Transforming your body into the one you have always dreamt of isn’t easy. It can take years of hard work in the form of healthy eating and exercising. It’s also not a linear journey where everything happens steadily; you’ll likely meet obstacles and setbacks along the way. If you want to reach your goals, you need to stay motivated throughout this tough journey.
But, how can you stay motivated in this journey? Well, I reached out to many fitness experts and asked them this: what’s your #1 tip for staying motivated on a long fitness journey? Twenty-four of them replied back and answered my question.
Before we jump into their answers, I would like to clarify what I mean by “fitness experts” in this article. They don’t have to be fitness professionals, but they should have fitness related experiences. Dr. Melissa Robinson-Brown, for example, is not a fitness professional, but as a fitness enthusiast and Licensed Clinical Psychologist, she has worked with many people who struggle with starting and maintaining exercise routines.
Having said that, let’s dive into their answers:
The best thing I can recommend to someone who is going on a long fitness journey is goal setting, but not just any old kind of goal setting. SMART goal setting is the best way to set up for success. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
All goals should be specific in terms of what they want to achieve. All goals should have metrics you can measure as you go along. All goals should be something you know you can achieve in a short term or long term. Goals have to be relevant to what you are looking to do. Finally, goals have to have time-lines in terms of success.
The last point is especially important since when setting time-bound goals, it’s important to set a series of short-term goals that keep you motivated with a long-term goal down the line that the short-term goals are striving for. Motivation is all about achieving what you strive for so set short-term successes that lead to long term successes.
James Alexander-Ellis is a personal trainer, Poliquin PICP Strength Coach, Y3T Elite Trainer, prep coach, posing coach, WBFF Pro competitor, and Sportholics athlete. He runs the JAE Fitness website and you can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In his answer, he discusses the importance of breaking down your long-term goal into small goals.
My top tip for staying motivated is to make sure your long-term goal is broken down into small and specific targets. A good example might be that if you’re trying to lose body fat for a summer holiday or a photo shoot—that you set yourself a target to drop 1% every 2 weeks.
Any fitness goal which involves weight loss or weight gain can be a frustrating rollercoaster, with very non-linear phases of progression or stagnation. Setting smaller goals makes us more conscious of logging and tracking as we go, as well as positive self-appraisal.
You could be 20% of your way to your goal, but if you’re only looking at the distant finish line and not at the current checkpoint, you could get de-motivated!
Staying motivated to be healthy for life is a total mindset you have to have. There are plenty of fads out there within the diet and fitness world, but knowing that just by being consistent is half the battle.
Set a long-term goal for yourself, but also set up smaller goals that lead towards the long term. Also, make sure the goals are realistic. This way you won’t feel like it’s such an uphill battle, that it’s impossible to accomplish.
Your goals should be revisited as well and reevaluated to see if you are on track or if you need to make some adjustments. Adjusting your goals doesn’t mean you’ve failed; it just means you’re realistic with what is going on. This way you can stay more positive with yourself.
An important thing to remember is also to not focus too much on the final goal itself but to enjoy the journey of it. Take the small wins that come with the journey, and know that it all fits within the bigger picture.
Alex Robles is a resident physician in OBGYN. He has been training for more than 10 years and has competed in a handful of powerlifting competitions. He and his wife run The White Coat Trainer website, and you can find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In his answer, he stresses the importance of logging your fitness progress.
My number one tip for staying motivated on a long fitness journey is to keep a log of your progress.
It can be easy to lose sight of your week to week progress when you are focused primarily on your end goal. A log will allow you to see how far you have come compared to when you started, and this has always provided me a boost of motivation when I needed it.
Any amount of progress should be written down. Progress is progress, and it’s through small wins that you build momentum to keep going.
Keeping a journal of what you have accomplished will also allow you to enjoy the journey, which is just as satisfying (if not more satisfying) than accomplishing your actual goal.
You can keep track of several factors such as your body weight, the number of reps and sets you performed on a specific exercise, and the amount of weight you lifted.
