

  3. Make it convenient. If it’s easier to work out in the mornings before work, set your alarm earlier. Invest in some workout equipment to keep in the basement. You can also combine tasks for extra productivity. Walk on the treadmill while watching a video for work or school.

  4. Focus on your environment. Working out in the same place every time can lead to burnout, so mix it up a little. Go outside when possible. Pick a gym with good vibes. Looking forward to the environment means looking forward to working out.

  5. Choose exercises you enjoy. If you prefer dance workouts to weightlifting, put that in your schedule. If you like squats more than deadlifts, do them twice a week and deadlifts only once. Look up variations of exercises you like to perform, too. You’ll add variety and stick to what you prefer.  

  6. Adopt a growth mindset. Don’t be your own worst critic. Ignore that negative little voice in your head! A growth mindset allows you to focus on what you can accomplish, instead of getting stuck in the past or on what you need to accomplish.

  7. Combine tasks with physical activity. Watch a favorite movie while running on the treadmill. Listen to a podcast during leg day. Combine your workout with something you enjoy. You’ll be motivated to work out because you get to do something else you also enjoy.

Two adults highfive each other during workout

Fitness Quotations To Add to Your Motivation

Quotations promote empowerment. The words resonate and provoke feelings of inclusion and passion. Exercisers can relate to them and feel heard.

Check out some top motivational quotes to keep near when your motivation is lacking:

  • “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” – Mahatma Gandhi

  • “Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” – Henry David Thoreau

  • “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” – Earl Nightingale

  • “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.” – Babe Ruth

  • “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” – Jim Rohn

  • “Don’t say, ‘I can’t.’ Say, ‘I presently struggle with. . .'” – Tony Horton

  • “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” – Lou Holtz

  • “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

  • “You can either suffer the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” – Jim Rohn

  • “The mind is the most important part of achieving any fitness goal. Mental change comes before physical change.” – Matt McGorry

Change Your Outlook

Life is all about perception. One situation for you will be completely different for someone else.

Consider wearing sunglasses. Everything is shaded. When you put on the glasses, you change the way you see the world.

You can create metaphorical glasses. You can develop ideas that allow you to see the world in new ways. One way to keep yourself motivated is through a positive mindset. If you’re constantly putting yourself down and looking at the areas you need to improve, it’s going to be hard to stay focused, excited, and forward-focused.

Instead of looking at exercise as a waste of time, imagine how much more productive you are with the energy you gain from working out. Physical activity increases energy levels, so even though you’re spending an hour working out, the rest of your day will be more productive.

Two adults train in weight room

Don't Focus on Looks

Fitness motivation varies from person to person. Women often work out to lose weight, while men tend to work out to gain muscle. It’s dangerous, though, when you only focus on weight loss or muscle gain and nothing more. Exercise is not only about losing weight. There is so much more that comes with working out.

Setting goals to lose weight can be done healthily. However, don’t get hung up on the number on the scale. Body weight is so changeable and never perfectly stable. Even throughout the day, the body’s processes can alter weight from a few ounces to a few pounds.

You and a friend can do the same workout plan and lose completely different amounts of weight. Sex, age, location, genetics, diet, exercise, and so much more affect body weight.

While exercise is great for looking fit, it carries several other physical benefits that are even more important. Exercise improves blood flow and circulation. This allows the body to redistribute any water it has retained.

When the body retains water, it is taking water from consumed food and drinks and storing it in various areas. Working out allows the body to sweat out water which makes you look bloated and puffy. Water weight may fall off quickly in the first few weeks of exercise but evens out over time.

In addition to water weight, certain foods and other substances will inflame tissues. Inflammation makes the skin bulge, looking as though there is fat in that area, or the body is bigger than normal. Improved blood flow reduces inflammation. This is where you can lose inches without losing pounds.

Instead of focusing on weight loss, focus on inches loss. You can lose two inches around your waist while only losing one pound. You could shrink a shirt size and only lose five pounds.

Before starting a workout routine, take measurements of your body. Measure your chest, waist, and hips as well as each calf, bicep, and thigh. Use this to track progress throughout your fitness journey.

Track Your Progress

Nothing will be more exciting than seeing how far you’ve come. Take before and after pictures to show you where you were and where you are now. When you see your transformation, you’ll feel especially excited that what you’re doing is working!

Track your progress by keeping a record of how much weight you lift, as well as the number of repetitions and sets. Mark a calendar when you work out and keep descriptions of the workouts for each day. Looking back on the month and seeing a record of all your workouts will make you so proud of yourself.

Woman checks smartwatch and drinks smoothie after workout


Even if you have a whole list of motivators, if you’re not self-disciplined enough to get up and get yourself going then it’ll be harder to keep that motivation. Self-discipline is about making yourself work out when you need to — even if you don’t want to at the time.

Being self-disciplined means not making excuses for yourself. When you do, you’re only making it tougher to get and stay motivated. Telling yourself it’s okay to skip the gym because you’re having a bad day might be okay every once in a while. If it becomes an everyday thing, however, you might need to do some self-reflection to evaluate your goals.

Are You Ready?

Fitness workout motivation can come from setting goals, using incentives, making your workout more fun, partnering with a friend, getting the most from technology, and making your workout convenient for you.

Despite everything, losing motivation is easy; it’s even easier to be hard on yourself. Getting angry with yourself when you don’t make it to the gym only makes it worse. Find the balance between being persistent and holding yourself accountable, but not so much that you get down on yourself.

Remember, picking a great environment also makes it more enjoyable. Learning, developing a growth mindset, and combining fun tasks with exercise are keys to sparking motivation. What motivates you?

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