How to Stick to Your Workouts, According to Regular People

This scene plays out often in my house: My fiancé wakes up for work, kisses me on my forehead and says, “It’s almost time to get up for your workout!” before he heads out to work before sunrise. Then, I proceed to spread out across the entire bed, put the covers over my head and press snooze until well after the slot I’d penciled in to work out has come and gone.

It’s shameful, really. Some days (okay, fine: a LOT of days), I find I have no motivation to stick to my workouts.

Hands up if you’re with me.

We’re still in the New-Year frenzy and motivation is in high supply, but our “New year, new finally-works-out me” resolutions can only propel us to the gym for so long. According to U.S. News, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions are a thing of the past come February.

So, to dig up some tips for sticking to your workout routine when your motivation starts to wane, I talked to some folks who’ve mastered it. I asked super-dedicated gym-goers, whose lives don’t revolve around wellness (meaning they aren’t trainers or working in the wellness industry), to tell us their secrets to sticking to their gym routine—rain, shine, or days fully devoid of motivation. Find their tips below, then follow suit.

1. Know thyself.

If you’ve been known to sleep through alarms for hours on end, and not waking up for your workouts tends to set you back in your gym routine (ahem, this is really hitting close to home), you should probably just admit that you aren’t a morning person and schedule your workouts for a later time, right? Right.

As Alex Tewfik, a food editor who alternates between boxing classes and lifting at least three times a week, says: “I’m not disciplined enough to go to the gym before work.”

Some might call that a defeatist attitude; I call that knowing yourself. Despite having a packed after-work schedule (“Restaurants are an after-work/evening affair,” he points out), he schedules his workouts during the evening hours because he knows he’s more likely to stick with them.

2. Prepare for the excuses future you will surely make.

Jennifer Stull, an assistant web merchandiser who alternates between hitting the gym and sweating in a boutique spin class four to six times a week, prepares for her future self’s “Waking up is too hard; must skip gym” excuse by making it easier to roll out of bed. “For early mornings, setting out my clothes the night before is a must. Mentally, if I know all I have to do is slide my half-asleep self into my already-laid-out leggings, it helps me get out of bed at 5 a.m.,” she says.

Anja Sherry, an elementary school teacher who fits running or lifting into her schedule four to six times a week, says: “Putting out clothes and setting the coffee machine on auto absolutely helps. Eliminating as many decisions as possible in the morning is key—because, believe me, you WILL find a reason to keep hitting that snooze.” Ain’t that the truth.

3. Give yourself a cash incentive.

In the wise words of the Wu-Tang Clan, “Cash rules everything around me.” So, what better incentive to get yourself moving than the risk of losing your hard-earned matcha money because you missed a class? You’re right: There isn’t one.

As Stull says, “Everything is easy-peasy until someone says ‘Let’s get drinks after work,’ and then the real internal struggle starts.” So when these moments of temptation to skip a workout come about, she considers if she’s signed up for a class where she’ll be charged regardless of whether or not she shows up. Because again: Cash rules everything around us.

4. Remind yourself what exercise does for your energy and mental health.

Each consistent gym-goer I talked to mentioned their mental health and energy as a big motivation when it comes to sticking with their workouts, something we don’t always consider when we’re thinking about the toll skipping our gym-time will take.

As Sherry says, “Time and energy are the biggest obstacles when it comes to getting to the gym. My job is very demanding so sometimes I’m just drained. I’m always amazed at just how much energy I have after a workout, though, even if it’s been an exhausting day. Remembering this helps me to overcome those hurdles.”

Stull says reminding herself of how she’ll feel afterwards helps to push her out the door when she’s not feelin’ it: “In the moment, it’s easy to be tired and not go work out, but 45 minutes of exercise helps me feel good all day and honestly combats that feeling of initial exhaustion.”

And Tewfik says, “If I fall off course, my mental health takes a toll, which perpetuates unhealthy habits. The fear of that happening motivates me to keep pushing.”

5. Always pack snacks.

Don’t let hanger ruin yet another thing for you: Sherry and Stull are both big proponents of stashing healthy snacks in their gym bags so that afterwork hunger pangs don’t screw with their motivation to make it to work out.

6. If you can’t keep yourself accountable, find a workout buddy who will.

Sherry says that having an accountability partner—either someone you check in with to make sure you both worked out, or someone to work out with you—has helped her make big strides in the motivation department. After all, letting yourself down is one thing, but most of us don’t want to let someone else down.

Research backs this up: A 2016 study performed at the University of Aberdeen found that participants who were asked to find a new workout buddy ended up exercising more than those who were simply instructed to continue going about their normal gym routine.

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