How do I motivate myself to get in shape?

May 12, 2012

Q: I sometimes have trouble finding the motivation to get in shape. Do you have any suggestions on how I can accomplish this goal?

A: People are motivated in many different ways. The trick is to find out what works best for you and make it part of your life. Here are a few ways I’ve found helpful in keeping myself focused and on track with my workouts.

Surround yourself with positive people
A positive attitude is one of the most contagious qualities that a person can possess. If someone is confident, happy and fun to be around, their positive energy will begin to rub off on others around them. A good example is the effect Tim Tebow had on the Denver Broncos this year. Regardless of whether you think he’s a good quarterback or not, most people would agree his positive attitude caused his team to rally around him and make the playoffs when many doubted he would ever see the field. The same lesson can be applied to your quest for fitness. If you want to get in shape and live a healthy lifestyle, find positive people who have the same interests. Stay away from haters who are constantly asking why you waste time in the gym or eat healthy foods.

Track your progress
One of the most important things you can do to motivate yourself is track your own progress. Once you see tangible proof that what you’re doing is working, you will be instantly hooked and much more likely to work harder to achieve your goals. For most people, getting in shape starts with accomplishing a few small goals like losing an inch off their waist, or dropping a couple pounds, but consistently reaching small goals adds up to big results over time. Before you know it, things that were once thought to be impossible become attainable. A few suggestions on tracking results are taking measurements, getting body fat tested, recording strength gains and recording best times in competitive events such as 5Ks and other races.

Read about others who have overcome the odds
Sometimes, seeing how someone else has overcome the odds to achieve greatness makes our goals seems that much more possible because it humanizes the journey. One of my favorite stories to illustrate this point is the story of Abraham Lincoln. Just about everyone knows Abraham Lincoln was the president who saved the Union, but few people know he suffered one defeat after another before he finally found success. Here are a few of the hardships he endured before finally achieving greatness:

1831- Failed in business
1832 - Defeated for legislature
1833 - Second failure in business
1836 - Suffered nervous breakdown
1838 - Defeated for speaker
1840 - Defeated for elector
1843 - Defeated for Congress
1848 - Defeated for Congress
1855 - Defeated for Senate
1856 - Defeated for vice president
1858 - Defeated for Senate
1860 - Elected president

Map out a plan for success
Success doesn’t just happen to people by accident; it’s usually carefully planned out long before it’s ever achieved. Simply writing down your goals in the order that you plan on achieving them can serve as an informal blueprint for success and will be a constant reminder of where you plan on going and how to get there. So if your goal is to get in shape, your plan of success may look something like: I’m going to join the gym, lose 20 pounds, run a 5K and be in the best shape of my life by age 40. Once you accomplish one of your goals, work on the next one, and before you know it you’ll be well on your way to achieving success.

Create a success plan.

Build your greatest muscle.

Don’t be afraid to fail.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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