Eric the Trainer
Eric the Trainer is a Hollywood trainer with over 27 years of experience in physical transformation. He has worked with top actors and musicians, MMA fighters, and the military. He runs Eric the Trainer website and you can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In his answer, he discusses seeing visual changes in your body as a way to keep you motivated.
Staying motivated along the way to building a peak physique is easy because most gyms are covered in mirrors that reflect all of the hard work you’re putting in. All those chicken breasts and salad meals, supersets of back and shoulders, and early nights asleep by 9 p.m. really add up. By embracing the science of change (exercise, diet, and sleep) you really see a huge difference.
The bodybuilding legend Frank Zane once told me “Photographs don’t lie.” When you’re seeing incredible visual changes in your body, you’re incredibly motivated to continue the trek. Health is wealth, and when it comes to good looks and good health, you’re on your way to endless riches.
Nicholas Rizzo is the Training Director at RunRepeat.com. He has 6 years of experience as a record-setting competitive powerlifter and 4 years of experience in training others. In his answer, he discusses the importance of tracking not only your results, but also your actions.
Track the actions that will bring you the results you desire, not just the results.
For example, if you wanted to lose 20 lbs., should you just hop on the scale every morning? No. The scale can be extremely demotivating as it seemingly moves up and down at random.
Instead, set a goal for something you will do daily that is action based. Maybe it is to log your food or do at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Then, instead of tracking results, track “did I do this today”?
Why? Because if these actions are paramount in you achieving your long-term goals, then showing up consistently is key. When you track your success and see you have been doing it every day for weeks, you will be less likely to make an excuse to skip it and more likely to actually turn this action into a habit.
To do this, simply buy a large calendar, place it on a prominent wall where you live, and put a big red X through each day you complete the action. Over time, the X’s will form a chain and you now have one objective, don’t break the chain.
Allison Ethier is a NSCA-CPT, ISSN Certified Sports Nutritionist, and IFBB Fitness Pro. She has been competing in fitness and bodybuilding for more than 19 years. She runs the Allison Ethier website and you can find her on Facebook and Instagram. In her answer, she shares some tips such as using external motivators and to stop looking for a perfect plan.
Use external motivators or small rewards to make the journey easier―use music, a new gym outfit, shoes, a small beverage (I use coffee to motivate me), getting your nails done, or a day at the spa. Set yourself a small goal, like 3 workouts this week, in order to ‘reward’ yourself for your efforts. That way each week you have something to look forward to for a job well done.
I often use external motivators with my clients if they are lacking the internal motivation to do so. Ultimately you have to find your ‘why’ you are training/working out such as losing body fat or staying ’skinny.’
You have to know why you are training and look to that for motivation. For instance, feeling good post workout is often a reason people workout, as they always ‘feel’ better afterwards. Other reasons I have been told are fear of aging, better health, role model for their kids, health scare, getting stronger, staying strong, having more energy, sleeping better, or better mental clarity.
Your why for doing something is going to keep you going during those times when you don’t really feel like it. And we all have those days, including your coach.
Another top tip I would like to share is stop researching and trying to find the perfect plan. Just get a plan, implement, and keep going. It will never be perfect, life will always throw you curve balls, so you might as well be as fit as you can in order to catch, dodge, or throw some back. Even 50% application is better than 0%.
Remember that small consistent actions do add up over time to big results. Hold the line, keep moving in the forward direction, work hard, and be amazing. Your house (body) is built over years, not weeks or months. A year in your life is not that much time, but consistent application of efforts will always be rewarded. Always!
Esther Avant is an ACE Personal Trainer, ACE Healthy Behaviors Coach, and Precision Nutrition certified coach. She has a B.S. in Exercise Science from Boston University. She runs the Esther Avant website and you can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In her answer, she discusses the importance of celebrating small wins in your fitness journey.
In my personal experience & that of my clients, the key is to celebrate all the small wins along the way.
