Don’t Like to Exercise? Here Are 6 Ways to Motivate

Kirby Bumpus, MPH
by Kirby Bumpus, MPH
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Don’t Like to Exercise? Here Are 6 Ways to Motivate

First, I was blown away by your reader comments on the last Better Than Ever post. Thank you for taking the time to read, share your stories and provide tips to help other MFPers! Second, because of your comments, I decided to take this month to provide thought starters for those of you who expressed losing a bit of steam when it comes to starting a workout program or staying on top of your current plan.

Fact: I used to despise working out.

There were points when I literally dreaded exercise; times when I had not only fallen off the wagon, but it backed up and rolled over me.

Regardless of the cause: a new relationship, new job, injury, life — the list goes on. It can be hard to get in the groove.

Initiating a workout regime is pretty daunting. If you’ve never gotten into a routine to begin with, or have fallen off, you know exercise can be awkward, annoying and seemingly unapproachable. It can also be a little embarrassing: How did I let myself get so out of shape … again? Are people judging me?

We’ve all been there. You walk into the gym, and it can be intimidating because everyone looks like they know what the heck they are doing. But, remind yourself: At one point that jacked guy on the rowing machine also didn’t even know where the water fountain was. He had to figure it out and you can, too.

For context, I now exercise religiously — 5–6 times a week — and I actually enjoy it.


True, I still don’t wake up most days daydreaming about the elliptical machine, but I do dream about that feeling after the workout.

My advice to you is: Instead of putting energy into dreaming up excuses, think about what you love about exercising, and use that for confidence and motivation when your will is running low.


Here are six go-to motivators (aka why I workout):


Rally a friend (or two) to be your accountabilibuddy and get started. There have been times when I’ve only made it to a workout because I didn’t want to let my friend down. I have two separate groups of Under Armour teammates (that’s UA speak for “coworkers”) who I work out with for support and fun. There’s nothing like taking on a physical challenge to bring you closer together.

I also have some of my funniest life moments because of shared workout experiences, like the time my friend Georgette walked out halfway through a megaformer class, and we found her at a subterranean bar next door drinking tequila (still in gym clothes)!


There’s nothing more motivating than seeing progress and accomplishing your goals. It’s gratifying to improve and be able to do more over time. Whether it’s sliding the pin in the weight machine to the heavier weight, bumping up the incline on the treadmill or adding an extra lap around the block after dinner. It’s exciting to see (and feel) your body taking on more. Start by writing down your exercise goals and create realistic milestones to accomplish them.


If you’ve ever gained or lost weight, you know that getting dressed in the morning can be a struggle (I’ve had sizes 6–16 in my closet at the same time before … sigh). The other day a coworker stopped by my desk and asked me what I was training for because he saw me going pretty hard in the gym. I responded with “I just want to continue to fit into my clothes.” We both laughed out loud, but it’s true! I love food, I love cooking, I love eating — and with all of that comes calories, which is OK as long as I’m strategic. Personally, if I don’t stay on track with my meal logging on MyFitnessPal or I start skipping workouts, I notice the difference pretty fast — my body just rebels against my wardrobe. Quickly.



Studies show that the post-workout high is a real thing. You feel better. You’ll be proud you took the time to invest in yourself. A single workout can help clear your head so you can face whatever is causing stress with a better outlook. I often walk away from a sweat session with my focus reset and a forward-looking perspective.

If I miss a workout, my drive dips, and I’m in a general funk. There have been countless occasions when I’ve laid in bed at night and regretted not finding time for a workout. On the other hand, I have never regretted working out.

In need of some moves? These stress busting stretches are great for a beginner, can increase your flexibility, ease soreness and get you ready to get back in the game (with no equipment required).


Recognize what motivates you and incorporate it into your reward for hitting an exercise goal. You could treat yourself by trying a new recipe on MFP (I usually make extra and save it for lunch later in the week.) Or reward yourself with a splurge: there have been occasions when  thinking about that post-workout burger has fueled me through the workout. A rest day can also be a necessary reward to incorporate into your routine. You’ve got to create time for self-care.


If you’ve overcome an illness, injury or anything that prevented you from working out, you know what it feels like to be unable to push yourself physically — it’s frustrating and can be depressing. But that experience can also give you a greater appreciation for your health and strength. Considering there were years when I spent more days on crutches than my feet (due to knee injuries), I often think about how grateful I am to even have the option to exercise and that’s enough to get me moving.

I know I’m not in the best shape of my life (shoutout to my 17 year-old self), but I’m putting in the effort to improve. And you know what? I feel better than ever about the progress I’ve made and what my body can accomplish. It’s a phenomenal feeling.

So while you might not enjoy working out right now, hopefully these six motivators will help get you on track.

Are you struggling to find a workout routine you can enjoy? Do you genuinely enjoy working out (which is awesome!)? How do you motivate yourself to exercise? What’s your “happy” workout place? Share your tips below! I (along with the rest of the MFP community) look forward to hearing from you!

Better Than Ever

We all strive for wellness and to live better! Every month, this column will bring you advice on how to feel and perform Better Than Ever. Check out tips to improve various aspects of your health: Everything from fitness, nutrition, sleep and recovery. Have a topic you want to hear about? Feel free to reach out here (I’ll be checking the comments!) or on Twitter or Instagram. I look forward to hearing from you!


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About the Author

Kirby Bumpus, MPH
Kirby Bumpus, MPH

Kirby leads health and wellness communications at Under Armour Connected Fitness. She earned her BA in Human Biology and Psychology at Stanford University and MPH in Sociomedical Sciences from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She loves hiking (hello, National Parks!), a good meal and a great workout! Have a topic you want to hear about? Reach out in the comments or on Twitter or Instagram and Kirby will tackle in the next Better Than Ever column.


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