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Lack of motivation is the bane of all dieters – but especially when it comes to exercise.  How to stay motivated to exercise is a dilemma for everyone.  Exercise is crucial to weight loss, weight maintenance and good health.  No matter how great your food plan is, if you don’t exercise, you won’t reap the full benefits of it.  But how do you stay motivated to exercise when it’s cold and rainy outside? In this article, I’ll give you 3 tips to help you learn how to stay motivated to exercise.

Avoiding Pain Versus Gaining Pleasure

All human beings are motivated by one of two things:

1) to gain pleasure or

2) to avoid pain

Studies have shown that we do more to avoid pain than we do to gain pleasure. Here’s an example.  It’s currently 30 degrees and snowing outside in New York City.  I’m sitting in Starbucks writing this article.  I know that at 7:00 p.m. I’m going to be going to the gym.

But I dread going to the gym.  Why?

Because I want to avoid the pain of going out into the cold when I’m all warm and toasty sitting in Starbucks.   Why would I want to go outside at all?  If I don’t re-frame my thinking, I will convince myself that I’m better off just going straight home, which is only a few blocks away, turning on the television, relaxing with a hot cup of coco, and watching my favorite episode of Empire, which is on DVR.

Monitor Your Thinking

When it comes to motivation, your thinking is important.  I learned to develop the habit of negative thinking.  So if I have any hope of staying motivated to go to the gym, I have to re-frame my thinking quite often. But we have between 50,000 and 65,000 thoughts per day.  How do you keep track of them all?  It’s easy. Just monitor the way you feel.

Your Thoughts Create Your Feeling 

Your thoughts create your feelings. Your feelings and your thoughts create your life.  So if you’re feeling angry, it means you’re thinking angry thoughts.  If you’re feeling afraid, it means you’re thinking fearful thoughts.  So what am I feeling when I decide not to go to the gym? And what is my self-talk?

I’m feeling dread (another word for fear).



First, I’m thinking, I don’t have time.  I’m also thinking to myself, “God, it’s so cold outside. I can’t stand to leave my warm house.”  “It will be so unbearable to go out in the cold”.  This kind of thinking is pessimistic.  So how would I re-frame my thinking about my lack of motivation to go to the gym?

Examples of Reframing

Example #1: “God, it’s so cold outside. I can’t stand to leave my warm house.”
Reframe: “It’s cold, but I can dress really warm and the cold won’t bother me at all.”

Example #2: “I’m too tired to go to the gym. I’ll go tomorrow”
Reframe: “I’m tired because I keep telling myself I’m tired. If I move a muscle and take action, I won’t be tired”

Example #3: “This assignment is too big, I’ll never get it finished”.
Reframe: “If I relax and focus, break down the assignment into smaller bits and manage my time well, I’ll finish by the deadline”

Example #5:  “I’m too tired to get up at 4:00 a.m. and chant for 2 hours”
Reframe:  “If I go to bed early enough, I’ll be able to do it. Just do it for this 1 day only. You don’t have to do it forever.

It is important to note that positive self-talk is not self-delusional. Psychologically, it is known as Cognitive Reprogramming and acts to correct our faulty thinking. Faulty thinking is a bad habit that limits our chances for success and happiness

Circumstances Don’t Cause Your Emotions

Circumstances may trigger your thoughts, which then produces your feelings, which my lead to your behavior.  But these events don’t directly cause your emotions.  There’s a pause between the event and your reaction.  Rather, it’s your thoughts and interpretation of the event that makes you feel the way you feel.

So the cold snowy weather is not what makes you not go to the gym.  It’s your thoughts about the snowy weather that is affecting your emotions.  Your emotions then determine your behavior.

Make Goals For Your Gym Attendance

Have a goal for how many days you plan to go to the gym.  Make it reasonable.  Don’t say something like you’ll attend the gym 7 days a week. I’d say 3 days a week is a reasonable starting point.  Then make goals as to what exercises you’re going to do.  If you don’t know how to use the equipment, hire a personal trainer.

What Are Your Weight Loss Goals

It’s important to think about your weight loss goals. If you don’t have any, make some.  Goals direct.  If you have 100 pounds to lose, break those pounds down into 5 pound increments.  Then break your goals into weekly goals.  Make sure your goals are attainable. Don’t say you want to lose 20 pounds in two weeks. That’s just not reasonable.

 Practice Reframing Negative Thinking Daily

When you notice a negative thought pattern occurring about not want to go to the gym. Consciously and deliberately interrupt that thought and replace it with a positive  alternative. Good habits require practice, patience and commitment to become well established.  Reframing will help you learn how to stay motivated to exercise.

How do you stay motivated to go to the gym? Please leave your comments below!