Strike a Healthy Balance
"I work out because it keeps me sane through such a crazy life, running from football field to basketball court." —Erin Andrews, ESPN reporter and Good Morning America correspondent
Plan to Succeed
Without a strategy, goals are just good intentions. Thinking about when and how long you'll sweat makes you move more, a study in the Journal of Consumer Research reports. People who asked themselves each week, "How much will I work out?" increased their activity by 138 percent. Wow! How can posing a question have that big a reward? It yanks you off autopilot (when you constantly and unconsciously choose the couch over the elliptical) and encourages you to actually make your fitness plans happen, explains study author Pierre Chandon, Ph.D., professor of marketing at Insead business school.
Take it one step further and write your aims. Women who jotted down their workout targets, imagined meeting their goals, listed potential obstacles and thought of ways to beat those barriers ended up adding an extra hour of calorie blasting each week, researchers from Columbia University say. Try it: Create a one-week workout schedule with mini-objectives for each routine, such as "Run without stopping for 30 minutes" and "Use 8-pound dumbbells." Put a satisfying check next to each victory.
Note What Works
"I keep a training log, and if I've tried a new workout that gives me that satisfyingly sore feeling, I'll draw a smiley face next to that day, so I know I should do that routine again!" —Jackie Warner, celebrity trainer
Commit in Public
"The night before a super early workout, I tweet my plan to ensure I do it." —Meaghan B. Murphy, SELF fitness director (@MeaghanBMurphy)
Always Think, Onward!
"I love giving myself new challenges; I'll sign up for a sprint triathlon or get certified in a group fitness discipline. So far, I've run 12 half-marathons plus dozens of other races, and I have qualifications to teach Spin, Zumba and Turbo Kick." —Nicole Brewer, contestant on The Biggest Loser season 7, who dropped (and has kept off) more than 100 pounds!
To be a workout champ, don't just sweat solo; surround yourself with a team of strong and fast friends who will help you eke out more minutes and reps. Research backs this idea: When people worked out with a virtual video-game partner who was always programmed to be fitter, they stuck it out 24 percent longer than if they were alone, a study from Michigan State University indicates. "The challenge brings out a competitive side, even if you don't have that streak," says study author Deborah Feltz, Ph.D., chairwoman of the department of kinesiology at MSU. "To keep the pace and to measure up, you push beyond what you'd normally do by yourself." Don't have a pal available to egg you on? You might find a similar boost in a group class, Feltz says. No one wants to be seen as the weak one, she says, so people will try to match the intensity of the strongest member of the class. Game on!
Be a Front-Runner
"I sit in the first row at cycling classes, because I feel like everybody behind me is looking forward, and it pushes me to do my best." —Vanessa Hudgens, actress and former SELF cover girl
Look to Your Fam
"My mom, Lucy, and I often team up to work out. At 75, she's a Zumba instructor and a certified trainer, and she's fit enough to push me! I hope I have her energy and mobility in 30 years." —Ramona Braganza, celebrity trainer
Use Your Head
Sure, the way your body moves is key, but you can also use mind tricks to perform your best. Repeat a pump-up phrase like "Let's go!" Confidence-building cues like this help people improve their performance during workouts, reports a Perspectives on Psychological Science review. What doesn't work? Competitive commands like "Win!" which are dependent on someone else's performance, and negative phrases such as "Too slow," which may make you doubt your abilities. Instead, use positive pep talks to focus on what you want to do. To get through another rep, tell yourself, "I'm strong!" Need to sprint a few more seconds? Say, "Fast, fast, fast!"
Also, picture your biggest fans: your friends and family. Envisioning yourself through the eyes of others makes you try harder, a study from York University suggests. Why? Having an audience, even an imaginary one, watch you makes succeeding count for more—especially if your spectators are people whose opinions you care about. That could be Mom cheering you on at the 5K finish line or your guy giving you a high five after one last push-up.
Choose a Mental Motivator
"During a race, I'll dedicate each mile to an inspirational person in my life. Running that segment for him or her makes the discomfort easier to bear and gives me a leg up." —Chrissie Wellington, three-time Ironman world champion
Envision a Win
"Every time I step out on the track, I say this mantra over and over in my head: 'If it's to be, it's up to me. Who can? I can!'" —Natasha Hastings, 4x4 relay Olympic gold medalist
Let Love Move You
"I have these handmade signs hanging on my treadmill: go, mom! and run fast, mom! My kids made them to help me prep for a marathon. Seeing the words inspires me to crank the pace." —Larysa DiDio, personal trainer and coauthor of Sneaky Fitness
Get motivated to sweat. Sign up for a fitness class.