How to convince yourself to exercise on the regular: a head game

By Claudia Zapata | 2016-09-27 12:16:20 | 8 Comments


A few weeks ago I read a post about a woman’s lifelong hate for exercise. She tries something new – I believe it’s Zumba – but far from enchanted, she remains on the hunt for something she would love to do.

Joining my first gym at the age of 14, I been working out pretty consistently and almost always intensely 6-7 days a week ever since. While I can’t speak for all who’ve made exercise a habit, I certainly don’t do a happy dance on my way to a workout. There are plenty of days an evil voice inside my head says “I don’t feel like it today. Please don’t make me go.

The head game I play with myself to keep going can be pretty hilarious.

It usually starts with “I’m so ______ (sore, tired, sleepy, busy, hungover, etc)” when I first wake up and at which point I ask myself, “Should I take the day off?” And, then starts the head talk on why choosing to be sedentary is a bad idea…

I can’t. I’m meeting __________(insert workout friend here).” Or,”______ (favorite fitness instructor) is teaching.” And the always convincing, “I’ll regret it, if I don’t.”

The fear of missing out usually makes me get dressed and out the door.

The lazy talk doesn’t always stop there, though. I’ve pulled into the parking lot of the gym and still debated the decision.

You could turn around right now and no one would know.”

Maybe you could just park and take a nap or catch up on emails or phone calls.”

Once I step foot in class, I might reprimand myself for being so hard on well, myself. “Why are you here? You should’ve stayed home/slept in/ran errands. This is the last thing you feel like doing.” At this point, I’ll propose the five minute rule. But since I mostly exercise with friends (THIS is key) or in a group setting (also key), it’d be kinda embarrassing to leave after five minutes. It usually stops there, but there have been a couple of times I secretly hope Sean will get a flat tire, calling me to rush out of the gym to rescue him myself. Because, I’m so good at changing flat tires.

Here’s the thing: even after all these years, I still have to self-motivate, and make the “you can do this” voice in my head louder.

The Pinterest-y quotes can help (or annoy):

You’re one workout away from a good mood.”

Think about how much better you’ll feel.”

I don’t stop when I’m tired. I stop when I’m done.”

Or, “just $#%^@*! do this!

Last month, my friend wore a t-shirt that I now tell myself when I feel like I’m running out of gas, and it’s been surprisingly helpful.


It’s not very mindful, but counting is another big thing for me. I’ll look at the clock during a group fitness class and say, “you’re already 1/3 of the way done.” Or “only 20 minutes to go. What’s 20 minutes?” In the weight room, I have this weird strategy where I count the total reps I’ll have to do of say, 3 sets of 12 squats. And in the middle of set #2, I’ll say “you only have to do this 18 more times. You’ve got this.” It’s kind of a hurry up and finish strategy, but it works for me.

The JUST DO IT voice always wins, because ultimately I know being sedentary makes me sad. And, oh so grouchy. Moving and sweating meanwhile, creates the best feeling of accomplishment, gives me confidence, and keeps me sane.

Of course, there are plenty of things I enjoy doing (and if you look long enough, you’ll find these, too). I love lifting weights with my girlfriends. I look forward to a good yoga class or a power walk in the park with a friend. And, even if my legs are screaming and I’m cursing inside, I have a thing for how sweaty I get in spin class (and if Sean called me from the side of the road with a flat in the middle of spinning, I’d tell him to call AAA).

side plank

Mostly, I simply love how I feel AFTER a workout, and I try to envision this as I head to the gym because I know it’s worth it.

So, if you’re having trouble being consistent or getting started, check out this post, and make the “just do it” voice louder with a few strategies:

  • Exercise first thing in the morning when you haven’t had enough time to overthink it.
  • Plan workouts with friends. Misery loves good company.
  • Mix it up. It’s hard to get motivated to do the same thing on the daily. Cross-training will fight boredom and also help prevent injuries.
  • Invest in new workout clothes. You’ll want to show them off.
  • Play motivating music. Or, attend classes with instructors who do.
  • Make the time. Any time. You’d be surprised at what you can accomplish in 10 minutes.
  • Speaking of fitness instructors, a good class will seemingly go by more quickly, so shop around for an instructor who speaks to you.
  • Trying something once and saying you hate it doesn’t fly. Give fitness routines a true chance and if after 5 or 6 times you still don’t dig Zumba, then yeah, move on to something else.
  • Being consistent and making fitness gains are hard work, so don’t expect it to be unicorns and butterflies. It’s called a WORKout for a reason.
  • Suck it up, buttercup!

8 responses to “How to convince yourself to exercise on the regular: a head game”

  1. Judy says:

    I am a regular “exerciser” but don’t think it qualifies as a “work out”. Can’t seem to motivate to ramp it up. Love to walk but dread the gym and though I go, can’t wait get out of there!

  2. Cynthia says:

    This is exactly what I needed to read today.

  3. Nadia says:

    I have young children so I make sure to book 2-3 evening workouts (in addition to mornings or afternoons) every week. I never skip them because it means I don’t have to do bedtime routine

    It’s amazing motivation

  4. Mark says:

    The big thing is that once you get into the routine of going regularly, it becomes a lot easier to continue going regularly… starting is always the hardest part!

    • Claudia Zapata says:

      exactly. But my point is, I’ve been working out consistently for over 30 years and still have days I need to convince myself to head out the door. I always do, though! 🙂

  5. Ponch says:

    I so need that shirt! Where can I find it?

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