9 Top Tips for Feeling Motivated for Fitness

Get your healthy exercise goals on track with these 9 tips from the experts on how to feel motivated for fitness.

It’s so easy to get inspired for healthy living goals, only to lose steam somewhere along the way. It’s just human nature. You get busy, stressed, tired, sick, or cold (rain and snow makes outdoor workouts a slog!)—or all of the above. Life can really get in the way! And often the guilt comes along when you don’t keep up the momentum on your health goals, right? But it’s ok! Take a moment and reset. I have had many setbacks on my fitness journey, from injuries to too much travel time to just plain procrastination. What works best for me is to really love my exercise. It is a break from the stress of the day, which gives me a chance to be in the beautiful outdoors. I’m sharing a variety of my own photos of hiking all over the country, including Joshua Tree, Bryce, Zion, Arches, and Ojai. I’ve also learned a thing or two about fitness from health experts around the country. Check out some of my top tips from dietitians on how you can stay focused and motivated to maintain and achieve your fitness goals.

9 Top Tips for Feeling Motivated for Fitness

Try to get the whole family in on the fitness plan!

1. Be Specific About Your Goals. Make sure you have a clear plan for a reasonable fitness goal. “What are you going to do, where are you going to do the activity, when will you do the activity? You also need to plan for obstacles because they are a guarantee, with an ‘if then’ plan. For example, if you’re goal is to walk the dog after dinner 4 nights a week (an example of a very specific goal), you need to plan for obstacles such as bad weather, working later to meet a deadline. Don’t forget to be kind to yourself while changing habits and sticking to your plans. Recognize that some days will be easier than others but you just need to show up for yourself, be kind, and stay flexible,” says Sarah Chapel, RDN, CDCES.

Peter and I hiking in Bryce Canyon, Utah. That’s the kind of exercise you can look forward to!

2. Make Exercise Something to Look Forward To. Find ways to make exercise more fun! “In addition to my regular exercise routine, I downloaded an audiobook and that is my outdoor walking treat. I look forward to getting outside and walking for an hour a few times a week to listen,” says Sarah Pflugradt, MS, RDN.

“I always recommend pairing exercise with an activity that you enjoy. That way, it gives you something to look forward to and you can switch it up based on your mood. For example, if I’m going for a run outside, I listen to music, but if I do my stairmaster, I use that time to scroll and get caught up on social media. If I’m hill training on my treadmill, I watch a Netflix episode. It keeps me motivated but also makes exercising, especially hill training, go by super fast! Of course, this is dependent on the cardio equipment that is available,” says Heather Mangieri, RDN, Sports and Wellness Dietitian and Author of Fueling Young Athletes.

3. Leave Visual Fitness Reminders. Keep your exercise goals top of mind with visual clues. “Therabands or resistance tubing can give you a whole body workout and is an inexpensive option. To stay motivated schedule 30 minutes each day and keep them visible as a reminder. It might not be the prettiest decor in your living room but by keeping it visible it is a good reminder to use it,” says Christine Rosenbloom, PhD, RDN.

“I keep my exercise clothes right next to my bed so when I wake up is the first thing I see. It motivates me to get up and exercise before the day really starts,” says Sylvia Klinger, DBA, MS, RDN.

“I keep a yoga mat in my office along with a foam roller and stretch bands. I exercise in 5-10 minute increments throughout the day as my work schedule permits. It’s a great way to get my muscles moving, blood pumping and brain re-energized,” says Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, Lifestyle Nutrition Expert, author and creator of Nourishing Notes podcast. 

Hiking at Arches National Park, Utah. Hiking poles can really help your workout by working your upper body muscles too.

