How to Stay Motivated to Exercise (When You Aren’t Seeing Results Yet)

by Jessica Smith
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How to Stay Motivated to Exercise (When You Aren’t Seeing Results Yet)

You’ve been dedicated and going strong with your new workout plan for weeks now. You’ve put in the time and effort, and you know you’re making changes to your body. So then you step on the scale and … nada. Your clothes aren’t looser, and that scale hasn’t budged. What gives?

While there are many reasons you may not be seeing physical changes just yet, you are still making some incredibly beneficial changes internally.

Before you throw your hands in the air and give up, know that what you are going through is normal and to be expected. In fact, this point in your journey is where most people surrender — just when they are about to start seeing progress. Don’t give up on your goals and resign yourself to feeling out of shape and unhealthy!

Instead of throwing in the towel, please hang in there and read this. Here are my top three tips for staying motivated when you aren’t seeing results yet:

1. Stash the scale for a while.

Usually when someone refers to “results,” he or she is looking for weight loss. But the truth is, you are probably experiencing plenty of results that just aren’t showing up on the scale. That’s why I recommend staying away from the scale for a while, especially when starting a new workout regimen. It’s an easy way to get discouraged! Why? Your weight can fluctuate by as much as 10 pounds due to factors such as hydration, inflammation and hormones.

Rather than look to your weight to tell you whether you are making progress, focus on the bigger picture. Dropping numbers on the scale really doesn’t mean anything except that you are lighter — instead, focus on becoming stronger, more fit and agile, and even on setting a great example for your family.

2. Stop making exercise something you have to do but something you want to do.

I’m often asked what the best workout is for weight loss, the best time of day to work out, the best piece of fitness equipment, etc. In my opinion, it’s pretty simple: Consistency is the No. 1 key to getting and maintaining results. So the best workout is the one you’ll do, and the best time to do it is when you’ll actually get moving.

Exercise offers so many wonderful benefits, including improved immunity, mood and stress relief. Whether it’s taking a weekly Zumba class or jogging with a friend, when you find your own special formula for making exercise enjoyable, it becomes so much easier to stick with it.

3. Focus on the intangibles.

OK, so maybe you can’t see the number on the scale dropping yet or feel your jeans getting looser, but chances are you’ve begun to feel better than before you started your plan. Haven’t you noticed that you aren’t as tired when you wake up in the morning? Or that you aren’t suffering from as much back pain? Or that you can now run after the kids without getting seriously winded?

All these little things that we tend to downplay are really important signs that you are getting results from your workouts, you just aren’t recognizing them! Celebrate the positive changes you are making to your body and your health, and let weight loss be a bonus side effect that will eventually emerge from your new healthy lifestyle.

Now it’s your turn! Tell me, how do you stay motivated to move when you aren’t able to see the results yet? Please share your top tips with us in the comments below!

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  • ASanders

    I’ve been trying to lose weight since I had my first child, 5 1/2 years ago. Its been such an up and down process for me. The most I’ve lost in that amount of time is 7 lbs, and of course, all of it came back and more. I’m at my heaviest I’ve ever been. Recently (about 3 weeks ago) I started utilizing my work areas gym membership program. I always tried to do this and failed because I could never “find the time.” However, I decided that I just need to suck it up and start going over my lunch break. I only have a 30 min lunch, so it forces me to get there, change, do something for 15 minutes, and then get back to work. Some days its elliptical, some days its weight lifting, other days its just walking the track. Since I started, I know I feel better (mentally). I haven’t really lost any significant weight, maybe a pound or 2, but I’m trying not to worry about the number. Its true what they say, once I work out, I don’t have the desire to ruin what I just did with bad food, so I find myself making better food choices also. I know it’ll take time (after all it took about 5 years to put this all on). But I know if I work at it, by this time next year, I could be my pre-baby weight again. I’m only 5’2, so I can’t let myself get too crazy. My mom also suffered with weight issues a big portion of her life, so I know I am somewhat pre-disposed. I want to be healthy, and I want to have energy when playing with my kids. I want to live long so I can see them grow. And I want to have a couple more babies! But before I do that, I don’t want to put on anymore weight!! I thank myfitnesspal for existing, because its really forced me to look at what I put in my mouth. I still treat myself to soda, and I know if I gave that up, things would happen quicker… but I’m still trying to be realistic. Maybe eventually I’ll realize its not doing anything for me anymore.

    • Bob

      Suggestion: Make one change every day that improves your diet or improves your exercise regimen.

      Start with getting rid of ALL soda forever. You won’t miss it. Maybe tomorrow add a daily spinach salad. Then add fresh fruit…

    • RyanAM253

      i empathize with you. I once tried and suucceeded to improve my health and loose weight. I went from 295 lbs to 213lb, but eventually gained all the weight back and then some. I am currently in the process of trying to reintroduce the healthy habits I had before to get back where I want to be as a person. Dropping sugar is one o those difficult but necessary habits to succeed. Have you tried to swap sugar soda for a zero cal sparkling option? I really like La Croix water. It smells like a sugar soda but is free of calories, sweeteners, or other harmful elements. You may try that to help kick the soda habit. I wish you well and I know you can succeed.

  • Markie

    Going to the gym is like making your bed in the morning. It sets a high standard, enabling you to continue making the most of your day. Accomplishment alone spreads joy into all areas of your life… the health and aesthetic benefits of exercise are like added bonuses!

  • Hi Jessica –
    Thanks for sharing! I think it can be incredibly hard in the beginning because the pounds aren’t necessarily shredding off and there isn’t a huge difference to be seen. I completely agree about making it something you want instead of have to do. Do you have any tips on that?

  • Connie Huston

    When I exercise, I try not to associate it with weight loss….I associate it with better results on my bloodwork or blood pressure at the doctor’s office. Since there is usually 6 months to a year between Dr. visits, I don’t have a short time horizon for results. I challenge myself to see how much progress I can make between visits. ( How many points can I drop my cholesterol or triglyceride levels….it becomes a game!)

  • sumarni

    Thank you for sharing..i almost give up eventhough i exercise in 5 days per week. But now i got the answer..

  • Tiffany

    This post speaks to me in so many ways. I’ve had an unhealthy relationship with food for my entire life–I learned from a young age watching my mother, that diet pills and starvation are the “only” way to lose weight. It wasn’t until I moved away from home (like other side of the country) that I was forced to take a long hard look at myself and start giving a shit. Sure–my parents never made me eat veggies, but that is no reason I can’t start now. I wasn’t allowed to play sports because of the potential for injury, but there’s nothing standing in the way of me doing so now. I’ve spent a large part of my young adult life justifying my poor decisions by blaming my upbringing. I was 21, 5’4 and 220 pounds when I decided that I needed to change. I fell in love with Herbalife and basically starved myself down to 175 in less than 8 months…but I hit a snag, a close friend died, and between the alcohol and fast food, I gained every pound back. It wasn’t sustainable, I never made permanent changes. Just recently I decided that I would commit to taking care of myself FOR MYSELF. I have focused on strength training and a healthy diet–I weigh everything by the gram (thanks to another MFP blog I read) and I lost 19 pounds in 3 weeks. But it was in a healthy way! I’ve exercised under the supervision of a professional and I take every meal seriously. I’ve found fun cardio group classes at the gym and I spend every break at work walking on the treadmill. I am focusing on making better choices one step at a time. I also refuse to give up Coke Zero…my trainer said it’s ok as long as I don’t have high blood pressure. I work hard, but I don’t starve myself. I do find ways to enjoy myself at the gym…I’ve invited friends to classes and they’ve joined with me. I’m also biking in a 65 mile tour de cure to raise money for diabetes. It’s all about looking forward about what you can do, rather than dwelling on the bad decisions of the past. I am very grateful to have my youth, and a body that cooperates. I started with walking and to be honest, I’ve toyed with the idea of running a 10k. The most important thing is making yourself a priority and I BELIEVE in that. It might take longer than others, but I know that I CAN do it. And that’s the first step. I LOVE all of these articles and I try to keep up so I can educate myself to have the tools to make better choices. MFP is a huge reason why I have been successful. My tip: count everything. Have healthy snack options readily available so you don’t binge, and drink loads of water.

  • Chris

    This article hit home! I started my “getting healthy” journey January 4th. After one month of dedication to eating better and exercise I was so upset with a 1 pound drop on my scale. My mother had been doing weight watchers and dropping weight each week but not exercising at all. I was very frustrated . I continued to stick with my plan and now here on February 15th I am 5 pounds lighter and my jeans need a belt!!! Just like the article says … Stick with your plan. Eventually your body will change .. It’s not about the numbers but how you feel. Not only have I dropped weight and lost inches I feel great! It’s amazing how choosing a salad over a burger for lunch changes your outlook on your afternoon. This has been a life style change for me … Not a diet ! I am deidxated to staying healthy and doing it the right way!

  • jcgadfly

    Needed to see this. Know I’m getting stronger because I’m moving more weight around in the gym but I’m not seeing anything in my body. Getting tired of busting my tail and only getting sore.

  • Heather

    5 months working at it, scale hasn’t moved once. But I have lost 2 pants sizes, am not winded and have energy to spare.

    Big picture – it’s working. It isn’t fast, but as a heavy girl I didn’t expect it to be.

    I figure eventually I’ll see it on the scale, but as long as my pants keep falling off I can’t complain!

  • Guest

    Seeing a pregnant lady at the gym doing some pretty involved work-outs motivated me a lot one day. Hell, she’s carrying a watermelon and she can lift weights (they weren’t a lot, but they were getting lifted). I can do that without the little bugger.

    But generally, being able to walk up stairs without huffing and puffing. It’s pretty awesome. I’d hate to lose that ability. Plus, I love how good I feel after. Any time I go to the gym in a bad mood, angry I’m there, I end up leaving pumped up and happy. Either of those are enough for me.