10 Fitness Pros Reveal How They Stay Motivated to Exercise

By Cassie Shortsleeve |

Steal their secrets to get started and keep moving—no matter your fitness level!

woman leading older adult exercise class

We all have days-or weeks-when we'd rather do just about anything than go to the gym. But what if an entire class of people is depending on you to show up?

That's the reality for many fitness professionals. Firing themselves up, keeping spirits high, and committing to fitness every day is part of the job. But that doesn't mean it's easy. It just means they have no choice but to figure out ways to make it happen.

You, on the other hand, do usually have a choice. To help you make the right one—and reap the many benefits of exercise—try adopting any of these proven strategies to stay motivated.

1. Make It Mandatory

“I brush my teeth every day because it’s healthy, and I do my daily workouts and maintain at least one rest day for the same reason,” says Melissa Summit, a SilverSneakers instructor in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

"I may do little things along the way, like sign up for a race or try a completely different kind of workout to renew my spirit, but one way or another, the workout is happening," she says. "Plus, I have a life goal of being in the oldest age group in a 5K. There's only one way to make that happen: Keep on going."

2. Bribe Yourself

"I will occasionally offer myself a treat or reward for taking a class or working out when I'm not feeling motivated," says Becca Lucas, owner of Barre and Anchor in Weston, Massachusetts. "The treat can be anything from Starbucks to a manicure. I never regret choosing to exercise, so the treat is just a bonus!"

3. Be Grateful for Your Body

"Imagine that person in the wheelchair who looks longingly at a couple strolling in the park, partaking in the simple pleasure of expressing the body's ability to move," says Carolyn Appel, a New York-based personal trainer in New York City. "I think about that person when I'm tired, don't want to get up early to hit the gym, or when I'd rather sit on the train rather than stand. The people I'll never know are the ones who inspire me to keep moving."

The great news: No matter your fitness level or need, SilverSneakers can help you get active, find support, and boost your mood. Start by checking with your doctor about safe exercise and any recommended activities. For example, if you:

  • Use a wheelchair or have balance challenges, your doctor may recommend fitness classes that you can do seated, such as SilverSneakers Classic.
  • Need a challenge, you can check out classes with a higher intensity, such as SilverSneakers CardioFit or BOOM.
  • Want to exercise outside of the gym, you can look for classes like tai chi and yoga taught in community settings, such as SilverSneakers FLEX.
  • Have joint pain or are recovering from injury, your doctor may recommend non-swimming water-based exercise, such as SilverSneakers Splash.
  • Prefer working out on your own, you can take advantage of a free gym membership at more than 15,000 locations in the SilverSneakers network.

Check your eligibility for SilverSneakers, find a location, or get your member ID here.

4. Pay a Trainer

"I work with a personal trainer weekly," says Jacqueline Gikow, a New York-based SilverSneakers instructor. "Remembering how much I'm paying him keeps me motivated to work out in between sessions!"

With SilverSneakers, gym membership is free. Some members find it useful to also work with a personal trainer. Want to make it easier on your wallet? Use one-on-one sessions to help you get started with a program you can continue on your own or ask about small-group sessions. You’ll also want to make sure he or she is certified. Get more tips on personal training here.

5. Throw Yourself a Changeup

"Besides being the student in other fitness instructors' classes, learning new or different exercises and formats keeps me from getting bored and keeps my motivation going," says Linda Schoorens, a SilverSneakers FLEX instructor in Richmond, Virginia. "Plus, I love to share new or different ideas and exercises with my class members, making modifications as needed."

Want to mix things up? If you’re a SilverSneakers member, you can go to any participating location or class you like in the network. For example, if there are three participating fitness centers in your area, you can use weights or exercise machines at one location, swim in the pool at another location, and take a SilverSneakers or FLEX class at the third location.

6. Read Your Mission Statement

“The first 20 minutes after you wake up sets the tone for your entire day,” says Jay Cardiello, a strength coach and health strategist in New York. “I have an incantation, or mission statement, that I read every morning.”

Everyone’s mission statement will be different, but it should include what you want to accomplish, the end date, how you’re going to do it, and why you’re going to do it. For example, you might look in the mirror and say, “I, [state your name], will perform three sets of 10 consecutive bodyweight squats by June 1 by doing as many as I comfortably can three times per week. I’ll do this because it will help me stay strong and independent longer.”

"When you do this, it gives your mind a GPS of where you're going," Cardiello says. "And that's more important than most people realize."

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7. Take a Shortcut

“If I’m not feeling up for a workout, I tell myself I’ll just do a light, easy 10-minute walk on the treadmill,” says Katie Adair, a SilverSneakers instructor in Peachtree City, Georgia. “Usually once time is up, I feel a bit better and want to go a bit longer, which usually results in a full workout when all is said and done,” she says. It’s simple but effective!

Even five minutes is enough to do something positive for your health, whether it’s a muscle-building bodyweight circuit or one simple stretch for your shoulders, back, and hips.

8. Turn Up the Volume

"If I'm not motivated, I put on some music and start dancing," says Kathy Collinson, a SilverSneakers instructor in Sterling, Illinois. "I do this during the 10 minutes or so as people are setting up for class, and it will usually get me in the mood," she says.

With resources like Spotify and Apple Music, you don't have to spend much time at all searching for new songs. "They're so smart, they'll make playlists for you once [the program] gets to know your style," says Brooke Degnan, a personal trainer in Overland Park, Kansas.

Bonus: Research has uncovered more surprising health perks of music. Check out our guide to five compelling reasons to turn on some tunes, beyond getting pumped up for your workout.

9. Remember: A Little Means a Lot

"The main thing that motivates me is knowing the benefits of keeping active-because I see people in their 90s working out, living on their own, and leading an active life," says Deb Racheter, a SiverSneakers instructor in Findlay, Ohio. "Being a five-year cancer survivor is also a big motivator to stay active and be the best I can be that day. Doing a little something is better than doing nothing!"

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