Sure, that feeling after a sweat sesh is, like, really good—but it’s the before that can be such a struggle. If you’ve had a long day at work, Netflix is calling your name, or your S.O. is texting you asking when you’re going to be home, it’s all too easy to let that date with the gym take a rain check.
When it comes to kicking excuses to the curb and getting yourself to the gym, motivation is key. Finding some, however, is a little more of a challenge. So we called in reinforcements (fitness experts) who suggested super easy tips that’ll ensure your sneakers stop collecting dust.
1. Put the results you want to achieve in writing.
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Having #goals is great, but writing them down is even better—especially if you put the paper you jotted them down on somewhere you’ll look often. That helps remind you why you’re going to the gym, which is so, so key for staying motivated, says Andia Winslow, a pro golfer and a certified personal trainer. So if you want to finally master a handstand, shed some pounds, or build your strength, Winslow recommends writing that on a piece of paper and pinning it somewhere you’ll see it in the office. (You can always put it in a drawer you’ll open all the time if you don’t want it out on display.)
2. Make gym dates—with yourself.
Plotting out your workouts ahead of time will make you way less likely to skip them. At the start of each week, decide which days you’ll be hitting the gym, and plan out a routine for each one, suggests certified personal trainer Tatiana Lampa. At the end of each workout, she says to look back at that plan and check off everything you accomplished. It’ll feel amazing and help you keep the momentum going.
3. …And set reminders.
Once you’ve got your schedule in place, create calendar reminders, says Leanne Shear, co-founder and head trainer of Uplift Studios in New York City. That little signal serves as a very obvious reminder of your workout goals and can keep you from backing out because you were so busy that you “forgot.”
4. Eat breakfast.
Setting yourself up for workout success starts within an hour of waking up, Wendy Bazilian, R.D., co-author of The Super Foods Rx Diet: Lose Weight with the Power of SuperNutrients and an American College of Sports Medicine-certified health and fitness specialist. Having a smart a.m. meal will help your body stay energized throughout the day and ready for a workout. Nosh on a solid breakfast with protein, a fruit or veggie, and a complex carbohydrate (like whole grain toast).
5. Pack a snack.
Make sure you’ve got a pre-exercise snack to eat about 45 minutes before you hit the road. It’s just the right amount of time for your body to digest most of this snack and use it as energy during your workout, says Bazilian. When you chow down on a small, easily digestible snack that consists of mostly carbs and a little protein, like an apple with peanut butter, you’re going to have more energy to work harder at the gym, says Bazilian.
6. Change into your exercise gear before you leave.
When you switch clothes before you leave work, you’re giving yourself a visual reminder that you’re committed to working out. It also helps you hold yourself accountable. After you’ve changed into your gym clothes, you’ll feel way worse about backing out, says Shear.
7. Leave everything else at work.
If your gym has a location near where you work, change into workout gear, then hit the gym with only what you need to sweat. Shear says this eliminates the temptation to pass up your workout on your journey home because you’ll have to go back to work anyway to get your stuff. If your gym isn’t close to work, try going for a jog or do some interval training outside if you can.
8. Use the buddy system.
Instead of making plans to meet up with a friend over cocktails, schedule a fitness class to catch up. Although you’re probably not going to be chatting it up during a tough bootcamp class or treadmill interval workout, the fact that you’re meeting a friend there will make you less likely to back out, says Shear. Then you can grab dinner and drinks after the workout.
9. Remind yourself exercise helps your mind, too.
“Exercise not only calms the mind, but it enhances brain function and encourages innovation,” Winslow says. So if you’ve got a big project coming up, need to be extra-focused for something at work, or are trying to get through a particularly hectic week, use that as extra reason to exercise and put yourself in the best headspace possible. “Get that workout in and gain a mental edge,” she says.
10. Do what you love.
Yeah, workouts can be challenging, but if you’re forcing yourself to take a class you dread every week—or do a leg-day routine that you get no enjoyment out of—then it’s no wonder that you’re inclined to pass up the gym. Instead, Lampa suggests prioritizing workouts you’ll look forward to in your weekly schedule, whether that be lifting or moves that are all about your core— whatever you love focusing on at the gym. That way, you’ll stay motivated and gym-going will become a habit.
11. Share your progress.
Talking up your gym gains is a great way to hold yourself accountable, says Lampa. By posting on social media or telling a workout buddy what you’ve been up to at the gym, you’ll automatically feel more motivated to keep up the habit. Because, hey, you never know when someone will ask you how your fitness goals are going.
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