I have been working out consistently since the end of 2017. When I mean consistently, I mean between 4 to 6 times a week, with the odd vacation break when I’m completely focused on relaxing or exploring.
I often hear my friends saying that they admire my motivation to work out, that they wished they had a similar routine, but they can’t because they are not motivated.
Every time I hear this, I have to repeat these words: it’s not about motivation.
Just let that sink in.
Back in 2017, I decided I needed to change after my trip to Bali. I had a very rough year, but being in Bali, in complete relaxation and happiness after the storm, was the turning point for me. I often have these moments when I’m stuck in a certain situation, then suddenly have a breakthrough and decide I need to do something to change it.
This breakthrough happened during the three weeks I spent in Bali. I’m not sure why – maybe it was the warm sun, the strong incense smell or the island spirits, but I started feeling hopeful about the future (to be very honest, I hadn’t felt like that in a long time).
I made a lot of changes in my life and my way of being. I set goals, a routine, became self-employed while I was working on my thesis and… joined the gym.
I was not really sure what I was doing. I didn’t have a workout schedule – I just knew that I wanted to lose the kilos that I had gained during that tough year. That was my main motivation when I started and, although it was a good one, nowadays I know that I could never rely on such a motivation to work out consistently.
Thankfully, I ended up joining a friend on her daily workouts and she became my mentor. She knew a lot about the gym, the different muscle groups and, most of all, made our workouts fun and challenging. She helped me establish a routine and also kept me accountable.
Me being a night owl and working as a private tutor in the evening meant that it was quite hard for me to wake up at 8h every morning to work out. In fact, I couldn’t believe that I was doing it, but I did it, even when the day was gloomy and I didn’t feel like getting out of bed.
You might wonder what made me get out of bed every day to go to the gym and work out. I started realizing that it was not about motivation – it was about discipline.
Knowing where I came from, why I started, and reevaluating my goals were the key ingredients to success. This was what helped me stay consistent in the long term.
After a few months, I started seeing the real benefits of exercising and my initial goal of doing it just for losing weight sounded naive. I researched and realized that there are so many other benefits to exercising:
- Better cardiovascular system
- Better immune system
- Lowered risk of bone disease
- Better memory
- Better sleep
- Improved mental health
Improved mental health was definitely what kept me going. I realized that I had been struggling the whole year, when something so simple as exercise could have been a great help for me. In fact, I was shocked that more people weren’t exercising.
Honestly, the changes that consistent exercising brought me were impressive. I hadn’t felt so good in a long time. I was calm, confident and less stressed than ever before. I could run 10km without much struggle, and my body felt strong.
This being said, I’m not motivated all the time. In fact, I would say that I feel motivated around 50% of the time. For the other half of the time, I usually don’t feel like working out and just wanna be a couch potato and lay down watching Netflix with a bag of chips on my hand.
If I relied on motivation, I would be working out half of what I currently do (or probably even less). But then, I remind myself of why I work out: to be healthy and to feel good. These are the most valid reasons for me, but they might be different for anyone else.
Working out quickly became part of my weekly routine and now I’m always on autopilot when I work out – be it at the gym, outside or at home. I know that working out is part of my daily life, so I always find time for it. For me, it’s a basic thing, just like doing the groceries, doing a skincare routine, getting dressed or cleaning the house.
How you can make working out part of your routine
If you’d like to work out more often but don’t know how to start or how to keep up with it, I’ve collected a few tips over the years that might be helpful for you:
1. Define your baseline
Instead of jumping in to working out every day, sit back, relax and reflect. Reflect on your life, your intentions and goals. Ask yourself these questions:
- Why do I want to work out?
- What will working out regularly help me with?
- Which benefits of working out are most relevant for me?
These three questions will probably be enough for you to figure out why you want to add exercising to your routine in the first place. They will also help keep you accountable and will be your motivation for those common zero motivation days. They will be the baseline of your discipline.
2. Come up with an easy schedule
A schedule goes hands in hands with discipline. Planning that hour of the day for working out will help you stick to your schedule and never miss a workout just because you don’t feel like moving.
Make sure to choose what’s best for you, not what your friends or Instagram influencers do. The time of the day you workout is indifferent – what matters is that it makes you feel good, and doesn’t mess with the rest of your day.
This is also a good time to set how many times a week and for how many minutes you plan to workout. This is very personal – I’d always advise you to start small, and adjust it as you go as you start feeling those endorphins on your brain and want to do it more often.
Do what works for you, and stick with it.
3. Ask a more experienced friend for help
I cannot stress enough how important it is to be accompanied by a friend or PT if you’re starting to implement regular workouts in your routine!
Ultimately, it was my friend who made me realize that working out was not about motivation, but discipline. Also, she taught me so many new exercises and workout splits and drove me to start researching my own workouts.
The world of working out can be really overwhelming, so it’s always good to reach out to a more experienced friend and ask for help. Hopefully, they can give you some guidance and will also make working out way more fun!
4. Do the workouts you enjoy the most
This one’s so important, and is also something that keeps me going. If you don’t enjoy doing some type of workout, just don’t do it! You’re not obliged to like a workout just because everyone else seems to love it.
Hate cardio? Fine, do weight lifting.
Love dancing? Amazing, do a dance workout every time you want.
Collective sports are not your thing? No problem, you can workout by yourself.
Working out should be FUN! Sure, sometimes it does feel like an obligation (especially when you just want to be a couch potato), but you can make it better by doing that workout you love.
I have a list of my “safe” workouts – these are the workouts that I do when I’m feeling sluggish or down. For me, they consist mostly of cardio kickboxing workouts, because that’s what I love to do. In the end, I usually feel accomplished and happier. Never underestimate the power of a workout to lift your mood!
5. Invest in the ambience
If working out is going to be part of your weekly routine, you will have to make it feel good for you. If you joined a gym and feel uncomfortable there, just quit and join another one. We have to make life easier for ourselves!
If you’re working out at home, make sure you have everything you need for a successful workout – be it a yoga mat, a set of dumbbells or just enough space to move your body.
Having a nice workout playlist can also do wonders! There are tons of workout playlists on Spotify or YouTube. Just find your favorite music and jam through it on your workout. Click here for my favorite current workout playlist!
Another thing that also quite motivates me is having nice workout clothes. I like to feel good when I work out – I don’t want to be working out on a XXL t-shirt from my university times and some old leggings. If you’re spending so much time working out, it’s nice to have an outfit that makes you feel good about yourself.
6. Become part of the workout community
If you don’t have many friends who you can share your workout experiences with, there are tons of Facebook groups you can join. I personally find these Facebook groups to be very engaging and motivating, and they also make me feel part of something bigger.
Following Instagram influencers focused on workouts also helps me a lot, because they give me so many workout ideas and make me want to workout more often. My favorite workout influencers are:
Working out has changed my life for the better and I’m sure it’ll change yours too. It’s one of the best things we can do for our bodies and for ourselves!
Despite everyone having so much advice (hell, I just gave you 6 bits of advice in this post), I think the most important thing is to just remember to be gentle with yourself and do what you love. Working out (and life, lol) will be easier if you have this mindset!