How I Stay Motivated When I Don’t Want to Work Out (Which is Every Day)

How I Stay Motivated When I Don't Want to Work Out - The Well Dressed Life

I work out three – four days a week. Before you roll your eyes, know that every day I fight an internal battle to keep going.  Even now, as I write this. I’m sitting in my gym sneakers, staring at the clock, knowing my class starts in a few hours and thinking of all the other things I could be doing.

Do I really have to go? 

But I’m so tired.

At some point on my fitness journey, I thought I would turn into one of those fit women, happily waking up early, pushing hard through class, and running around in my athleisure.

On the surface, I might look like them. I wake up early, push hard in class and certainly run around in athleisure. What I lack, is the enthusiasm and passion for it.

I work out because I know it’s good for me. I want to stay as healthy and youthful for my kids as long as possible. I don’t want to look back on my life in my later years, and wish I took better care of myself when I had a chance.

Especially now that I’m very pregnant I know it’s one of the best things I can do to stay healthy during my last trimester, is good for the baby, and will help with my recovery.

But good Lord, I don’t like it, so staying motivated is really hard.

For the last year, I’ve kept to a regular fitness schedule.  Three, usually four days, during the work week I go to a group class. On “off” days and weekends I try to fit in a walk, or use our Peloton bike, and do a few, very quick strength exercises.

Frankly, I’m impressed with myself. My first trimester was a nightmare, and I still made it to class and worked through the non-stop nausea.

What made this time different, what made my commitment stronger than any other time before is that I focused on changing my mindset around exercise.

Today I’m sharing how I stuck with it, and what I do when I just don’t want to go.

How I Stay Motivated When I Don't Want to Work Out


For most of us, committing to our health and fitness feels daunting. We often go into a new routine with lofty goals that take a great deal of time and effort. So it can feel overwhelming.

You don’t see a physical difference right away, and in the beginning, you’re in a lot of pain as your body gets used to moving in a new way and, on top of it all, you’re exhausted. It’s so easy to give up in those first few weeks. If you keep going and get through it, you’ll get into a rhythm, the game changes.

Take it One Workout at Time

Instead of looking at the big picture, just think of the workout in front of you and making it to the end of the class. Then reset the next day. Some workouts you’ll leave feeling strong and confident. Other days you’ll struggle and feel totally out of your element. Ignore those workouts.  We all have days we just don’t have it, even the fittest person in the class has days they don’t want to be there.  Celebrate the fact that you finished.

Follow the 5 Second Rule

Inspired by Mel Robbins popular, self-help rule to help push past procrastination, I practice “The 5 Second Rule.” The basic idea is that if you have a goal you want to achieve, you have five seconds to act on it, or your brain will talk you out of it. So if you have an early morning workout and your bed feels like such a better idea, count backwards, 5-4-3-2-1 and launch out of bed.

I do this with everything from sending an email I’ve been putting off, to hitting the gym.  It sounds crazy, but I credit it with the last 12 months being some of my most productive.

Her book is a quick and motivating read.

Track and Reward

I love a good tracking app. I’m currently using a prenatal app called “Nurture” that tracks your workouts, and water and vitamin intake in addition to other things.  I LOVE being able to check the workout box.  It gives me a sense of accomplishment, so even on what feels like a crummy, unproductive day, I have something to be proud of. After I gather a set amount of workouts each month, I’ll treat myself to something, like a manicure, or something new and cute to wear to my next class.

Keep it Simple and Do What You Like

Don’t overcomplicate your workouts. Keep it simple and close to, if not in your home.  No one is going to be able to sustain a commute for any length of time. Try different classes and instructors until you find a place you are comfortable. And don’t let the process frustrate you. It took me years to see a schedule I like enough to stick to it.

For a while I did Barre. I loved the instructor and the method, but the women in the class were too intimidating. They were so shiny and beautiful. I swear a few blew their hair out before class, and I just sat there looking like the hot mess I am. It was like a real-life game of “one of these things is not like the other.”

What I love is cycle classes, but so many instructors scream at you through the class that I would leave more stressed than I started. Finally, I found a few cycle and strength training classes with fun and attentive instructors, with great playlists.

Once you find your happy place, your instructor can help hold you accountable and keep you motivated. My cycle instructor leaves a towel on my favorite bike when I register for his class. It’s a simple gesture, but so thoughtful I rarely miss a class because I know he knows I should be there.

Focus on the Real Benefits for You

Yes, working out will help your body look its best. But there are so many other ways regular fitness will change your daily life for the better. I’ve long talked about my battle with general anxiety. It affects my mood, sleep and ability to stay calm and make decisions. There is no doubt that when I workout, I handle life infinitely better than when I don’t. It’s the difference between acting like a rabid cornered dog and a sweet, happy puppy.

For me, the motivation kicked in when it was undeniable that when I get my heart rate up and move my body during the day, I slept at night, and when I don’t I’m up in a panic at 3am.

As women, we carry so many responsibilities. Carving out the time to workout for even a few minutes a day, rightfully feels impossible. But if you can find a window so many areas of your life will improve. Don’t get discouraged if it’s hard (it will be) and don’t think it’s not for you if you don’t love it.  You can love the results without loving the process.


How I Stay Motivated When I Don’t Want to Work Out (Which is Every Day)
Megan Kristel

Megan Kristel is an entrepreneur, working mom, and former personal stylist. Tired of the one-dimensional portrayal of women online, she founded The Well Dressed Life as a resource for other professional women.

  1. Same! I’m just in the beginning few weeks of starting a lifestyle change/fitness goal, and have never been active during my lifetime. It’s no joke about the soreness and fatigue that sets in, I’m waiting for that magical time that everyone says comes later, where they feel good after they work out. Thanks for the motivation, I really needed it today:)

    1. Hey Amanda! The first few weeks are the worst. Keep going, the soreness doesn’t really go away, but it won’t feel so debilitating. And you’ll gain stamina during the day and then just sleep really sound at night. xx

  2. Haha…I love your description of the women in your Barre class! But I honestly don’t think that’s even “normal”. I think we should strive to be the sweaty hot mess in any workout. That’s when you know you gave it your all and got a good workout!

    I’m going to try the 5-second rule. Good advice.

  3. I love this! And I think we should be able to not feel ashamed if we DO like working out! I started doing Beachbody workouts after my second daughter was born, when the typical friend from high school reaches out to get you to lose that baby weight. Yes, at first I was hesitant of these types of companies, but actually, I found I loved the variety of workouts, and especially the fact I don’t have to leave my house to workout! Almost 4 years later, I am still sticking with it! I just completed the 80 Day Obsession series (granted it took me 8 months instead of 80 days) and am ready to go back and do it again. I don’t feel like my body has changed much visibly, but I know I am MUCH stronger than I used to be, and I love my girls seeing me lifting heavy weights and sweating! They even will “join” me sometimes. I have less back pain and better sleep, and I feel like I can keep up with my kids and their demands better when I’ve had that time for me. <3

    1. That’s awesome Alison! And right, you should never feel ashamed of loving your workouts! My husband and I have used many Beachbody products over the years, and they are great – he still pulls out Insanity now and then, especially when we are stuck in the house during the winter. I did them for a while pretty religiously, but because I work from home, getting to a class during the week helps me keep my sanity.

      Keep at it, it takes so long to see the difference in your body, but like you said, feeling strong is incredible, and so important for our girls to see it too.

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