After a long, tiring day of classes and homework, I bet the last thing on your mind is exercise, and the last place you want to be is your college’s gym. It may seem like more of a hassle than a reward to get yourself there, but trust me: working out can pay off in the long run, and there are ways to make it (actually) enjoyable. Can’t make yourself go, or need a boost of motivation this semester? Check out these expert-approved strategies for how to make workouts fun.
1. Upgrade your workout gear
Just like buying new clothes can help you get excited to dress up for class, revamping your workout gear can do the same! Once you find exercise clothes that feel comfortable and cute for you, try rocking them during your next workout session. In a sea of casual sweatpants and cotton tees at the gym, your new outfit will be sure to stand out — and more importantly, you’ll feel more confident working out.
Kelly Clifton Turner, an E-RYT 500 registered yoga instructor and the Director of Education for YogaSix, tells Her Campus that keeping a few go-to gym outfits nearby can help you stay prepared, accountable, and motivated throughout the semester. “I always keep a gym bag in my trunk with several changes of workout clothes, my yoga mat, mat towel, and running shoes,” Turner says. “That way I never have the excuse of being unprepared.” Whether it’s your favorite Lululemon leggings or the tracksuit that makes you feel invincible, setting aside some “power” outfits will help you feel stylish and strong.
2. create the perfect playlist
Ask any fitness enthusiast and they’ll tell you that music is a must-have, whether you’re hitting up the gym, working out at home, or otherwise! If you need some workout motivation, try creating a Spotify playlist to keep you pumped and entertained. Also, the goal is to create your playlist before working out so that you can exercise without the annoyance of having to switch songs.
Connie Chan, a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, recommends creating a playlist for the entire length of your workout. “Create the playlist, and don’t stop working out until that playlist is over,” she tells Her Campus. This can help prevent you from throwing in the towel too soon!
Steve Stonehouse, a USA Track and Field (USATF) certified run coach and Director of Education for STRIDE, tells Her Campus that swapping your music for a podcast can be an even better way to make your workout more enjoyable. “When going on a walk or run with music, we tend to try to match our steps to the rhythm, and end up going too fast or too slow,” Stonehouse tells Her Campus. “Or, you’ve listened to the same songs hundreds of times. Instead, find an audiobook or podcast you love and get lost in a story. That will keep you motivated to work out!”
3. Bring a friend
Once the semester picks up, it can become harder to meet with friends between classes, extracurriculars, part-time jobs, and homework. Whether you’re anxious to hit up the gym alone or want some healthy accountability, bring a friend (or a few) to your next workout! Instead of a coffee date with the squad, head to the gym together — it’s an easy way to catch up and build a healthy habit at the same time.
Marcuetta Sims, PhD, a licensed psychologist and the owner of the Worth, Wisdom, and Wellness Center in Atlanta, GA, tells Her Campus that it’s important to surround yourself with people who genuinely support you. “Have an accountability person,” says Dr. Sims. “Someone who is going to encourage you, lift you up and hold you accountable. Even if you just commit to checking in with each other regularly and being honest about your goals, it can mean so much.”
Madeline Lacey, a senior at the University of Michigan, says she feels more comfortable with friends at the gym. “Having a friend there helps you ease into the (sometimes) intense gym atmosphere, especially the weight room with all the boys,” she tells Her Campus. “It’s definitely more fun!” Remember, your friends are there to support you and make sure you stick with the workout until it’s finished, and you can be there to motivate them, too!
4. Sign up for a class
“One of the most motivating ways to start incorporating movement into your everyday life is to go to a fitness class,” says Jack Craig, a certified personal trainer at Inside Bodybuilding. With an enthusiastic teacher and other college students by your side, group classes can be electric — plus, most college gyms offer a variety of options, like kickboxing, karate, cardio dance, along with yoga, barre, pilates, and more.
Instead of exercising on a whim, sign up for a specific class and solidify it in your schedule as a reminder to work out during the week. If you think you might be prone to cancelling, or simply want a workout buddy, you can always invite a friend and turn it into weekly bonding activity! Chances are, there are others who are feeling equally as nervous or hesitant about working out as you.
Craig adds that if you’re interested in a group class but are still feeling hesitant, there are options out there. “For those who might be [self] conscious about going to a fitness class, there are plenty of live, remote options available on platforms like TikTok and Instagram,” he tells Her Campus.
5. Create a schedule
Gina Patrico, a senior at Oakland University, tells Her Campus that adhering to workout schedule is an easy way to stay motivated to exercise in college, even when things get hectic with classes and extracurriculars. “I have set days for certain muscle groups, so I can stay organized and fit in workouts around both school and work,” she says.
Try creating your own workout schedule and sticking to it. And don’t be afraid to start small; a “schedule” can mean picking one or two days out of the week and dedicating 30 minutes to an hour for the gym, a virtual class, or otherwise. If that feels like a lot, you can always start even smaller with ten minutes of movement each day, or a brief stretch break.
“Recognize that something is better than nothing!” Turner tells Her Campus. “Maybe you ‘only’ have 20-25 minutes, but there are still amazing things you can do in that time. Take a walk or get some fresh air. If you’re in a multi-level building, pop in your AirPods, listen to some upbeat music, and hit the stairs until your timer goes off.” Turner adds that if you’re sitting all day in the library, an office, or at your desk, trying a few yoga stretches or strength-building poses can be a great way to work in some movement.
Whatever your goal is, allocate time in your schedule to do some sort of workout or movement, and notice how it makes you feel. It can also be super helpful to hang your workout calendar in your dorm room where you’ll see it as a reminder, or by setting an alarm on your phone as a reminder to get up from your desk!
6. Reward yourself
If you’re the type of person that’s motivated by rewards— let’s be real, aren’t we all? — there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself after working out. Although a great workout is a reward in and of itself, you can decide what’s extra motivating for you and set a goal before you reward yourself with it. For example: if you work out five times this month, reward yourself with a relaxing mani/pedi, or something that helps you celebrate your hard work and pamper yourself at the same time! It’s important to make the reward something special so you’ll be that much more excited to hit the gym — and ultimately reach any fitness goals you have, even if that goal is to simply get started.
7. prioritize enjoyment over results
Whether it’s running on the treadmill, lifting weights, or hitting up a group boxing class, it’s totally possible to find a workout you love and make it enjoyable. “Find joy and value in your workout beyond just the physical aspect,” says Elise Rose, the lead instructor at CycleBar River North. “When a workout becomes more than just a moment to strengthen your body — but a chance to unplug from the world and focus on yourself — it becomes a lot easier to prioritize,” she says.
Dr. Sims agrees that working out in college should be about what works for you rather than a certain standard you have to meet, and that it should be fun. “Don’t be afraid to try things out until you find movement that works for you,” she says. “Focus less on weight, toning, and what your body will look like, and use the way your body feels as inspiration.”
Dr. Sims also reminds college students that working out can benefit you in more ways than you might realize. “There is so much more to be gained from movement and fitness than [aiming for] a certain body type,” she tells Her Campus. “Movement can have so many benefits such as mindfulness, focus, accomplishment, relaxation, emotional release, flexibility, and just overall good feelings. I believe that if we focus more on those benefits, it will help increase the motivation to keep moving!”
Honestly, I couldn’t agree more. Remember, college is a marathon, not a sprint, and taking care of your wellness can help you feel better in the long run — physically, mentally, and emotionally. With these expert-approved tips, I hope you’ll feel more motivated and excited to work out this semester — and have a lot of fun in the process!
Connie Chan, Carnegie Mellon University
Madeline Lacey, The University of Michigan
Gina Patrico, a senior at Oakland University