The problem with setting your sights on reaching your “end” goal (whatever that may be) is that it’s likely to take a really long time to get there. Lasting results will probably come slower than you’d like. If you’re only willing to celebrate getting “there,” the process will feel a lot longer and harder.
Instead, focus on collecting wins and celebrating all the important steps that are going to get you from A to B. This can mean celebrating every pound or inch lost, but I recommend focusing more of your energy on appreciating the wins that you can directly control.
- Progressing from 1 workout per week to 3
- Increasing weight on an exercise or the length of time you can jog
- Bringing lunch to work instead of eating out
- Trying new foods
- Prioritizing sufficient sleep
- Taking time daily to manage stress
Scott Abel has 40 years of experience in coaching others to transform their physiques. He has also written many books on fitness. He runs the Scott Abel Fitness website and you can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In his answer, he discusses the importance of absorbing yourself in the small tasks required to reach your goal.
Everyone is looking for the big final result but that can crush the motivation necessary to get there. Motivation is born from action, not the other way around as so many dreamers want to think. If you wait for motivation to come, you will never reach your goal. An old Chinese proverb dictates that “a person removes a mountain by carrying away small stones.” You must invest yourself in carrying away the small stones and notice the progress along the way.
The key to long-term achievement is short-term absorption in the small tasks! Even animals work this way. Ever watch a beaver build a damn or watch a bird build a nest? They do so one stick or branch at a time. They do so with patience and resolve. They don’t wait on motivation to come. They absorb themselves in the task. They don’t look for simple tricks or easy ‘hacks’’ to get around doing what needs to be done.
The problem with focusing on the grand final result is that it makes you impatient and that impatience weakens your resolve.
Be the beaver, be the bird, absorb yourself in the process of the small tasks.
Motivation is born here, motivation matures here. This is how the damn gets built, this is how the nest gets made. And this is how you maintain the chutzpa required to see the process all the way through to not only reach your goal, but to sustain it as your own as well.
Robert Herbst is a 19 time World Champion and 37 time US National Champion powerlifter with 38 world records. He has been inducted into the AAU Strength Sports Hall of Fame and he runs the W8LifterUSA.com website. In his answer, he shares some tips such as developing a positive mindset and using a mnemonic to trigger and reinforce healthy behavior.
My number one tip for staying motivated on a long fitness journey is to embrace the process. By that I mean that one must develop a positive mindset where any behavior is viewed as enhancing your life by contributing towards your goal of being healthy and fit, and not as being a negative.
For example, one should be happy about getting off the couch and going to the gym instead of lamenting that they are missing out on sitting around and looking at social media. Passing up a fast food snack should not be seen as denying oneself something enjoyable, but as helping oneself by not taking in empty calories. If a workout is hard and tiring, they should see the fatigue as a sign that they are forcing their body to adapt and get stronger and should feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment after completing it.
Yes, it takes discipline, and even the most committed can find things challenging on occasion. A good way to give yourself support and stay motivated is to use a mnemonic to trigger and reinforce healthful behavior. For example, someone could put a picture of their children on the refrigerator so that every time they want to reach for a snack, they see their family and remember that they should eat healthfully. Or they could post the flyer for a race they would like to enter so they can think how each day brings them closer to their goal.
I personally use a key card from the Holiday Inn that has a slogan they used around the London 2012 Olympics. It says “Stay Inspired.” When I am tired and it is hard to get going, I look at that and it gets me fired up again. The more one lives with the discipline of proper exercise, nutrition, hydration, and sleep, the more it becomes a habit and the easier it become to do. In fact, if one starts to stray, their body will feel out of kilter and will make them go back to their healthful routine.
Rich Sadiv is the owner and Head Coach of the Parisi Speed School in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. He’s a competitive powerlifter in the WNPF with 14 state, 5 national, and 1 world records. He’s NASM and FMS certified, and you can find him on Twitter and Instagram. In his answer, he discusses the importance of convenience and minimizing obstacles in your fitness efforts.
