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7 Ways to Get Motivated (When You Just Don’t Wanna)

After a long day — or in the middle of a long week — it can be tough to push yourself to exercise. Still, you know how important it is, especially if you spend long hours sitting at a desk. Try these tips to motivate yourself to move it.

Find an activity you actually like

It sounds like a no-brainer (it kind of is!), but if you’re just not jazzed by the slog on the elliptical or don’t feel energized to tackle that HITT class today, don’t do it! Try something new, whether it be going for a hike, signing up for a dance class, hiring that trainer who’s been chatting you up, or opting into the city bike share you’ve been considering.

Phone a friend

The buddy system can be a surefire way to keep yourself on track. Take turns planning the workout or choose activities that require two to make a go of it — it’s pretty hard to play tennis alone.

Make it a priority

When you’re overscheduled, it seems like the workouts are the first thing to go, especially if you haven’t actually scheduled them on the calendar. So do that! On Sunday nights, block off your gym sessions for the week or sign up for classes with specific times attached. We’ve found that an ironclad cancellation policy with a financial penalty attached to be the greatest motivator there is.

Get up and at ’em

Morning exercisers are more successful at getting their workouts in, both because willpower is at its highest at the beginning of the day and because it’s harder to make excuses to skip them than if the plan is to exercise at lunch or day’s end. To help with the early-bird routine, start by shifting your bedtime 10 to 15 minutes earlier each night for a week, so you’ll be better rested for an hour-earlier alarm. Lay out your workout clothes — or even sleep in them! — and put your shoes and socks at the ready.

time to exercise

Try the five-minute rule

Getting a workout started can often be the hardest part. If you’re dragging your cross-trainers, make yourself a deal. You must do whatever exercise for five minutes (set a timer). If at the buzzer you’re still feeling not-so-pumped, you have permission to stop. At the very least you’ll have gotten in five minutes of activity, and — more likely — those five minutes will have pepped you up to finish what you’ve started.

Incentivize yourself

Sometimes it takes more than the promise of a post-exercise endorphin high to nudge you into action. So make it a double boost: Allow yourself to cue up your favorite podcast only when you go on your morning run-walk or to watch your guilty-pleasure TV show on your tablet only on the exercise bike. Or buy yourself some cute, comfy athleisure clothes to wear only when you’re actually going to yoga (or Pilates or barre).

Spread it out 

When life is just that busy, it’s daunting or even impossible to escape to the gym or studio for an hour. When you simply can’t make it a priority, all is not lost! Set an alarm on your phone to go off every 50 minutes (or actually pay attention to those move alerts on your Fitbit) and get up and move. Walk, stretch, pull out a jump rope, perform a sun salutation, do a four-minute tabata (pick one or two exercises to do for 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest, for eight rounds) The bottom line: Move!

Photos: Bernard Bodo, Tatomm

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