How to Get Motivation for Workout

Going to the gym and killing your session requires of motivation for workout. But how can you get that motivation for workout? There are a lot of strategies and tips you can use to stay motivated for workout, and here we'll go through the most effective and used ones.

Motivation is such an important aspect to stay comfortable and on track when aiming towards your goals. When we talk about fitness goals, motivation for workout makes you enjoy more the process, have fun and keep making progress. In this post we'll introduce motivation to later move to how we can keep motivation high to enhance exercise performance and make the progress easier and more enjoyable

First of all we should formulate this question: what's motivation? You can see many people going around talking about motivation, but they probably don't even know what it really means and how it works. If we dont know what it is, how are we supposed to know how to boost it?


Motivation is defined as the process that initiates, guides and mantains goal-oriented behaviours (source). In other words, it can be understood as the main driving force towards our goals. It defines how we, as persons, behave and take decisions considering the goals we are aiming force.

If we had to define motivation in three words, these would be 'needs, actions and goals'. We need something, we take actions, and we achieve goals. If any of these facts are missing, the process gets much harder and motivation is simply not there.

We can say that motivation is based in two functions; activational and directional. It activates our organism, it makes us act. Not only that, but it also make us decide based on our goals. The decisions we make are oriented towards the differents goals we may have. And that's why motivation is so important when trying to achieve goals. Without motivation, you 1) are losing time aiming to nowhere, and 2) you don't feel the driving force to stand up and act.


Here we can find two types of motivation we can feed ourselves from:

Intrinsic motivation: forces arising from the inner you. It involves pleasure and gratification.

Extrinsic motivation: forces created from the outside of the individual (you). It involves material rewards such as money or prizes.

Although each type is very differentiated from the other, we can take advantatge of both simultaneously and boost our motivation even more. This classification doesn't mean that if we are feeding from one we cannot take advantatge of the other. In fact, the right way to go it would be to use both at the same time. For example, going back to the motivation to workout:

I'm going to be competing in a natural bodybuilding federation in three months.

In this example we can clearly see both motivations. The intrinsic comes with the gratification and value of competing without the use of substances, making the process even harder. The extrinsic is the possible economical reward you are aiming for when getting on stage and compiting for a prize and recognition.


Neuroscience is such a complex discipline emerging sharply in these past decades. Researchers are putting a lot of effort on trying to undertand the biochemical signals and reactions taking place in our organisms to transfer motivation into the different effects in our brain and body.

Unfortunately, we don't know much to date and my knowledge on neuroscience is limited. Therefore, I'll base the next section mainly in different studies treating this aspect.

Motivation acts mainly on specific neural circuits, in where we can find the prefrontal cortex, the dopamine system and other related structures such as ganglia and hyppocampus (source). The cognitive effects produced by this stimulus (motivation) is used by the brain as learning signals to adjust different motivational biases.

At a molecular level, the cognitive effects of motivation could lead to the production and release of hormones and peptides from structures mentioned above such as hyppocampus or the ganglia.

Researchers have found that dopamine is the driving connector to induce motivation. As the main neurotransmitter in the brain, dopamine travels to the nucleus accumbens, part of the brain mediating rewards behaviour (source). When that happens, we act in an specific manner to 1) maximize a good reward or 2) minimize a bad reward.

As we can observe here, this process is similar as what we talked on previous posts when we discussed mechanotransduction. While in mechanotransduction is the transfer of mechanical stimulus into biochemical signals, this process (with unknown name) can be looked as the transfer from emotional stimulus to biochemical signals.


Besides the high uncertainty known to date, we have some theoretical models that may potentially explain how the neuronal connections can work during motivation-induced situations. In this post we'll focus on a model formulated by Eliot Stellar (1954) because of its simplicity and logic behind (source)

What Eliot Stellar tries to explain with this model is the importance of the hypothalamus when it comes to motivation and other emotional factors.

How to hypothalamus is controlled

In this scheme we can see perfectly how the hypothalamus is controlled. There are mainly two mechanisms by which we can inhibit or excitate this structure. 1) By internal and internal chemical and physical factors and 2) sensory stimuli.

