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Uncovering Hidden Sources of Motivation: Tips for Finding Unexpected Exercise Inspiration

We’ve all heard the usual motivators for getting ourselves to do some exercise. You’ve probably tried roping in a friend who keeps you accountable, or promised yourself a reward after you finish your workout (be it cardio, strengthening, or a mixture of both).

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Maybe you’ve bought a smaller pair of jeans to work your way into as a bit of an incentive or bought a gym membership hoping that the membership card alone would motivate you to exercise? Unfortunately, quite often those tried and tested motivators just don't quite work for you and then you need to look at alternative options.

Look at this as a fresh opportunity to set your health and fitness goals and really make a good start on them. Don’t let tiredness, stress, or negative self talk keep you from achieving your health and fitness goals.

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Here are some surprising ways to help get yourself motivated to exercise when all you want to do is collapse on the sofa! Remember, motivation is unique to each person, and it may take a bit of trial and error and using different methods for different days...enjoy the experimenting!

1) Tie Your Workout To One Of Your Favourite Things

Think about what you love doing. Skiing? Rock climbing? Hiking? Kayaking? Paddle boarding? Tennis? Mountain Biking? Walking the dog? Firstly, get out there and do it, in whatever way you can. When you can’t make that thing you love doing a session of strength training or cardio, remember that every one of those activities that you do love relies on certain muscle groups and skills. For example, that upper body work out will help you kayak or paddle board further and longer. Squats will make hiking that mountain a lot easier. Leg curls and standing calf raises will up your tennis game. A core workout will make you better at pretty much everything! Tie your workout to your passion. You will think about your work out differently. It’s a brain changer!

man and woman walking outdoors with a child holding hands - tie workout to your favourite things for motivation for exercise -

2) Only Wash Your Hair on Days You Exercise.

Yes, you read that right! If you make work out days your best hair days, I bet you will work out more often. Clean, beautiful, good smelling hair can be yours…if you earn it. Think about what your hair will look like after four or five days of avoiding doing some form of exercise. A workout day equals a clean hair day...could this be your powerful motivator?

woman with blonde dirty hair - wash hair on the days that you workout, move or exercise or do physical activity for motivation - weight loss  -

3) Get Motivated to Exercise by Listening to an Audio Book.

Most of us wish we had more time to read. Who doesn’t love a great novel? Choose an audio book you’ve been dying to read but just couldn’t find the time for. ONLY listen to it while you are working out. Getting to the good part just might be what you need to keep you walking/running/rowing/cycling further or staying in the gym just a little longer. If you’re not a reader you can try this same trick using a television series. No binge watching unless you are clocking a workout. “I’ve got to know what happens!” can be an excellent motivator. The only thing with this one is not going the other way and overdoing up gradually!

woman with headphones enjoying listening to music or audiobook or podcast - middle age weight loss motivation -

4) Compete with Everyone.

Contrary to my normal advice of don’t compete with others, doing the opposite may actually work for some people (with a caveat*). If you are competitive, make everyone a workout buddy. When you get on the cardio machine, check out your neighbour’s settings. If the person next to you is on the rowing machine for twenty minutes, maybe aim for 25. Use other people to get motivated to exercise whether they know they’re competing or not! Now the also need to respect what is realistic for you and where you are currently at. You do not want to risk an injury, or push yourself too hard, or burn yourself out! Choose people who you feel are on a level with you, who pose a bit of a challenge but not too much (don't choose the bodybuilder wannabe or the marathon runner)!

Now, you can also do the opposite...spend time with like-minded people in a place where you can give and get support, no competition. Exercise is so much easier when you have people supporting you and keeping you accountable, whether that's in person or online...both can work.

3 women exercising together healthy competition and having fun - yoga in nature - weight loss and exercise motivation -

5) Use Post-it Notes to Get Motivated to Exercise.