The key to staying in the fitness course is discipline and consistency. But one thing that is often overlooked is convenience. The amount of obstacles in either your nutritional planning or training have to be minimized. Find foods you enjoy eating that are healthy. Find a training facility that’s close in proximity to your home or your job. Find someone you can train with that drives and motivates you.
Once a plan is set in motion, document everything. You don’t want to become a slave to your eating or training. But recording your progress is the only way to see how far you have come. Have an 8-week plan on either body composition or training goals. A plan should be for small incremental gains. Lose a pound a week. Do one chin-up. Do 10 push-ups. Whatever the goal, make sure they are realistic and obtainable. Then compete. If it’s a 5K or some type of other competition, sign-up and do it.
Samantha Parker is an AFAA personal trainer, E-RYT 200 Yoga Teacher, and C-IAYT Yoga Therapist with a B.S. in Sports and Exercise Science. She runs the SamParkerNMSTraining.com website and you can find her on Facebook and Instagram. In her answer, she discusses the importance of balance to avoid burnout and boredom in your fitness journey.
As someone with a self-diagnosed case of fitness A.D.D., I get bored doing the same physical activities day in and day out. I need variety. I need adventure. In order to stay the course of a healthy happy journey, my #1 tip for keeping motivated is balance. Extremes lead to burnout; balance leads to longevity. Balance is a necessity for humans, for nature, and for man-made machines to function with ease and efficiency.
For me, that balance comes through practicing yoga. I love yoga because it’s not just great exercise for your body, it has mental and emotional components as well. That keeps me going. Speaking from experience, I used to throw myself off balance chasing adrenaline extremes. I would train for a bodybuilding competition in the spring and then do a half iron-man in the fall. Then I found yoga.
Being a mother of two, working full time, going to school, starting a business, and training for events, yoga helps me maintain my equilibrium in all aspects of my life. From exercise, nutrition, sleep, cognition, social and emotional wellbeing, yoga creates flexibility and steadies me. I can still go and do the adrenaline-fueled fitness quests, and come back into balance with yoga to avoid burnout and boredom.
Nicole Moneer is a CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach, NASM-CPT, retired IFBB Bikini Pro and Olympian, and 2009 Ms. Bikini Universe Classic. She runs the Lifestyle 360 by Nicole Moneer website and you can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In her answer, she shares what motivates her to live a holistic lifestyle.
Our minds are powerful. Everything both good and bad I’ve created in my life. My health was a train wreck for my first 33 years of life. I started working out with weights in college. I began ballet, tap and jazz at age 4. I danced competitively up until age 38. Exercise and the gym alone didn’t “make me healthy” or give me that IFBB Pro bikini body. I was slowly dying on the inside, despite moving my body regularly.
Once I consistently ate real organic unadulterated foods and got off over a dozen prescription drugs, starting back in 2006, decades of chronic health problems and conditions disappeared. I no longer needed prescription medications. I no longer spent each week visiting doctors for tests or allergy shots and inhalers. My physique, as a result, leaned out even more and the best part was I was exercising less! I started spending more time in the kitchen, cooking from scratch 99% of the time.
Eating a variety of organic nourishing foods continues to give me the fuel I need as a 46-year-old mother of an almost 5-year-old boy, while maintaining a bikini body. I don’t ever want to return to the pain of being chronically sick like I was for over 3 decades. So that pain has been my motivation and a gift. It taught me to listen to my body and led me to live a holistic lifestyle. I’ve healed, now with my education and personal experience I help hundreds of thousands of men and women do the same.
My vision of who I want to be “when I grow up” is what keeps me motivated. I am grown up and always maturing. I do not want my life to pass me by and I want my family to know that their mom takes care of herself and it’s my hope my kids will do the same.
I have seen what it’s like to have family and friends pass away, and have a life of taking pills for something that could be been prevented. You love who you love and I want to be around and active for my family for the long haul.
As a certified run coach and runner myself for more than a decade, I stay motivated by checking in with the reason I exercise in the first place.
