Motivation to move

runner tying shoes

If you made an exercise-related resolution last month, now is a good time to check on your progress.

Have you kept your promise? Have you gotten closer to reaching your goal? Is anyone holding you accountable?

Well for today, I will.

For those of us accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle, incorporating activity into a daily routine can be tough. Exercise can feel intimidating, expensive and even pointless. There are countless reasons it may fall to the bottom of your to-do list.

I am sharing tips on what has inspired me to exercise in the hopes it will encourage you as well.

Get clear

One of the first steps I took towards getting motivated to move included getting to the core of why exercise is important to me. Yes, I want to look better. Yes, I know it’s good for me. And so on.

After years of basing my exercise inspiration on these broad, vague reasons, I came to the conclusion they were not enough to stimulate me and sustain me. I decided to dive deeper into my reasoning and get specific.

Beyond exercising to “be healthy,” I narrowed in on the concept that diabetes runs in my family and I do not want to develop issues with insulin. This reason lights a fire under me.

What is your reason? Do you want to decrease your risk for developing osteoporosis? Or fit into your favorite jeans from 15 years ago?

Define your reason and let it guide you. Being clear on why movement matters to you can be a great way to not only jumpstart your journey but to keep you going.

Get practical

Next, I got practical. This meant coming up with an exercise strategy that truly aligned with my preferences when it comes to environment, activity and scheduling.

For instance, after years of signing up for fancy gym memberships, I came to the conclusion this format is just not inspiring for me. Nature is what will get me out the door.

Jogging among trees with the sun warming my face is more invigorating for me than using a machine in a crowded, fluorescent-lit gym. And while I enjoy attending classes, I can conveniently watch videos online at home or sign up for the occasional on-site studio class.

After trying out a variety of workouts over the years, I learned some feel fun to me and some feel like chores. My best experiences exercising happen when I do not watch the clock or the calorie counter.

Though nightclub-esque spinning is trendy, know that you may desire a peaceful bike ride around the lake. Aspire to discover a workout that doesn’t feel like a workout.

Through trial and error, you will learn what you gravitate to. Honor and engage in the activities you like most.

Finally, start small.

If you have not exercised for years, you may not want to set a goal of 60-minute workouts, three days a week. Try setting aside 10 minutes, once a week.

By structuring your exercise in an environment you like, engaging in workouts you enjoy and for brief periods to begin with, you are setting yourself up for success.

Get equipped

You know the phrase, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have?” I applied this to my new exercise venture. I swapped out my worn-out, slouchy sneakers and grungy t-shirts for new sport clothes and shoes.

Research shows that your clothing can affect your athletic performance.

A 2013 study by the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology reported that wearing different colors incites different physiological effects. When comparing red to blue, researchers learned that athletes in red were able to lift heavier amounts of weight and had higher heart rates than those in blue.

By dressing like an athlete, I felt one step closer to being one. Sporting my new slip-on, air-cooled memory foam Sketchers, I felt like I could jog further and jump faster. This new gear prompted me to feel eager to exercise and even enhanced my workout sessions.

Research athleticwear brands and treat yourself to that moisture-wicking, microclimate technology and that breathable, stretchy, fast-drying fabric fabulousness.

I also invested in accessories. One of my favorite items is a slim, lightweight running belt that holds my phone and keys. I’d never had one before and now I don’t workout without it. At under $10 on Amazon, it is worth it.

You can also set up the Spotify app on your phone or make a playlist that pumps you up. Whether it is electronic-dance music, Beethoven or a science podcast, audio can be a powerful technique to get you going. You might be amazed how clothing and music can transform your attitude and approach to exercise.

Get creative

The last thing I did was to put my gym goggles on. This meant that I began to view my environment and everyday items as catalysts for calorie-burning.

For example, when I first began strength training at home, I did not have a set of handheld weights. I grabbed two soup cans and began bicep curls. Believe it or not, a 25-minute workout with these one-pound dumbbell substitutes got my heart rate up and my forehead sweating.

You may have heard of the 86-year old woman who lost 120 pounds by doing daily walks in her one-bedroom apartment. Talk about making the most out of your surroundings!

Fitness can be fun if you are willing to be playful. During your workout, chart your own obstacle course. Walk up a steep hill. Duck beneath branches. Hop over puddles.

At the gym, ask for help using a weight machine you have never tried. Start slow, go with a friend and don’t push yourself too hard.

When life gets busy, exercise often falls by the wayside. But it turns out those busy times tend to be when we need movement the most!

Know that there will always be a reason to focus on something other than fitness. I can guarantee you won’t want to work out when you’re tired or on the days it gets dark at 5 p.m.

It may might feel like an imposition at first, but over time, your body may learn to love, and even crave movement. I encourage you to embrace what excites you.


Carly Ettinger is a trend forecaster and writer from Minneapolis. Her experiences living and learning in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and most recently New York, have shaped her fascination with studying cultural trends in health, fitness and lifestyle.

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