Four Ways to Stay Motivated

Work Through Weariness
Lagging energy can keep even the best-intentioned exercisers from maintaining their workouts, finds a 2005 study from the Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Along with issues such as scheduling problems, fatigue ranks as one of the top factors likely to thwart exercise efforts. The solution? Continue on, says Bonnie Berger, specialist in exercise psychology at Bowling Green State University. 

"Sometimes when we're tired, it's because we're mentally drained," she says. "Exercise tends to mentally revive rather than deplete us, even though we're expending energy." Play music to boost energy while exercising, suggests Berger, or focus elsewhere (on a project, for instance). But when truly exhausted, she cautions, give yourself permission to skip a workout.

Build Your Confidence
Feeling confident with fitness equipment could improve your chances of exercising regularly, according to a study from Indiana University. To master weight machines and cardio equipment, Berger suggests signing up for a session with a personal trainer. Look for someone with a degree in exercise science, exercise physiology, or exercise psychology, and check for certification from an organization such as the American College of Sports Medicine.

Leave a Note
Use your subconscious to your advantage: Reading motivational words such as "strive" may up your chances of succeeding at challenging endeavors, shows a recent study from Hebrew University. Indeed, turning to trigger words -- especially those with personal value -- can go a long way in spurring you toward workout success, agrees sports psychologist Casey Cooper, Ph.D. She suggests dashing off an inspiring note and dropping it in your gym bag or putting it in a prominent place. "It's good to have those positive statements for when the negativity starts to set in," she says. "Something like 'I have the power to stick with this workout' should work wonderfully."

Don't Compare
In a 2007 study, women who worked out next to fitter peers were more likely to feel dissatisfied with their bodies and thus exercised nearly half as long as when exercising next to an unfit peer. You may feel tempted to measure your own fitness against fellow gym-goers, but getting caught up in comparing tends to backfire, explains Cooper. "When you review your flaws against someone else, you hand your power over to that person," she says, "which ultimately does nothing to motivate your performance." To help resist the urge to compare, Cooper recommends focusing on why you're exercising: because you care about yourself. If you need an extra push to keep going, home in on one of your best skills.

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