Looking for some fitness motivation to get yourself to the gym?
Here’s the bad news:
Motivation alone won’t get you to the gym every day.
Whether you’re just getting started or have years of experience, there will be days when you don’t want to hit the gym.
So if motivation doesn’t work, what does?
In this article, I’m going to share 9 secrets that will actually reduce the amount of fitness motivation you need to get in the gym.
Before we get into the strategies, here’s something interesting you need to know:
Believe it or not, there is something that has been influencing your entire life whether you like it or not.
It’s called “environment engineering”.
Sounds fancy right?
Here’s what it means:
Have you ever wondered why, when you walk into the grocery store, the first section you start in is full of fruits and vegetables?
When you think about it, it doesn’t make sense.
Why would you put your fruits and veggies in the bottom of your shopping cart where they’ll get squished by all the other heavy things you’ll buy?
Believe it or not, grocery stores designed it that way to get you to buy more junk food.
Because if someone buys something healthy in the beginning, they are more likely to splurge and make worse purchase decisions later.
But it doesn’t stop there. They put the items they want you to buy at eye level... and have enticing candy at the checkout lines to get you to buy more.
They are influencing your decisions by engineering your environment.
But it’s not just grocery stores that do this.
Literally everywhere you go — online or in person — there are people changing the environment to influence your decisions.
So what on earth does that have to do with fitness motivation?
Well, if you’re depending on motivation alone to get you to the gym, you’re fighting a losing battle.
If your environment is fighting against your goal to get to the gym...
... you will never win.
So how can you win?
The answer lies in engineering your environment to make going to the gym easy.
There are many ways to do this, and I’m going to show you 9 ways how.
Before you know it, you’ll need significantly less fitness motivation to achieve your health goals.
I can say with 100% confidence that there is a “perfect” time to go the gym.
Exactly the moment the little voice in your head tells you that you don’t want to go.
I’m being serious.
I wrote about this in detail in my article called “On Doing Hard Shit” but here it is at the high level:
Once you tolerate the voice in your head that tells you it’s okay to skip going to the gym, you also subconsciously tell yourself that you’re okay with being “pushed around” by the voice.
Then the voice gains momentum to sabotage other areas where you might succeed.
So while you may not think that skipping your workout will really make a difference in your day or life, think again.
With every microdecision you make, you’re actually training the voice and giving it more power to influence other big decisions.
I really like the way James Clear says it in his book, Atomic Habits:
“The word identity was originally derived from the Latin words essentitas, which means being, and identidem, which means repeatedly. You identity is literally your “repeated beingness.” Whatever you identity is right now, you only believe it because you have proof of it...
Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”
So, if every time the voice comes into your head and says “nah, I really don’t want to go to the gym today...” you go anyways, you are casting a vote for your future identity as someone who goes to the gym, even when they don’t want to.
One of my best friends once told me that on days when he REALLY REALLY doesn’t want to go to the gym, he still goes anyways and just does 5 minutes of exercise.
I get it. Some days you’re just not in the mood. But it’s important to fight that voice and show up anyways.
Essentially, this is a form of mental “environment engineering” because you’re transforming the thoughts in your head that were previously sabotaging your fitness motivation.
I’ve been going to the gym 4+ times per week for the past 3 years.
I’m a morning gym person.
So the night before I go to bed, I put my workout clothes on the floor by my bathroom so that it’s all ready to go for the next day.
When I wake up, I automatically put on my workout clothes and I’m good to head out to the gym.
Whether you’re a morning gym person or not, the moral of the story is to do things that make going to the gym easy.
Whatever you have to do to simplify the process and remove decisions will increase your chances of actually making it through those gym doors.
Plain and simple:
It’s a lot easier to go to the gym when you actually enjoy the workouts.
But at the same time, sometimes you need to go to the gym and push yourself and do things you don’t want to do.
So I like to make my gym routine “sweet and salty”.
In other words, to have a mixture of things that I’m really looking forward to, and things that I’m not looking forward to as much but I know need to be done.
If you’re trying to get yourself to the gym to do things that you HATE doing every day, it’s not going to be sustainable.
Because I’m allergic to writing boring articles, I won’t go into detail about how you should have fitness goals.
If you’re reading this, you know that’s important. (Check out my article on types of goals to learn the 5 crucial elements any goal must have if you want to actually accomplish it).
