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Don’t cut your inner slacker any slack! How to motivate yourself to exercise – it’s all here

How to motivate yourself to exercise? Try taking a run outside like the person in this photo.
Fitness Editor
Julia is a qualified fitness trainer. She writes our articles about nutrition and fitness. She also makes free workout plans for our site.

You would love to exercise, eat a healthier diet, or simply improve certain aspects of your life. If only there wasn’t this inner voice whispering that the couch is quite comfortable too! With our 12 tips you will manage to overcome your inner slacker. Read on to learn how to motivate yourself to exercise, no matter what!

You would really like to make time to exercise, but today of all days you have to work late. And you absolutely wanted to make a Buddha Bowl for dinner, but your colleagues are eating pizza! Well, it’s too late for that now. Tomorrow’s another day, anyhow.


If this scenario sounds familiar, congratulations, that pesky inner voice has you totally in the palm of its hand. It’s been put in charge and is deciding how you live your life, how you feel, and how you find the motivation for fitness.

Its basic character trait is its fear of change. That means it’ll keep you in your comfort zone all day, which feels convenient, but prevents growth.

Our 12 tips on how to motivate yourself to exercise will help you conquer your laziness and get motivated for good.

12 tips to get motivated and overcome your inner couch potato

1. Find your ‘why’

Why find the time to work out instead of laze on the couch every day? Why cook healthy meals for yourself instead of ordering in pizza delivery all the time? What is your motivation to make the change? Do you want to feel better? Look different? Exercise for your fitness or mental health? Or all of the above?

Write down the reasons why you try to do what you always fail to do. Whenever those negative voices get loud, you’ll remember what your purpose is.

Extra tip: phrase your ‘why’ clearly, write it out, and put it somewhere you see every day to make sure you stay motivated. For example, hang it over the TV or on the fridge.

2. Define your goal

To crank up your motivation for gym time, turn that ‘why’ a specific fitness goal. What exactly does it mean to feel better, build muscles, or do something else good for your health? To achieve your fitness goal, make it SMART.

Specific

Make sure you can state your fitness goal in a single sentence: I would like to build muscle mass.

Measurable

Make your goal measurable in numbers: I’d like to gain 3kg of muscle mass.

Achievable

Pick a goal that suits you: I want to gain 3kg of muscle mass in 12 weeks.

Realistic

Choose a goal that you can achieve: To put on 5kg of muscle in 10 weeks would not be a reasonable expectation.

Time bound

Define a time by which you will have reached your goal: I will have built up 3kg of muscle mass by August 31, 2020.

Extra tip: When it comes to smart goals, it can’t hurt to include that inner couch potato in the discussion. Let your goal-setting ambition compete against it in order to come up with the healthiest, most motivated, realistic solutions.

This will help make sure that you don’t overtax yourself or work yourself too hard. A bit of ambition will keep your goal challenging, and common sense will determine what can actually work. Win-win.

3. Imagine the success 

What will it feel like when you reach your goal? Try to picture exactly what will change. Will you have more energy? Feel more comfortable in your body? What will this change in your life and how does this change feel on a day to day basis?

Try to identify the feeling as precisely as possible. Every time you’d prefer to stay on the couch, think about it and use that as your workout motivation. 

4. Define your path 

Determine how you will achieve your goal. After all, you have to overcome those stubborn inner couch potato voices not just once, but keep at it over and over again. The challenge is to motivate yourself so that you routinely take all the steps necessary to reach your workout and fitness goals. 

The more your decisions become routine, the harder it is to listen to the negative voices.

Is there a specific workout goal you want to achieve? Then a workout plan is just the right thing.

find my workout plan

Especially when it comes to muscle building or fat loss, a nutrition plan is the be-all and end-all. Everything you need to know about nutrition plans for your fitness goals can be found here.

find my nutrition plan

Extra tip: Your workout doesn’t always have to involve the gym. Sure, if you have ambitious muscle building goals, you will need some weights. But in general, it is easiest and your self-motivation will be highest when you enjoy your exercise. Find the right kind of workout – or sport! – for you.

5. Visualize your successes

An exercise plan is great if you stick to it. It often helps to write down every planned workout and tick off each completed one. Then, every time that inner voice nags, “is a workout really necessary now? It’s raining!” you can respond, “well, I’ve already done two out of three this week, and I’m not about to let the rain keep me from checking off the week.”

Sounds mundane, but it helps. Whether you want to go digital or old school with pen and paper is up to you. Our free downloadable Weekly Planner will help you.

