Workout Motivation Barriers and How to Overcome Them

Last updated on May 18th, 2020

Time to Read: 9 minutes

We all have that friend that caught the fitness bug. They post on social media about reaching their fat loss and muscle gain goals with minimal effort. Workout motivation isn’t a problem for them like it is everybody else. They look better than when you first friended them. They seem proud of their progress and are generally in a better mood. While others seem to achieve dramatic results, the truth is that getting into shape is a gradual process. The main motivation to get in shape should not come from measuring the progress of other people, but from setting your own fitness goals. You may not achieve results overnight, but with consistency, you are likely to see a major improvement in the way you look and feel in a relatively short amount of time.

Workout Motivation at the Forefront: You Will Look and Feel Better

Kids are encouraged early on to exercise on a regular basis. That is the reason every school has a gym class, and parents encourage participation in sports. However, few of us learn why exercise is beneficial. Yes, you’ll look better, but it isn’t just about losing weight or looking like a model. Exercise has positive effects on virtually every aspect of our health.

Regular exercise reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. It can relieve stress and improve emotional well-being. With aerobic exercise, the body produces endorphins, which are the body’s own morphine. Endorphins are responsible for what is often called “runner’s high” and can give the mood a lift and relieve pain. Working out on a regular basis can strengthen every part of the body and encourage it to work more efficiently. Exercise, along with diet, can reverse obesity, which is linked to serious illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes. 

The question “Why exercise?” should be revised to “Why not exercise?” The benefits of becoming physically active are numerous, and getting off the couch and starting to move may be one of the best ways to improve your health, self-image, and mood.

The Main Obstacles to Workout Motivation and How to Overcome Them

According to a Harvard survey, the most common reasons people who want to start an exercise routine have trouble getting started are: 

  • not enough time
  • travel
  • family obligations
  • fear of getting injured
  • not having the right information or knowledge for exercise
  • underlying health conditions
  • lack of expertise
  • not enough money, resources, or equipment
  • no motivation

Almost everyone who is in shape now experienced these obstacles in the beginning and may still feel discouraged from time to time. Don’t let these get in the way of your workout motivation. There are many strategies for how to deal with these challenges and to get started on the road to a healthier body and mind. If you’re like many others and struggle with these common barriers to entry, read on for some proven strategies to overcome them.

Lack of Time

workout time

Not having enough time is one of the most common reasons cited for not starting a fitness routine. Between family obligations, a full work schedule and much needed downtime, it may be hard to figure out where to fit a 30-minute jog or weight routine into a jam-packed day. 

The best way to fit something in you may not otherwise have time for is to literally make time. This means adding it to your calendar just as you would a meeting with a client or a teacher. Since developing a fitness routine is not the same as a one-time meeting, look at your schedule over the course of a week and figure out where you have some extra time. Is there an hour between coming home from work and preparing dinner during which you can fit in a zumba routine online or a jog a few times around the block? Do you really need to sit down and binge Netflix for three hours after dinner? Find those pockets of time and put them on your schedule.

Another way of making time for fitness is to incorporate it into your existing routine. This may mean walking, jogging, or biking to work. It may take you a bit more time than driving or taking the subway, but at least you don’t have to remember to work out before or after work. Some people use their lunch hour for exercise. This can work well if you have access to a shower and a place to change your clothes at work.

Searching, Digging, Longing for Workout Motivation

I would love to exercise, but I’m too lazy. 

This may be just a flippant remark, because few of us are genuinely lazy, but the response may reflect a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we feel we are “too lazy” to do something, we may block our own motivation for doing it. The fact that we want to get in shape is evidence of some degree of motivation. Translating that desire into action is a challenge, but the right strategies can make the transition successful.

The secret ingredient for workout motivation is inspiration. We are all inspired by different things. You may feel motivated to exercise when you see pictures your childhood friend has posted on Facebook of his success with weight lifting or running a marathon. Other people may find that discouraging rather than inspiring. Think about what makes you want to get off your couch and get fit. Is it the idea of having toned muscles? Losing weight? Or simply the joy of taking a deep breath and feeling healthy?

Use that image or feeling as a kind of meditation or visualization the next time you feel like putting off getting in shape. You may want to put a picture on your phone or in your room that inspires you to want to get in shape. Before you go to bed, think about your fitness goals and remind yourself in the morning. Motivation is the art of convincing yourself, and we all know, deep down, what works best for us.