But, if you want some true fitness motivation, make your goals public.
All that means is sharing your fitness goals with people at every opportunity.
The more you tell people about it, the more you’re going to increase your commitment to accomplishing your fitness goals.
Nobody likes letting others down.
When you have others counting on you, fitness motivation becomes irrelevant.
You simply have to do what you said you were going to do, or you’re disappointing people.
Related to not wanting to let others down, another powerful fitness motivation strategy is to get a workout partner.
When I was first getting started going to the gym, it really helped me to go with someone who knew what they were doing.
I didn’t want to look like an idiot not knowing what I was doing...
So I reached out to a friend of mine who had more experience in the gym, and asked if he’d be my workout partner.
We went every day at 6am... and having another human being around to push you is very motivating.
I’m a huge fan of spending money as a way to force myself to take action.
If I'm committed to something, one of the first things you’ll see me do is find a way to commit financially to the decision.
In the fitness world, there is no better way to do this than to hire a personal trainer.
When you PAY someone to push you and to meet up with you at the gym at a certain time, you’re 100xing your chances of showing up.
If you’re not finding the first fitness motivation hacks to work for you, resort to this one.
The simplest “win” to engineer your environment to make it easier to go to the gym is to schedule a big fitness event in your calendar.
For me, that meant booking a Spartan race:
So maybe it’s a race, a team to join for a sport you like, a class...
Whatever it is, if you have something scheduled in the calendar (ideally that you paid for), it will make it much easier to go to the gym.
Because you have a strong reason to — and it typically has a deadline.
Unlike setting a goal to lose X amount of weight, having a fitness event is very concrete.
For extra bonus points, try getting a few friends to book the same fitness event so they are holding you accountable as well.
In the book Indistractible by Nir Eyal, Nir suggests using a “price pact” to increase the chances you’ll stick to a behavior you want to develop.
What’s a price pact?
It can be best explained in the study that he discusses in the book.
Here’s a quick summary...
There were main 3 groups in the study, all incentivised differently to be smoke free after 6 months:
The moral of the story is this:
When you have a financial commitment on the line, you’re much more likely to follow through.
In Indistractible, Nir specifically mentions how he used this technique to develop a strong workout routine:
“...I taped a crisp hundred-dollar bill to the calendar on my wall, next to the date of my upcoming workout. Then I bought a ninety-nine-cent lighter and placed it nearby. Every day, I had a choice to make: I would either burn the calories by exercising, or burn the hundred-dollar bill. Unless I was certifiably sick, those were the only two options I allowed myself.”
Nir even used a price pact to motivate him to finish the first draft of his book by a certain date...
The price of that pact?
$10,000. He would have to pay ten thousand dollars to a friend for not completing his goal.
If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is!
As a final note, Nir specifically cautions not to use a price pact for too long. Eventually your brain will begin to associate it with punishment, which can be counterproductive to developing a healthy habit.
However, for getting started on building a routine, this is a powerful strategy.
Awhile back, I heard of the “Seinfeld Strategy” to help you develop powerful habits.
However, it wasn’t until I re-read about it in Atomic Habits that I actually implemented it.
In the documentary Comedian, Jerry Seinfeld used a “habit tracker” to write jokes.
He printed out a physical calendar, and for every day he wrote a joke, he added an “X” to the day.
His rule was to “not break the chain”.
But this can be just as easily applied to going to the gym... if you want some fitness motivation, just look at your streak and think about how terrible it would be to end it and start all over!
It’s important to note that I personally have decided to adapt this rule a little bit because of a suggestion that James Clear makes.
He argues that perfection is simply not perfect — eventually we’ll all have an emergency come up, or we’ll get sick.
So James’ rule is simply to “never miss twice”.
If you miss one day in your streak, don’t count it against your streak number.
But missing twice can always be avoided.
At the time of this writing, it is my 56th day in a row of “not breaking the chain” for my writing habit.
Personally, I no longer track going to the gym every time. It’s become such a habit and I’ve applied all of these suggestions... so I no longer even have to think about it!
If you’ve been fighting with yourself to get to the gym, there’s a reason why.
And chances are, it’s because your environment has been fighting against you this entire time.
If you want to make a change and build a habit to get to the gym, you no longer have any excuses.
Start experimenting with some or all of these strategies, and you’ll be well on your way to completely destroying the need to have any fitness motivation... because your environment will take care of it for you!