4. Fit Movement in Every Day. Find ways to include physical activity in your everyday life. “I like to walk or bike outside every day. Time spent in nature is so good for our mental health too. You do online virtual trips and record your miles on a site like walking4fun.com. Then you learn about a new place and go on a virtual trip!” says Melissa Altman-Traub, MS, RDN, LDN.
“I adopted my Five in 45 plan last year and have kept it up, for the most part, most days. The idea is to take a break and ‘move’ every 45 minutes for 5 minutes. I usually start my morning climbing stairs in my house for 5 minutes. Then throughout the day I’ll walk hills on my treadmill, do a mini weight workout, stretch, or sometimes do chores, like vacuuming. I still try and do other workouts, but if I can’t fit one in, at least I’ve gotten some exercise in. It really helps keep me energized and focused throughout the day too,” says EA Stewart, MBA, RDN at The Spicy RD.

Here I am hiking in Utah. Trying to make time for longer walks on the weekend is a good way to fit in more exercise, and relax at the same time. 

5. Go Slow. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing when it comes to fitness! “I suggest to my clients to write in exercise on their calendars, but make the bouts short and attainable. For example, walking 10 minutes after each meal vs. walking 30 minutes a day. They can gradually add a few minutes to each bout (12 min, 15, etc.) and build from there,” says Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, RDN of Sound Bites Nutrition.

“If starting a walk/run activity for the first time, I always stress setting small goals that can be accomplished, like walking 1/2 mile. I recommend finding a parking lot that is ~1/4 mile around the perimeter and setting a goal to walk it twice around. When you get back to your car, you’ll have walked 1/2 mile. Then, ask yourself if you could do just one more time around. If you can, do it. But, if not, you accomplished your goal. Over the weeks/months ahead, add just one more time around when you feel up to it. Before you know it, you’ll be walking a 5k, 12 times around. The important part is to set the goal small. That way, you eliminate the pressure that you have to do it,” says Heather Mangieri, RDN, Sports and Wellness Dietitian and Author of Fueling Young Athletes.

Even gardening is a good way to fit in more activity!

6. Give Yoga a Try. Yoga is getting easier and easier to fit into a healthy, active lifestyle. “I recommend Yoga with Adriene or Yoga with Kassandra. They have all levels and different lengths of time. I also walk my dog a few times a day,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, Author of Finally Full, Finally Slim.

Hiking in Utah with Peter is downright fun!

7. Have a Go-To Workout. Plan one activity that is your easy default. “Have an easy 10 minute moderate/vigorous workout routine ready you can do at nearly any time in any space. This might be an exercise video, a treadmill, or a home weight set. If you feel like you don’t have ‘time’ for exercise, simply commit to the ten minutes. It’s likely you’ll keep going if you start, or you can do multiple 10 minute sessions,” says Shena Jaramillo, MS, RD of Peace and Nutrition.

Walking your dog daily is a great part of a happy fitness plan for both of you. Teddy and Lilly agree!

8. Have a Backup Plan. Make sure you have another alternative plan for when things get in the way. “One of the best tools for achieving your goals is to have a Plan B, and even a Plan C sometimes. If the plan was to walk with friends after work…what will you do if it rains? Plan B could be to walk in the mall. Or if your WiFi glitches while trying to do online yoga…Plan B could be to have a yoga DVD available. If the 30-minute resistance workout gets interrupted by children, the dogs, the phone…Plan B could be to break up the workout into 10-minute segments throughout the day. The ultimate Plan B is to offer yourself some grace knowing that you are doing the best you can with what you’ve got and you can always begin again tomorrow,” says Meridan Zerner MS, RDN, CSSD, LD of Cooper Clinic. 

Fit fitness into your everyday routines, such as walking to the farmers market on the weekends to get your fresh produce.

10. Make Your Exercise Do Double Duty. Double up on your activities while exercising. “For instance, listen to an educational podcast while walking in nature. That way you’re learning, exercising, and relaxing in nature. Another example is to dance to your favorite music with your family. This way you’re enjoying music and fun family time while also being active,” says Bri Bell, RD of Frugal Minimalist Kitchen.

For more tips on healthy fitness goals, check out the following blogs:

5 Dietitian Tips for Fueling Fitness with Plants
Plant-Based Eating To Fuel Cycling

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