How To Get (And Stay) Motivated To Work Out

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Start With The Right Kind Of Motivation

First things first – think positive. Research shows that focusing on the upside is a shortcut to better behaviour. “In sports psychology we talk about achievement motivation and there are two types of personalities: NACH and NAF, people with a Need to Achieve and a Need to Avoid Failure,” says Jack Coxall, a sports psychologist who works as a performance director.

“People with a NACH personality focus upon positive aspects of their performance, and so, for example, will take on a difficult exercise or workout to achieve the goal of completing it successfully, even if failure’s a possibility. People with a NAF personality, on the other hand will see the harder workout, and have a fear of failure, and so will not take part and will choose the easier option knowing they won’t fail.” The downside of the latter? “A NAF won’t see the improvements and development that a NACH will, because in order for the human body to continually improve it needs to be constantly challenged and forced to adapt to new stimuli.” Here’s how you switch from NAF to NACH.

Choose manageable goals

Easy wins in the early going will help you get over a fear of failure. Don’t set yourself up to lose: aim to make it to the gym three days a week rather than five, or include more veg in your diet rather than cutting things out.

Get clear feedback

If you haven’t got a trainer, video your own performance and use forums like to get your lifting form critiqued. Remember, failures can help you improve, if you approach them right.

Reduce punishment

In team sports, an over-critical coach can turn athletes into failure-resistant wrecks with too much negative feedback. If you’re training alone, you’re doing it to yourself. Avoid the scales, and when you find yourself being negative, remind yourself you’re moving in the right direction.

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What’s The Best Way To Get Motivated To Work Out?

The experts at Coach’s sister brand Men’s Fitness asked three top fitness experts how they get psyched up for training.

Outdoor training expert Andrew Tracey (

Establish a pre-workout ritual to effortlessly get into the mood

Andrew Tracey

“I have a pre-session ritual, and I do it every time before training. I eat, then take a pre-workout, then drive ten minutes to where I’m working out listening to a playlist (loudly) that I change every month or so. A routine like this lets you recall and tap into the mindset of having a good session, and I use this to my advantage when I’m not feeling it.”

Matt Warner, head of personal training at Ultimate Performance Manchester

Have a strong coffee and get your blood flowing

Matt Warner

“A lack of training motivation can be caused by a lack of movement that day.  Try a strong black coffee and get moving; it could even be as simple as walking to the gym. Getting the blood flowing and heart pumping can awaken your energy levels, as will the caffeine in the coffee. By the time you get there you’ll be primed to go.”

Shaun Stafford, performance director at City Athletic gym in London

Get inspired by watching your favourite athletes online

Shaun Stafford

“If I’m lacking motivation for a session, I fire myself up by taking a pre-workout, cranking up some music and watching a few of my favourite athletes on YouTube. This multi-stimulus approach (the supplement, plus aural and visual stimulation) is a guaranteed way to get me focused and pumped up for the impending workout.”

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How To Stay Motivated With The Biggest Loser’s Trainer Rob Edmond

If fears over body image are fuelling your efforts to exercise, you need to find a new method of motivation. A new study from the University of Lincoln found men who worried about body fat were more likely than others to undertake spontaneous, unplanned workouts. The problem? This isn’t sustainable – consistency is the only thing that delivers long-term success. Rob Edmond, trainer on ITV’s The Biggest Loser and a former SAS soldier, highlights the best positive steps to take that will keep your fitness efforts on track.

1. Use a reward system

“On The Biggest Loser bootcamps, we’d occasionally reward people by letting them phone their families but if they missed a target they’d have to sleep outside in the woods with me,” says Edmond. You needn’t be quite as strict on yourself, but this carrot-and-stick method is an effective way to incentivise exercise. “Pick a few of your favourite things, from a takeaway to a night on the town, and set yourself weekly goals to earn them.”

2. Set yourself a deadline

“Pick a challenge,” says Edmond. “Ideally enter a competition – a half marathon, a strongman event or an obstacle course race – and do it for charity. Mark it in your calendar and tell everyone you’re going to do it so they keep you honest to your training.” It’s remarkable, and ironic, how beneficial altruism can be for you.

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3. Make a game of your workout

“Not everyone enjoys getting a sweat on, surprisingly, but if you can make a game out of your workout you’ll find it much more bearable,” says Edmond. “Start every session with something you enjoy, like your favourite exercise. Train with a friend and set combined time targets to hold a plank or get to 100 press-ups. It’s more likely you’ll finish each set with a smile, not a grimace, on your face.”

4. Keep a kitbag at work

“If you wake up feeling lousy, pack your kit in case you get a second wind later that day,” says Edmond. Can’t face the manic post-work gym crush? Rain-check your session, get an early, restful night and set your alarm 45 minutes early for a pre-breakfast blast. “Don’t put yourself off exercise by training when you know you’re going to hate it, but don’t also give yourself an easy excuse by leaving your kit at home.”

Follow Edmond on Twitter @RobEdmond