Linda Melone
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How to motivate yourself to exercise when you hate it

I mentioned in last week’s blog that I was going to the doctor for my annual physical. 

Before I go down this rabbit hole, let me acknowledge something in case you’ve also noticed it.

I looked at the opening paragraphs of my recent posts and realized I started out with some medical issue about 90 percent of the time.

From knee pain, arthritis, and hot flashes to osteoporosis and panic attacks, the casual reader would expect the author of these posts to have a reserved cemetery plot and detailed instructions for next-of-kin along with instructions on how to feed her cats.

Such is not the case.

People who meet me in person don’t usually think I have one foot in the grave (at least ,not that they tell me). In fact, from all outward appearances, I look relatively healthy aside from occasional crankiness and an extreme desire not to be bothered by nonsense.

So I just want to clear the air about why I focus on these health issues.

For one, I’ve talked in the past about how I’m an introvert and lead a quiet life. So aside from the latest updates on my love-hate relationship with my right knee, there’s not a lot to talk about. Although I’ve somehow managed to write hundreds of posts regardless.

And I’m good with that. Trust me when I tell you I’ve had more than my share of excitement before age 50. In fact, I could easily use my remaining years to recover from my initial half century of insanity.

Actually, now that I think about my daily tasks, I could get into details about my latest grocery store trips.

That surely makes for riveting content. “The bananas were extra green today, so I didn’t buy any. I know they’re better for you and have more resistant starch, but I’d rather risk high blood sugar from eating an overripe fruit than eat a piece of cardboard encased in a peel.”

Captivated, yet?

On second thought, the possibilities are truly endless. Stay tuned!

But I digress.

My doctor’s appointment.

As I mentioned, this was my annual, so-much-fun checkup. While I waited for the doctor, I watched a video in the exam room about how, “You can now schedule a wellness day! Get all your exams done all at once!”

If this “wellness day” includes a massage, mani-pedi, meditation class, lemon water and a plush terry cloth robe, count me in.

In reality, it’s not even close.

Instead, this day-that-sounds-like-loads-of-fun actually includes an examination of every bodily part you own, including being poked, prodded and otherwise invaded as if you’d been brought aboard an alien spacecraft.

For the record, I’ve never been aboard an alien spacecraft (at least not that I remember), but I’ve heard stories. And none of them sound much different from a “happy wellness day!”

So I’ll pass on that.

Finally my doctor comes into the room.

I get the feeling she talks to a lot of women who are hard of hearing because she tends to talk VERY LOUDLY and stares so intently into my eyes when I talk that I know she’s looking for signs of “something going on” beyond my spoken words.

Note in chart surely reads: “Patient appears uncomfortable and anxious.” Because I am.

There are a couple of reasons.

One, I know the agenda involves the giant metal shoe horn sitting on the table next to her.

Secondly, I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time talking to someone when, out of three people in the room, I’m the only one wearing a paper gown with nothing underneath.

Maybe that’s just me.

After the exam, she asks me what I’ve been doing (she knows about my Ageless After 50 business), and I tell her I appear to be striking a cord because over 13,000 women now subscribe to this zany newsletter.

She then says the same thing every year: “I need to tell my patients about you! They all tell me they can’t lose weight, but I see women in their 50s, 60s and even 70s lose weight when they put their mind to it.”

Yup. Preaching to the choir.

She follows that up with the same question every year: “How can I get these women to exercise? They want me to give them some sort of magic pill or something. What can I tell them?”

That, my friend, is the topic of today’s post.

Here’s what I told her, my BEST tips to get going when you truly would rather hang glide naked over the Grand Canyon during tourist season then do a single movement resembling any form of exercise.

First, let me tell you what DOESN’T WORK. This is based on my nearly 20 years in the business, and backed by studies. But you seriously don’t need a study to know the truth behind these.

Paying for it

A common misconception. Just because you open your wallet is no guarantee you’ll follow through on the paid program or plan. I can’t tell you how many times people hired me to show up at their home to work out and either be unprepared, still asleep, or whining and complaining for the entire hour.

In addition, gyms count on people signing up and then never showing up. Lastly, think of how many pieces of fitness equipment and infomercial fitness toys you’ve bought, used once and tossed in the garage.

Health fears

Sure, the thought of an early death due to inactivity works for some people, but the concept isn’t tangible enough to motivate the majority. The only way this works is if it were presented like an action drama movie, where, instead of an entire bus exploding if it stopped moving, YOU exploded if you stopped moving.

Otherwise, the thought of living a few extra years isn’t enough to get most people to hit the gym when it’s easier to sit on the couch eating ice cream with a soup spoon.

Weight loss goals

If you hang your hat on exercise as a way to lose weight, you’ll get discouraged and quit before you see results. Why? Because 99% of the time it’s your diet that’s packing on the pounds, not your lack of activity — although yes, the two combined make the worst case scenario.

Using weight loss as a motivator may help initially, but if it’s your only incentive you’re likely to quit because it takes time. Waiting for long-term results can be discouraging unless you find another reason to keep going.

Other people pushing you

Motivation must come from within yourself. It can’t be handed to you on a platter. Being told, embarrassed or bullied into exercising never works. In fact, this backfires more than anything. I’ve seen it time and again with clients who buy their loved one a gift certificate of sessions with me.