Lack of Knowledge of Expertise

I would love to get into shape, but I don’t know where to start.

This statement may sound familiar. It is easy to overthink the concept of getting in shape, but it may be as simple as literally just taking those first steps. People don’t start on the road to fitness able to run a four-minute mile or with six-pack abs. Fitness is a process, and learning gradually is the key to putting this process in motion. Start out walking for 20 to 30 minutes each time. Do stretches in the morning that make you feel good. Allow yourself an exploratory phase simply to move in a way that you enjoy. Then you can investigate different kinds of workouts. 

Read articles or watch YouTube videos about cardio, zumba, HIIT, and tabata. Don’t feel pressured to add any of these to your routine, but explore and take classes if a certain type of workout appeals to you. It is easy nowadays to take classes online as well as in person. A personal trainer is always an option if you feel you want more guided instruction.

Lack of Equipment or Resources

workout shoes

Advertisements for gyms may look impressive and intend to lead viewers to believe that a gym is the ultimate way to get in shape. Although the ads may encourage gym membership, they may simultaneously discourage people who don’t feel they can afford or want to join a gym. 

As mentioned above, a pair of sneakers can be the only equipment you need to get into shape. Walking 30 minutes a day as well as doing push-ups, sit-ups, and planks is a workout anyone with any budget can do. There are many free YouTube videos that will give you the basics of most kinds of exercise for free.

Some feel more comfortable working out in an organized setting, such as a gym or a class. Aside from fancy gyms, there are more affordable alternatives, such as a YMCA or YWCA. There are also adult sports leagues that you can join to pursue a sport you enjoy, get into shape, and not have to pay the high prices of a gym membership. Some high schools and colleges allow the public to use their sports facilities for a modest price during off-hours. With a little investigation, you may be able to find deals and opportunities that are cheaper than a gym.

Fear of Injury

If you have sprained an ankle doing gymnastics, suffered from shin splints, or had to take a break from your favorite sport because of tennis elbow, it is not surprising if there is some trepidation at the idea of getting active again. In fact, that may be one reason people who were formerly active become sedentary. There may be some basis for concern. A common cause of sports injury is a lack of consistency, or suddenly starting a routine without preparation or increasing intensity. If you go from walking two miles a day to jogging five, your body may react with aches and pains.

If you are concerned about injury, especially if you have had a sports injury in the past, have a checkup with a doctor before beginning a fitness routine. You may want to consult with a physical therapist on the most effective ways to warm up before your workout and cool down afterward. It could be a good idea to invest in a personal trainer to ensure you are working out properly and in a way that will not cause muscle strain. Some gyms include consultation with a personal trainer as part of a membership package, but if you do not belong to a gym, a few sessions with an affordable trainer can be a solid investment. Not only will a trainer help you avoid injury, but they are also a godsend for your workout motivation.

Disability or Health Problems

If you have a disability or suffer from a chronic health problem, such as heart disease, it may not be a question of whether or not you work out, but how to proceed. You can’t exercise because your body physically won’t allow it. 

But, we see those with disabilities living fully active lives, and exercise is part of a healthy, well-rounded schedule. You might just have to approach things differently than most. Experts can help those with disabilities create a modified program that is challenging and feasible. Consulting with a physical therapist who focuses on creating fitness programs for those with special needs is an essential way to get started working out. Also, there are classes online and in-person for those who may need modified exercises.

Health problems need not be an impediment to exercise. In fact, many people start exercising at the advice of their doctor following a cardiac arrest or diagnosis of heart disease. It is important not to go it alone and to consult with experts on how to exercise and how often to do it. In addition, staying alert to warning signs while exercising is essential for avoiding complications. With proper guidance, pursuing an exercise routine is not only possible, but it is also recommended, because of the value exercise has as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Workout Motivation Victory

workout motivation

The notion of beginning an exercise after living a sedentary lifestyle for years may seem overwhelming at first, but it is useful to reframe what is meant by “exercise.” It may be hard to get motivated to exercise if you think about putting on a grey warm-up suit and jogging 5 miles in the cold. Other people may love to do that, but it may not be for you. The key is finding activities you already enjoy to incorporate into a regular fitness routine. Schedule set times for working out and find a workout buddy for accountability. Setting goals and seeking the advice of a physician or trainer can give your motivation to get in shape staying power. Good luck!