Fitness motivation and how to motivate yourself to walk

Staying motivated to walk every day is the key to getting healthy and losing weight walking. Even if walking becomes your daily habit, your motivation to walk can drop over time. That’s why it’s critical to remember why you’re walking, picture your health and fitness goals and celebrate your progress over time. With your head in the right place, even if life gets in the way for a day or a week you’ll be itching to get back out and hit the pavement.

Here are 5 ways to keep motivated to walk, from discovering your “why” for walking to understanding health is more than your step number.

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The key to fitness (and walking) motivation

Smiling woman power walking for fitness
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Every serious walker will find their motivation to walk drops off from time to time. While it can sometimes be hard to come up with a reason why you should walk, it’s never hard to come up with a reason why you should get healthy.

Remember your “why?”

Every person who walks for fitness has done so for a reason, and that reason is almost certainly not to get 10,000 steps for the sake of hitting that number. Your “why” for walking could be to lose weight, get more energy and stamina, stay active, see some great sights, or any number of other reasons. Try to keep that underlying reason front and center and you’ll be motivated to keep walking even through difficult times.

Once you get a general “why,” like “get healthier,” drill down and find some concrete, narrow goals or reasons to walk. “Get healthier” could mean lowering your blood pressure, not feeling tired walking to the store, or losing a bit of weight to ease pressure on your joints. The more specific your motivator, the better you can track progress over time and the easier it will be to picture what success looks like. A narrow goal like “keep up with my grandkids” is harder to make excuses for than a more nebulous goal like “get more stamina.”

Internal motivation is usually more reliable than external motivation. Doing something for yourself (or for others) is a better motivator than doing something to get validation from other people. Weight loss is a great walking goal, but losing weight so that you can feel better and be there for your family is always going to be more stable than losing weight so that you’ll get compliments from friends. Take some quiet time and reflect on why you started walking and what you feel you get from it. If you’re a serious walker, you’ll find a spark that will keep you motivated – as long as you nurture it and keep in top of mind.

Celebrate your progress

Man celebrating from hitting his exercise goals
Dean Drobot / Shutterstock

While it may seem strange to celebrate life’s little accomplishments (like getting your steps), giving yourself at least a pat on the back will help keep you motivated to keep walking. There’s a tendency for people to move from step goal to step goal, without taking the time to congratulate themselves for what they’ve achieved. If you hit a new step goal, make sure to take in that win before you start progressing to a new goal.

If you’re feeling down about walking, take a look at how your steps have gone over time. Of course this is easier with an app like Pacer where you can easily view your historical steps. Chances are, you’ve come a long way since you started. Even if you find 10,000 steps (or some other goal) a bit too far for now, get some perspective by looking at how you’ve done over time.

If you’ve hit a major goal, like 10,000 steps or if you’ve hit your step goal every day for a month, consider giving yourself a small gift as a reward. Ideally, pick something that’s at least neutral for your health (going to an all-you-can-eat buffet is probably not the best way to celebrate hours and hours of walking). You’ll get even more mileage (literally) by choosing something fitness related, like a new pair of walking shoes or a pair of walking poles.

Don’t stress the day to day

Woman checking phone during walk in park
Ekateryna Zubal / Shutterstock

While tracking your daily steps is important, how you do on any particular day is much less important than how you do over time. If you focus too much on each day’s step number, you’ll lose track of how you’re doing over time. Your daily average is just that – an average! Some days you’ll get more and some days you’ll get less. By keeping your eyes on the big picture, you’ll keep motivated to walk more overall.

If you have an off day and end up with way fewer steps than expected, don’t sweat it! Work to hit your goal tomorrow. No matter how focused you are on walking, life, family, work and other factors should come first. Likewise, if you have a huge step day you shouldn’t necessarily increase your step goal right away.

By looking at the big picture, you won’t be discouraged by occasional bad days and you’ll also be motivated by the progress you’re making over time. If you are trying to increase your daily steps, you should be increasing them gradually over time. The long-term trend of increasing steps shows you how far you’ve come and how far you need to go.

Health is more than a number

Woman Nordic Walking near the ocean
Jacek Chabraszewski / Shutterstock

Your step goal is a motivational tool to help ensure you’re staying active and walking more, but your health is more than that number. Make sure to tie that 10,000 steps (or whatever your step goal is) to the health benefits you’re getting from walking. Hitting the same number over and over can feel like a chore, but feeling happy, energetic, and active never gets tired.

Also remember that there are more things you can do to improve your health than just walking. Eating better is probably more important than walking when looking to lose weight, and strength training and other forms of exercise have great benefits as well. That doesn’t mean stop getting your steps, but realize that even if your steps are not as high as you’d like you can still get healthier in many other ways.

If you have physical limitations, an injury, or if you’re older it simply may not be possible or desirable to get extreme numbers of steps. Getting even slightly more active can have huge impacts on your health, however. Focusing on those benefits will help keep you active, even if your number isn’t where you’d like it to be. If you’re not happy with your step number, or if you feel yourself comparing your steps to others, focus on how great you’re feeling instead.

It’s ok to take a day off!

Woman doing yoga at home - rest day concept
fizkes / Shutterstock

Sometimes, the best way to stay motivated to walk is to not walk at all! Rest days are important for your body to heal and recover, but sometimes the issue is mental burnout instead of physical pain. If you really can’t be bothered to walk, take a set amount of time off and don’t even think about your step number. It’s a good idea to decide the length of time in advance, and give yourself a reminder when the time is up. It could be a day, or it could be several days or a week.

When you’ve finished your walking “vacation,” look back at your steps. See how you did, and how you felt. Try to come up with some insights about how your time away made you feel. You may find you miss walking, or that you were more active than you thought without even trying. Use what you learned to modify your daily walking schedule, and see if that helps you past your motivation plateau.

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