Fitness Motivation: 6 Ways to Move from Intention to Action

One of the main reasons many people struggle to exercise and eat healthy food is because they don’t have a strong connection to why and how it will benefit them. Why would you want to do something that is difficult, uncomfortable, unpleasant, or tedious when you could just not do it instead?

It’s challenging to change unhealthy habits, even when you know it will benefit you in many ways. The benefits of change appear distant, but instant gratification is very tangible and immediate, which is why you may find that you often pick what feels good now over what’s generally best for your health and wellbeing. So, how do you approach health and fitness motivation in a way that will translate into action?

Here are some practical steps you can do right now to motivate yourself to act on your goals.

6 Ways to Motivate Yourself

1. Invest Something at the Start

Set yourself up for success by making an initial investment. For example, if you are running a race, have someone (or something) waiting for you at the finish line. Now, you have to get there. Opting out would mean leaving behind something you care about, or disappointing someone who is expecting you.

When you give yourself the option of bailing out, you are more likely to do so (because it’s easier), but when you’ve got something invested, something to lose, you will become more committed to action. Instead of thinking about how you’d love to learn play soccer, sign up for a soccer league now. Or, if you want to run regularly, buy yourself a more expensive treadmill (within your budget, of course) instead of a cheap one. Now you’ve got something to lose if you don’t follow through.

2. Create Consequences

As people, we generally love to take the path of least resistance. If there is no consequence involved, we tend to do the safe and predictable thing. Think about all the women who sign-up for personal training before their wedding – the fear of being in the spotlight and not feeling positive about her physical appearance is often enough to motivate a her to exercise more than she normally would.

What consequences can you create for yourself that will be more uncomfortable than taking care of yourself? Perhaps money is tight. Maybe donating $5 to a worthy charity every time you skip your fitness class will be the extra incentive you need to get going. Whatever it is, make it personal and meaningful to you.

3. Imagine You Can Do It

Your mind is your biggest barrier. If you think you can’t do something, there’s a very good chance that you will give up before you even try. Envision yourself not just accomplishing your goal, but physically going through the motions that you must do to get there.

For example, if you’re trying to make healthy eating choices, envision yourself preparing and reaching for foods that are healthy. Or, if you are trying to fit in early morning workouts, spend some time visualizing yourself waking up and walking through that experience.

It may sound strange, but being able to see yourself in the role you are striving to adopt will make it easier and more likely that you will be able to act in this way. Why? Because it will help you to think through what barriers you might face, and then plan ahead for how you will tackle them. It will also connect you to a feeling of accomplishment by completing your task, even if it was just in your mind.

4. Use Rewards Strategically

Identify something that is meaningful to you, maybe an activity that you enjoy or an item you desire. It could be watching a particular TV show, a hot bath, a new pair of running shoes, or a regular tea date with friends. It should be something you enjoy, but that you could also live without. Use this to bait yourself to action. You cannot enjoy this reward until your have accomplished your goal or task.

How do you make this even more powerful? Tell people. Your partner, roommate, or family members can keep you accountable to not indulge. Trust me, the pain of missing out on what you enjoy may be uncomfortable enough to get you to act. Plus, it’s amazing how much sweeter the reward is when you have earned it!

5. Start Small and Build Momentum

Start with something small that you can build on. If your goal is to run a marathon, you wouldn’t just get-up and do it, you would build-up to it by running smaller distances first. In the same way, you may have expectations that are unattainable right now, but that just means you will need to work your way up through initially taking some smaller steps. Define what smaller actions you can do right now.

Once you get going it will get easier since 1) you are now invested in the process ( which means it’s harder to turn back), and 2) your confidence will grow as you realize you are capable of translating your intentions into actions. This may be difficult if you lack the motivation to do anything in the first place, and if this is the case you may want to use one of the other tactics first before you implement this one to get going.

6. Do Something You Enjoy

Change doesn’t always have to be so painful. If you’re trying to get more exercise in, pick a sport or activity you love and build on that. If you’re trying to eat healthier, take a course on healthy cooking. If you associate getting fit with things you hate (i.e. lifting weights five times a week and only eating garden salad), your motivation won’t be sustainable. Find the activities that will work with you and your lifestyle, and invest your energy in those areas.

Your Mind Is Your Biggest Hurdle

Ultimately, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Watch out for those “should” statements that we all tend to gravitate towards: “I really SHOULD be eating healthier, exercising more, etc…”. This kind of thinking can make you feel like you’re doing it for someone else, or some mysterious external standard of living.

Instead, consider WHY you feel as though you “should” be acting in such a way – then replace the word “should” with a reason based on what you WANT “I really WANT to improve my health so I can play with my kids more, so I am going to __________ (“drink this glass of water”, “go for a 30 minute walk” – you fill in the blank). Reminding yourself you are doing “the hard stuff” for a reason that you want will serve as a good foundation for change.

Motivation Video

In the meantime, while you begin working on the 6 steps outlined above, here’s a little motivation to get your body moving rigth now: