The Secret of Exercise Motivation

Here's the secret to finding the motivation to stick with an exercise routine. 


You JUST HAVE TO DO IT. You don’t have to love or even like exercise. Like brushing your teeth, going to work, grocery shopping, going to the DMV.

So maybe you don’t love brushing your teeth. Maybe you don’t feel inspired and motivated to brush your teeth. Maybe you're not interested in dentistry. But you brush your teeth.

Every day. 

If you want to be a healthy adult living a responsible, fulfilled life, you have to work out. You just have to DO THE DAMN THING. The great news is that if you persist, you will get hooked and it will become an enjoyable activity. 

Check out this article for some fun, unconventional ways to exercise AND enjoy yourself at the same time! 




Picture this scenario perfectly described by David Wong of 

You go to the doctor and he tells you that you have a bacterial infection that will never, ever go away. It will literally eat away a crucial part of your digestive system unless you do a chemical treatment twice a day, every day, and do painful semiannual follow-up treatments with your doctor...for the rest of your fucking life. Sure, it’s not a death sentence, but the sheer weight of it kind of makes you want to give up — you can just see this burden stretching out in front of you, forever.

Is that how treating your depression makes you feel? Is that how exercise makes you feel? The article continues:

But, of course, I’ve just described brushing your teeth.

You don’t regard dental care as a crushing burden, because you don’t sit around every day contemplating the unfathomable mountain of teeth-brushing you must scale before you die. You only think of it as that thing you do in the morning because you have to, because you don’t want your teeth to fall out. You manage the long-term goal (having teeth) by thinking only of the very manageable daily goal.

You apply this technique to dental care, and you can (and should!) certainly apply the technique to your mental and physical care.

So, like you don’t have to like brushing your teeth, be motivated to brush your teeth, you just have to do the damn thing. Luckily, if you persist, you will soon get hooked and it will become an enjoyable activity.



Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

We all pull motivation from different things in our lives. But data shows that a change is more likely to last if you’re motivated by reasons from within rather than outside of yourself.


Exercising to impress other people, to decrease cholesterol levels, to win a bet, or to make an ex jealous are all external motivating factors. Extrinsic (or external) motivation comes from factors outside of yourself, which means you cannot control them.

While these can jump start a new exercise routine, most choices and behaviors become moralized when motivation comes from external factors. You start thinking I was bad at lunch, or I should exercise.


When you're intrinsically (or internally) motivated, instead you think, How do I make sure I can get a workout in today? How can I make easy and nutritious meals?

When you are driven by your own desires from within (such as strength, confidence, pride, self-esteem, the endorphin high, and beating depression), you can prioritize your health instead of moralizing your behaviors. You are driven by a desire to better yourself for yourself and YOU ARE IN CONTROL of the variables. That's going to carry you through tough times for the long haul.  

For those of us with depression (anxiety, PTSD, ED, etc.), tapping into that adversity can be a very powerful internal motivating factor. Exercise symbolizes your fight against your demons and for yourself.

choose to overcome.jpg


If you tell yourself you “HAVE” to do this or you “MUST” do that or you “SHOULD” do this, you can weaken your motivation.

The power of choice and simply reframing your language to “CHOOSE” to can be incredibly empowering and exactly the motivating language you need to hear.

Choose your words carefully and make them work for you.




Lasting motivation comes from within, but short-term motivation, the kind you need to get your head on straight and get your blood pumping right now. This kind of motivation can come from outside of you. Specifically, fitness motivation pages on Pinterest (make sure to go for ones that focus on empowerment and strength rather than appearance!), and motivational speeches on YouTube. There are so many that you can find the perfect combination of words, music, and visuals for you.