As many of us know, it can be hard to stay motivated to work out. At the beginning of the semester it’s easy to make plans to wake up at 5 AM and pack a nice lunch, but those plans often fall by the wayside. It gets hard to find time in our busy schedules to go to the gym or even shop for groceries. We keep saying we can start over tomorrow and before we know it it’s exam week again. Those first few weeks are the hardest, but if you stay motivated you can get there.
Start by setting small goals. It can be disappointing to break a sweat day after day and feel like you’re not making any progress. Stay on track with goals that are achievable in a small amount of time. It’s easier to stay motivated if you say, “I want to run a mile longer this week,” rather than say, “I need to run x miles a week by December.” Look at your progress when you feel down and remind yourself of what you’ve accomplished already. Numbers aren’t everything. If you feel stronger then you are still that much closer to your goal. Remember, results don’t come quickly or easily, but they will come as long as you stick with it.
Think positive. Think about how far you’ve come instead of how far you have left to go. Remember how good it feels when you finish an intense workout, instead of how tired you are and how much you don’t want to go. Everyone does things they don’t want to do, but they do it anyways because the rewards outweigh the costs. (I mean seriously, how many of us actually want to sit in a doctor’s office or wait for an oil change?) Think about how exercise is worth the cost in time and sweat for you. Maybe you want look your best for spring break, live healthier, or become stronger. Whatever your reason is, find it and hang on to it.
It can be very motivational to have a friend to work out with or a support group to talk to about your fitness goals. If you’re a competitive person, having a little friendly competition could keep you from going astray. Being around people who are positive, supportive, and excited about fitness will make it easier to get to the gym even when you’re not feeling your best. Check with your campus gym to see if they schedule any group fitness classes. Spinning, yoga, and dance classes are very popular, and can be a great way to find new workout buddies.
Making the commitment to go to a few classes a week is another way to stay motivated, but you don’t have to sign up for a class to make exercise a regular part of your life. Make working out part of your routine and it’ll be easier to stick to it. If you work out whenever you feel like it then it can feel like an optional part of your life, one that can be pushed back to another time when life gets too busy. By adding it to your schedule, you clear up time that is dedicated solely to working out and it becomes a habit and then a necessity in your life.
It is important to make sure that you block off enough time to exercise, though, and that you do it at a time of day that works best for your body. If working out makes you so tired you want a nap afterwards or leaves you overwhelmingly ravenous for the rest of the day, then you shouldn’t work out in the morning. If you’re rushing to work out and shower in an hour between school and work and it’s stressing you out, then it’s not sustainable because it is causing more problems in your life.
The key to staying motivated is to make things easy for yourself and create a lifestyle that is sustainable in the long run. Work out around your obstacles so that they don’t burn you out. Keep it fun and interesting so that you don’t get bored of the same old routine. Most of all, congratulate yourself for how far you’ve come instead of just focusing on that long term goal. Every choice that you make to do something for your health is an accomplishment in itself, so it’s perfectly reasonable to feel good about doing it.