Relationship Connection: Finding the motivation to exercise

I can’t seem to find the motivation to exercise.  I have joined two different gyms, bought new running shoes every other year, and promised myself each time I get started that “this will be the time.”  Yet, I’m still overweight, tired, and annoyed at my obvious lack of motivation. Maybe you have some ideas that can help me stick with it?

I certainly feel your pain on this one.  I have experienced stages in my life where it felt impossible to stay with exercise. While some people seem to have the internal drive to pursue a daily regimen of exercise, it’s apparent from the frequent media reports on obesity that most Americans don’t have this drive. Here are some thoughts that have helped others (myself included) get and stay with an exercise program.
The first tip is to simply get started and adjust your direction as you’re moving forward.  It’s difficult to steer a car when the tires aren’t moving. Likewise, it’s difficult to create a workout program when you’re not going anywhere.  Some people sit around and create the perfect plan in their heads and never get started. I saw a coffee mug recently that said, “Ask your doctor if getting off your butt is right for you.” Trust me (and I’m not even your doctor), it’s right for you.
The next suggestion is to find a friend with whom you can exercise. Not only will you have someone to talk with, but you’ll also have some accountability when you’re not sure you want to continue and they keep showing up at your door.
I think it’s great to find exercise you like.  Although it’s hard work and a lot of discomfort, you can eliminate some of the pain by finding a good fit. There are so many ways to exercise, that there is most certainly one that will work well for you. Gym memberships are good because they give you lots of exposure to different types of exercise, classes, and programs. Most gyms will give you a few days to try it out, which can help you dial in your program.
Some find it helpful to write down the benefits they’re feeling from the exercise so they can read back on their experiences when they’re getting lazy or wondering if they should continue. Think of it as a motivational journal. If you’ve exercised for over one week, you should already be feeling the health benefits.
Notice how much clearer you can think, how much better you sleep, how your mood has improved, and the increased confidence you feel. These are just a few of the many benefits of regular exercise.  Read up on exercise and learn more about the health benefits so you can have more reasons to exercise.
There are certainly emotional issues that keep people from exercising, so make sure that you’re not sabotaging yourself out of some subconscious emotional blocks. A good personal trainer can be more helpful than a mental health therapist, as they work on helping people get past their emotional blocks to weight loss and exercise.
The most important thing is that you keep trying over and over. Don’t give up. Even though you gave up on exercise once or several times before, get back up and get going. Keep showing up and something will work!
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, UT.  Please send questions for future columns to:  [email protected]. Geoff maintains a blog, article archive, Twitter feed, and Facebook page which are available at

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