How to Stay Motivated During Your Fitness Routine

Senior airman works out at Eglin Air Force Base.
Senior Airman Terrence Ruffin strains for an extra rep on a weight machine at the fitness center on Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. In November, he became the youngest professional bodybuilder on the circuit at age 21. (Samuel King Jr./U.S. Air Force photo)

Everyone has heard the familiar phrase: "Never give up." But pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone is not as easy as repeating this mantra.

Remember Cmdr. James Lawrence’s dying words aboard the USS Chesapeake during a losing battle near Boston in the War of 1812: “Do not give up the ship.“  Oliver Hazard Perry had those same words inscribed on his battle flag during his battles with the British in Lake Erie.

The term “Never give up” is etched in history, with countless leaders and champions using the phrase to inspire others to keep going, even when times are tough, danger and failure are surrounding you, and you are tired and want to stop. Finding the fuel to keep going is possible, and you can build this skill through practice, persistence and a willingness to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

The following is a list of ways to challenge yourself mentally and physically through positive self-talk to “never give up” on yourself, others, a goal or dream:

Eventually discipline: If you consider what it takes to accomplish a goal, it requires an internal motivational dialogue that gets you going. The motivation evolves into disciplined effort through consistently being focused on that end goal daily. When motivation is lagging, discipline will get you through.  As Rocky Balboa says, “Every champion was once a contender who refused to give up." (See Motivation Evolves into Discipline)

Every goal requires habits: You typically will find that to accomplish a task or long-term goal, you have to have built a few positive habits. The above motivation and discipline are needed, sure, but also focus, time management and organizational skills throughout the process. 

However, there also may be some habits you have to drop. Time-consuming things that impede your chances of achieving a goal is a no-brainer; these “fun” habits can be detrimental to success. Sometimes sacrificing much of the “fun” that we have in life has to be done for the short term in order to take a goal to a certain level of accomplishment. Success usually is driven by two habits: One we start and one we drop. Check out Drinking Alcohol and Advanced Physical Training as we discuss certain habits.

Believe in yourself and avoid negative influences: That is, unless you are motivated by proving people wrong. Sharing your dreams with people can be a double-edged sword.

There are hopefully many in your life who will support you on this journey. However, there will be people who do not share your goals, dreams or ability and will doubt you from the beginning. Proving these people wrong has been a source of undying inspiration for many who have succeeded.

Having someone in your corner is always nice, though. Find a mentor and learn how to prepare for the journey ahead.  But regardless, you cannot give up on yourself -- ever. “A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.” -- Nelson Mandela

There is no guaranteed path to success: Finding a pathway to reach your goals that fits your capabilities and timeline can be challenging. There are countless ways to prepare yourself for the journey of goal achievement, and many will work for you.

Just because one pathway did not work does not mean that another path will not get you to the same destination. However, a never-quit attitude, motivation, discipline and acquiring the skill set to reach your goal will get you there. If there is not a path, make your own. In the end, “it is hard to beat a person who never gives up.” -- Babe Ruth

Failing is learning: Never giving up on your dream often  requires you to climb several obstacles, decide which fork in the road to take and even close a chapter of the journey to begin a new direction. These little failures or challenges are learning experiences that will make you stronger and a better thinker when the next obstacle arises.  As Henry Ford said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

Never giving up has everything to do with failure. We are human and will fail, and successes will be thrown in there if we keep moving forward. “Never let success go to your head, and never let failure go to your heart.” Anonymous

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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