How Do You Stay Motivated For Fitness?

I was wrong. I didn’t realize it at first, but it hit me hard later.

I was recently listening to a podcast about money. The hosts talked about how people spend hundreds of dollars every month on personal trainers and that shows how much they are willing to pay for motivation.

I heard that and my first thought was, “I’m so glad I don’t need that.” I have never used a personal trainer and probably never will. I also don’t belong to a gym and have never attended a fitness class.

I simply don’t need external motivation for fitness.

That last sentence really needs a “smugly above it” font, but I couldn’t find any. My second thought was this would be an interesting topic for a blog post…how some people (not me) need external motivation and are willing to pay lots of money for it. So, I kept thinking about it. That’s when my third thought arrived.

To be clear…everyone pursuing fitness starts with an internal motivation. Even if it’s triggered by an external circumstance, or even comment, the motivation to begin comes from within. My Deep Why is that I want to age well. You can read more about why that’s important to me HERE.

The question today is how do you STAY MOTIVATED? In other words, I don’t wake up thinking about aging well. That’s not what provides the motivational fuel in the moment as I’m striving to reach my daily goal of 20,000 steps.

I have a friend who is losing a lot of weight. His Deep Why is all about his long-term health so he can be the best dad possible for a long time. But, one of the ways he stays motivated daily is his desire to ride roller coasters. Before he started losing weight he was too big for roller coasters. The desire to change that helped him stay motivated in the moment. And, it’s working. Steve has lost over 170 pounds and is enjoying amusement parks like never before.

And, that is where I was wrong. ABSOLUTELY WRONG about myself. I may not need a personal trainer, but I do need external motivation every single day to keep my fitness journey going and strong.

We all need something to help us stay motivated to do hard things. Losing weight is hard. Getting out of debt is hard. Pursuing fitness is hard.

And, while my Deep Why may not change from day to day, what helps me STAY motivated in the moment does. And, if any of these can help you, please grab and go!


Without question, this has been my BIGGEST daily motivation. Getting my first Fitbit device in 2013 was a real game-changer. It took my Deep Why of aging well and put teeth into it. Aging well is a great goal, but without the Fitbit it was simply too abstract.

All the ways I stay motivation are now rooted in tracking my daily step goals on my Fitbit. Over the years I’ve had a bunch of different goals and have gradually increased to my current target of 20,000 steps a day.

Nothing has moved me closer to fitness than making walking my foundational activity. And, nothing has made that part of my lifestyle than having a Fitbit on my wrist or in my pocket.

I currently use the Fitbit Inspire HR and it is my favorite Fitbit. I started with the Zip and then graduated to the Blaze. I added the Flex2 and now use the Inspire HR unless I’m doing work outside or in a situation where my device could get wet. That’s when I switch to the Flex2, which is waterproof.

In some ways, having a Fitbit is my version of belonging to a gym. It brings intentionality to my walking and adjusting my goals allows me to increase intensity anytime I want.

Facebook and Instagram

On September 1, 2018 I began a 20k One Year Step Challenge. My goal is at least 20,000 steps every day for a year with no breaks. I’m doing this for a couple different reasons. I wanted to challenge myself to something hard. I’d already been averaging more 20k a day for awhile, but hadn’t strung together a full year of reaching that goal without a break.

I also want to inspire others to embrace walking as a great fitness activity. I don’t expect, nor want, others to think they have to have the same goal, but to set their own goal and pursue fitness through walking with more intentionality.

When I began the challenge I promised I would provide a daily update on Facebook, Instagram and this blog. I knew that would also add in a layer of accountability. If I had kept the challenge to myself, it would have been much easier to miss a day when it gets hard.

And, there have been some hard days that might not have ended with 20,000 on my Fitbit without the daily post expected the next day. There’s something incredibly motivating when others are also invested in your fitness journey.

Yeah…accountability can really help you stay motivated.


A couple years ago, I learned about StepBet. This is a game that challenges you to reach a custom goal every day. You pay between $20-$60 to join each multi-week game. If you fall short of your goal you lose the money you paid. If you reach your ever day for the duration you get your money back…PLUS a cut of the money from others who didn’t make the finish line. I know…that sounds a little savage, but everybody understands the rules going in so it’s not as brutal as it may feel.

To be clear…I never made a lot of money doing this. Most of the $40 games (6 weeks long) I did had me getting about $50 back at the end. I did a few $60 games (8 weeks long) that saw a return of $90. That “profit” of $30 worked out to about $4.50 a week.

