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6 Steps to Motivate Yourself When You’re Out of Shape

It’s tough getting started — especially when you’re out of shape and feeling blah. Rather than beat yourself up, try these steps.

Remember the study on the benefits of exercise on overweight and obese individuals’ brains?

Good stuff, but if it’s been a while since you laced up your running shoes or picked up a weight it might not be motivating enough to get you back at it.

Reality is, not only does exercise help your actual brain, but it also helps boost your mood, manage symptoms of mental illness, and help you feel more alert, confident, and in charge of your life.

1. Be Honest With Yourself.

First, be honest with yourself about yourself:

  • You’re out of shape, but that in no way means you’re helpless or worthless.
  • For whatever reason, you haven’t been keeping up with fitness. However, you can start — or start back — now.

Then, be honest with yourself about working out:

  • It’s going to benefit your physical and mental health. You’ll feel more confidence and fewer aches and pains.
  • It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it.

2. Stick With What You Like.

Choose an activity or environment that’s enjoyable to you.

If you genuinely don’t like working out in a gym, chances are it’s going to be super-hard-to-damn-near-impossible to get yourself there each day. Even if you do manage to establish some kind of routine, it probably won’t last long — or, it’ll be easy to fall off track — because you don’t like it.

So, let’s say you’re better suited for outdoor activities. Maybe you used to run track back in high school or college? Maybe it’s something you might be interested in now?

3. Set Goals.

Goals give you something to look forward to and work toward, i.e. help keep you motivated!

You’ll want to set both small and big goals. Usually you can think of your small goals as bite-sized pieces of your bigger goal.

Spinning off the running example, let’s say your big goal is to complete a 5K.

What are some small goals you can set?

Well, it’s unlikely you’re going to jump off your porch and just start, like, Forrest Gump-ing it across town, and if you try and fail you’ll no doubt get unnecessarily discouraged. Maybe a small goal could be walking or jogging for half a mile, then a full mile. Or, walking briskly for half a mile, then a full mile. Then you can bump it up again and again until you hit the 3.1 miles of a 5K.

Lewis Howes does a great job of simplifying why thinking small is the secret to big successes.

4. Pat Yourself On the Back — Often.

By often, I mean often. Congratulate yourself for everything from putting on your sneakers when you really felt like binging Netflix to hitting that half-mile, mile, and of course, the 5K. Each one is a victory.

Why wouldn’t you feel proud of a victory?

5. Document Your Journey and Progress.

There are plenty of ways to document your progress. Some include:

  • Taking before and after pictures, or “progress pictures,” rather, because you’re not starting this just to see what you can look like. You’re starting this to see what you can feel like, so ideally you’re not going to stop.
  • Keeping a journal about your journey. Document how you felt before you started, things you’re learning, accomplishments you’ve had, your changes in moods. You can even use your journal to write about why you skipped a particular day. The feelings that made you skip, how you felt afterward, and compare those entries to the feelings you had on days you didn’t skip.

Not only will documenting your journey and progress help keep you moving forward, but also it’ll be a fun treat for your future self to look back and see how far you’ve come.

6. Get a Workout Buddy.

Having a workout buddy helps keep you motivated, holds you accountable, and makes the time go by faster. Also, having a workout buddy gives you someone to celebrate with!

You might want to get a workout buddy in the beginning or you might want to wait until you’ve established a routine and feel more confident in your endeavors; totally up to you.

Or, you might not want one at all. It can depend on your personality, or the exercise itself. I know that I love having a workout buddy when I go to the gym, but I definitely prefer to run alone.

Talk to me! Are you considering beginning your journey to get back in shape (physically and mentally)? Do you think these steps could motivate you? Or, if you’ve already dusted yourself off and gotten back to it, what are some motivational tips that helped you?

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash.

6 Steps to Motivate Yourself When You’re Out of Shape

Alicia Sparks

Alicia Sparks is a freelance writer and editor and the creator of, where she blogs to help new freelance writers get their quills in the pot, so to speak. Among animal rights, music, and physical wellness, her passions include mental health and advocacy. Here at Psych Central she works as Syndication Editor as well as authors Your Body, Your Mind, Unleash Your Creativity, and World of Psychology's weekly "Psychology Around the Net."

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APA Reference
Sparks, A. (2019). 6 Steps to Motivate Yourself When You’re Out of Shape. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Oct 2019
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