Among the internal factors controlling the hypothalamus we may encounter raise in temperature, inflammation, raise in hormone production, pharmacological substances,...

These actions will make the hypothalamus to act and activate/inhibit different pathways leading us towards our goals. But of course this is not all, and many other structures and aspects are not taken into account in this model. In fact, it seems like motivational-behaviour is way more complex than it was expected from the beginning, and the hypothalamus would just be the central motor of a whole system of different structures and connections.


If you are here it's most likely that you either train frequently or follow an active lifestyle. In both cases, motivation is a big fact to consider if we want to take these actions into the long term. We need to find a way to get motivation for workout, but is there any efficient way to do it?

During the next 3min we'll go through some tips I personally like and experience to help you find motivation for workout and go harder towards your goals.


Sometimes, the problems arise from the start of the journey. An important fact is to set a proper goal. If it's too ambitious, we'll give up as soon as we realize how far we are from it, and we won't get anywhere.

For this reason it is important that you take your time to set your goals. Be realistic and know exactly what you can do and what not. This will also help realizing where you have to put more input in order to reach your goals and to know yourself better.

Goals should be of course constrained to physical and chemical laws. If I go now and say 'My goal for this year is to increase my bench press by 200lbs'. Well, sorry my friend but there is no way you can do that. Your muscle has limitations and it cannot build enough muscle mass and power to take your bench press 200lbs up.

If you want to set the perfect goals I recommend you following the guide SMART. These rules have been shown to enhance learning outcomes on students, making them feeling more motivated and willing to pass and study for their exams (study)

SMART goals


We need to be sure that we are achieving things eventually. If we set only one long-term goal, we may have the activation to work towards it, but it's so far away that the direction may not function perfectly. To orientate yourself smaller goals could help you know where you are at each moment. Let's put an example using a 'fitness goal':

Charlie is a bodybuilder getting ready for his first competition. His ultimate goal is to get to the Olympia but he is aware that the goal is too far away and that's going to take a lor of time. Before that goal, he knows where he has to go through. Because of this, for next year his goal is to win the pro card, and the next season he will love to start doing 'pro tours' and competing at a international level

Motivation for Workout


We are routinary living beings. We are adapted to doing the same things over a over, and following the same protocols everyday help our brain knowing in what situation we are at each moment.

Although this is all empirical, it seems like doing the same things everyday before heading to the gym helps telling your brain to wake up and starts activating and setting up everything to crush it during the workout.

In my case, I usually play some music or speech that motivates me while I'm having my dose of caffeine and I'm writing on my training journal what I'm going to do during that workout.

Here what's important is that you choose a protocol in where you are comfortable and lets you motivate and give your best in the gym


This is tip is surprisingly effective. Almost everyone trains with music, and they are doing it right. Researchers have found that parameters related with physical activity such as peak power output or heart rate were increased when exercising while listening to music (study).

Music can enhance sports activity by 1) delaying fatigue and 2) increasing work capacity. Putting you in a better mood and increasing the capacity to work out, music is a great strategy to improve your motivation and the quality of your workouts.

Although this is empirical, I strongly believe that you should only listen to your workout music when training at the gym. Our brain is good at associating events with other attributes, and music seems to be one of them. If we reserve that music only for trainings we'll make it easier for our brain to understand what's happening when starting our workout.


Taking periodical measurements along the process puts you in a different perspective on how everything is going and how far you've gone. Fitnes goals are mainly subjective, and if you don't take measurements you lose the objective point of view of your progress.

You can't improve what you don't measure - Peter Drucker

If you don't measure you don't know exactly how good (bad) you are doing. It may be that from your perspective you think you are making a huge progress, but really muscle is not growing and you look the same as four months ago. But the solution is really easy. There are many parameters you can measure quickly to get an overall of how the progress is going. Between them we have:

+ Body measurements: weight, muscle perimeters, skin folds, %body fat,...

+ Performance measurements: liftings, volume load, recovery,...

+ Other measurements: caloric intake, macronutrients, sleep, cardiovascular activity,...


