11 Ways Smart Men Motivate Themselves to Go to the Gym

The best ways to unlock your inner gym rat.

11 Ways Smart Men Motivate Themselves to Go to the Gym

The best ways to unlock your inner gym rat.

There are plenty of reasons you don’t make it to the gym as much as you’d like to. Maybe you’re busy. Maybe you’re lazy. Or maybe your gym’s simply too far away. According to a new study by the data firm Dstillery, men who travel 3.7 miles to their gym—as opposed to 5.1 miles—show up with fives times the frequency.

So if you’re looking to get back in shape, joining a gym in close proximity to your home is an excellent place to start.

But what else should you be doing?

To answer that, we tracked down Michael Feigin, M.S., C.S.C.S., owner of The Fitness Guru, for the smartest and most effective hacks that the savviest gym-goers use to motivate themselves to work out more. “After all, at the end of the day, the onus to stay healthy is on the individual,” says Feigin. With that in mind, here are 11 tips to switch up your life and make yourself a gym regular, because we all deserve to look our best, shirt or no shirt.

Don’t Be Afraid to Start Small

If you’re the type who never goes to the gym, you don’t want to wake up some day and bust out a 90-minute regimen. “If you do that, you’re going to wake up bitter and angry and sore,” says Feigin. You’ll then automatically associate the soreness with the gym, and it’ll be a while before you go again. Instead, start by aiming to go once or twice a week, for twenty or thirty minutes at a time. And if you’re really pressed for time, set yourself on a healthy path with the single greatest way to lose weight at work.

Have a Plan of Action

Give a man a fish, he’ll never go fishing. But teach a man to fish, and, well, he still might never go fishing—but at least he’ll have the skills to do so. “Some men go to the gym, all they see is a bunch of equipment that they don’t really know what to do with,” says Feigin. “Give them a plan of attack, they know exactly what to do.” If you’re in the market for a great plan, check out The Best Workout to Banish Your Belly.

gym deadlift

Do It with Your Buddy

Working out with a friend motivates you in two ways. First, spending time with your pals is fun, so going to the gym isn’t so much of a chore. Second, it allows you to take advantage of the primitive sense of competition that men have. Let’s say your friend can bench 235 and you’re stuck at 195; you’ll want to strive to catch up with him. And if it’s the inverse, you’ll want to work hard to maintain that lead. “The more primitive something is, the better it works for men,” says Feigin. Either way, when you’re done pumping iron, you’ve earned the beer you’re about to grab. Remember: keeping in close touch with your pals is one of the 100 easiest ways to be a healthier man right now.

gym benching

Challenge Yourself

“What I’ve found is that, if you give someone a challenge that is greater than their norm”—say, completing a Spartan Race—“they’ll start to follow a particular regimen and set off on a practical way of training,” says Feigin. Tackling a seemingly insurmountable challenge can spur thoughts of failure, and no one wants to fail. You’ll find yourself hitting the gym more and more until one day, hey, look at that—you just did a Spartan. If you’re looking for a challenge, here are the 4 essential steps for conquering any race.

Do It For A Noble Reason

Not to be confused with religious guilt, or social pressure from friends who think they’re better than you, the altruism motivator is a significant factor in self-improvement of any form. If you sign up for, say, a benefit race like the TCS New York City Marathon, and you ask your friends to donate a hundred bucks each in your name, you’re indebted to the cause. Some days, you’ll resent that. But most, “it keeps you on point and focused on the target,” says Feigin. “And then you get the knowledge that your cause received X-amount of necessary dollars.” It’s a feel-good thing, sure. But it’s also just a good thing.

gym abs

Set Goals

We don’t mean goals like, “I want abs.” We also don’t mean things like, “I want to look great on Saturday night.” Those are the biggest cop-outs, according to Feigin. We want to get more tangible, more specific. “Everybody’s got a secret,” he says. Whether it’s wanting to be able to run more than a mile, or being able to finally climb that rope from gym, everybody has a secret. “And you’re worthy of that. You’re worthy of owning that and striving for it.” So strive away, we say. And if you truly want visible abs, here’s the biggest thing that’s holding you back.

Invest in Your Body

You already invest in all manner of long-term, big-ticket items—beach home, sports car, outrageously expensive bicycle. But nothing will be a part of your life for a longer time than your body, so why aren’t you investing in that? So fork out for a great trainer.

“If you find someone who’s well-trained and -educated, who has an especially good eye for your particular problems and goals, they can help set you up with even just a monthly course of action that will keep you on point and moving toward your next target,” says Feigin.

But don’t stop there. If you pay top dollar for really great, good-looking fitness equipment—cool shoes, shorts, stylish tops, even great running sunglasses—trust us: you’ll be wanting to wear it. You needn’t listen to us. Listen to super running coach Knox Robinson.

Think of Exercise as a Digital Escape

“Most of the time, I’m telling [the people I train] to drop their phone in a bucket at the front of the gym,” says Feigin. “You’re going to spend an hour in real time.” In our fast-paced, always-on lives, an hour of digital reprieve is more than welcome—it’s desired. Think of the gym as your designated time to be off the grid. If you need music, grab that most archaic of devices: an iPod. And for more tips on how to sever your digital ties, check out the 11 easiest ways to quit your phone addiction.

Or Take Advantage of Apps

For some, that digital connection is an essential; you and your phone are inseparable. And that’s okay! Use it to your advantage; make a game out of it. Nearly every app from MapMyFitness, Inc., for example, has a “fun” component to it. Say you go on a run. When you’re done, the app will overlay the route you just took onto Google Maps. Creative results—from a depiction of Mario, to a guitar, to an impressively detailed drawing of a runner—are literally just around the corner.


Gambling can be an excellent motivator. We suggest Pact, an app where you and others pay into a collective pool and set individual goals. If you meet your targets, you cash out. If you miss them, sucks, but you lose that money. It’s the best type of gambling: on yourself. Because if you don’t bet on yourself, no one will.

Move Closer to the Gym

We can’t argue with the data. If there isn’t one close to you, find one close to your office and duck out during lunch a couple days a week. Then learn these 10 easy tips for losing weight in your 40s.

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