But it doesn’t have to be this way. Build a genuine connection with exercise – be that doing thrice-weekly laps of your local park or swinging a kettlebell in your living room – and it'll become a commitment you can’t wait to keep.
1. Stay open to being a student
Learning: what’s eye-wateringly dull in double chemistry is endlessly fascinating in adulthood. For WH Branded Content Editor Yanar Alkayat, workouts are another way of exercising her curiosity. ‘I train in high-intensity functional fitness and Olympic lifting, and because workouts are completely different every day, there’s always a path of progression,’ she explains.
‘There’s constantly something new to learn, which means I’m engaged and never bored.’
Fed up of running the same 5k route or doing the same three classes on rotation? It’s time to try something new. Why not try Yoga or Barre? Or perhaps, one of these 36 Pilates YouTube workouts, instead? Dealer's choice.
2. Keep it simple
Overcomplicating workouts is up there with drifting off to sleep in your make-up – easily done but counterproductive. Instead, keeping sessions efficient, clear and contained (both in time and space) stops them from feeling overwhelming and never-ending.
‘Instead of dragging three pieces of home gym equipment to your spot, grab one pair of weights you can use for an entire circuit,’ suggests Camila Borowsky, former Editor-In-Chief at Women’s Health Brazil.
‘You’ll be more likely to actually finish all the exercises you intended, and you’ll save time by transitioning seamlessly from one move to the next.’ Don’t have access to the kit? Opt for bodyweight exercises instead. Just remember to nail basic movements before you progress to more challenging variations or more complicated equipment.
3. Set a goal
Exercise motivation is great, while it lasts. Having a goal to work towards can make all the difference.
‘I need to have a concrete reason to train or laziness wins every time,’ says WH Production Editor Victoria Rudland, who settled into a consistent training regime for the first time after signing up to a half marathon.
‘I knew if I didn’t train, I’d risk injury, and that consistency meant I saw the returns of my efforts over many months, which, in turn, bolstered my dedication.’
Her advice? Set a goal – any goal. ‘The smaller, incremental goals on the way to that larger goal will keep you exercising once the initial motivation has dropped off.’
4. Commit to a regular routine
While synonyms include ‘humdrum’, ‘rote’ and, in some cases, ‘boring’, a routine can be the thing to make your fitness goals a reality. ‘In the past, I’ve attempted a gruelling 50-minute workout once in a blue moon and felt disappointed for not being able to hack it,’ shares former WH Fashion Assistant Abigail Buchanan. ‘Fitness stuck for me when I committed to making it a regular habit.’ The goal is to make your regime, whatever it looks like, as typical as brushing your teeth.
Find you work better when you have a plan? Fair enough. Try one of ours and get into a great routine today:
5. Seek joy, not reps
Find a form of exercise you actually enjoy. Sounds obvious, and yet, how many times have you put yourself through a workout that felt like a punishment?
‘I always enjoyed sports at school but struggled in adulthood to find the joy in exercising for – what felt like – the sake of it,’ says WH Junior Writer Mini Smith.
‘What helped me was trialling different kinds of exercise to find that joy. I still play netball, but trying things like spinning and Parkrun helped me realise there was still a lot of fun to be had.’ If you can’t bear the thought of burpees, and the words ‘mountain climbers’ make you feel nauseous, try a dance class, boxing or Pilates. And keep trying until you find something you like.
Not only is life better when you’re having fun, but you’re also more likely to stick to something you enjoy, according to a theory known as hedonic motivation – aka, a win-win.
6. Lean into lazy days
Motivation MIA? ‘I try to figure out why I’m not up for doing the workout – am I burned out, am I injured, do I just need a break?’ says Hannah McGoldrick, Runner’s World US former Social Media Editor.
Understanding the reason you’re lacking in get-up-and-go will mean you’re less likely to beat yourself up for skipping a workout when you genuinely need a break. It also presents an opportunity to make adjustments to your routine to help you stay on track next week. Unless, of course, you simply can’t be bothered – in which case, get your kit on.
7. Find your tribe
We’re all for changing things up – especially if you feel stuck in a rut. But there’s so much joy to be gleaned from finding the sweaty pursuit that keeps you coming back for more, and more, and... well, you get it.
For Men’s Health Deputy Digital Editor Ed Cooper, that was a blend of Strongman and CrossFit training.
‘The workouts led to surprisingly quick results and sweating through a group session before work made me feel like I was beating everyone to the punch. Not to mention making friends and learning new skills in the process – I can do a handstand now.’ And it’s not just Ed who’s discovered this. Frontiers In Psychology found both social interaction and novelty are crucial components in making exercise stick.
8. Look for fun
Exercise won’t make you happy all the time (it isn’t Tony’s Chocolonely) but the secret to loving it most of the time is looking for ways to make it more enjoyable on the days when it feels anything but. ‘Figure out a way to make something – anything – active more exciting,’ says Michael Easter, Fitness Editor at Men’s Health US.
For Michael, the thing that kept exercise interesting was as simple as bringing his iPod to the gym. For you, it could be making a feel-good playlist of the cheesiest bangers you can find or starting a predictable-but-no-less-gripping whodunit podcast. Whatever gets you out the door (or, you know, in the living room).
9. If you're serious, invest
Some goals are more nuanced than others. Want to run a 5k? There are myriad free apps for that. Want to run your fourth marathon in your fastest time yet? You may need to call in the experts.
‘I’ve been a runner for years and 18 months ago I took the plunge and decided to pay for a trainer and running coach,’ says WH Acting Digital Editor Francesca Menato. ‘After Covid hit, I wondered if there was any point continuing with so many races on hold. But as a person who responds well to plans and lists – especially when so many elements of my routine are upside down – having the structure that comes from a training plan has been invaluable.’
Investing in your own fitness regime needn’t cost the earth, but booking a few sessions with a PT, signing up to a fitness app or investing in some quality kit could be the thing that keeps you keen on the days when motivation is harder to come by.
10. See it as self-care
How does exercise make you feel? No, not that heart-racing, muscle-trembling, ‘is-it-over-yet?’ mid-HIIT thought, but after the fact? WH Junior Fitness Editor Kirsti Buick looks at good sweat sessions as her daily self-care.
‘When I’d rather roll over for another few minutes of snoozing, l always ask myself: “If you do this workout, how are you going to feel later?”’ she says. ‘The answer is always the same – I’ll feel more energised and I’ll be more productive. I’ll be able to concentrate better at work, and I’ll sleep better that night. And those post-workout endorphins? You can’t buy that rush.’
Good vibes notwithstanding, exercise will do so much more for your health long-term (you know, better heart health, decreased chance of disease, stronger bones... the list goes on) than your #selfcaresunday face mask. ‘Reframing how I think about the time I spend working out has been my game changer,’ says Kirsti. ‘It’s the one thing I do every day that’s entirely selfish. It’s my me-time. Usually, that’s enough exercise motivation for me to kick off the sheets and get to it.’