Indulge us in a little self-assessment for a moment. Ask yourself: Why do I work out? Really think about it, and then analyze your answer. Do you use language like "should" or "need?" Or is it "want?" Do you think about the physical or mental benefits, or both? What goals populate your mind's eye, if any?
There are no wrong answers here. In truth, we could probably all stand to check in and find some clarity about what drives us to stay active—and on the flip side, locate the holes in our motivation. Because not only is the leap from "should" to "want" incredibly empowering; it's actually not that elusive.
Just ask Instagram wellness star Briana Chandler, whose own fitness journey began simply because she was trying to find an outlet for other pressures in her life. "I grew up playing soccer and running cross-country," she recalls. "After graduating high school, I needed a way to stay active. Trying to balance honors classes, extracurriculars, multiple jobs, and my relationships with others while designing my future was overwhelming. I received a gym pass as a Christmas present and decided I should finally make use of it."
Fast-forward to now, and Chandler has leveraged this personal goal into a full-fledged career: She now boasts nearly 300,000 followers on Instagram, and runs an eponymous site featuring workout and healthy eating guides. Fans flock to the 23-year-old for her relatable advice as well as her ongoing discussion on how staying active relates to her mental health—namely, that it has helped her cope with depression and anxiety.
But even if Chandler's story serves as proof that the benefits of working out go so far beyond the potential physical gains, knowing how to get yourself motivated is still step one. Below, she shares exactly what to keep in mind if you want to make fitness a lasting habit.
Reconsider what you really want from a fitness routine.
How do you feel during and after a workout? How does it fuel your brain in addition to your body? Getting really specific about the benefits can help you create some consistency, since reward is an important part of your brain's habit cycle.
Chandler says that for her, the mental benefits were too amazing to ignore. "Working out became my way of relieving stress and anxiety," she says. "Fitness was a constructive hobby that I became fiercely passionate about. I looked forward to those couple of hours in the gym to clear my head and release the inner beast within me."
(It's okay if one of the reasons you work out is to look good.)
"It's not wrong to work out to look in shape," says Chandler. "It does not make you shallow; in fact, it's noteworthy because it requires a lot of energy and drive to do so. I admire those who keep up with their physique and push their abilities to a new level."
Start with your ideal fitness environment, and go from there.
Set the scene—because if you despise working out in the confines of a gym, you're going to be that less motivated to get moving. (On the flip side, if you're motivated by like-minded people breaking a sweat, there's your answer.)
"Identify the atmosphere in which you want to be active," says Chandler. "Whether that’s at home, at a park, in the gym, at a pool or lake…" From there, you can start brainstorming the right workout for you depending on what makes sense in that environment.
"For instance, if you love the outdoors, perhaps pick up running, biking, rollerblading, sprinting, or calisthenics," she says. "If you don't want to work out at the gym and you have some extra income, investing in some equipment or even simple weights is a great place to start." (On a budget? We have some ideas for that, too.)
Consider how self-care factors into your routine.
It's really important to take a holistic view of your fitness routine—meaning that everything you do before and after a workout is just as crucial to your well-being as the workout itself. Think about the activities and rituals that help you decompress and feel your happiest.
"I read books about psychology, future directed therapy, and relationships," says Chandler. "Sometimes I take time to journal or reflect on my days. I do things that are relaxing such as listening to instrumental music, getting a massage, taking a bath with Epsom salts, or getting a pedicure." Self-care is very personal, so reflect on what makes sense for you.
Try not to take fitness—and wellness in general—for granted.
Gratitude is actually a really important (and oft-overlooked) element in staying motivated. When you make gains—whether it's sticking a pose in yoga, PR'ing in the weight room, or feeling a breakthrough while meditating—take a moment to soak it in and feel pride in what your body can accomplish. "At the end of the day, you just have to remain humble and be grateful for the opportunity to exercise," says Chandler. "It's not a chore—it's a privilege."