Motivate Yourself to Exercise

Try these quick tips from Real Simple readers.

X Marks the Spot

The only thing that looks worse than an ill-advised lower-back tattoo on a 36-year-old mom is that same tattoo placed squarely between two love handles. Exercise is essential to my general well-being, but the tattoo―and its strategic placement―serve as an additional motivator.
Katherine Wyrick
Little Rock, Arkansas

Attitude Adjustment

My husband gave me a sassy white “Bond girl” bikini. It inspires me to run. He thinks I’m as sexy as a Bond girl; exercise gives me the inner courage to agree.
Reagan Kaufman
Cheyenne, Wyoming

I work out at a local gym every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. If I complete my regimen for a week, I treat myself to a $2.99 bouquet of fresh flowers from the grocery store near my gym.
Mary Thomas
Indianapolis, Indiana

I flip my mental switch and imagine myself getting out of my BMW 5-series (which I do not actually have) while my long, lean, ridiculously hot legs force everyone to stare. This works every time.
Heidi Erhard
Vancouver, Washington

I put a sticky note on my alarm clock reminding me why I want to exercise. Some days I’ll write “Post-workout high,” and other days it’s “Bathing-suit season.” Either way, it reminds me of a reason, so I’m not just waking up and groaning with dread.
Shannon Dunleavy
Darien, Connecticut

I discovered that I would rather be eaten by angry army ants than go to the gym, so I exercise at home using workout DVDs.
Allison Towne
Omaha, Nebraska

Whenever I can convince myself to walk to work instead of taking the bus, I use the bus fare to buy scratch-off lottery tickets at the convenience store I pass on the way. Even though I’ve won only small amounts, the possibility of hitting it big keeps me going.
Ronni Krasnow
New York, New York

Mirror, Mirror

I recently read an article about how fear is actually a motivator to exercise. I realized that the fear of becoming larger than I would like is the real motivator behind my moves.
Julie Wood
Roy, Utah

My mother is my genetic destiny. Meaning her body shape looked a lot like mine when she was my age. Having seen her body change over the years and what it has looked like in both the good and bad moments of her diet and exercise regimens, I’m extremely motivated to make sure I maintain the good through exercise.
Lisa Fritts
Morristown, New Jersey

When I don’t feel like exercising, I remind myself of all the health and emotional benefits I will experience. However― let’s face it―that doesn’t always work or we would always exercise. So when that fails, I get naked and jump up and down in front of my full-length mirror. That little trick always seems to get me moving.
Alyson Sorenson
Ardmore, Oklahoma
 

My Space

I have three children, a husband, and a small business, so the time I have to run is the only “me” time I get. I don’t need any prodding to take advantage of an hour alone with just my iPod to keep me company.
Twila Alexander
Erie, Colorado

I had terrible roommates in college, so I needed an excuse to leave the house for a few hours. I invested in a good pair of Rollerblades and started blading more than 20 miles every day. It gave me a great reason to be away for three hours a day. I didn’t intend to lose those 30 pounds, but I don’t miss them.
Holly Fish
Houston, Texas

Getting to the Spinning room by myself―not in class―is what motivates me. I put on my earphones and start listening to music that makes me feel like I’m on the dance floor. I’m sure anyone walking by the windows thinks I’m crazy, rocking out and singing out loud.
Jodi Nylin
Puyallup, Washington

I go to the gym so I can enjoy an uninterrupted shower! I have a three-year-old, so taking a shower without being disturbed is a wonderful thing.
Moira Mitchell
Gurnee, Illinois

Creature Comforts

A 75-pound Doberman named Sabrina. Once, when I overslept and had to take my kids to school instead of taking an early-morning run with her, she opened the closet door and chewed my new running shoes. She has mellowed since then, but I can always count on her to get me moving.
Lesley Fairbanks
North Attleboro, Massachusetts

Unlike a treadmill, my horse, Picasso, has a great personality, and I love to spend time with him. I have a standing lesson once a week and usually manage to ride a few more times. Even grooming him is a great workout. I say he is my gym, therapist, and entertainment all rolled into one.
Nancie Nelson Bartley
Sugar Land, Texas

Team Effort

In January 2004, a friend asked me to run with her. Run? I had never exercised or been remotely athletic. She came to my house at 8:00 three mornings a week and I joined her on the runs, at first out of guilt. Now, at age 55, I’m proud to say that I ran my second half-marathon in March and will run my fifth 10K, the Peachtree Road Race, in July. Who knows how many years I have added to my life, not to mention life to my years.
Rhonda Rogers
Carrollton, Georgia

I started taking karate with my eight-year-old twin boys. It’s a great bonding time for us, and it also makes me stick with an exercise routine, so I can keep up with them in class.
Melanie Drotar
Syracuse, New York

I make my husband exercise with me. I tell him it’s for his own good (he has high blood pressure), and I get the sadistic pleasure of being a drill sergeant to someone else. The happy side effect is that dragging him along motivates me to exercise every morning, and I feel great.
Bernice Cheung
Oakland, California

I find the most popular class at the gym and have my early-bird friend reserve a spot for me. If I know a bike in Spinning class has my name on it and my friend is there waiting for me, it gets me out of bed at 5 a.m.
Julie Dreifaldt
Denver, Colorado