Here’s the thing…the motivation was NEVER about the extra money I got at the end, but the real motivation was in NOT LOSING MY MONEY.

StepBet was incredibly motivational for me for a couple years. I stopped doing it last year because the goals StepBet sets for you keep getting higher for each new game. After awhile, they got too high for me and it was not worth the time commitment to reach those new goals.

FitBit Groups

The Fitbit website allows you to join a group and compete against others. Unlike StepBet there’s no money involved in this. It costs nothing to join and you don’t win anything (except bragging rights) if you get more steps than anyone else that month.

Fitbit makes this group competition very easy. You simply find a group and join. It costs nothing and you immediately start showing up on the leader board. There are probably thousands that are organized by different categories.

I currently belong to three different groups, but it was the first group I joined that made the Fitbit really work as motivation for me. This group was started by my employer. It’s a closed group for my work colleagues only. There are prizes involved. We can win extra vacation days as well as extra contributions to our Health Savings Accounts if we reach certain goals over the course of a year.

Because I know these people (and most of them are younger than me) I like to be number one each month. This was a HUGE motivator for me when I got my first Fitbit. In fact, my employer gave us a FitBit as an incentive to join the group and move towards more fitness.

There was something incredibly motivating about this competition that truly jump-started my pursuit of fitness. I’ll be forever grateful to my bosses who made this happen. It was life-changing.

You can find a group under the Community tab. Most groups have names that indicate the common denominator, like “10,000 Steps a Day”. There are thousands in this group. It also doesn’t cost anything to join. You can probably find several groups that would be a perfect fit for you and your situation.

UPDATE-Fitbit has closed the groups. See comment below. This is very disappointing since these were a HUGE opportunity for Fitbit users to remain fitness motivated.

Personal Challenges

Several years ago I set a challenge for myself to reach 1,000,000 steps in a single month. That meant I had to average about 33,000 steps a day for an entire month. It was incredibly hard which is the reason I did it. I wanted to see if I could something hard that I could escape at any time.

I only told one person, my wife, I was doing this and when I reached the end of the month with more than 1,000,000 steps I didn’t tell anybody other than Ava. It was a pure personal challenge.

I’ve done other personal challenges since I got my first Fitbit, but none as big as that one. And, this is probably why I had that first reaction while listening to the podcast. It’s why I felt that I don’t need external motivation. After all, that 1,000,000 steps in a month was about as internal a motivator as there is. I don’t NEED external motivation.

But, I actually did.

Reaching at least 33,000 on my Fitbit each of those days was the motivation that fueled the challenge. I also watched my month total climb on the FitBit group I belonged to. Seeing that number every day was incredibly motivating. It was also external. If I didn’t have that daily tracking mechanism I would not have done the challenge. I would not have had motivation to keep me going every day.

There’s something incredibly motivating to keep track of your progress as you are moving towards a goal. Each day I reached my goal was a WIN. I wanted and needed the external evidence of that victory.

I’ve created a Win Tracker to help you stay motivated for your own personal challenge. It’s completely free and you can grab your copy right now.


Momentum is a great way to stay motivated. It often takes awhile to see and feel the results of fitness, but once you do it’s hard to stop. Nothing breeds success like success itself, someone once said and it’s true.

I may not need a personal trainer, but I still need external motivators every day to reach my fitness goals.

You probably do too.

If you struggle with motivation to stick with fitness this blog will help. Don’t be intimidated by the title. That’s my goal…not yours. But, my bigger goal is to help you start a fitness journey that doesn’t stop and builds momentum. If you click FOLLOW (below on your phone and to the right and above on your computer) you’ll get an email with a link to each motivating article the moment it’s published.




  1. I enjoy reading your blog. I am on day 31 of my 90 day challenge to myself to hit 20K steps a day . I have been a loyal Fitbit user. I use mine until they die. I was in an activity group on Fitbit that did exactly as you described. We were a group of people that mainly did not know each other and competed against each other. We could see that Joe was only 600 steps in front of me so I better head out for another lap around the park. You may not be aware that Fitbit shut that down mid-month with no warning and no way for us to recreate the group. In order to set up new groups – they are all private – you must KNOW a person in the group and be accepted into the group. There are 25 pages of requests to have the activity groups reactivated, because as you say, people want the motivation. I am trying another site that isn’t quite the same, but am hopeful. Thank you for your hard work. (And I bought my husband the AfterShokz you suggested).

    • Hi Erika. I did not know that Fitbit shut down the public groups. That’s very disappointing. Thanks for reading the blog and for your encouragement. AND…way to go on your 90 Day 20k Challenge. That’s awesome!

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