How do I motivate myself to start exercising?

Dr. Vonda Wright, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Making an exercise plan will help you get started. And as Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

Here are the basic steps you need to follow to make your plan:

• What do you want to do in the next 12 weeks? Set a distance, choose a race, or otherwise decide what you want to do. Think about your future.
• See your doctor and get permission to start exercising.
• Make exercising nonnegotiable. Plan around your exercise time; don’t just fit it in if you can -- you won’t.
• Set up a way to be accountable. Tell all your family, coworkers, even strangers what you are going to do. Write it in your calendar, set an alarm in your PDA, put it up as your screensaver.
• Establish a reward. Feeling great is going to be an amazing reward, but perhaps you should buy yourself a special treat. Better yet, plan to race in some vacation spot.

Turn exercise into something fun, motivation would be far less important if exercise is something enjoyable. There are several ways to do this:  

  • Make it playful, like participating in a sport or a game such as recreational softball, basketball or soccer. Help your children increase activity by playing catch or other games such as tag.  
  • Add a friend to your exercise programming. Taking walks or joining a sport with your spouse or friend can be added benefit.  
  • Group exercise will bring many people together in a fun environment.
  • Listen to music or audio books while exercising.  
  • Be adventurous; try new activities, such as hiking, yoga, pilates, or exercising at unique places such as playgrounds or parks.      
  • Don’t stress about weight loss, enjoy exercise and the weight will eventually come off.  

Goal setting is another way to make exercise fun. Using the acronym SMART, will make following goals easy and subsequently make an exercise routine manageable.    


o     A specific goal is one that clearly defines what needs to be done and how.    

•      Measurable

o     Goals need to be quantifiable. Establish a way to assess the progress toward each goal.  

•      Attainable

o     Goals should be challenging enough to make you push, but be attainable. This keeps you motivated to continue moving forward.

•      Realistic

o     To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which an individual is both willing and able to work. A goal is probably realistic if the individual truly believes that it can be accomplished.

•      Timely

A goal should always have a specific date of completion.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.