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The Friday Five

5 Ways to Find the Motivation to Exercise (When You Don’t Want To)

By Jamie Spannhake

We all know regular physical activity makes everything better. But it is hard to find the motivation to exercise when you’re exhausted. Jamie Spannhake has a plan.

motivation to exercise

I Never Had a Hard Time Motivating Myself to Exercise

I enjoy moving my body and have always been good at managing my time to fit exercise into my schedule. I’ve been a regular gym attendee, a dedicated yogi, a twice-weekly tennis player and a member of a running club.

But Then I Got COVID Last Summer

And that was followed by long COVID, which didn’t lift until early this year. During that time, I was often exhausted and exercise made me more tired. The usual inherent motivation to exercise — feeling good after a workout — was gone. My healthy routine of exercise as part of my regular every day also fell away.

How Do We Find Our ‘Get-Up-and-Go?’

Now that I am no longer feeling so exhausted, I want to exercise regularly again.

Actually, I want to want to exercise again, but I’m finding it hard to motivate.

Finding the motivation to exercise can be challenging, especially when work and other responsibilities take up most of your time. And if you don’t enjoy exercising — or haven’t enjoyed it in so long you’ve forgotten what it feels like — it is doubly hard.

We Need a Good Plan

If you are having similar struggles, my exercise motivation plan might work for you too. Here are five tips that can help us get motivated to exercise.

1. Start Small

Starting small can help you get motivated to exercise when you have a busy work schedule and don’t enjoy working out. Don’t jump into an intense workout routine right away. Start with small, achievable goals, such as taking a short walk during your lunch break or doing a quick exercise routine before work. For example, you could start with a 10-minute walk or a few minutes of stretching before work or during your lunch break. Once you get into the habit of doing these small activities, you can gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts. The key is to start with small, achievable goals that won’t feel overwhelming, making it easier to stick with them.

MY PLAN: 15 minutes of yoga at home each morning after I drop my daughter off at school and walk the dog, but before I start work (also from home).

2. Find an Accountability Partner

Having someone to exercise with or hold you accountable can make it more enjoyable and easier to stick to a routine. Consider finding someone who has similar fitness goals and can help you get motivated to exercise. This could be a friend, coworker or personal trainer who can help keep you accountable and on track. You could schedule workout sessions with your accountability partner or simply check in with each other regularly to share progress and offer support. By having someone else to exercise with or hold you accountable, you are more likely to stick with your routine and achieve your fitness goals.

MY PLAN: I’m going to ask one of my former coaching clients who is now a good friend to be my accountability partner. She’s always looking for someone to help her stay motivated and on track, so we could do that for each other.

3. Make It Fun

Making exercise fun is another essential aspect of staying motivated. Find an activity that you enjoy and make it part of your exercise routine. It could be dancing, hiking, swimming or any other physical activity that you find enjoyable. You can also try different workouts to find what you like, such as pilates, yoga, or weightlifting. Or maybe CrossFit or even pole dancing? By making exercise fun, you’re more likely to look forward to your workouts and stick with them over the long term.

MY PLAN: Forget trying to find the perfect workout or activity. Do anything that is exercise and fun. With the various fitness apps on my phone, plus YouTube and Amazon Prime Video, there are dance classes, kickboxing — and who knows what else to try.

4. Schedule It

Scheduling exercise time can also be an effective way to ensure you don’t miss your workouts. Treat exercise like any other important appointment or meeting, and block out time on your calendar to exercise. Then don’t let work or other obligations interfere. This can help you stay committed to your fitness goals and avoid scheduling other activities during your workout time.

MY PLAN: Be realistic. If I have a packed day, scheduling in a workout at 6 a.m. when I know I won’t get up that early will only lead to failure. I want to set myself up for success and will schedule in my Google calendar a realistic time and timeframe to exercise every day.

5. Reward Yourself

Rewarding yourself for progress and milestones can help keep you motivated to exercise. Give yourself a small reward for sticking to your exercise routine. For example, you could treat yourself to a favorite food or drink after a week of sticking to your workout routine, or you could purchase a new workout outfit after reaching a particular fitness goal. Rewards can help make exercise feel more enjoyable and give you something to look forward to as you work toward your goals.

MY PLAN: Honestly, I’m not motivated by rewards like this, even though I know a lot of people are. That’s why I’ve included it here. For me, feeling better and getting fit is the reward.

Remember, exercise is essential for maintaining good health, reducing stress, and increasing energy levels. Start small, find an accountability partner, make it fun, schedule it in, and reward yourself for your progress. With time, you and I may find that we enjoy exercising (again) and look forward to our workouts.

Good luck! And wish me luck too!

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Have You Read Jamie Spannhake’s Bestselling Book?

The Lawyer, the Lion, and the Laundry Book CoverFind Your Calm in the Chaos

In “The Lawyer, the Lion, and the Laundry: Three Hours to Finding Your Calm in the Chaos,” lawyer and certified health coach Jamie Spannhake helps you learn how to CHOOSE, ACT and THINK in ways that will clarify your desires and set priorities so you can reclaim your time and enjoy your life.

Available in the Attorney at Work bookstore, here. 

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Jamie Spannhake Jamie Spannhake

Jamie Jackson Spannhake is a writer, coach for lawyers, and speaker. She helps busy lawyers create lives they truly want, lives with time and space to do all the things she was told she couldn’t do as a successful lawyer. Her work with clients is based upon the principles in her book, “The Lawyer, the Lion, & the Laundry.” She spent nearly 20 years practicing law in New York and Connecticut, in BigLaw, as a solo, and as a partner in a small firm. Learn more about her at, or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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