Whether you’re new to a gym or have been working out regularly for years, motivation can be hard to maintain. Fitness is a game of patience and consistency—but it’s totally normal to go through periods of just not feeling it.
It’s okay to take rest days and give yourself a break when it feels right, but there are serious perks to keeping up with your workouts. In fact, research shows that quitting your routine can lead to a dip in mood and an uptick in anxiety—two things you definitely don’t need on your plate.
To help you stay on track, we asked personal trainers for the tip and tricks that keep them accountable, even when their motivation goes MIA. With these strategies in your back pocket, you’ll stop skipping workouts once and for all.
1. Make exercise a can’t-miss meeting
At the beginning of every week or month, plug your workouts into your work calendar. This way, you’ll be less likely to schedule important meetings or tasks at those times. “If you do have to move [your workout], make sure to reschedule it right away,” says Wes Beans, C.P.T., a personal trainer at TS Fitness in New York City.
2. Indulge during steady-state
If your workout calls for steady-state cardio like walking, jogging, or the elliptical, watching a little TV can help pass the time. Especially if it’s a show you really like.
For bonus points, save your favorite show for your steady-state sessions. “If you only allow yourself to watch it while you’re working out, you’ll look forward to your routine and be less likely to skip your workout,” says Chicago-based personal trainer Stephanie Mansour, C.P.T.
If TV shows aren’t your jam, watch a movie, listen to a podcast or audiobook, or tune into a webinar instead. Just save these indulgences for cardio machine time; you’ll need your eyes and ears free to navigate roads, trails, and busy sidewalks if you’re cardio-ing outside.
3. Work out with friends
Up your odds of success by getting a friend involved in your routine. “Having someone to work out with and push you towards your goals can be the difference between sticking with your routine and giving up,” Mansour says. If your friend is counting on you to show up for your workout, you’ll be less likely to bail.
If scheduling in-person buddy workouts proves difficult or you want to sweat with a faraway friend, cheer each other on virtually. Work out together via Zoom, or share your plans and ping each other to make sure you both followed through. Some fitness wearables will even let you keep tabs on other users—with their permission, of course.
4. Hire a personal trainer
A personal trainer is more than a workout buddy; he or she is your secret weapon for staying consistent with exercise. Personal trainers not only keep their clients accountable, but they also create fun, effective workouts you won’t want to skip.
Even if the workouts don’t turn out to be super-exciting, working with a personal trainer still ensures you’ll maximize your time. Because your trainer tells you what to do at each step, you don’t have to waste time or energy figuring it out yourself, Beans says. All you have to do is show up.
5. Set small goals
You may already have a big goal you’re working toward, but smaller goals are worth setting, too, Mansour says. When you set goals that you can achieve quickly, you’ll likely feel motivated to keep working after those feel-good fuzzies hit.
For example, if you struggle to reach 10,000 steps a day but 7,500 is no sweat, make the lower number your daily target. Then, work your way up slowly. In fact, one of Mansour’s clients recently took this approach—and now she exceeds 10,000 steps per day. “She was so over-the-moon to not only hit her goal but to surpass it,” she says.
6. Focus On fun
Classic cardio and strength training are important, but there’s always space for non-traditional modes of exercise, too—especially if it makes the difference between you getting moving and staying on the couch. “Download an app or find a class that’s fun for you and doesn’t feel like a chore,” says trainer Holly Janiszewski, C.P.T. Dancing, jumping rope, going to trampoline parks, and boxing are just a few possibilities.
7. Be flexible about timing
If you’ve been gritting your teeth through early-morning sessions because some fitness influencer said that a.m. workouts are best for fat loss, consider this your invitation to stop. “Figure out the time when you have the most energy and feel the most motivated,” Janiszewski says. “That’s your workout window.”
Staying flexible about when you work out based on your schedule or to-do list for the day helps ensure you won’t throw in the towel altogether when your usual lunchtime or evening sweat session just isn’t realistic.
8. Just do something
If you find your workouts often become a casualty of busy days, commit to an abbreviated version of them. “Something is better than nothing,” Beans says
Usually do four sets of exercises? Cut it down to two. Or, trim a couple of miles off your steady-state run. Anything counts!