As awesome as a great workout can feel, it’s hard to magic up the motivation to make it happen some days. But new research suggests you should power through, even if you’re not 100 percent feeling it.
Even “forced” exercise can help protect against anxiety and stress, according to a study from the University of Colorado at Boulder. So essentially, dragging yourself to the gym is just as beneficial to your Zen levels as going voluntarily. “Sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet and push yourself to work out, even if you’re feeling less than inspired,” says Wendy Larkin, master trainer at Crunch San Francisco. “I have to force myself to go on a run every Sunday, but after I do, I feel better, my mood is better and I sleep better.”
Need a little help getting off the couch? These tactics can keep you strong the next time you get the urge to bail.
Schedule sessions with a trainer
If this seems like a duh, that’s because it is. Think about it: You commit a) weeks in advance to b) actual appointments where c) someone will be expecting you, so you basically have to show. Plus, you’ll still get charged if you back out. “Go in on a regular sessions with a few friends, and make it a regular thing,” suggests Larkin. “You’ll get the same workout, but you can divvy up the cost.” That, and sweating it out with your crew sounds way better than going at it solo.
Start a work-buddy system
Larkin says she sees it all the time: People plan to get their sweat on after work, but then talk themselves out of it by 5 p.m. With crazy deadlines, last-minute meetings and the like, your workplace is booby-trapped with gym-bailing temptations—so you need allies to stay strong. “Find a few people in the office with similar fitness goals, and make a pact to keep tabs on each other,” says Larkin. Tell them to make sure you leave at X time so you make your workout—and vice-versa. Then follow up to keep each other accountable.
Splurge on foxy workout gear
Like a good LBD on a night out, gym gear that plays up your assets can give your mojo a serious boost and make you want to put it to good use. “When you look and feel good, you have a little more pep in your step, and the reasons you didn’t feel like going to the gym earlier will fade,” says Larkin. Plus, paying top dollar for super flattering workout clothes definitely makes you want to get your money’s worth.
Establish a gym family
Introduce yourself to your fitness instructor before class, and take a few minutes to chat it up with people you recognize as regulars. As people get to know you, they’ll be more likely to learn your capabilities, push you if they see you slacking off, and call you out when you skip a week, Larkin says. You’ll also feel more compelled to show up at the gym if you know you’ll be expected.
Leave important things in your gym locker
If you accidentally-on-purpose forget to bring your hairdryer and make-up bag home after a gym sesh, you’ll be forced to go back the next day to get ready. “Half the challenge is getting in the door, so the more reasons you give yourself to stop by, the better,” Larkin says.
Get a vacation on the books ASAP
Beach season is so close, you can practically smell the sunscreen already. “Most people rev up their workout routines right before taking a big trip, so wherever you’re going this summer, get your reservations nailed down as soon as you can,” says Larkin. Not only will thinking of your trip give you that extra push you need to get through a tough workout, but it also gives you a deadline you can’t cheat. Nothing is more motivating than having to show off your bikini body in, oh, 35 days.
*This story was originally published on WomensHealth.com.