Workout Rewards to Keep You 3X More Motivated to Exercise & Eat Well!

Rewards can be a great way to encourage positive behavior. Just like rewarding a kid for creating a good habit, we should reward ourselves, right?  I have not tried workout rewards in the past unless you count visualizing myself at an event slim and toned in a certain outfit. That really does motivate me; I hate spanx and love cute dresses. Looking great in my prom dress was one of first my workout rewards; then it was different parties, dances, and mixers.

Look Good as your Workout Reward

So do (tangible) workout rewards work?

“Research from the Cooper Institute shows that people who reward themselves are two to three times more likely to meet the ACSM’s physical activity guidelines than people who don’t treat themselves.” — Fitness Magazine

I’m still not sure a pair of fancy socks or new fluffy towels could motivate me like looking good in a dress, but I’m willing to try tangible workout rewards. It takes about 4-6 weeks to see results and even longer (think 90 days+) to get to your ultimate goal; therefore, workout rewards are a great way to keep yourself motivated before your abs are completely packed.

Here are a couple of tips to deciding your workout rewards:

1. Make it something you can live without. The pure want for whatever you choose should be enough to get you out of bed to workout. If you make your reward something you would buy yourself anyways, you won’t feel the need to workout. You will find some justification to buy it anyways; so why workout for it? Workout rewards have to be something a little frivolous, but that doesn’t mean pricey (see #4).

2. Don’t make it something you should buy anyways. I have heard so many people promise themselves a pair of running shoes after running in an old pair for a month or buying a new program when one gets too easy. Don’t discount your workouts! You are training like an athlete, and you need to treat your body with care. That means a new pair of tennis shoes, sport bras, or a challenging program is not optional or a reward. Now, if you have a good pair of shoes, but you want Nike’s $150 running man shoes that is different. Just make sure whatever you are working towards is not something you should have already for your workouts.

3. Keep it in budget, but something you can get excited about.  This tip has been why I have never used tangible workout rewards probably. I felt like I should workout anyways, and I needed my money somewhere else. Plus, looking pretty in a dress I already bought was a free reward. Well, think about the quote above — people that reward themselves are 3 times more likely to stick with it!! Get excited about your reward by picking an frivolous item that’s within budget. Want something typically more pricey? Check RetailMeNot for a coupon, use ShopatHome to earn cashback, or sign up for online sample sale sites like Beyond The Rack or Hautelook.  Want to impress in a dress but will only wear it once? Rent it! Want an adventure? Try Groupon or SweetJack! There are all kinds of deals out there; these are just a few I have tried.

4. Let it build. Since we aren’t all loaded with money think small on some of your first workout rewards. Do you love sugar scrub over body wash? What about a new body lotion? How about a new nail polish? Remember, your first workout rewards can be small and build up to a larger reward when you reach a milestone (60 days, 90 days, your goal weight, etc.). I think about a month of working out being the equivalent of earning a birthday present each month ($25-30). For finishing a program, I may give myself the equivalent of a Christmas present ($60-90). This way you have time to save up for your rewards without hurting your bank account. Stick 50cents to a $1 in a jar each day your workout, and you will have the cash in a separate place and ready to go buy without the guilt.

5. Write it down! What is your reward? What are the requirements to earn that reward? Just like your goals, you should have to work for your rewards. You want to know how you will earn each of the workout rewards and what you want (so you can think about the specific thing when you are tired or unmotivated). Examples would be: “I will workout 4 to 5 days a week. After 2 weeks, I will reward myself with a pair of nice socks,” “After a month of tracking my calories 6 days a week, I will reward myself with a pedicure,” “When I finish P90X on September 8, 2012, I will get a facial,” “When I reach my goal weight, I will buy these jeans.”

6. Don’t let it go against your goals! If you lose 8 pounds this month, don’t binge eat all week. If you workout out all month, don’t reward yourself with a month off. Make sure your reward is inline with your goal!

As for me, my reward for completing the Ultimate Reset will be a pair of 7 for All Mankind Jeans. This is a larger than normal reward, but eating clean 100% is my hardest obstacle, and I needed some major motivation to avoid Diet Coke.

Reward for finishing the Ultimate Reset!

After this large reward, I plan on keeping them small, like these $6-8 UnderArmour Socks:

Nice Socks -- always a great treat!

Have you tried workout rewards before? What was it? Do you have a tip?




  1. Kristi says

    I love this post… I always give myself mental rewards but never stick with it long enough to get them or I just go buy them anyways. This for me is good motivation. Money is most of the time an issue so starting with small things, a nail polish for 5 days working out or a dollar a workout in a jar is an amazing idea! Thank, I will use these :)

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