How to Get and Stay Motivated to Strength Train

Strength training is an important part of your overall health and fitness regimen. It increases natural growth hormone secretion, builds strong bones and improves your balance.

While you might be afraid you’ll end up looking like Mr. Universe, women don’t have the necessary amount of testosterone to growth that amount of muscle. Building strong muscles also helps you lose weight and maintain the loss, improves your posture and improves the way your clothes fit. Better body mechanics and a reduced risk of disease rounds out the incredible benefits of incorporating strength training into your workout routine.

BUT, getting motivated to do the work each week – and staying motivated to continue a program – may be more challenging than doing the workout! According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of Americans don’t get enough exercise.

Your Genes May Control Your Motivation to Exercise

It turns out that while some people enjoy sweating, others find just the thought of exercise to be painful. Researchers have now demonstrated there are genetically programmed reasons you may not like exercise – and there are ways to rewire your brain and enjoy cardiovascular and strength training.

Basically, your genes control your pleasure and reward from exercise, modulating dopamine in your brain.

BUT, while there is a genetic link, it has been established that exercise may change the expression of your DNA and potentially improve your satisfaction and motivation to exercise.

So, in other words, you might not like exercise, but the more you do it, the more you enjoy it and the greater your motivation to continue.

This follows the adage that once you’ve developed the habit of exercise, it’s more difficult to stop, than it is to exercise. You learn to enjoy the journey enough that the habit becomes a part of your everyday routine – and you enjoy the benefits as well.

Once you appreciate the functional changes to your life and your body, there is greater motivation to continue exercise than there is the desire to lay in bed another hour.

What’s Stopping You?

This is all a cycle – you have to start before you enjoy the benefits or experience the reward of changes to your DNA and subsequent release of dopamine in the brain that triggers your reward center.

The trick is to start the cycle, so you enjoy the benefits – which goes right back to how you get motivated to start strength training.

Let’s start with the mistakes many people make to try motivating themselves to strength train.

The biggest mistake is focusing on the extrinsic value of exercise, such as reducing disease potential, slowing the aging process, getting fit, or improving creativity and productivity.  These reasons that exist outside of who you are and your immediate experience are not strong motivating factors and won’t override the usual excuses that center on the discomfort you anticipate from the activity.

Some of the more common excuses for not exercising include:

Getting dirty
Being uncomfortable
Feeling insecure at the gym
Not enough time
Getting out of breath
Too tired
It’s boring
Overwhelming to think about startin
Tried it and didn’t like it
Don’t like feeling out of shape
Nervous of getting hurt

How Do You Start a Positive Cycle?

Instead of focusing on extrinsic motivating factors, it’s important you identify your intrinsic factors, or those things you experience immediately. Extrinsic factors aren’t strong enough to get you out of bed in the morning or working out at a gym in front of others.

Many studies on the effect of motivation in the workplace demonstrates in work and recreational situation you are more motivated by intrinsic values. Many people anticipate how bad a workout will be, and most focus on the external reasons they should exercise – like better health, toned body and slowing the aging process.

This all means that the hardest part about getting motivated is getting started!

It also means that in the moment of exercising you may experience a boost in your emotions and mood, an increase in the release of hormones that affect your motivation and experience a powerful intrinsic value to exercise.

Before exercise you anticipate that you’ll feel bad – but DURING exercise people experience positive emotions. And, during a study from the University of Chicago, people stated they placed more value on what they felt during the exercise than on any benefits they would experience later.

The research indicates that your intrinsic incentives improve your experience during exercise and the biggest mistake you may make in motivating yourself to exercise is placing value on extrinsic incentives.

Just by putting exercise on your “to-do” list and just doing it is an important way of experiencing the mental and emotional boost that may help continue to motivate you over time. The memories of feeling good and having fun go a long way toward increasing your motivation.

Just Do It – And More

Here are several more strategies to help you include strength training in your routine, even when you don’t want to.
The important fact here is that there is NO easy button. You just have to do it – there are ways to make it easier – but no way to make it easy.

  1. Use motivational books, music and video

Inspirational stories may spark your short-term desire, music improves your mood, video may give you the boost you need to start strength training.

  1. Partner up

Like any other new activity or sport, it’s easier when you have a partner. A partner will help motivate you to continue during your workout and will be waiting for you at the gym to get started.

  1. Work within your limits

When your activity puts you over your anaerobic threshold (you can’t breathe fast enough to keep up with your oxygen needs) you don’t experience the feel good hormones as quickly. Stay within your limits and you’ll feel better, experience gains in your fitness faster and improve your motivation to continue.

  1. Stay positive

You can change how you feel about something when you change how you think about it. Psychologists have an equation – your thoughts create feelings, your feelings produce actions and your actions predict your results. When you can think positively about your workout, you will improve your motivation, increase the likelihood you workout and your actions will produce feel good hormones that continue to feed your motivation.


The last strategy is one you can use for any action you want to take. Whether you want a new job, have better relationships with you children or improve your financial situation – when you think positively about what you are capable of achieving it drives your actions. And RIGHT actions produce incredible results!

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