Working out is hard as hell—even before you hit the gym. Sometimes the best intentions, like setting an early alarm or packing sneakers in your work bag, won’t be enough to get you psyched about the gruelling training session you’ve got planned. The truth is that every day won’t feel like a fitness fairytale, so don’t be so hard on yourself. Plus, it’s totally fine to skip the occasional workout. In fact, taking extra time to recover may help you reach your fitness goal faster (hi foam roller!).
But before you hit snooze or head to happy hour with sweat-free gym gear, think about whether you’re skipping one session or playing fitness hooky on the reg. It’s called working out for a reason—you have to show up and do something in order to see results. If you need a little inspiration before you get your fitness on, try these 17 ways real women motivate themselves to get #UpNOut.
- Write down your goals and look at that list often.
“I’m always fighting the battle of immediate versus long-term gratification, so I try to find ways to immediately remind myself of the long-term plan by writing little messages on my wrist. It can be anything from ‘4-8,’ because I believe it takes four to eight weeks for results of working out regularly to show, to ‘thank you,’ which is a reminder that I’ll thank myself later if I stick with my plan.” —Lindsey, 41
2. Create a buddy system with your BFF (even if you don’t actually work out together).
“I’ve found that motivating myself to work out usually has to come from a positive place instead of a negative place. My best friend and I have a shared private fitness board on Pinterest for when we need extra motivation. My friend is way better at updating it than me, but it’s super motivating, especially because I tend to work out alone. I can check our board and still feel like I have someone keeping me accountable.” —Claire, 39
3. Plan your workout schedule in advance.
“My week fills up quickly with events for work, drinks with friends, and other miscellaneous activities, so every Sunday I set aside 30 minutes to plan my workout schedule—and that includes booking spots in whatever classes I want to take. Then I write (yes, write!) the workouts in my planner. Once something is added to my calendar I consider it a non-negotiable—I have to go!” –Bari, 37
4. Have a killer playlist ready to go.
“To motivate myself to work out, I make playlists I know I will want to run to. My go-to running songs are mostly DJs like Swedish House Mafia, Alesso, and Audien, but I never forget the fitness classics, like ‘Run The World (Girls)’ by Beyoncé and ‘Sexy Back’ by Justin Timberlake.” —Emily, 33
5. Embrace your competitive side, if you’ve got it.
“I love CrossFit! I love the competitiveness of it and I always get a great workout. I played soccer at the collegiate level at the University of Texas at Dallas, which is why I still have that urge to compete. And at the end of the day, I have so much energy to burn!” —Alissa, 22
6. Plan your gym time around your favourite TV show.
“If I feel like it’s a treadmill-heavy day, I align my workout with when Law & Order is on TV—it gets me to walk, jog, or run for an entire hour and not even notice the time! I walk when it’s playing, and I jog or run during commercials.” —Jocelyn, 29
7. Tailor your workouts to fit your mood.
“I base my workouts on my mood. So if I feel like I’ve been pent up inside all day, I might focus on cardio or do an outdoor run. If I have zero energy, I’ll plan a relaxing session that focuses on stretching and foam rolling with some easy flexibility moves on a mat. If I’m feeling like a beast, I’ll do a heavy plyometrics or strength training. I do whatever I know will put me or keep me in a good mood! It’s a more therapeutic experience that way, and that keeps me motivated.” —Val, 38
8. And listen to artists that inspire you to move.
“My workout motivation is listening to Beyoncé. She works hard, so I try to channel her work ethic.” —Alexis, 47
9. Watch a music video while you put on your workout clothes.
“Sometimes when I watch music videos of amazing women like Rihanna, Shakira, and Beyoncé, it inspires me to work out. Sure, they look great, and I know it’s not realistic for me to ever look like that. But seeing how confident they are makes me want some of that confidence too, and I know working out and feeling stronger is one of the best ways to get it.” —Zahra, 26
10. Keep a specific goal in mind.
“Having a goal helps. I’m training for a half-marathon, so when I’m not feeling motivated to run, I just think about how good it will be to eventually cross that finish line.” —Kirsten, 45
11. And stay on track by following a specific program.
“I ran my first half-marathon in September 2012, and I seriously loved being on a training schedule. To this day I use the Nike Training Club app and set it on a running training schedule, even if I don’t have a race planned. It’s a good way to keep track of mileage while at the same time feeling good about accomplishing a goal!” —Madison, 53
12. Consider working with a personal trainer every once in a while to stay accountable.
“The thing that finally got me to the gym was hiring a personal trainer. It sounds ridiculous and excessive for some, but having that one-on-one scheduled time made me accountable to someone else and corrected my workout mistakes.” —Caitlyn, 23
13. Wear a fitness tracker (and don’t forget to keep it charged!).
“What motivates me to work out most is my Fitbit. Recently, I’ve been using the challenges feature to compete against my friends during the work week, and it’s surprisingly motivating! Instead of letting myself watch Netflix on my couch, I make myself go to the gym so I can watch shows on my iPad while I’m on the treadmill or the elliptical.” —Valirie, 23
14. Put your money where your sweat is and book a non-refundable workout class.
“When I’m already feeling a little flaky about the gym workout I have planned, I book my favorite Pilates class or sign up for FlyWheel instead. This works especially well when I’m struggling to drag myself out of bed for an early-morning workout because there’s no sense in throwing away $25 to $35 for a no-show.” —Alexa, 43
15. And use your alarm clock to get physically #UpNOut.
“I set my alarm for 5 A.M. on days that I work out. My alarm clock is across the room, away from my bed, so I have to physically get up to turn my alarm off. Once I’m on my feet, it’s so hard to fall back asleep. And since I’m up, I might as well make it to the gym!”—Cheryl, 41
16. Think of a morning workout as a way to set your day in the right direction.
“For me, working out is a huge part of my mental health. Working out is a way of releasing energy and frustration. It’s cliché, but so true that I never regret a workout. Plus, working out in the morning gets my whole day going in the right direction and I feel like I make better health decisions when I start my day with a sweat.” —Leslie, 33
17. And most importantly, consider it “you” time.
“If I find myself stressed because I don’t have time for a workout, I think about how this one-hour indoor cycling class or 30-minute run is my mental vacation, a chance to breathe and step back from my busy day. I try to turn it into a treat rather than a chore. This helps me show up, work hard, and focus on the workout—rather than count down the minutes left.” —Haley, 44