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7 ways people actually got motivated to start exercising

by Diana Kelly

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Where do you look for fitness motivation? Do you read before and after weight loss success stories? Do you follow bodybuilders, trainers, or fitness “influencers” on social media for workout videos and inspiration (#fitspo)? Do you have a friend or family member who made health a priority after receiving a scary health diagnosis?

Thanks to the internet, you can find all sorts of exercise motivation, thousands of #MotivationMonday quotes, #FlexFriday photos, and tons of fitness advice.

What motivates each of us to work out is different: maybe it’s a health problem, an issue with sleep, a special event you want to look great for, having more energy to play with your kids or grandkids, or simply wanting to feel better and healthier in your own skin. But what keeps us moving may require another strategy entirely. Science says that competition is a strong motivator to get people working out, and so is determining your why for exercising.

"Being a victim and suffering were not options for me. Without your health you have nothing."

But who are these people who have allegedly cracked the code on sticking to a workout routine? Do they even exist? Turns out, they are real and I even spoke to a handful of them so you can borrow, modify, or flat out steal their motivating reasons.

“I went from former fat camp kid to working out with a trainer.”

“I’ve been on diets since I was a kid. I even went to ‘fat camp’ one summer, and in order to help pay for it, I worked in the kitchen. That resulted in me putting on more weight than ever—at fat camp! I started seeing a registered dietitian with my wife, Kylie, last year. I’ve lost 40 pounds. I realized that my eating disorders were addictions and I’m working to break decades of addictive habits. I recently started working out with a trainer who has a private gym. I love the individualized attention because I’m learning so much more. When I went to the gym on my own I had no idea what I was doing.  My trainer is very positive…he’s like a friend that I want to see. He inspires and encourages me. My goal is to increase my exercise. Right now I’m doing two days—one with my trainer and one on the treadmill. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get overnight results.” – Danny Lobell, 34, Los Angeles

“I scaled down my caffeine habit and replaced it with morning workouts.”

“My journey to get healthier started after I got blood work done and it said I was prediabetic and had high blood pressure. I wanted to stop going down that path. I started losing weight by working with a registered dietitian and a personal trainer. I can lift heavier weights and I’m learning how to run. I’m noticing the change in how I feel. I initially lost 14 pounds over the first few months and then I gained some back while traveling a ton for work. I’m trying not to focus on the numbers on the scale anymore. I’ve switched my lifestyle. I go to bed much earlier than I used to and am eating earlier in the day and having smaller meals. In order to stick with a six-days-a-week workout schedule, I make sure to go to the gym every morning. My trainer has a sheet where she outlines the daily workout and then I text her after I complete it. My energy levels are crazy high now. I used to drink a ton of coffee and now I only have a cup or two in the morning. If you exercise in the morning—you have energy all day. ” – Kylie Lobell, 29, Los Angeles

“I started training to ease my fibromyalgia symptoms.”

“I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia about three years ago after over 10 years of chronic pain, TMJ, depression, anxiety, and fatigue. As a registered nurse and former athlete, being ‘sick’ was not an option. Being a victim and suffering were not options for me. Without your health you have nothing. Taking control of my health was the best decision for me long term. I started CrossFit solely as a means to train for hiking the Camino De Santiago (a 500-mile route) in Spain. After a few months, I noticed my fibromyalgia symptoms going away. The progress was very slow with CrossFit; starting at just two days per week for one hour at a time.

Now, my pain, anxiety, and depression are under control. I am healthy and feel great! That athlete hiding inside of me, wanting to come out since high school, found her way out. It’s empowering to leave your comfort zone and I feel like an empowered bad ass throwing weights around. Through CrossFit and my diagnosis, I found a new passion for helping people, and went back to school for exercise science, in hopes of opening my own gym and helping others like me. Fitness brought passion back to my life and career, helping patients outside of the hospital setting. Think long-term and what works for you. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone!” – Melissa Fontana, 30, Fort Lauderdale, FL

“I work out for my mental health.”

“I have worked out off and on since college, but I find that the main motivating factors for me are: body maintenance (both looking and feeling good in my body at a healthy size for my frame) and mind maintenance (easing anxiety and reducing stress via a healthy outlet like exercise). I’ve gone through phases over the years when I don’t feel motivated to work out for a variety of reasons, sometimes because I was feeling emotionally or physically subpar, to convenience and environment. I find that switching it up with different classes that are fun and effective keeps me motivated.” Tatiana Ridley, holistic nutritionist, yoga teacher, and blogger

"It’s a privilege to workout, not a punishment for something ‘bad’ I ate."

“I trained for a Tough Mudder in honor of my brother who passed.”

“When my brother passed away suddenly, I had so many strong emotions on a daily basis. I was three weeks postpartum so I had all the hormones and lack of sleep and everything that goes with that in addition to mourning the loss of my brother. Early on I got it in my head that I wanted to do something to honor him. I decided to compete in a Tough Mudder with family and some friends I used to play soccer with. We raised money in his memory for Wounded Warriors. (My brother, Earl, was a former Army Ranger.) Training for the race helped me channel all my emotions into something constructive. It also gave me a break from my life for just a little while. My brother was a track star and training helped me feel closer to him when I ran. Losing the baby weight and getting back in shape were great results but the emotional therapy that working out provided was invaluable.” Jen Mills, Gainesville, Va.

“I used to eat cake for breakfast before becoming a personal trainer.”

“To be honest, I ate cake for breakfast, a lot! My eating habits consisted of junk food, and although I played sports growing up, the saying, ‘You can’t outrun a bad diet’ is very true! One day I got sick and tired of feeling out of shape so I signed up for personal training school, took nutrition classes, and began a ‘clean eating’ lifestyle that changed my life forever. Now 13 years later, I’m 30 pounds lighter and I still love to eat clean and workout. I think working out gives me life! It energizes me and reminds me that it’s a privilege to workout, not a punishment for something ‘bad’ I ate. I love hiking and interval training/Tabata training. I do interval workouts when I’m crunched for time, but they help with increasing speed, endurance, and strength. I did interval workouts three days a week when I was losing those 30 pounds.” S.J. McShane, CPT, 35, Bangor, Maine

“I was plagued with injuries but found workout consistency with group personal training.”

“I was a member of several gyms in the past, but my problem was always sticking with it. In 2013, I partially herniated two discs in my back due to a work injury and ended up quickly gaining weight from lack of activity. The following year I was in the hospital for 14 days due to a severe illness, one I still combat to this day. Then in 2015, I fell and broke my right shoulder in five places. Related to issues from the back and the illness, my balance can be off. It was during physical therapy for the shoulder that I decided I needed to improve my fitness in spite of multiple limitations. After driving past a particular gym several times, I walked in and checked it out. After explaining my limitations, the staff and trainers told me that they understood and would work with me. I loved the idea of group personal training. Doing these classes made a vast improvement in my overall health—not just physically but mentally. I love the accountability of signing up for class…there are days I really could just stay in bed, but I signed up. I have to go! I became friends with the people who take classes the same time I do and they motivate me. I’m down 40 pounds and plan to lose 25 more. I’m feeling confident I’ll succeed!” – Michael Schrauder, 49, Pittsburgh, Penn.

Diana Kelly

Diana Kelly is a Manhattan-based freelance journalist and editor with over 12 years experience writing for national health and lifestyle brands. She enjoys running half-marathons, dance classes, strength training, and trying new foods in the company of friends. She also sets meditation goals of practicing four to five times a week. Learn more about Diana at DianaKelly.com or follow her on Twitter @DianaKelly.

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