Yesterday I asked my Instagram followers what content they’d like me to create and the most popular topic was motivation. Women tell me they’ve tried everything but just cannot motivate themselves to exercise. Many women feel guilty and blame themselves thinking there’s something wrong with them or they’re just too lazy. Every time this comes up with my clients or in my WalkFit group, women are surprised to hear that other women feel the same way! Everyone seems to think it’s only them when it’s literally almost every woman!

If you have no motivation to exercise, here are 7 steps to help you get started:

1. Stop the self-blame and guilt

Before you do anything it’s important to stop beating yourself up and feeling guilty.

Most women feel like they’re not good enough, not exercising enough or if they do exercise, they feel they’re doing it wrong or should be exercising more. This situation is not your fault – there is nothing wrong with you.

The problem is not you but the way you’ve been taught to see exercise; the approach and programmes you’ve tried have been wrong for you and for that reason, you never learnt to enjoy exercise and you probably did it for all the wrong reasons (see step 5). Really, the problem is diet culture and our very unhealthy relationship with exercise.

2. Accept what is 

You cannot change what you don’t fully accept. There are two parts to acceptance – you need to accept the situation as it is (e.g. I am unfit and haven’t done exercise in a year) and – more importantly – you have to accept how you feel about the situation (e.g. I hate myself, I hate exercise, I’m disgusting etc).¬†Spend some time thinking about your situation and how you feel – let it all out – journaling can be very powerful. Be as honest with yourself as you can – there’s no need to hide anything from yourself. Once you have it all out, accept it. It is what it is, you feel what you feel and that’s okay.

3. Take responsibility

Acceptance gives you ownership of the situation – it’s now yours which means that you have the power to change it. If you want to change it, you have to take full responsibility. 

You’re not to blame for the situation because the root cause is our diet culture programming – you’re a product of this society, just like everyone else. However, you also need to realise that you are the only one who has the power to change your situation. Many people just blame society and expect our culture to change but that is not going to happen and even if it did happen it still won’t change you as fast and easily as you can change yourself. Besides, you are part of society and you have the power to start changing it by changing yourself. It might not seem like much but if you change yourself, people around you will soon get curious and want to know how you did and that’s how it spreads, slowly but surely. If you have children, you’ll be able to bring them up with a totally different mindset and relationship with exercise and their bodies/health, but only if you lead by example.

4. Make a choice

It’s important to realise that you do not have to exercise. Most people don’t even realise this because we grew up being told exercise is something we have to do, we might not like it but we absolutely have to do it. You’re a grown-up now – nobody can force you to exercise if you don’t want to. No one has the right to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do with your body. Nobody has the right to shame you for your choices either.

It’s your choice and you’re allowed to make it. You could choose to make peace with the fact that you’re unfit and inactive and get on with your life. I encourage you to consider this choice carefully. Many people live perfectly long and healthy lives without exercising much. Many inactive people are slim.

It’s empowering to realise it’s a choice you make. It makes you feel more in control. You can stop telling yourself ‘I have to/should exercise’ and instead say ‘I choose to exercise today because I want to/I choose not to exercise because I don’t want to’

5. Change your reason why

Like I said above, if you’re like most people, you’ve probably exercised (or tried to exercise) for all the wrong reasons. At school, we learn that we have to exercise because it’s good for us – in fact, everything that’s good for us we’re told we have to do, like eating broccoli, and things that are not so good for our health we’re told we shouldn’t do/eat but we’re given them as treats anyway. No wonder we all have such dysfunctional relationships with food and exercise!

Most women want to exercise because they want to lose weight or change their bodies in some way so exercise becomes a means to an end and we only do it because we want the results, it’s torture but the results will make it worth it. You can read more about diet mentality here.

To stay motivated, you have to find better reasons to exercise, you need to focus on the immediate benefits you get from exercise. The best reason to exercise is to feel good. You should want to go for a walk or a run today because it feels good – moving feels good while you move, not just after it. This is the only way to motivate yourself to stay consistent. You can read more about feel good mindset here

6. Allow yourself to be a beginner

One mistake everyone makes, which totally kills motivation, is trying to do too much too soon. You join an 8-week total body transformation challenge that promises you’ll lose 10 kilos and get ripped abs or you run until it hurts or even walk for an hour when you feel fed up after 20 minutes. Of course this kind of torture doesn’t work!

You need to start where you are and progress one step at a time. You need to allow yourself to be a beginner. So if you’re a total couch potato start with short walks.

Many of my clients start with just 15mins walk per day and I have found this to be the easiest way to succeed. Little by little they increase what they do and it’s easy and enjoyable! Everyone progresses at their own pace but after just a few months, most are exercising at least half an hour a day and many have added other activities to their schedule. The most important thing is that they enjoy it so there’s very little chance of them giving up. If it only takes a few months. to get to this stage, imagine how much your lifestyle can transform in a year?

7. Work on your mindset

If the problem is in the way you think and feel about exercise then that’s where the solution is too! Because our negative programming regarding exercise is so strong and developed so early on in life, our mindset is not going to just magically change. So for long-term success, it’s important to couple a realistic Feel Good Fitness exercise programme with some mindset work.

It’s important to note that everyone is different and it’s hard to give a definitive guide to motivation – different things work for different people. These tips will hopefully get you started but don’t be afraid to do things your way. Connect with your inner-self – it knows best what works for you. Trust yourself.

If you still struggle with motivation after trying these tips on your own (it can be hard to do this work on your own, don’t worry) please join my next WalkFit group or you might consider some coaching.