Buy yourself a big stack of multi coloured post its and get started. Write down your goal weight range, motivational quotes, exercise goals, mini habits, how you are going to feel when you start seeing results—whatever will fuel your drive to move — and stick them everywhere. Put those notes on your bathroom mirror, in your wardrobe, on the hangers of clothes that are a little too tight, on the visor in your car, on the fridge, on your remote, on your desktop, next to your phone charger. Every time you work out, grab one note and get rid of it (or put it in a drawer). You’ll see all those colourful bits of clutter disappearing as you get well on the road to building a solid exercise routine!

Don’t think a few silly post-it notes will get you motivated to exercise? Maybe try a slightly different angle? Each time you complete a workout, put a huge smiley face on the wall (on a post-it that is). Each day you'll feel motivated to earn another one, or at least that's the idea!

post it note and phone on a desk with a pen - using post it notes to get motivated to move or exercise or do physical activity - weight loss tips -  -

6) Choose a Scenic Route and Photograph It.

This is the age of social media. A lot of people operate on a policy of, “If I don’t photograph it, did it really happen?” Maybe this is you (in which case read on), or maybe it's not. We’re all on a quest for awesome photos these days so make your workout a beautiful walk (or cycle etc) and take some great shots of the scenery or a happy selfie as you go. When you finish you’ll not only have the satisfaction of having completed your workout, you’ll have a great post for your social media. Be sure to tag #MotivatedHealth in your social media so we can enjoy your scenic route to!

woman walking outdoors - motivation to move and exercise - weight loss and habit change -

7) Think About Those Who Demoralise You to Get Motivated

We all have someone who makes us feel a little “less than” whether it’s an ex, a colleague, a family member, or a so-called “friend.” I’m talking about those people who seem to say or do little things that whittle away at our confidence. Sadly they exist, and there’s no way to completely avoid them. So use your workout to blast those critics right out of your head. Get even by getting stronger, faster, and better than the people who want to knock you down, or at least by improving yourself and working towards your goals. Let someone else’s negativity motivate you to the biggest possible win, great health!

woman punching - I am a badass - get motivated by thinking about those who demoralise you - weight loss and habit change - lose weight -

8) Use your imagination!

One thing that can be a game-changer when building up your motivation to exercise or choose the healthier of two options is to keep in mind the image of your goal...what you will feel like, what you'll look like, what you'll smell like...all of it! Functional Imagery Training (FIT) can be really helpful and also has a load of research behind it, especially when it comes to weight loss. If you want to give this a go then I offer FIT specific session to clients. Just send me an email to to find out more. I tend to recommend four sessions over a period of 3-6 months, and we can work on things such as 'cravings busters' to help you in those challenging moments!

woman sitting and smiling - functional imagery training - imagery of future self and goal - weight loss motivation - lose weight and habit change -

Everyone has days when they REALLY don’t want to work out. Don’t feel guilty, and you know what, sometimes we do need to just rest and take a day-off.

A few additional tips:

  • Start simply and set a mini goal for yourself.

  • Commit to it publicly, which can be as simple as telling a friend or your partner what you’re going for.

  • Maybe try a group fitness class.

  • Review what motivated you to begin a workout routine in the first place.

  • Put on your workout gear even if you don’t feel like it. Sometimes just getting dressed can help get you out the door.

women in a seated exercise class using exercise bands - motivation to exercise and move - weight loss - lose weight -

There are plenty of solid ways you’ve helped motivate yourself to work out in the past and on most days, they will be enough. However, if all your usual motivation methods fail, try something a bit more off the wall. I hope the techniques I’ve just shared are a little more fun than the usual tips, and for me, fun is the best motivator of all!

Whether it’s downloading 'Zombies Run' and turning your workout into a mad dash from flesh eating monsters (think Couch to 5K with a big twist) or committing to only washing your hair on the days you’ve moved your body, there is something that will help you get motivated to exercise. Don’t stop searching until you find your winning workout booster.

Please note: This article is intended to be for educational purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice or replace professional assessment or personalised advice.

I do not hold responsibility for the information on any links to external websites within this article and information within these links/websites may change at any time or no longer be accessible. Any website pages/links added are also for education purposes only.

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