Be Your Own Cheerleader and Motivate Yourself for Weight Loss

Soccer Referee

There’s a pattern that has been repeated thousands of times in the lives of millions of people who want to lose weight. It goes like this: they start an exercise program running on all cylinders, passionate about burning calories, and literally willing to go the extra mile to lose weight. But slowly, over the course of several weeks or months, that passion begins to wane. They lose the initial drive they had, and return to their non-exercising lifestyle.

If that describes your story, you don’t have to feel guilty about losing the drive to exercise. Lack of motivation is one of the main reasons people quite exercising. One study found that of those surveyed who didn’t exercise, 53 percent cited lack of motivation as the main reason for not engaging in physical activity.1

We also live extremely busy lives and have a variety of other responsibilities that demand our time and energy. These time commitments make exercising on a consistent basis difficult, to say the least. But the solution isn’t to give up. The solution is to learn how to stay motivated for exercise over the long haul, so that you can develop a healthy lifestyle. Here’s what you need to know about gaining motivation for exercise.

Seeing Your Success

The greatest single motivating factor for exercise is success. If you see results, you will continue to exercise. That’s why it’s crucial to set goals and to keep track of your progress. The goals we set have a significant bearing on our perseverance in the face of challenges.  In other words, goals serve as an outside motivating factor that helps keep us accountable even when we don’t feel like it.

When you start to set goals, it’s important to know your limitations. Many of us develop herculean exercise goals but never follow through on them. You don’t have to complete an Iron Man race within the first six months of your exercise program to be successful. All you have to do is make progress from the previous week. So remember, take small steps when beginning an exercise program. Set goals that are achievable because developing a healthy lifestyle is about creating a sustainable routine of physical activity.

You also need to be your own cheerleader! Compliment yourself every day. Congratulate yourself on meeting goals for the day. Write down the compliment and make it specific. For example, write down, “I exercised for 30 minutes today. Good for me!” You should also take a daily inventory of the things that made you feel great whether it was emotionally, intellectually, socially or physically.2

We also recommend keeping a workout journal and recording how muck physical activity you complete each day. That way, you can actually see your progress on paper, and can add up how much you’ve exercised each week. This will also help you set realistic goals. Strive to make small gains in your exercise program from the prior week. Even if it’s just trying to be 15 seconds faster on your jog, these little advances will add up over time.

It’s also helpful to keep track of your weight loss. Each week make a record of your weight. If you’re consistent with your exercise program, then over time you’ll be able to see how much weight you’ve lost. Knowing how much you’re improved over several weeks and months, will give you more motivation to remain faithful to your fitness plan.

Creating Incentives and Avoiding Burnout

If you find yourself creating goals but never following through with them, put your money where your mouth is. Investing a small amount of money can go a long way toward motivating yourself to exercise.3 So spend a little bit of money on some running shoes, buy a gym membership, or pay the entrance fee for a 5k. Most of us hate losing money, so any of these small investments could create incentive for you to stick with your exercise plan.

There are also other ways to create incentives for you to exercise. Giving yourself little rewards when you achieve your goals can be a source of motivation which gives you the extra boost you need to stick with your fitness plan. So if you go to the gym everyday for two weeks, allow yourself to go shopping for some new clothes or take a trip to the spa for a reward.

Often, we have a lack of motivation for exercise simply because we get burned out. Physical activity is supposed to be fun, so if you find yourself stuck in an exercise rut, you need to change the way you workout. Whether it’s playing a sport or choosing a scenic route to jog, find ways to make exercise enjoyable. Those who enjoy exercise are more likely to continue making physical activity a part of their life.

The best approach is to cycle through several different types of exercises on a week by week or month by month basis so that you can mix up your fitness plan. That way your exercises are fresh and new, and offer different challenges with each activity. If you can find ways to love exercising, then you’re much more likely to remain active throughout your life.

Trying to exercise without motivation is like trying to drive a car without gas. You won’t even get started. Motivation for exercise is at the heart of any attempt to lose weight. It’s what gets you off the couch and onto the treadmill. But you can’t just create motivation out of thin air. You have to create strategies for keeping you consistent with your exercise program. Ultimately, everyone’s motivational impetus is different. The important thing is to pick out a few strategies that work for you and stick with them. Once you discover what drives you to exercise, you’ll have the opportunity to turn your exercise program into a consistent, healthy lifestyle.


1 Weinberg, R. Gould, D. (2010). Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

2 Feel Great in Your Jeans. (Sept/Oct 2011) Weight Watchers Magazine, Health Project Blue – part 5. pp. 74-77.

3 Kozak, M. (2009). Get active! Find your motivation to exercise. Alive: Canada’s Natural Health & Wellness Magazine, 68-71.


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