9 Fitness Motivation Tricks that Will Actually Work in 2021

Every year we find ourselves bursting with fitness motivation. On January 1st, millions of people take to the scale in a spirit of self punishment, furiously jotting down weight loss resolutions and fitness plans, vowing to repent and be better – thinner, stronger, bendier, whatever.

Why does this rarely work? And how can you make this year different? Here are nine fitness motivation tricks that will help you actually pull off your exercise resolutions once and for all.


1. Pick ONE thing


On the blog Zen Habits, Leo Babuta talks about how the one thing that catalyzed his life change: quitting smoking.

The self esteem and momentum created from kicking nicotine led to him becoming a vegetarian, losing 40 pounds, completing multiple triathlons, getting out of debt, tripling his income, and becoming a world famous writer. But none of this would have happened if he attempted to do all at once.

When it comes to habits, trying to pile on a bunch at once is a recipe for disaster. It is like trying to juggle six balls, when you haven’t even learned to juggle.

Any productivity expert ever will tell you, just start with one thing.

I failed at this for years. I like to get motivated to do ‘All the things!’ run around in circles for a month feeling awesome and productive. But every time, I lose steam and fail.

Biting off more than you can chew causes you to break promises to yourself, which will batter your self esteem. Focus on quitting one thing at a time. Do not try to start a daily running habit AND heavy restriction killer fad diet du jour.

Earn the right to a new habit. Once you have quit drinking for 200 days, you have earned the right to reconsider making another life or habit change.


2. Start with Your ‘Why’ for Fitness Motivation

“If all it took was knowledge, we’d all be billionaires with six-pack abs.” – Derek Sivers

Success comes down to managing your mindset and taking consistent action.

If your goals for exercise begin and end with ‘getting ripped’ or ‘losing 15 pounds fast’ you are doomed from the beginning.

If you take vanity out of the equation, here are the incredible things you stand to gain from forming a daily exercise practice:

  • Exercise is a keystone habit. A cornerstone or ‘keystone habit’ is something that impacts all other habits in our lives. Habits are often intertwined. Cooking at home might lead you to eat healthier, spend less money, and more time with family. Drinking beer might lead you to eat junk food, smoke, or watch more TV.
  • Exercise is the only activity proven to promote production of new brain cells, and cause you to live longer with and improved quality of life. It decreases aging related diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s, and positively affects everything from your reaction times and quantitative skills.
  • Fitness isn’t just about looking great naked. Physical activity reduces stress and helps you sleep better.
  • Doing a healthy activity first thing in the morning (taking vitamins, going for a jog) will prime your mind to continue healthy habits throughout the day. Knowing you have to get up to exercise might cause you to go to bed earlier, or eat better for sustainable energy.
  • Exercise is a compounding habit. It is a self investment that increases in value and produces significant long term rewards.


3. Set a goal you can control 


For example, if you want to ‘Get 10,000 Instagram followers by 2022’ you could easily miss the mark by 20 followers, you run the risk of discounting your incredible progress, getting discouraged, and giving up altogether. 

Instead, make your goal ‘Post on Instagram every day’ and your actions are now tied to your success.

Knowing this, I am throwing scale goals out the window this year.  Instead my 2021 goal is get at least 20 minutes of heart pounding exercise every day, or three hours of activity a week.

Here’s why:

  • The weight on the scale doesn’t reveal the whole picture. Muscle is heavier than fat. A great way to burn fat is to build muscle. But the scale doesn’t tell that story.
  • Weight fluctuates according to many reasons outside our control – like water retention. You can drop or gain 5 pounds for any number of reasons. Stressing over it will drive you crazy.


You might be losing fat but gaining muscle. Weighing can be a losing game if it causes you to feel defeated and give up on your goals.

<Disclaimer: nothing against wanting to lose weight. I have done it myself, and wrote a book on how to do it while still eating lots of food.>


4. Find fitness motivation in movement you love

man doing laps in the pool


Good news: You don’t need to spend $300 on a Yogalates membership, or drag yourself to a crowded gym to pump iron after a long 9-5 shift work. (Unless that’s your thing.)

