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7 Energizing Exercise Motivation Tips

Mark Tyrrell
Article by Mark Tyrrell
Therapist trainer of 25 years
Co-founder of Hypnosis Downloads

Motivate your mind to get you moving with these incisive exercise motivation techniques.

"I'm going for a run soon, I really am. I'll just finish this article and then I'll do it. ... Ah, better just return Roger's call. ... Mm, feel a bit peckish; can't run on an empty stomach! ... Feel a bit full now, better wait a bit. ...

Ah, this is the Simpsons episode where Homer... I'll just see the end of it. ... Oh, I don't believe it! Rain clouds! I'll just see if it clears up. ... It's getting dark now, I don't really like running at night. ... Ah, that's a shame, I really was going to have that run. Well, I'll do it tomorrow!"

Lie! That's what we do. To ourselves and to anyone who'll listen. You see, part of me knew I had no intention of going for that run.

Actually, I love to exercise. Honest. And not just because it helps me sleep deeply and increases my energy.

I agree that exercise motivation doesn't come naturally to most people. It didn't for me. I had to work at getting and keeping myself motivated to run, do yoga, and lift weights.

The following are motivation tips that work for me (and for many of my clients who need to exercise). If you need exercise motivation, they'll help you, too.

1) Don't think, just do.

Don't give yourself time to think; over-thinking about exercise saps motivation. If you have scheduled exercise for 5.30 pm and you find yourself thinking about it during the day, then make yourself think about something else. At 5.30, just do it. Paralysis through analysis is not the way to exercise motivation. It's like getting out of bed; the more you think about it, the more time you spend in bed. Just do it. There are times when it's best not to think.

Emil Zátopek, one of the greatest middle- and long-distance runners in history, once said: "If one can stick to the training throughout the many long years, then willpower is no longer a problem. It's raining? That doesn't matter. I am tired? That's beside the point. It's simply that I just have to."

Tell yourself your upcoming session is "non-negotiable". Are you one of life's contenders or not?

But if you can't help yourself and you do start thinking about not doing it, then consider my next tip...

2) Imagine how you will feel if you don't exercise.

This is a strange one, as most motivators try to get you to focus on how great you'll feel (which is also effective). But this tip is shockingly effective.

If you find yourself trying to wriggle out of exercise, focus on how you'll feel later if you don't exercise. If you don't go for that walk, run, weight lifting session, or gym class, you'll feel: disappointment in yourself, weakness, the absence of the "feel good" chemicals that'd be circulating if only you'd been motivated enough to exercise.

Really imagining how you'll feel if you don't fulfil your next scheduled exercise session may be enough to propel you into action. And, leading on to the next tip, there is only ever one exercise session to think about.

3) Only look to the next session.

Constantly telling yourself: "I have to exercise three times a week" or "every day" can feel overwhelming. Why do that? Forget it and just tell yourself, "I am going to exercise today." That's all. Of course, all the single exercise sessions soon add up.

4) Regularly consider the wonderful and plentiful physical benefits of exercise.

  • Improved heart and lung function
  • Better complexion
  • Better sex life (and more chance of getting one!)
  • Better digestion (and bowel function)
  • Brighter eyes
  • Slimmer and more toned body
  • Deeper, more refreshing sleep
  • More attractive appearance
  • Increased youthfulness
  • More efficient metabolism, meaning you even burn more calories between exercise sessions!

I love the thought that for almost twenty-four hours after an exercise session you are burning off more calories than you would have been. Even when you sleep!

Re-read this list between exercise sessions. Keep it fresh in your mind.

5) Regularly consider the wonderful and plentiful psychological benefits of regular exercise.

  • Better mood: Physical movement is the quickest way to produce serotonin (the brain's "happiness chemical"). The more intense the movement, the more serotonin is produced. Regular exercise three times a week has been found to be more effective at lifting depression than taking antidepressants. (1)
  • Self confidence: Regular physical exercise gives you a sense of self mastery, increasing confidence and self esteem. This can have knock-on benefits to other areas of life.
  • Stress management: Exercise makes you better at dealing with stress. When under pressure, fit people show less physical tension and a lower resting heart rate than less fit individuals.
  • Increased intelligence: Working out improves your brain as well as your body. You can become smarter, and improve your memory and other mental functions! Chess champions often up their physical exercise program before big chess tournaments.

6) Vary your exercise routine.

Take a week off from the gym and go jogging in the park to get the mood-boosting effects of being in nature. A night of dancing is great exercise. Do some gardening. Run with the dog. Mix it up. Variation is the spice of life - and of exercise motivation.

7) Visualise yourself exercising.

The body does what the mind conceives. You are much more likely to do something, anything, if you strongly imagine seeing yourself doing it in your mind. (2) The better able you are to visualize yourself exercising (as if watching yourself from the outside), the more motivated you'll actually be to do it. You'll have set yourself a mental blueprint that now wants to be activated.

Happily, I'm now at the point where I don't actually have to feel super-motivated to exercise, because it's become something I just do. If I don't do it, I feel bad. Imagine not cleaning your teeth for a few days. You'd be keen to get back to it, methinks.

Right, I am feeling extremely motivated and am now off for my daily run in the sunshine. :) (Seriously, I am.)


  1. James A. Blumenthal, Ph.D. and his colleagues surprised many people in 1999 when they demonstrated that regular exercise is more effective than antidepressant medications for patients with major depression. The researchers studied 156 older adults diagnosed with major depression, assigning them to receive the antidepressant Zoloft (setraline), 30 minutes of exercise three times a week, or both. According to Blumenthal, "Our findings suggest that a modest exercise program is an effective, robust treatment for patients with major depression who are positively inclined to participate in it. The benefits of exercise are likely to endure particularly among those who adopt it as a regular, ongoing life activity." A follow-up study in 2000 showed that patients who maintained their exercise patterns were doing much better than those who were just taking medication.
  2. Psychologist Lisa Libby, Ph.D. and colleagues found that participants in her research were much more likely to vote if they had first visualised themselves voting from a third-person perspective. Visualising ourselves doing something primes the brain and body to actually do it.
Published by Mark Tyrrell - in Personal Fitness