I want to be able to walk, run, and see the world, as I grow older, preferably for my entire life. So when I make decisions―to eat certain foods, or to drink alcohol, or to run marathons in a set amount of time―I always use that as a barometer. If my choices don’t align with my goal of feeling fit and healthy, then it’s easier to say no.
Health and wellness―and even going for a badass body―is a marathon, not a sprint. I focus on being consistent, not perfect and remembering why I’m exercising (and coaching others) in the first place.
My motivation has always been creating the best version of myself for others. I believe wholeheartedly we cannot pour from an empty cup. We must put a value on self-care and positive self-image to give it to others.
Exercise and healthy eating has given me the energy, confidence, and strength I need, to be there for those who matter most and be successful in my career. There are plenty of days I feel unmotivated or tired, but I continue to show up for my family, my significant other, my friends, and my clients.
That means working hard to get a healthy body, but also working to maintain it long term while still enjoying small splurges in life. How can I teach others to value a healthy lifestyle if I don’t live it myself? Be your best self, and love the journey!
Pauline Nordin is the creator of the FighterDiet program. She’s CISSN, NSCA, and PROPTA certified. She was the coach and leader of the Swedish team in the Nordic version of the “Biggest Loser.” You can find her on Facebook and Instagram. In her answer, she advises us to remember that our future is shaped by what we do today.
Every day you follow your plan, you’re one step closer. Every day, every meal, every workout you don’t, you’re weeks further away from your goal.
Live by this: eat today what you want to have eaten tomorrow.
That’s how you get results.
Al Kavadlo is an expert in bodyweight strength training and calisthenics. He’s the lead instructor for the Progressive Calisthenics Certification (PCC). He runs the Al Kavadlo website and you can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In his answer, he discusses a little trick he uses to motivate himself when he’s having a hard time to get started.
As much as I love to train, even I do occasionally have days where it’s hard to get started. So, I have a little trick I plan myself that tends to work pretty well.
I say to myself, “hey self, let’s just do a few toe touches, and if we want to stop after that, then we’ll stop after that.” So, I do a few toe touches, and then afterwards, if I don’t feel too crappy, I’ll say to myself, “alright that wasn’t so bad, let me try doing a couple of planks or a couple of hollow bodies or a couple of downward dogs, and if I want to stop after that, I’m done and I’m stopping.”
And some days I do stop, but most days after I do that, I start to feel kind of good and I say, “you know what, maybe I’ll do a few push-ups or a few pull-ups.” And then after that, I’m starting to get revved up, I’m starting to get warmed up, I’m starting to feel good, and it’s no longer a challenge to motivate myself.
So, what I recommend you to do on those days where you are having a hard time getting going, you just tell yourself, “you know what, I’m only gonna do five minutes, if I want to stop after that, I’m gonna stop.” And if you do stop after five minutes, five minutes is a lot better than nothing at all. But I have a feeling, after five minutes, you’re gonna feel better and you’re gonna want to keep going.
Kyra Williams is a NASM-CPT, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, USA Weightlifting and USA Powerlifting certified coach. She has competed in several bikini competitions, as well as running in races. She runs the Kyra Williams Fitness website and you can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In her answer, she discusses the importance of doing what you love.
The #1 tip for staying motivated is to do something you love. If there’s one activity you love and crave, you will do it daily.
If you love running – run.
If you love yoga – do yoga.
If you love CrossFit – do CrossFit.
If you love playing soccer – play soccer.
Chances are that if you have something you love, you will want to be better at it, which in turn will get you involved in other forms of exercise as well.
For example, if you love playing soccer, you will want to be better at it which will make you do more cardio such as sprints, or lift weights so your legs are stronger. Or if you love yoga, you may decide you want to master more difficult poses so you take up lifting to make your upper body stronger. And ultimately, you will want to feel better while doing those things, which will make you want to eat healthier, sleep more, etc.
Dr. Melissa Robinson-Brown
Dr. Melissa Robinson-Brown is a fitness enthusiast and Licensed Clinical Psychologist. She has worked with many people who struggle with starting and maintaining exercise routines. She runs the RenewedFocus website and you can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In her answer, she discusses the importance of accountability.
