How to Regain Your Pre-Pandemic Workout Motivation and Intensity

The toughest part of your fitness journey is finding consistency.

Anyone who’s seen the January gym rush knows that. Every year, plenty of people get gym memberships based around New Year’s resolutions in January, then drop off in February. And now, you just may be facing a new version of that challenge.

After a year away from the gym, thanks to the pandemic, you’re trying to regain your motivation and find that consistency and intensity. You’re trying to shift from a few home workouts a week that were all about maintaining and “surviving”, to the swing of gym workouts that challenge and push you. That’s an adjustment for body and for mind – and it’s not an easy one.

But the key to surviving it lies in your mind, and in the gym mindset that you create. The more you create an environment that’ll keep you motivated and focused, the more you’ll go to the gym and have the productive, muscle-building, fat-blasting workouts you’re chasing. Use these tips to create that environment, then watch the gains start coming on.

Know Your Why

Yes, you can go to the gym to train, but what are you training for? What’s your long-term goal? The sooner you can establish a long-term goal, the sooner you create something to chase, and having something to chase is key in the gym. It gives you a reason to keep coming back, and it’ll also provide you with a progress indicator.

You can build workouts that help you reach your bench-press goal, or get you to your goal weight, or your target 5k run time. Then, every few weeks, you can check your progress, and you’ll know that your workouts were effective, or need a little bit of work. 

Think about this goal, too; don’t just build one flippantly. If you take the time to decide why you’re training in the gym, then you’ll feel more committed to it. If you quickly decide you’re going to chase a 225-pound bench press or try to look like Chris Evans without putting in deep thought, you’re destined to quit, because the goal simply doesn’t mean much to you.

Not sure you have a goal? Then create one that’ll force commitment. Sign up for, say, a Spartan race, or a virtual 5k run. These goals come with deadlines, and that will hold you even more accountable to what you’re chasing, especially if you’ve paid money. 

Plan it Out

Stop winging your way through your workouts. Those are easy to skip because you don’t have a plan. It’s even worse, too, to not pick the set days you’re going to the gym. It’s easy to skip when you never committed to the schedule.

The fix is this: Write down the days you’re planning to train, either in your notes file on your phone, in a tablet, or on your refrigerator. Or go a step further and set an alarm for all your workouts. This will all take work, but in the process, you’ll be committing to a routine that you won’t want to quit. You’ll be thinking through a plan, and by putting it on paper (or in your phone), you’re creating a framework that you’ll stick to. (Pro tip: Classic old-fashioned paper is better. That’s even more intentional and can’t be erased as quickly as an iPhone note.)

Write down a weekly schedule of days you’ll train each week, a schedule that you can stick to. Don’t make it overly ambitious, either. Seven days straight of two-a-days might not be realistic, but three to four days should be doable. Make it something you can conquer each week. 

The more you plan out, the more you’ll stick to it, too. So, think about writing out what you’ll train each day; maybe you’ll work cardio every Monday and Thursday and lift every Tuesday and Friday. Maybe you’ll choose a five-days-a-week lifting split. Whatever you do, you want it as planned out as possible. That’s where workout plans enter the picture too. Choose a workout plan, maybe on this website or by reaching out to your favorite trainer and purchasing one. It’ll all lock you in that much more.

Partner Up

Yes, you could go it alone on this fitness journey, but that leaves plenty of room for error because there’s no external accountability. There’s nobody to give you a push when you’re struggling through your last few reps, and nobody that you’ve agreed to meet at the gym. It becomes easy to skip portions of your workout, and easy to skip the gym altogether.

Beat that by finding an accountability partner, somebody who will force you to honor your own commitment – and your commitment to them. This accountability partner may come in a few forms. Hire a trainer, and you lock yourself into showing up to the gym since, well, you paid the trainer to be there, right? Or you could find yourself a training partner, perhaps a friend with similar goals, or maybe even a friend who’s a bit farther along in their gym journey. 

Either way, they’ll keep you accountable and committed, and that will set you up for plenty of fitness success.
Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.

Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.

Fitness Director for Men’s Health Magazine and CSCS trainer -

Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is the fitness director of Men's Health and a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience. He's logged training time with NFL and track athletes, and his current training regimen includes weight training, HIIT conditioning, and yoga. Before joining Men's Health in 2017, he served as a sports and tech columnist for the New York Daily News.