Did you know that the word motivation comes from the Latin verb movere, which means “to move”? Motivation is the driving force behind our actions, and comes in two forms: intrinsic and extrinsic. If you’re embarking on a fitness journey, you’ll need both forms of motivation as your steadfast companions on the road to success. Keep reading to learn the science-backed secrets that can help you build and maintain unwavering motivation, ensuring that your gym sessions remain a consistent and rewarding part of your life.
1. Set Clear and Realistic Goals
Setting goals that not only inspire you but are also grounded in reality are key to staying motivated. Science supports this approach – research shows that setting specific, challenging yet achievable goals enhances motivation and performance. That’s why in our KickStart program, we emphasize the importance of staying SMART (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, Time-Based) in order to help you make progress and reach your goals. Whether you're aiming to shed a certain number of pounds, increase your bench press weight, or improve your cardiovascular endurance, defining your objectives provides you with a clear sense of purpose and direction.
2. Find Activities You Enjoy
Ever try something and you’re just plain terrible at it or maybe it doesn’t challenge you at all? When we’re challenged too much or not at all, we tend to lose our desire to engage. Trying different kinds of movement can help you discover not only what you enjoy, but what keeps you coming back for more.
Engaging in physical activities that bring you joy is a motivational tool that’s backed by science. Scientists call it "intrinsic motivation" and the concept outlines that when you derive pleasure from an activity, you're more likely to consistently engage in it. We offer so much at the Y that there’s ample opportunity for you to explore different workout classes and routines until you discover what best resonates with you. Whether it's dancing, swimming, lifting weights, or practicing yoga, finding joy in movement will keep you excited about movement whether it’s on the go or at one of our community centers.
3. Harness the Power of Music
Music is more than just a background to your workout – it can serve as a potent motivational tool. Several studies have shown that the nature of what you listen to can have a significant influence on your workout, including boosting the intensity of your workout and increasing the overall duration of your training time. Create a playlist that pumps you up or borrow one on Spotify and tap into the benefits of rhythm and melody to push through challenging workouts until the very end.
4. Embrace Progress Tracking
Scientific research indicates that monitoring your progress can enhance your motivation by providing a tangible representation of your achievements – or extrinsic motivation. Gamifying your workouts and keeping track of your milestones, such as recording your weights, reps, and cardio time can give you a log of progress over time that can serve as a constant reminder of how far you've come.
5. Social Support and Accountability
At the Y, we understand the strength of community and researchers agree! There’s a single variable that contributes most to commitment—which is considered a part of motivation—and it’s the drive to bond with others. When you think about self-motivation, you might imagine a lengthy schedule or long list, but the truth is we can make motivation easier if we find ways to bond with people while pursuing our goals. When you surround yourself with like-minded individuals who share your fitness goals it can boost your sense of belonging and accountability.
Studies also indicate that working out with a partner or in a group setting increases motivation, adherence, and workout enjoyment. Whether it's a fitness class, a workout buddy, or simply sharing your journey with friends, social support can fuel your motivation. One study found that 95 percent of those who started a weight-loss program with friends completed the program, compared to a 76 percent completion rate for those who tackled the program alone. The friend group was also 42 percent more likely to maintain their weight loss.
6. Reward Yourself
There’s a reason to celebrate your achievements, and science reveals there’s a neurological basis for this practice. Rewards trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and motivation, in our brains and bodies. Rewarding yourself for reaching a milestone – whether it's hitting a weight loss target, mastering a new exercise, or consistently attending the gym – creates a positive reinforcement loop that strengthens your motivation to keep going day in and day out.
7. Practice Mindfulness: Mind-Body Connection
Mindfulness isn't only about achieving tranquility; it also plays a role in your motivation at the gym. Research suggests that mindfulness practices can enhance your exercise experience by fostering a stronger mind-body connection. Engaging in mindful breathing, focusing on the different sensations you experience during a workout, and embracing the present moment, can enable you to foster a stronger mind-body connection. As you cultivate this practice, it will lead to improved concentration, increased workout satisfaction, and a heightened sense of motivation.
8. Variability and Challenge: Avoiding Plateaus
When shaping your fitness approach, you’ll best be served by one that offers variety and poses a challenge for you. Introducing variety into your workouts prevents boredom and stimulates you in new ways. Research highlights that regularly changing your exercises and workout intensity can prevent plateaus and increase motivation. Try to incorporate different exercises, test new equipment, and explore various training methods to keep your workouts fresh and engaging.
9. Prioritize Recovery: Physical and Mental Restoration
Rest is as important as exercise. Ever try to accomplish a task when you’re fatigued, and it takes twice as long or seems twice as difficult? Adequate recovery time is crucial for preventing injury and maintaining motivation. Essential elements of recovery include sleep, proper nutrition, and relaxation. Each of these variables contributes to overall well-being and readiness for your next gym session. When you prioritize recovery, you’re ensuring that you approach your workout routine with renewed energy and enthusiasm.
10. Visualization: Mental Rehearsal for Success
You’ve heard about the the power of visualization – mentally practicing your success before it happens. Research indicates that visualization enhances both motivation and performance by improving your self-efficacy – your belief in your ability to succeed. Set aside a few minutes before your next visit to the gym and visualize yourself conquering your workout, feeling strong, and achieving your goals. Over time you'll start to notice a boost to your confidence and the ability to find the motivation to achieve your best effort.
Staying motivated at the gym can be a challenging journey that requires your dedication, perseverance, and the right approach. We’re here to help equip you with evidence-based tools to empower and guide you toward a healthier life. By setting clear goals, enjoying activities you love, leveraging music and social support, tracking progress, and practicing mindfulness, you can create a workout regime that keeps you inspired and excited to embrace your time exercising.