It’s never, ever, a welcome gift (and makes for a less-than-fun workout, believe me) and has not once inspired a person to pick up the ball and run with it.

In fact, it usually pushes the person further away from exercise because now they’re not only out of shape, but upset their partner has made it loud and clear they want them to do something about it. Ouch.

Okay, enough bad news!

So here’s what really works…

1. Add fun

I’m not talking about fun as in “find something fun to do,” although if you can, go for it. Exercise isn’t always fun, even for the highly motivated.

Instead, create a fun event within or surrounding the exercise or activity. 

Examples may be:

  • Listen to your favorite music ONLY when you go for your walk or workout. Better yet, download a bunch of new music but do not listen to it until you get your heart pumping; if you’re home working out and near a TV, only watch certain shows during your workout so you associate your favorite show with your workout
  • Meet a friend for coffee — or grab coffee by yourself — after your workout as a reward
  • Buy colorful and interesting workout equipment you enjoy using
  • Download online classes with beautiful scenery. I used to “ride along” with an Australian bike group and prop up my iPad on the console of my bike and follow them along on YouTube. I loved knowing I could never keep up in real life with these athletes, but I could on their video.

2. Get an accountability partner

Make a pact with a friend or coworker to hold you accountable to your workouts. The best case scenario is you do the same for them if you find someone willing to do it. Agree to check in with them — or meet them at your yoga class — after your class.

The key: set up a regular, weekly, check-in time and stick to it.

You can, of course, join a number of different online sites as well, but it’s easier to bail on a Facebook group than it is to ignore a friend you see regularly.

3. Gamify it

I’ve done this for different goals, and it works amazingly well. It sounds childish, but give yourself a gold star (or other icon) on your calendar in some form for every goal you set for yourself. Post a red star for eating clean, for example, a different colored star for cardio and another for weight training.

You will be surprised at how motivating it is to see those stars pile up.

4. Do it for someone else

Raising money for a cause can’t be beat. I did this years ago and raised money for a client of mine who has multiple sclerosis. The best feeling in the world was completing those 25 miles (I had just started biking) and calling her to tell her “I did it!” And raising $1,200 in the process for the cause.

Any worthy cause motivates beyond belief.

5. Make it easy peasy

You’re more likely to work out when it’s easy to do. Put out your workout clothes the night before and set up reminders around the house to stay active. Park a fitness ball near the couch along with a couple pieces of fitness tubing so you’re reminded to get moving while you watch TV (I’d say “during commercials” but who isn’t recording everything nowadays?) and your walking shoes near the door in the kitchen to inspire you to take a walk after dinner, etc.

One last note… regardless of what works for you initially, at some point you will have to grab that motivation baton and cross the line yourself.

Think of showering, brushing your teeth and other practices you do automatically. Do you need to give yourself a pep talk in the mirror before flossing? Do you need to make a list of pros and cons before getting in the shower?

Hopefully, no.

My point is this: Once you create a habit, and practice it regularly and consistently, it eventually becomes a part of your life that you do without thinking about it.

That’s the goal.

NOW YOU… Which one of these may work for you? Let me know down below — and please forward this to your friends who may find it helpful.

Other posts you may enjoy:

3 ways to level-up your results

How to find hidden clues to unlock weight loss

How to create a minimalist workout plan

Got questions? Drop me a line at!

Your Ageless Body Coach,


About the Author Linda Melone

Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.

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Leave a Comment:

Denise says

I’ve always been a hiker and cross country skiier, but the thing that really pushed me into making exercise a (mostly) daily habit was having a bone density scan at age 50 and discovering, to my and my doctor’s surprise, I was already at moderate fracture risk level. Nothing like a big scare to motivate you. Family medical history is a pretty strong motivator as well: don’t want some of the things that happened to my parents happening to me!

    Linda Melone says

    Yes, a health care does motivate some people — but not everyone. Good for you for taking action steps!

Denise says

Sorry, should have added: do it often enough, and regularly enough, and it becomes a habit and you miss it when you don’t exercise. Same with eating: eat healthy and you won’t enjoy NOT eating healthy.

    Linda Melone says

    So true, Denise! You’ll know you’re “hooked” on exercise when it takes more self-discipline to take a day off than to exercise. 🙂

Denise says

Last one i promise. Going to the gym and being able to smash out more push ups and chin ups than some of the bicep boys a third of my age (I’m the same age as you, Linda) is really cool, too! True story!

Donna says

Yes, the fun factor can be key to staying with it. That’s why I am a big advocate of dance for aerobic activity. I must also say vanity is a factor for me as I want to be able to look good in a sleeveless top and show the world that 59 doesn’t have to look decrepit!

    Linda Melone says

    Dance is a great exercise, Donna! And definitely “NO” to looking decrepit at any age. 🙂

Pat Smith says

Thank you for this post Linda. It reminded me, now that I am back to exercising, that when I started my first squat & plank challenge a few years ago that I set my computer and mat up the night before so while my coffee was brewing I started my squats and planks. I realized then that if I didn’t exercise first thing in the morning I didn’t do the challenge that day. So now that I am easing back into exercising I will set things up in the evening as a reminder.

    Linda Melone says

    Great idea, Pat!

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