6. Make yourself a priority

Does a colleague want to get a spontaneous drink with you on a day you planned to exercise? Put yourself first and make yourself the priority. As long as you let others’ wishes be an excuse for your own laziness, you are allowing that inner voice to prevail.

Instead, ask your work friend to join your workout, and maybe get a glass of wine with her afterwards. Or, better than alcohol, try Recovery Aminos, a Whey Protein, or an Evening Relax Tea.

Rewarding yourself with a chocolate peanut butter shake is a great idea for how to motivate yourself to exercise

Sticking to your plan means giving top priority to yourself and getting your inner voices used to the fact that they don’t have a say any more. 

Added bonus: Little by little, your friends and loved ones will get used to and respect your new routines.

7. Anticipate problems – and their solutions! 

Perfection is by no means a given. It will rain, even when a run is on your schedule. Public transport will be late, your boss will have an important task for you, the dog will want to get out, your workout clothes will be in the laundry, and the fridge will be empty. Maybe all of that will happen at once.

Think about which issues in your everyday life make you lose your motivation to exercise or eat well. Does something always come up in the evening? Then get your workout in early in the morning. Don’t you think you can? Don’t let yourself believe that. After a few weeks your body gets used to a morning workout

There’s a solution for every excuse. Identify your excuses and come up with solutions. Your inner slacker won’t stand a chance. 

8. Be prepared 

You can prevent many of these attacks: Lay out your workout clothes in the evening and get into them as soon as you get up in the morning. That way you’ll be on your run before the inner slacker is even awake.

Make sure that you always have a healthy frozen meal on hand. Or how about a pack of Protein Balls as an alternative to your evening sweet snack? That way, you’ll have no excuse for the typical lazy or fast food traps and you’ll run out of arguments. 

There are no excuses when you’re on the go, either. We have the perfect to-go snack for any destination. See for yourself.

find your new favorite snack

9. Find allies

It’s easier when you work together. No matter what project you want to accomplish, if you do it together with someone, your inner slacker has strong competition. Who wants to be the one to say, “sorry, I was too lazy,” yet whine about nothing changing? Not you. 

You can exercise regularly with us and our experts in a Live workout on our Instagram. Be sure to take a look and get motivated!

10. Fail and learn

Still, there will be days when the inner slacker wins out,  but the important thing is to not let it frustrate you. Accept that you haven’t been true to your ‘why.’ Analyze why this happened and learn from it. Be patient with yourself, and focus on what you’ve already achieved and what’s to come.

Restarting after a long break from exercise can be especially difficult. Evaluate where you are now and be consistent and patient.

11. Work hard, play hard

Back to the point of practicality. Unless you’re in the middle of a HIIT session, nobody wants you to torture yourself. It’s not always comfortable beating your inner voices. But, as willpower is trained like a muscle, it also needs a break.

Allow yourself 1 – 2 days a week where you simply let yourself do what you feel like. Because healthy fitness routines feel good and right, you will soon feel less inclined to do anything that goes against your workout ‘why.’

12. Listen to yourself

Listen to your body, mind, and soul. Learn to perceive what’s good for you on all three levels and bring them into harmony. Notice that your ‘why’ is actually something else? That you took a wrong turn in your goal-setting? That your plan doesn’t feel right, doesn’t bring you forward, or stresses you out and strains your social life? 

Then have the courage to change. Talk to your inner slacker. Maybe it’s not laziness. Maybe that voice is actually trying to warn you to be more gentle with yourself. Learn to distinguish one from the other.

Inner couch potato definition

Your inner couch potato or slacker is nothing but the voice of weak willpower. It’s the quiet voice inside you that nudges you to watch something on Netflix instead of going for that run. The good thing is that willpower can be trained, just like a muscle. With every single victory, you grow stronger while your inner couch potato gets weaker. The ability to motivate yourself for fitness gets better and better.  

The causes of the inner couch potato

Everyone knows this feeling, and the reasons are manifold. On one hand, you need routines and habits. They structure everyday life and are necessary to simplify decisions.

On the other hand, though, the line between healthy and constructive routines and those that encourage you to stick to what is convenient, comfortable, and familiar is blurred. The couch potato always chooses the latter. 

Habits such as poor time management and lack of focus make it easy to find arguments to skip that workout. 

Not prioritizing your own well-being and allowing yourself to be distracted by unrealistic goals and perfectionism is also fodder for those arguments.

Our Summary

  • Willpower can be trained. 
  • The more times you overcome your inner couch potato, the weaker it gets. 
  • Become aware of why you benefit in the medium- and long-term from overcoming the inner couch potato.
  • Do not let setbacks throw you off course. 
  • Learn to listen to what is really good for you, and act accordingly. 
Article sources
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