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finding motivation

Brent Holten

Researchers recently asked long-distance runners what they thought about when they were training. The most common response: Running long distances is really hard. So, if these elite athletes struggle with their favorite way to exercise, how are the rest of us supposed to stay motivated with our workouts?

We do we everything we can to find motivation in our workouts: We wear fitness trackers to monitor our progress. We follow the same workout routine, striving for personal bests. Some of us even belong to multiple gyms, spending hundreds of dollars a month to keep exercise exciting. 

In the end, we often come to the same conclusion: Working out is hard work.  

We did quite a bit of research on exercise motivation to prepare for this article, and we found that motivation comes down to being steadfast in the reasons why we work out in the first place -- to look good, to feel good and to live a longer, healthy life. But we all have times when we get in a rut, and it's tough to feel motivated. So we also have to find ways to make exercise fun -- we have to be creative about it.

We found some interesting tips for exercise motivation. Some of them are silly, like washing your hair only on the days you work out; some are serious, such as taking group-fitness classes to feed on the energy of the people around you. Here are some of our favorites:

1. Write down how you feel after every workout. We're sure that words like "energized," "proud" and "strong" will fill your notepad. And then when you're not feeling motivated, read your notes so that you're reminded of the feelings you'll have after your next workout.

2. Remember why you started exercising in the first place. Whether you wanted to lose weight, get strong or run faster, we started our exercise regimen for a reason. The next time you're thinking about skipping the gym, recall those reasons and ask yourself if you would want to start all over again because you didn't feel like exercising.

3. Pretend there's a crowd cheering you on.  When a workout gets tough, and you want to quit, imagine that there's a huge crowd of spectators cheering you on and expecting you give it your all.

4. Set a long-term challenge for yourself....  In July, let's say you'll decide to buy yourself something special if you achieve 200 miles of cardio, whether it's running, walking, rowing or using the elliptical. You'll most likely avoid skipping a workout if it means you could miss your goal -- and you might even impress yourself with the results!

5. ... And give yourself micro challenges too. Let's say you've been running on a treadmill for 18 minutes, so challenge yourself to reach the 20-minute point. Once you've met this challenge, let's say you're just short of the two-mile point, so challenge yourself again to reach this new milestone.

6. Listen to audiobooks.  While most of us work out to music, try audiobooks instead. This way, you have to exercise the next day to see how the story turns out.

7. Compete with everyone!  Even if they don't know it's a competition, challenge yourself to do better than the person working out next to you. Run faster and go longer, lift heavier weights and perform more reps. You'll show 'em who's boss.

8. Stick it to your doubters. There's probably someone in your life -- it could even be yourself -- who doesn't think you can accomplish the fitness goals you've set for yourself. Prove them wrong by achieving your goals with flying colors.