11 Ways Smart People Motivate Themselves to Go to the Gym

The best ways to unlock your inner fitness junkie.

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, folks who travel 3.7 miles to their gym—as opposed to 5.1 miles—show up with five times the frequency. In other words, 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. And for some moves to bust out once you make it there, try the 7 All-Time Greatest One-Move, Full-Body Workouts.

Don't Be Afraid to Start Small

go to the gym more

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, learn the 60 Ways to Buy An Extra 60 Minutes Every Day.

Have a Plan of Action

go to the gym more

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 [people] 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."

Do It with Your Buddy

fat-burning workouts

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 in us all. Let's say your friend can run a mile under six minutes and you're still clocking in at nearly seven; you'll want to strive to catch up with them. 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," says Feigin.

Challenge Yourself

go to the gym more

"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. And if you are planning on doing a raise, it might help to learn The Single Best Way to Tie Your Shoes Before A Run.

Do It For A Noble Reason

go to the gym more

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.

Set Goals

paloff press abs woman

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 class, 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. However, if you do want abs, you may want to master The Single Best Way to Do A Sit-Up.

Invest in Your Body

Alternative abs leg lift

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? 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.

Think of Exercise as a Digital Escape

go to the gym more

"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 Curb Your Smartphone Addiction.

Or Take Advantage of Apps

go to the gym more

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.


go to the gym more

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

go to the gym more

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. And if you need a workout you can bang out instantly, try The Best Quickie Workout You Can Do Anywhere.

To discover more amazing secrets about living your best life, click here to sign up for our FREE daily newsletter!

Ari Notis
Ari is an editor specializing in news and lifestyle. Read more
Filed Under