We’ve all been in those ruts before… you know what I’m talking about — no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get your butt to get off of the couch to work out!

Better yet, the thought of cooking a healthy meal is just too daunting — the fast food down the street is a quicker and easier option for dinner, especially with the mental and emotional energy required to just live our lives!

Believe me, it happens to everyone! As a personal trainer and health coach, even I’m guilty of going through periods with no motivation to exercise or eat healthy… And it’s basically my job! However, finding the motivation to take care of yourself doesn’t mean spending hours in the gym or spending your entire Sunday prepping healthy meals. So, how can you make this easier? Check out these ways that you could stay motivated to work out, even when everything else fails!

1. Give yourself a REAL reward

Sorry, I’m not talking about eating an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting after you go for a quick jog. I’m talking about a reward that’s going to actually help you get closer to your goals. After a hard workout, allow yourself to indulge in an episode of your favorite TV show, because your muscles need time to recover. Or, if you’ve consistently exercised for one or two weeks, reward yourself with a 30 minute or hour long massage. After eating a healthy dinner, reward yourself with a hot bath or at-home spa treatment. Remember that no matter how hard you work out, you can never out exercise a bad diet, so try to steer clear of rewards that revolve around junk food.

Motivating yourself with an external reward is extremely powerful because your brain can actually latch onto the idea that you are going to get something immediately in return for your hard work. As exercise becomes a habit over time, your motivation will gradually switch from external rewards to internal gratification. You’ll notice how good your body feels after a healthy meal, and you’ll actually look forward to that feel-good endorphin high that comes at the end of a great workout… But in the meantime you get a reward!

Image courtesy of Unsplash

2. Sign a commitment contract

We can make promises to ourselves all day long, but research shows we are much more likely to exercise and eat healthy when we make commitments to our family and friends. For example, create a contract with your loved ones that states you will cook at least 3 healthy dinners per week. Or, you will exercise at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes each time.

You can even up the ante by paying your family or friends $1 for each time you break the contract. For each time you stay committed to your exercise/health contract, put that $1 in a jar and either use it for your rewards, or donate it to your favorite charity.

3. Make your workouts social!

In today’s world where social media usage is booming, use that to your advantage and share your healthy meals and workouts with your social network. Post on your Facebook page, “I’m running 3 miles tomorrow morning. Does anyone want to join me?” Or, share one of your favorite healthy recipes, and ask your social network to post a copy of their favorite healthy recipe! Better yet, try writing a status post like this:

“Want to help me with my health and fitness journey? Tomorrow morning, I plan on completing 1 squat for every ‘like’ this post gets, and 2 squats for any other reaction! Please help make me work hard!”

You’ll be surprised by how many people jump at the chance to help you out!

By engaging your social network, you’re subconsciously committing to yourself AND to others to actually workout and eat healthy. Plus, you’re looking for a buddies to help hold you accountable. And let’s be honest, being healthy is just more fun when you do it with friends!

4. Always bring your workouts back to WHY.

During the first few weeks of working with my clients, we complete an activity together called the WHY game. Let’a quickly play a round right now!

Ask yourself, “Why do I want to exercise and eat healthy?”

Are you trying to lose weight? Are you hoping to stay active so that you can play with your children? Are you hoping to run a half or full marathon later this year?

Once you have your answer, ask yourself WHY four more times. For example, why do you want to lose weight? Why is it important to you to play with your kids? Or, why do you want to run a full or half marathon?

Each answer should get a little deeper towards your inner drive and motivation. Once you have your last answer (your fifth answer to the question why), THAT is your motivation to workout and eat healthy. This deep, intrinsic driving factor will keep you motivated when everything else fails.

Every time you feel like sitting on the couch instead of working out, or every time you’d rather order pizza than cook a healthy meal, come back to THIS answer. Remind yourself that your goals will be unattainable unless you workout and eat healthy.

Eating healthy, nutritious meals SHOULDN’T revolve around spending hours grocery shopping, meal prepping, and counting calories. If you’re looking for a free resource to help take the stress out of planning healthy meals, click here to grab a copy of the Perfect Meal Planner. This is the exact tool I give to my clients to help them cook healthy yet delicious meals that are perfectly portioned to their individual bodies.

In a similar way, being active DOESN’T mean spending hours in the gym. In terms of exercising, it doesn’t matter what you do, just move! Find something active that you enjoy, and go with it!

Remember it’s normal for motivation to come and go for all of us! If you’re in one of those periods where you feel stuck without any motivation, remember WHY (the deep meaning… not the quick and easy answer) you want to workout and be healthy. Consider signing a commitment contract with others, and allow the people who know and love you to help hold you accountable. Lastly, don’t be afraid to reward yourself and give yourself some credit! Remember results don’t happen overnight, but staying motivated long-term is the key to reaching your goals as safely and quickly as possible!

Originally published at journal.thriveglobal.com