How Do I Motivate Myself to Exercise?


Often I hear folks say, “I just need to find some motivation to start exercising.”  Maybe you will find it for a wedding, reunion, etc., but this is almost never enough to make a lifestyle change.  In order to make exercise an integral part of your day, you are going to have to JUST DO IT. (Sorry Nike).

Most people think of “motivation” – as a single entity, which they either have or don’t have.  We may attempt to reward ourselves for doing a certain activity, e.g. I’ll work out and then give myself $10 to put into a fund for a new outfit.  Unfortunately, it is super easy to talk yourself out of this type of extrinsic reward.

Extrinsic motivation (which I discussed in my blog post is some outside demand, obligation, or reward that requires the achievement of a particular goal. Intrinsic motivation, however, is an internal form of motivation. You strive towards a goal for personal satisfaction or accomplishment.

Sometimes I use extrinsic motivation for my clients, e.g., encourage them to sign up for an event like a 5k.  My ultimate goal however is to turn exercise into something that is intrinsic. If you exercise regularly, and at the proper intensities, you will feel better, sleep better and have more energy.  These are undisputable facts and should be your ultimate reason for exercising.  However, for the vast majority of American’s, It.Just. Isn’t. Enough.

So my recommendation is to start with an extrinsic reward and then get the intrinsic to kick in.  In order to do this, you’re going to have to realize that the whole idea of MOTIVATION is overrated.  You need to start to learn to enjoy the process of exercise.  I’ve exercised almost everyday for most of my adult life and I haven’t always been “motivated” to do so, however I still did.  It became a habit, like brushing my teeth.

There are a few other tricks to help you develop a habit and stick with an exercise program:  Chronotype, Personality, Gratitude and Help.


There is a best time to do something you are putting off based on your chronotype. According to Wikipedia, “Chronotype refers to the behavioral manifestation of underlying circadian rhythms of myriad physical processes. A person’s chronotype is the propensity for the individual to sleep at a particular time during a 24-hour period.”

Dr. Michael Breus wrote a great book called, “The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype–and the Best Time to Eat Lunch, Ask for a Raise, Have Sex, Write a Novel, Take Your Meds, and More”.  Working with your bodies inner clock, Dr. Michael Breus will help you define yourself as one of the following four dominant chronotypes:

What’s Your Sleep Animal? (From The Power of When)

  1. Dolphins.Real dolphins sleep with only half of their brain at a time (which is why they’re called unihemispheric sleepers). The other half is awake and alert, concentrating on swimming and looking for predators. This name fits insomniacs well: intelligent, neurotic light sleepers with a low sleep drive [sleep drive = your need for sleep].
  2. Lions.Real lions are morning hunters at the top of the food chain. This name fits morning-oriented, driven optimists with a medium sleep drive.
  3. Bears.Real bears are go-with-the-flow ramblers, good sleepers and anytime hunters. This name fits fun-loving, outgoing people who prefer a solar-based schedule and have a high sleep drive.
  4. Wolves.Real wolves are nocturnal hunters. This name fits night-oriented creative extroverts with a medium sleep drive.

If you’re adopting a behavior that is challenging for you, e.g, starting a new exercise program, go with your chronotype.  Lions should start in the morning and wolves at night.  You are probably already pretty sure what your chronotype is, but here’s a quiz for fun:

Personality Type

If you are an introvert and value your time alone, it’s best if you engage in a solitary activity such as walking, running, or solo weight training at the gym.  However, within this group, there are several subsets.

  • Intellectual: Listen to podcasts or books
  • Artist: A great Spotify playlist
  • Competitor: Find people to compete with virtually on apps such as Strava for running or cycling.


Hedonic adaptation (we take the good things in our life for granted) is pervasive in our society.  It can be as simple as writing down three things you are thankful for on a daily basis. Research indicates this will generate happiness gains that get compunded (versus plateauing).  Huge happiness gains means you are more likely to take care of yourself and exercise.


Motivation is often difficult to maintain when you exercise on your own. Regular sessions with a personal trainer enhance your motivation to continue with a workout regimen. Even if you don’t use a personal trainer for every session, knowing that you’ll meet with your trainer soon will motivate you during workouts. You also get the satisfaction of showing your trainer the improvement you’ve made as your exercise program proceeds.


If you’re not exercising, the time to start is NOW. You have all the information telling you that you should do it, you just need to get emotionally invested.  After all, we are more driven by emotion than reason.  Not necessarily a bad thing, unless your emotions are keeping you from starting an exercise program.  Just do it, my friends.