So what’s their secret?
When it comes to actually enjoying your fitness routine, setting goals and getting to work isn’t always enough. For example, most gym-goers want to lose a few vanity pounds, and though this might keep you on track for a week or even a month, as the days pass, your motivation will wane, your progress will slow and you’ll start to see exercise as nothing more than a chore. Soon, you’ll fall off the exercise wagon altogether.
But with the right mindset, working out can be manageable—even better, it can turn into a welcome and lasting addition to your daily schedule.
Secret #1: They set high-stake goals.1 of 11
When it comes to sticking to a workout plan, goal-setting should be job number one.
"If you don't have goals, you will just coast through your training, make excuses to miss it and probably spend most of your 'gym' time on social media taking photos of how great your squat looks," says health and fitness coach James Crossley.
His advice: Set specific, high-stakes goals that you're less likely to brush off.
"Just saying 'I want to look good for Saturday night' is not enough," Crossley says. "Make your goals bold and challenging to get yourself out your comfort zone. Sign up for a Tough Mudder, marathon or 10K run. Most importantly, make it challenging for you."
Secret #2: They make every minute count.2 of 11
Whether you're on a treadmill or elliptical, are lifting weights or doing something completely different, it's amazing what you can get done in 30 minutes if you put your mind to it. "Properly executed HIIT (high intensity interval training) is an efficient way of burning fat and working the body in a short amount of time," Crossley says.
"With this kind of workout (unlike steady state cardio) you experience the after-burn, which basically means you can keep your metabolism high and burn calories for up to 24 hours after the workout is finished."
Want to make sure you stick to it and keep your heart rate high? Check out a cardio class. Sometimes the group mentality can give you that much-needed extra push.
Secret #3: They tune in.3 of 11
Research has shown that listening to music can help distract you from how much exertion (and pain) you're putting your body through.
"Music has powerful effects on our mind," says exercise scientist and psychologist Andy Lane, PhD. "Music can inspire, raise arousal and evoke powerful and positive emotions. Powerful lyrics can even create a feeling of invincibility."
Find songs that create these responses. Use music to inspire and motivate yourself in the gym by carefully selecting songs that will generate the emotions you need to get the job done.
Research also suggests aiming for songs with 120 to 140 beats per minute.
Secret #4: They embrace the outdoors.4 of 11
Exercise is a good stress-buster, and exercise in the great outdoors can be especially beneficial. In addition to offering a change of scenery and challenging terrain, taking your training outside can help you feel revitalized while increasing energy and positive engagement.
"Exercise and nature are good on their own, but together, they are fantastic," Lane says.
Secret #5: They add a social component.5 of 11
Working out with company can make cardio and strength training feel less taxing and actually help the time pass by more quickly. The less exercise feels like work, the more likely you are to stick to it.
"One aspect of humans is that we like to be in groups," Lane says. When looking for a workout buddy, lean towards emotional support rather than straight skill. Research suggests that emotional social support was more effective than instrumental coaching.
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Secret #6: They don't always go all out.6 of 11
If you're looking to love your workouts, consider lowering the intensity from time to time. Consistency is key, but that doesn't always mean you have to go at full blast 24/7. In fact, taking things slow from every once in a while could help you avoid burnout.
"We know that hard exercise hurts, and when we train hard, it's easy to focus on the physical sensations—burning legs, heavy heart," Lane says. "Sometimes it's helpful to lower the intensity so that it's possible to daydream, to take in our surroundings, to listen to music, to hold a conversation."
Secret #7: They prepare.7 of 11
As the old adage goes, "Fail to prepare, prepare to fail." Seeing the entire picture of wellness—including nutrition—helps people who love to work out stay on top of their other goals, too.
"Nutrition is a key factor to having a healthy body," Lane says. "It's easy to pick food up here and there without really thinking about the nutritional value."
His advice: Write down everything you eat and drink for three days. Glance over it, and you might be a surprised. "Look to eat lean forms of protein, heaps of vegetables, good carbs, smart fats and avoid processed foods and hidden sugars," he says.
Try meal-prepping the night before to ensure you get all your nutrients for the day.
Secret #8: They don't follow the rules.8 of 11
"People who enjoy working out don't follow any 'rules' about how to exercise and instead choose to be active in ways that feel good to them," says Michelle Segar, PhD, MPH and author of No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness.
Her advice for those who are adamant about sticking to their Monday through Friday schedule? Consider any exercise adjustment as an experiment instead of a permanent change. "Instead of feeling bound to a program, listen to your instincts about what you want to do and how you want to do it. Then try it! See if you get a mood boost, energy benefit or something else you value from it. If not, you can always go back to what you were doing."
Secret #9: They reframe their point of view.9 of 11
If your lack of progress has you feeling down, take a pointer from people who love to work out and reframe your viewpoint.
"Physical activity is an elixir of life when you do it for your own wants and needs, but it's up to you to design your movement," Segar says. If the numbers on the scale aren't budging, consider measuring progress by choosing a different focus like mobility or strength.
Secret #10: They don't let down days dominate.10 of 11
When it comes to growth, there are no linear paths. In fitness, setbacks are part of the territory. The important thing is to learn from your mistakes instead of letting them get you down.
"Fitness isn't a black-or-white, hit-or-miss situation," Segar says. "You have your whole life to move, and everything counts. Get rid of the need to feel perfect and the frustration that can bring. Just accept that you can't control life's ebbs and flows and know that if you didn't move today in the way you hoped, there's always tomorrow!"