How I Stay Motivated to Exercise

UPDATED: May 23, 2024
PUBLISHED: December 4, 2017

Not too long ago, exercise and I were total strangers. We traveled in different circles, kept totally different schedules and didn’t have any mutual friends on Facebook. Then I started running—at first to see if I could and then to see how far I could. Eventually I ran a marathon. As much as I exercised however, my laziness was always looming, tempting me with a snack and a sofa. To keep focused, I had to learn a few things.

running_stay focusedAim big but also aim small.

Working out while dreaming of having six-pack abs is great, but it takes time to get there, and with time, it’s easy to get discouraged. To avoid that discouragement, pick smaller benchmarks you can hit quickly. While you work toward a six-pack, you’ll be encouraged when you develop a two-pack.

Related: 5 Things Jogging Taught Me About Success

It’s never all or nothing.

If you set out to run six miles but stopped after four, don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead of thinking about what you didn’t do, remember what you did do. running_stay focusedLess than finishing is still more than not starting.

running_stay focusedBribe your brain.

I hate running. The way I get through runs is by distracting myself, which comes in the form of audiobooks so great that my mind doesn’t notice what my legs are doing. I allow myself to listen to these literary gems only while I’m running. That way running becomes a reward.

Know that bad workouts happen to good people.

Some days, try as you might, you just don’t have it in you.running_stay focused Your legs feel like they are made of lead, and your arms feel as if they’re made of lead dipped in cement. You muddle through a workout, and afterward you wonder where the level of fitness you had yesterday went. This happened to me a lot. I learned that bad workouts happen to even the most elite athletes. Don’t let a bad day discourage you from bringing your all the next day.

Related: How Running Helps Me Be a Better Version of Myself


This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

Cohen is the author of How to Lose a Marathon.