The exercise you choose can vary daily and (here’s the trick) must be intrinsically rewarding for you.

Enjoying the exercises you do will keep you going back. This effort will be more successful if you enjoy Zumba for Zumba’s sake. Don’t endure grueling workouts with the promise of a ‘bucket of fries’ treat afterward.

Cleaning burns calories, and you get a sparkling home afterwards. It can even be as simple as volunteering to walk dogs at a local shelter (or adopting one yourself).


5. Plan and prep your fitness motivation 

What is the how, when, what, and where of your exercise routine?

Getting to the gym or starting a home workout may feel slightly uncomfortable or chaotic at first. It took me an hour to find my gym shoes and get out of the house the first time I started.

First attempts at habits can create friction, but this shall pass soon. Give your brain a few days to settle into habit autopilot and make it as easy as for yourself as possible.

Here is how you can prep the night before to make sure you wake up with fitness motivation:

  • Setup your coffee brew station or prep your protein shake.
  • Place your workout clothes, shoes, socks, mask, keys, wallet, headphones, iPod, phone, and anything else right next to your bed.
  • Use the Mel Robbins 5 Second Rule to get up and GO.

Promise yourself that no matter how complicated getting out the door becomes, you will do it for 7 days in a row, just as an experiment to see if it makes your day better.


6. Give it 66 Days

In this month’s MoneySelfMade book club read ‘Atomic Habits‘, we learned that ’21 days to form a habit’ is more a less a myth. According to science, it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days. A behavior tends to become automatic after about 66 days. So, set a mark on your calendar 66 days from now. Take a vow not to add in a new goal or behavior until that date.

7. Let go of setbacks

woman doing yoga with dog trying to stay motivated

The good news about the 66 day study? If you miss a day here and there, your new habit will still form!

Here’s what not to do:

Beat yourself for stumbling, which makes you feel worse. The worse you feel, the more you will stumble, and the more you will beat yourself up. It’s an endless cycle of doom. Who can live like that?

If you fail, try different.

Don’t blame yourself, blame the process, and try a new approach.

Run self improvement or habit change like an experiment. Ask yourself why something did or didn’t work. Stay open minded to new solutions.

It is natural and normal to be ‘wobbly’ at a first attempt. Keep going. The day you don’t even see it coming, is the day it will finally click.

I’ve been practicing yoga for a decade now. I don’t do it because I want to impress people with my killer headstand. I do it because it feels nice.

Over the years, I have attempted a lot of poses. Sometimes I wobble, sometimes I fall over, sometimes I just lay down on my mat and nap.

And then one day, out of the blue, magic clicks. I’ll suddenly nail tree pose or be surprised I’m standing upside down.

When I don’t get a headstand, I don’t storm out of yoga thinking ‘GOD WHY CAN’T YOU DO YOGA? YOU’RE SO STUPID. EVERYONE IS JUDGING YOU, FAILURE.’

Not at all. I forget about it altogether and just go to class the next day.


8. Love yourself first

woman looking in mirror

True, lasting change can’t grow in the spirit of self loathing or self punishment.

The most powerful discipline comes from a place of self love. Are you trying to change because you want to take care of yourself and feel great? Or are you trying to change because you think you aren’t good enough?

When you love yourself as you currently are- your glowing skin, healthy body, and sharp mind – you will be naturally motivated to take care of it. If you need a jump start in practicing the art of self acceptance, try this morning affirmation routine. Or check out our post on how to be more confident.


9. Create an accountability system

women doing yoga on the beach


The age of social distancing doesn’t mean you don’t have options to team up. You can join a fitness group on Facebook, or attend a fitness class over Zoom. A friend of mine hired a personal trainer in Columbia to help her learn Spanish and develop a daily exercise practice.


You might experience best fitness motivation results with a pen pal, coach, support group, or anonymously sharing your experience on a blog. Ideally, you should be working with someone who has already accomplished what you have set out to do, or is further ahead on the journey than you are.


If you are ready to take your fitness motivation to the next level, click here to join the Invested Fit party on Facebook


What is your exercise plan for the New Year? Comment below and let us know.

Written by: Alice
Written by: Alice

Last Updated: January 13, 2021

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