Currently, there are so many people who are out of shape and unhealthy because they don’t understand the importance of physical fitness. Of course they know, and of course they know that working out would fix many of their issues. They just don’t have the motivation.
Working out isn’t about following a specific program (or not following one). You don’t need to choose whether to train with free weights, machines, or bodyweight. It doesn’t matter if you do cardio, weightlifting, cycling, or running. The most important thing is getting into the gym and working out. Motivation is the most important part of the workout question.
Because the best workout is the one you’ll do consistently. You can have all the knowledge in the world, access to all the best equipment, take all the supplements and protein powder, but if you can’t actually motivate yourself to work out, it won’t matter. Here are some tips and tricks for motivating yourself to work out if you’ve been having trouble getting yourself started.
Playfully and interestingly spice up your workouts.
The greatest type of motivation is intrinsic motivation: the kind that emerges from within. Dogs are intrinsically motivated to eat food because food tastes good and they desire it deeply. Children are motivated to explore the world around them because it is new and endlessly fascinating. There is an inherent desire within them to discover.
A great workout comes from intrinsic motivation, not from consequences that may or may not come from losing weight. To find your own motivation, do something fun. Ice skating, surfing, or playing on a team are just some of the many engaging ways to workout. For me, my favorite activity is riding my bike along the beach with my fat tire bike. Doing these activities more often will help you get better at more formal workouts in the gym too. These days, I train in the gym to improve my tricks on a skateboard and to be able to ride trails better on a mountain bike.
Find a workout buddy.
As social animals, we are not meant to go through life alone. We are not meant to do physical labor alone. Hunters work together. Physical laborers work together. Soldiers go to war together. Everything physical in life, with few exceptions, works better and is more enjoyable when it’s shared.
You know there will be some friends suffering right along with you during the workout of the day because CrossFit offers you a community to train with. That is one of the biggest reasons CrossFit is so successful. This dilutes the suffering and enhances the positive effects, keeping you going when things get tough.
Hire a trainer.
Putting money down for a trainer for a few months of sessions is a way to trick yourself into working out when you don’t want to. That’s probably at least 50% of why fitness trainers are so useful: You’ll be encouraged to get the most out of your investment by paying for a trainer upfront. You’ve paid for it, and you’ll use it. People hate losing money.
Get in shape by joining a gym.
The gym is not just about the equipment. There’s an atmosphere that was designed around working out, with lots of people looking to improve their physique and get in shape. I am a big “nature guy,” preferring to spend my time outdoors and exploring what nature has to offer. But the atmosphere at the gym is conducive for me to workout, so I go there a couple times a week.
30 minutes before working out, drink coffee.
Dopamine is the body’s primary motivational neurotransmitter. When the body wants you to do something, it uses dopamine to motivate you. Caffeine enhances the body’s motivational function.
It is not just caffeine that makes you want to work out before you do, it also makes the workout more enjoyable by reducing fatigue and perceived difficulty. You are more likely to be motivated to continue training as long as it becomes more rewarding. You will be able to get to the gym and train effectively if you take 50-100 mg of caffeine as long as you do not train late at night.
L-tyrosine should be supplemented.
Taking tyrosine helps the body produce dopamine. Tyrosine converts to L-DOPA, which then forms dopamine. L-tyrosine alone won’t necessarily increase your motivation, but tyrosine deficiency certainly lowers dopamine levels.1 Supplemental tyrosine should improve your motivation if you have a tyrosine deficiency.
You can find your way there.
Thousands of dollars are spent on home gyms for people who then realize that they can’t really train at home. Some people join a gym and then realize that they prefer the solitude of working out at home. Some people realize they don’t like working out indoors at all, but rather prefer the park, the hiking trail, the beach.
Find the spot that triggers something inside you and makes you want to move, lift, run, and train. If you haven’t found it, start looking.
It’s just a matter of getting in.
Motivating yourself to work out is not easy; you have to deal with the logistics of gym clothes, driving, timing, etc. Once you’re there, you’re in. You’re not going to drive to a gym, walk into the weight room, and then turn around and go back home. That’s not how it works. Get in the door, and everything else will follow.
Think only about getting to the gym, not the lifting, warming up, weights, or cardio. Just think about getting there. That’s it. That’s your job. It all takes care of itself.
It’s hard for most people to find the motivation to work out because they need motivation to begin with. Almost every day, they think about the workout. They stress over it. They look for excuses, they look for reasons not to do it. Most of the time, you’ll stay paralyzed if you keep thinking about it all the time.
There is no second-guessing when there is competition—friendly or otherwise. When you turn your training into a competition with a friend, when you race to see who can go the most miles, run the most steps, or do the most reps, it’s no longer about the workout and the effort. The purpose is to beat the other person. If you’re wired like I am, competition motivates you to work out.
Training styles can be explained by the neurotransmitter theory.
The training programs of one fitness coach I know are tailored to the dominant neurotransmitters of the client. After administering a simple test, he assembles a training program to complement the client’s inclinations based on the dominant neurotransmitter. The Braverman Test is named for this reason.
Strength training, high intensity movements, Olympic lifting, all-out training, dynamic movements, lots of variety, high volume and frequency of training are all dopamine-producing activities.
A routine that doesn’t change much, plenty of rest, steady incremental progress
Play, sports, hiking, irregular weight lifting (rocks instead of weights, logs instead of machines), anything that keeps it interesting releases serotonin and GABA.
You will be more motivated to exercise if you take the test and tailor your workouts to your dominant neurotransmitter.
Take a look at yourself.
Fitness levels and body composition usually show when people who really want to workout but lack motivation don’t work out. Here’s what you can try:
Look at yourself naked in the mirror every morning and night. Do not suck anything in, don’t flex, don’t try to look your best. Look your worst. Let your gut hang out and look at yourself without any filtering. Until you feel like you really want to get into the gym and start working on yourself, you need to feel the pain and shame of letting yourself go.