Humans are social living beings. We live in community and we need each other to survive and evolve. Building a close community related with your interests (gym in this case) can improve your sports performance and make you enjoy more trainings. Share your results and discuss with the others. Compare your trainings and have fun talking about what everyone has in common; fitness and training.

Create your own gym squat and hang out with them in the gym. I'm sure you'll start enjoying more your workouts. Not only a gym squat, but getting a gym partner and training with somebody that knows how to get your 100% can take you closer to your goals.


Once again it's all about fooling the brain. Visualize yourself achieving what you were dreaming may enhance your motivation for workout and make you realize how close you are from it. The real and imaginary world are closer than we think, and sometimes they can be transferred. Use that tool to often feel closer to your goal and feel much more motivated to achieve it.

Make your goal more real even before reaching it. Is there anything more motivating than that? Feel your goal in your hands and know exactly what you have to do to get there.


We are not used to sharing our goals with anyone. We think it's too ridiculous and people don't care about it. But they actually care. Your family, your closest friends, your boyfriend/girlfriend, or even that friend that you only see once a year during your summer holidays.

Tell them what you are aiming for and you'll try to achieve it to show them what you are capable of. That's commitment. Feel the pressure of not let them down, because they have put faith on you and they are looking forward to seeing the final result.

A nice way of achieving this is through social media. Show on instagram that you have to go to the gym 5 days/week, and only to not let them down and think that you are not gonna reach that goal you'll go those 5 days and train as hard as possible (and motivated).


We like rewards. Our brain, as we saw beore, make connections and acts to maximize 'good' rewards and minimize 'bad' rewards. Appreciate and value what you have achieved so far and set some rewards along the way.They don't have to be extremely fancy, expensive or anything from the other worlds. It's enough with a good dinner with friends, some treats you wanted to buy, some gym material or anything alike.

Don't make it a routine. If you do so, the rewards will seem to be mandatory and part of the process, and that's not the goal. The goal here is to keep you motivated with extraordinary events. If you make it a routine, those rewards won't be extraordinary anymore, and your brain will actually think that you deserve those. Not only that, but you will be disappointed and frustrated if by any chance you don't get it, so be careful with how you manage this.

What I usually do is allow me to have a free day once per month if everything has gone as I planned. And in this plan I include working out everyday I had planned, studying for the exams I have, waking up early at least 5 days a week,... That day is a reward for me and frees me from any concern I had been carrying out the last month. And the next I feel way more motivated and willing to do everything that's in my hand to achieve those goals.


Why are you doing it?

If the answer is 'because I was bored', you'll be dropping out during the next weeks. Give yourself a good reason to do it. Everything we do should be aimed towards some improvements in our lives.

Having a good reason is the best tool you can use to improve intrinsic motivation. As you have seen, intrinsic motivation arise from us and involves gatrification and pleasure. Do it for you, for an improvement, for a better life.

And don't think about what the others want from you. Your goals should only consider what you want. The one working hard for it is you, not them.


We don't notice, but when there's money in between we work harder. Unfortunately, we care too much about money. Economical aspects drive our life and are one of the main aspects to care in our everyday life. Many times we don't want to invest any money on our goals and try to make it as cheap as possible. The thing is that money can actually help us on this.

First, it can make the process easier. For example, getting a personal trainer costs money, but it gives you everything you need to get shredded for summer. Second, it boosts commitment and dedication. The worst feeling in the world is wasting money. If you have invested money in your goal you'll be more likely to reach that goal, just to show how that money was worth and helped you achieving what you wanted. By doing this, your motivation for workout will increase like crazy.

invest in your goals


Motivation is a key factor when keeping ourself on the right track to achieve goals. Sometimes it can be hard to keep it high, and we have to assume that it will not always be at its highest. But that doesn't mean that we cannot use some tools to boost it and put it a bit higher.

In this post we have seen how motivation could work in our brain and some tips to specifically boost it in our fitness goals. Training, dieting, sleeping,... fitness is sometimes harder than people think it is, and motivation is needed to keep it doing it day by day.

I hope you enjoyed the post and found it useful. Please don't hesitate to contact me with some doubts either in the comments section below or by email. See you next week!!

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