Personal trainers use these 13 simple hacks for exercise motivation

Worried you'll lose your mojo as the month goes on? We've got you.

Two women discussing exercise motivation
(Image credit: Getty Images/Image Source)

January is a great month to focus on your health and fitness goals - there are loads of resources from qualified PT's and dieticians floating around and far less parties than, say, December. That said, if you've started a new training plan, you might be worried about your exercise motivation dwindling in a few weeks.

Whether you're doing high impact home workouts or PT-approved celebrity workouts, or opting for lower impact barre classes or yoga poses, you're not alone - research from Microsoft Surface found 68% of women worry they'll lose any positive changes they implement. This New Year, you may even already be sidelining your newfound abstaining-from-alcohol, moving-regularly habits as Pinot Noir and that next episode of White Lotus call your name.

Sound familiar? Yep, we thought it might. Don't worry - you're only human and it's pretty normal for workout motivation (plus motivation to stick to any new habits or hobbies) to come and go, so we've lined up a solid few PT's to offer their top tips for making your new workout routine a habit.

Keen to build a workout routine that actually works for you, around work, childcare and normal day-to-day? Then keep reading. Don't miss our guides to all-important warm up exercises and cool down exercises, while you're here.

Exercise motivation: 13 hacks personal trainers use themselves

1. Be realistic with your time

This one's the most basic, but it's important. When it comes to goal setting, overbook yourself - it's much better to be realistic with your time, or so says Lillie Bleasdale of PASSA.

"If you know you can comfortably fit in two 30-minute sessions per week, then aim for this," she explains. "Starting gradually, rather than beginning with booking too many sessions and skipping them, will help make you feel like you're sticking to a plan and accomplishing your initial goal."

It's important to feel like you're reaching your goals weekly rather than falling short of them.

2. Get creative

Again, if you really feel like you don't have time to workout, remember, a workout can be as simple as just moving.

"Walk to the station if you're getting back to a commute, slip in a walk during your lunch break if you can, or get your workout done while watching the latest episode of your favourite TV programme," recommends Bleasdale. Small wins.

3. Remember, movement is movement

Not every session or exercise has to be 100% effort, Bleasdale shares. Movement is movement, and walking is just as beneficial for your overall health as smashing a sweaty Joe Wicks YouTube workout.

"By combining one or two more intense sessions a week with general movement - think getting up from your desk every hour, adding in a daily lunchtime walk, or jumping on the bike to get to the station rather than getting in the car - you can still make big moves towards those goals," the PT explains. Hear, hear.

Exercise motivation: A mother working out at home

4. Ask for flexibility

Feeling overwhelmed and like there just simply isn't enough time to get any sweat sessions in weekly? It's worth you talking to your manager about making time for your mental health.

"Ttry speaking to your manager about the idea of having some more flexible hours," advises Bleasdale. "Could you take a 90-minute lunch break if you start 30 minutes early or finish 30 minutes later? Perhaps you could make up some extra time during the week so you can finish early on a Friday?," she shares.

Think of it this way: if you don't ask, you'll never know.

5. Remind yourself that working out is a form of self love

Taking time for yourself and practicing self-love is important, shares Sammy Harper, founder and head trainer of Blitz By Harper. "How can you give to anyone else if you’re running on zero?," she asks.

Try and reframe your workout time each day. Approaching it from a positive, rather than a negative headspace, is key.

Rather than saying "I have to workout," say, "I get to workout."

"Taking 30 or so minutes every day will not only boost your confidence, but it'll give you energy and focus," she shares.

6. Find yourself an accountability partner

This might seem simple, but is one of the easiest ways to find exercise motivation. "Sharing your goals with someone and even booking in workouts together is a game changer to help you keep on track," explains Harper.

Think about it - if you've agreed to meet someone at 7am for a workout, you're far more likely to get up and go. Holding each other accountable will give you easy motivation to get up and go when you're really lacking.

Exercise motivation: A woman checking her fitness tracker

7. Remove the barriers

Panicking about fitting in the gym, a commute, a working day, and, well, relaxing, too? Make things easier for yourself and stick to home workouts, recommends Openfit LIVE trainer Alasdair Fitz-Desorgher.

“Remove the dread of dragging yourself out of bed and down to the gym by taking your classes online. Virtual fitness removes our biggest barrier - inconvenience," he explains. "You only need to move from your lounge  to your workout space (that might even be your workout space), roll out your yoga mat, and you’re good to go. Plus, you’ll choose from hundreds of quality classes with elite trainers at a fraction of the cost of a gym membership."

Our guides to the best free home workouts and the best no kit home workouts can help with that.

8. Try real-time, real life, in-ear coaching

Again, if you've hit a bit of an exercise motivation wall, know that there are new high tech ways you can boost your workout mojo from home. Like? “Live classes with a real trainer can be a great motivator," Fitz-Desorgher shares.

Plus, he explains, if you opt for live Zoom workouts, the PT can see you and monitor your form, to make sure you’re doing everything safely and correctly. And they can give you an extra push when you need it.

9. Remember your why

Again, this one's simple but very important. “Post-lockdown, busy schedules have returned, and family and social commitments are rocketing. So, my top tip is to remember your why," explains Openfit trainer Natalie Edwards.

She recommends digging deep to ask yourself why you workout. Is it to feel mentally strong? To look physically good? Or to build a body that enables you to look after your children? Whatever it is, make sure you've got it at the forefront of your mind, so that whenever exercise motivation is low, you know what to fall back on.

10. Diarise your workouts

“Just like you’d schedule a work meeting, or nursery pick up, be sure to diarise your workouts. Book ahead to make yourself accountable," advises Edwards.

Top tip: sit down at the start of each week and schedule your workouts into your calendar, when you'll realistically have time. This will help you make your workouts become routine, rather than sporadic.

11. Put your fitness goals into the hands of the experts

Say you've been doing YouTube workouts for the last year. Ask yourself this: might you have more exercise motivation if you're following a new fitness plan or programme? Founder of Beach Body on Demand Autumn Calabrese reckons so.

“My best piece of advice is to have a plan or programme to follow," she shares. "You’re not a fitness and nutrition expert, and that’s ok—you’re not supposed to be. Leave the planning to the experts."

12. Find a workout that works for you

Sounds simple, will be the difference between you sticking to a workout routine in the long term and binning it altogether.

"Not only are you trying to juggle your work commitments, but you're likely looking after children (and yourselves) and trying to have a social life," shares Harper. Say you have ten minutes every morning. Make sure you're using those ten minutes to move your body in a way you enjoy, and you'll find yourself wanting to get those workouts in.

13. Always have a plan B

Let’s say you’ve planned an outdoor run, but, being honest, it's miserable and you can't face the wind and rain. "This is where having a plan B is important," shares Calabrese.

"With so many apps available now, and thousands of on-demand classes to scroll through, you can jump into any type of workout you’re after, from cardio to HIIT, boxing to barre, even a stretching class, during your allotted training time. Whatever your schedule, know that you can stay on track," she explains.

Exercise motivation, sorted.

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and is a stickler for a strong stat, too, seeing over nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.