February 12, 2021

10 tips for staying motivated during the pandemic

A photo of a brightly-colored sign that reads: Make this day great!

By Recreation fitness manager Jeff Palmer

A photo of fitness manager Jeff Palmer

Jeff Palmer

Not motivated to exercise as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on? You’re not alone! Most of us are having trouble sticking with healthy habits right now. There’s less structure in our lives as in-person classes, work, and social events are cancelled or move online. And many of us are facing additional stress and anxiety due to social isolation, financial worries, or family/personal health concerns. All of this makes it hard to stay motivated.

Below you’ll find a list of tips to help you achieve your personal best. None of these tips are rocket science, but they serve as a great reminder of how to cope — and thrive — during these challenging times. See how many you can incorporate into your lifestyle!

  1. Start your day with a plan or schedule. You’re more likely to exercise when it’s integrated into your everyday life, so you don’t have to think about it. Has your routine been disrupted during the pandemic? Take some time to thoughtfully create a new one.
  2. Squeeze in shorter bouts of activity. Exercise doesn’t have to be long or grueling to be effective. We now understand that short bursts of exercise are beneficial, and often serve as motivation to exercise more. If you have a busy day, schedule in two ten or fifteen-minute workouts. Or make it a habit to do a round of push-ups while you wait for your chance to speak during that Zoom meeting! Look for other similar opportunities and turn them into habits!
  3. Practice healthy and mindful eating. We all know that the food we put in our bodies influences how we feel – it keeps energy levels high, boosts the immune system, and enhances mood. Now might be a good time to meet with UW Recreation’s peer nutritionist (RDN) who will help develop a nutrition plan based on your needs and lifestyle. She’s also available for ongoing nutrition counseling and support. UW Rec’s own RDN specializes in the challenges facing college students in their quest for healthy eating and embraces a Health at Every Size-informed approach to nutrition counseling. (To sign up for customized nutrition services, go to UW Recreation’s Peer Nutrition Program,)
  4. Be “social”. Studies show that having a fitness buddy makes you more likely to exercise consistently. Go for a bike ride with a friend or make a regular date to chat on the phone while each of you walks around your neighborhood. Want to meet new friends? UW Recreation is currently offering personal training (in-person for students and virtual for all) and group classes which can be done in-person or remotely so Huskies can work out together.
  5. Notice how good exercise makes you feel. You’re much more likely to exercise regularly when you take a moment afterwards to focus on how good you feel. Observe how your energy has increased, pay attention to that feeling of accomplishment, and notice how your feelings of stress have dissipated. Remembering the positive impact that exercise has on you will motivate you to work out again tomorrow — and the next day, too!
  6. Get enough sleep. Let’s face it, no one wants to exercise when they’re sleepy or exhausted. So get sufficient rest. We know your mother already told you that. Turns out, she was right!
  7. Relax and recharge. Everyone needs some down time. Solitude, massage, a comedy podcast, a video game, or just doing nothing – what works for you? Now might be a good time to learn some new relaxation techniques: mindfulness, yoga, and meditation classes are offered through UW Recreation. Try one or all with our Rec Class Pass!
  8. Reward yourself. Give yourself small rewards when you accomplish a task or goal – watch 10 minutes of cat videos after you finish that workout! Having something to look forward to makes it easier to stick to your exercise plan when you’re feeling a lack of motivation (or when you’re simply too tired to get started).
  9. Prioritize your mental health. Are you down, anxious, or depressed more than occasionally?  This can interfere with your motivation to exercise. UW’s Counseling Center offers students virtual counseling sessions and can link students to available resources 24/7.
  10. Be okay when you falter. Some days are like that.  There’s no value in beating yourself up because you didn’t adhere to your exercise plan – no one’s perfect.  Just remind yourself of how good you feel when you do exercise, and re-commit to your next exercise session.

COVID-19 has forced everyone to make changes – like it or not. Staying motivated can be tricky, but you can make it easier for yourself by creating a realistic schedule and taking time to care for yourself. Though this pandemic feels endless, it will eventually come to an end. The motivation tips that you adopt now can lead to positive change for the rest of your life!