Accountability is your best friend!
Fitness journeys will spark several highs and have quite a few stumbles too. It’s what makes it a journey versus just a destination. When we hit goals, having someone or a group to share that with, who will also join you in that celebration, will motivate you to keep going. At the same time, those stumbles can derail us, but an accountability partner or group will help us up and push us along when a stumble makes it feel hard to get up.
Accountability can come in the form of challenge groups, a workout buddy, regular social media posts, your partner. Whatever you do, don’t create this path on your own. Bring accountability along to keep you moving ahead.
Ashlee Van Buskirk
Ashlee Van Buskirk is the owner of a Denver-based personal trainer business, Whole Intent. She has a diverse background in nursing, nutrition, and bodybuilding. She holds a B.S. degree in Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition Services. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram. In her answer, she advises you to find a workout buddy to keep you motivated.
It’s no small secret that everyone is motivated differently; whether that’s through personal goal setting, documentation, or small rewards, everyone works differently. But, I would argue that calling upon a workout buddy is one of the best ways to stay motivated.
People seem to forget that their fitness journey doesn’t have to be a solo mission. Even if your fitness goals are not totally aligned, exercising with a friend offers a ton of benefits, such as:
- Keeping You Accountable – When you don’t show up for an afternoon run or you’re munching on doughnuts instead of veggies, your workout buddy will be there to realign your focus. Friends provide each other with a sense of positive peer pressure, as they encourage one another to meet their fitness goals and challenge each other through friendly competition.
- Making Exercise Fun & Flexible – It’s always nice to have someone you can joke with and talk to at the gym. But, just because they’re your workout buddy, doesn’t mean you’re restricted to the gym only. Whenever you start hating your workout, talk to your workout buddy about switching it up. Join a volleyball league, schedule weekly hikes, or check out a martial arts center. Switching up your physical activities will keep you engaged and motivated in your fitness journey.
Go online to find motivation!
We are lucky to have so many options right at our fingertips when it comes to fueling our motivation. From books and podcasts to Pinterest and YouTube, all you need to do is a quick search and you’ll find a plethora of options to fuel the fire of motivation within you.
Depending upon your goal, some great motivational speakers include Tony Robbins (life in general), Jocko Willets (motivation), Marie Forleo (business and life), Gabrielle Bernstein (spirituality), and Abraham Hicks (manifesting).
Other great sources are Twitter for uplifting quotes and the great Google. Type in “motivational quotes” or “motivational images” and you will have plenty of content to get your motivation stoked!
My #1 tip for staying motivated for over a decade is not to throw it all out if you have one bad day, one bad meal slip up, enjoy a day all to yourself. You have to remember, it’s all about what you do 85% of the time that is what counts, and that “life happens,” no stress, just brush it off, and know you are Living!
Jason Rosell is a TV personality and life and wellness coach. He has appeared on television shows such as The Steve Harvey Show, Jillian Michael’s “Sweat INC,” and many more. He runs the JasonRosell.com website and you can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In his answer, he gives a tip on what should you do if your fitness plan doesn’t work.
My #1 tip is to know if your “Plan A” didn’t or does not work, the alphabet has 25 more letters! Stay cool, stay persistent, and most importantly never give up. When one door closes, many and much better ones will open. To change a body, you must change your mind first. That is how I transformed myself, celebrities, and 1000’s online.
There you have it! Not all of the experts directly share their tips on how to stay motivated; some of them share their own stories on what motivates them to live a fit and healthy life such as avoiding pain or being there for their family.
But from their stories, there’s an important lesson about how to stay motivated. That’s establishing reason why you want to live a fit and healthy life. Realizing the reason why you want to achieve something adds emotion to your goal. And if you’re emotionally involved with your goal, you’ll be more motivated to go after it.
Well, a big thanks to everyone who contributed to this article. I would love to hear what you think about the experts’ tips, so please leave your comment below. And if you find the article useful, please share it with others!
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