Science-Backed Ways to Stay Motivated on Your Workout

By Kim Farmer

What do you do when your alarm goes off at the crack of dawn, signaling you to get out of bed? Do you get up immediately and start your morning jog, or do you — like too many of us — hit the snooze button for “just five more minutes” of sleep until the entire morning has passed you and your running shoes by? We’ve all been there, and are guilty of staring down at our gym bags and putting off commitments, without a single clue as to where all our motivation had gone.
In this regard, Pinterest quotes and an excellent playlist can pump you up. But for times when they can’t, know that there are actually science-backed ways to motivate you so you can keep on track with your fitness goals.

Don’t make it feel like a punishment

First things first: you can’t talk hate about what you’re doing and expect good results. Inactive people may not work out because they don’t see it as a fulfilling or satisfying leisurely pursuit, unlike other pastimes like gaming or watching TV. Unsurprisingly, if you treat exercise like a punishment, you’re only setting yourself up for an unnecessary struggle. Working out is great for your body and mind, so treat it like a form of self-care.

Set concrete goals

Sometimes, baby steps are the best steps. In a study entitled Goal Setting in Sports, establishing objectives were found to be the most popular sport psychology technique and an integral part of any mental training program for maximizing athletic potential. You might have ambitious dreams like wanting six-pack abs or a bikini body, but unless you have a concrete action plan, it’s hard to follow through with them. Instead, focus on smaller, more tangible goals like being able to do a proper push-up or increasing the number of reps per session. It may not sound like much yet, but these little victories do add up, and you’ll reach your big goals before you even know it.

Have a little healthy competition

You don’t have to be a naturally competitive person to reap the benefits of a healthy match with a running partner or gym buddy. Not only will competition give you a significant boost, but it will also make you more accountable. You’re less likely to flake on your workout knowing it will earn you the “quitter” or “loser” title by default. On top of this, it’s just a lot more fun having a workout buddy who will wish you good luck all the same.

Dress for success

If you feel more empowered in your new pair of leggings and trendy sports bra, there could be a reason for that aside from good marketing. This phenomenon is called “enclothed cognition,” which refers to the sudden change in perspective when you put on certain clothes — whether it’s a fancy suit, a beautiful dress, or workout attire in your favorite color.  Research from the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology reveals that clothing can influence behavior and subconsciously alter our attitudes. This is due to the symbolic nature of the clothes we wear. So go ahead and buy yourself those new sneakers. But of course, you shouldn’t compromise comfort for style. A workout is still a workout, and you’ll need the right kind to perform your best. That means snug shirts for yoga and comfortable leggings for leg days.

When you feel unmotivated to do your next workout, remember that you are doing it for yourself so that you will be able to continue to do the things you love to do as you age.  Exercise positively affects your mind and body and when you set goals, dress for success and hold yourself accountable; you are more likely to stick with it. 

Thanks for reading!

Editor’s note: Contributor Kim Farmer of Mile High Fitness & Wellness offers in-home personal training and corporate wellness solutions. For more information, visit or email