17 Gym Hacks to Make Your Workout Less of a Chore

Updated: Apr. 13, 2021

For those days when you need extra exercise motivation, these tricks help you push yourself harder.

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Work out midafternoon

Typically, the slowest gym hours are in the middle of the day, making it the ideal time to squeeze in a workout. You can probably hop on any machine without a wait, helping you finish your routine sooner. Plus, with less people crowding the locker room you might feel less self-conscious. Check out these secrets gyms won’t tell you.

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Keep the TV off

Tuning into your favorite show can distract you from how hard your workout is and make the time go by faster. But on the flip side, paying less attention to the effort you’re putting in could make you put less energy into your exercise. Women work out about 5 percent harder when they don’t have the TV on than when they do, according to research. As you get wrapped up in your show, you could start to lose your form or slow down your pace on a treadmill or stationary bike. If you can’t escape the screens in your gym, pick a spot in front of a TV tuned to a channel you don’t care about. Even if your eyes glance to the show, you’ll be less likely to get distracted from your technique.

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Set a short-term workout goal

Long-term goals are great inspiration, but until you’ve reached the results you want, you might get discouraged. Keep your motivation up by setting daily goals for yourself. Promise yourself you’ll keep your heart rate up for 20 minutes, or run two miles on the treadmill without stopping. You’ll start your workout with a specific focus to stay driven.

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Stay away from mirrors

Many exercise facilities have mirrors on the wall so gym-goers can watch their form. But women who work out in front of mirrors for 30 minutes feel more tired and less calm than those who aren’t watching their reflections, according to a small study. Some gyms intentionally design their workout spaces without mirrors so that exercisers can concentrate on their workout and each other instead of their appearance. Find an area without mirrors if you can, or ask the fitness center manager to consider offering “reflection-free” zones.

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Change up your routine regularly

Sticking with the same exercise plan for too long can get your body and mind too comfortable. Every three or four weeks, mix up your routine to improve your results and prevent boredom. Normally hit the elliptical? Give the stair stepper a try. Or switch from a Pilates class to kickboxing or aerobic dance. If you prefer to keep the same moves in the weight room, change up the weights and number of reps you do. Try switching from two sets of 15 reps to one set of 15 followed by a set of 8 with heavier weights.

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Take it slow

Exercisers who lift weights for 14 seconds per repetition gain more strength than those who take seven seconds per rep, found a study at a YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts. Bringing your arm up slowly keeps you from relying on the momentum from a quick lift and encourages you to keep your form in check, which could explain why it helps build strength.

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Build a workout playlist

The right playlist could help you get the most out of your workout. Gym-goers who listened to up-tempo music while on a stationary bike boosted their heart rates more and pedaled faster, working 5 to 15 percent harder overall than those who listened to slow tunes or non-music sounds, found a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse study. Listen to whatever genre will pump you up most, but try sticking with songs with fast beats that make you want to dance. This is what your favorite music says about your personality.

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Hydrate before you get to the gym

Trying to work out while dehydrated could hold you back big time. Without enough water in your system, you can’t work or think as hard, and you won’t feel good. Grab a bottle of water or juice on your way to the gym to prime your body for a sweat session. Click here to find out sneaky signs you might be dehydrated.

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Think positively

Don’t let your own negative thoughts hold you back. In one small study of 55- to 92-year-olds, those who practiced positive thinking while exercising were more likely to stay active than those who told themselves they couldn’t do it. If that little voice in your head starts to put you down, imagine yourself locking those negative thoughts in a cabinet and tell yourself “Bring it on” or “I feel great” instead. Keeping optimistic will motivate you to keep your levels going. Read this for more advice on staying positive.

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Find a gym buddy

Bringing a friend to the gym will get you out the door when you’re tempted to skip a workout. You and your friend can push each other to work out harder, and having moral support could encourage you to try out new equipment if you’re afraid you won’t use it right. Plus, gabbing while you hit the treadmill will make the time fly.

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Get help from a trainer

If you’ve hit a rut in your routine, turn to a professional for a revamped workout. Even if it’s just for one session, a trainer can introduce you to new moves and push you to power harder through your exercises.

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Compete with the person next to you

Your treadmill neighbor doesn’t have to know the two of you are racing, but you can silently tap into your competitive spirit. Increase your speed to match or exceed the person next to you and pretend you’re trying to catch your fellow gym-goer. You’ll push yourself harder than ever.

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Pay attention to how your muscles feel

Staying focused on your form could help you fatigue your muscles faster. Instead of letting your mind wander off, pay attention to how the muscle feels as it contracts. Paying close attention to every movement will help wear your muscles out sooner and get the most out of your workout. Here’s how to treat the most common forms of muscle pain.

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Pick the right shoes

While your clothing choice might not make a ton of difference to your performance, picking the right shoes is crucial. Wearing old sneakers or ones not designed for your type of exercise could make your workout feel harder and put you at risk for injury. Stick with hard-bottomed cycling shoes for spinning, running shoes for running, and walking shoes for walking.

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Try aromatherapy

Smelling rosemary can boost energy during cardio, while lavender can relax you in a yoga or Pilates session. Mix aromatherapy oil with water in a squirt bottle and then spritz the mixture on your clothes before starting your workout so you breathe in the scent as you exercise. Learn more about the benefits of aromatherapy here.

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Think of someone who annoys you

Channel your aggression against an irritating person into your workout to help you power through your routine, and release stress and anger. Picturing yourself racing against that person could help keep you motivated on the treadmill, stationary bike or elliptical. Here are more ways to control anger and calm down.

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Get inspired with a movie

If you really can’t bring yourself to work out, recharge your motivation with an inspiring film. Watching a hardworking hero in a movie like Rocky could encourage you to hit your next workout with that same intensity.

Originally Published in Stealth Health