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Workout Motivation Quotes

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Some days it can be a real drag to force ourselves through a workout. In fact, some days it can be so bad that just the thought of running makes you sweat and the mere mention of squatting reduces your quads to quivering jelly.

What do you do when the body’s willing, but the heart isn’t?

Truth is, we all need an inspirational pick-me-up from time to time. Even sporting and fitness professionals have their off days. But what they also have are tried and tested methods at the ready to rouse their dwindling motivation. After all, ‘something has to keep them training even when their limbs ache, it’s 6 o’clock in the morning and they would rather be in bed,’ (Game Changer).

A semi-professional boxer mate of mine once revealed his secret of overcoming exercise apathy – a.k.a. the snooze button. Whenever he couldn’t be bothered to get up for a run or pull on his gloves, he’d watch Mike Tyson videos. That, he said, never failed to fire up my enthusiasm. He also had a list of inspirational boxing quotes that he'd read over before a workout.

An old training partner, who also happened to be an elite-level triathlete, disclosed a different tactic of raising flagging fitness motivation. On those days that he’d rather be tortured than endure a 60-mile cycle, he would simply slip into his training gear and sit around the house. Perhaps even pop on a pair of marigolds and do a few chores. Before he’d broken open the bleach or picked up the bog brush, he’d be on his bike ready to go.

There are loads of ways that we can overcome demotivation. Personally, I find reading training books and workout motivation quotes helpful. For those of a similar mindset, I’ve compiled my top six training quotes. Hopefully, they will help you on those dour days when the thought of exercise induces feelings of dread.

Workout motivation quotes quick finder

Workout motivation quotes #1: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Workout motivation quotes #2: Mark Allen

Workout motivation quotes #3: Bruce Lee

Workout motivation quotes #4: Pavel Tsatsouline

Workout motivation quotes #5: Dave Brailsford

Workout motivation quotes #6: Kenneth Cooper


Workout motivation quotes #1: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a bodybuilding icon. In fact, you could go so far as to say that he single-handedly popularised the sport. Irrespective of your feelings for ‘vanity training,’ Arnold sculpted an impressive physique. And such a physique could not have been carved without daily dedication and continued commitment.

In his quest to build a body that would win him fame and fortune, Arnold experimented with many different training methods. However, in his book The New Encyclopaedia of Modern Bodybuilding, he describes his preferred motivation tactic.

Discussing his idiosyncratic style of monitoring reps and boosting training motivation, Schwarzenegger tells us that:

‘When I began to train, I wrote everything down – training routines, sets and reps, diet, everything. And I kept this up right through my 1980 Mr. Olympia victory. I would come into the gym and draw out a line on the wall in chalk for every set I intended to do. I would always do five sets of each movement. So for example, the marks ////////// on my chest day would stand for five sets of Bench Press and five sets of Dumbbell Flys. I would reach up and cross each line as I did the set. So when I finished Benches the marks would look like X X X X X /////, and I would never think to myself, Should I do three sets today, or four? I always knew it was five and just went ahead and did them. Watching those marks march across the wall as I did my workout gave me a tremendous sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. They were like an invading army crushing all opposition in its path. This visual feedback helped me to keep my training goals clearly in mind, and reinforced my determination to push myself to the limit every workout.’


Workout motivation quotes #2: Mark Allen

Mark Allen is one of the most successful triathletes of all time. His road to victory, however, was littered with losses. Before he took first place in the prestigious Ironman Triathlon Championships, he came up short six times.

In itself this is a testament to Allen’s dedication to his sport, considering that a full-distance Ironman is widely regarded as the most challenging single-day sporting event in the world.

But once he clinched victory, he rarely let it go. In total, Allen won six Ironman Championships. An Ironman consists of a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile cycle and, for pudding, a marathon (26.2 miles).

Essential reading: Get 'Iron Fit' with the Triathlete's Training Bible >

However, some maintain that he was a superior Olympic distance triathlete. The numbers suggest that there’s some truth to this. From 1988 to 1990 Allen boasted a winning streak of 21 races.

In addition to owning a trophy cabinet that sports more bling than the Hip Hop Awards, Allen was crowned ‘Triathlete of the Year’ six times consecutively while also being dubbed ‘The World’s Fittest Man’ by a score of prestigious magazines.

Though Allen’s motivational quote is short on syllables, it’s packed to bursting with training wisdom.


“Unless you test yourself, you stagnate.”

Workout motivation quotes #3: Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee is remembered primarily as a martial arts master who could kick with lightning speed and knock a man down with a one-inch punch. He created a unique form of fighting, which he crowned Jeet Kune Do (Way of the Fist), by merging the most effective techniques from other combat systems.

But Bruce wasn’t just a pioneer of martial arts. He was an obsessive exercise enthusiast and persistently pursued physical perfection. In the book The Art of Expressing the Human Body, John Little, Lee’s official training biographer, observes that he studiously researched ‘human physiology and kinesiology’ and avidly consumed the latest training literature.

Lee directed this wider learning to discern a ‘useful exercise from an unproductive one’ and crafting whole-body workouts that ‘were geared to produce specific results.’ All to develop physical functionality that could be applied to ‘real-world’ situations.

‘Training for strength and flexibility is a must. You must use it to support your techniques. Techniques alone are no good if you don’t support them with strength and flexibility.

However, Lee recognised that, though highly important, theory and practice were only parts of the ‘physical perfection’ picture. To complete the image, we must include commitment and persistence. ‘Lee realised early on that in order for us to fulfil our physical potential, we had to approach our exercise endeavours progressively and fight against the desire to pack it all in and retire to the sofa and television.’

This ethos – or, more accurately, training philosophy – is encapsulated in the following workout motivation quote. Lee tells us that ‘If you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being . . . There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.’

Workout motivation quotes #4: Pavel Tsatsouline

Pavel Tsatsouline is widely regarded as the man who brought kettlebells to the West. Through his book, The Russian Kettlebell Challenge, the former special forces trainer and internationally ranked girevik delivered the ‘secret soviet weapon’ into our hands. Thanks, Pavel!


The Russian Kettlebell Challenge is ‘the first-ever complete kettlebell training program.’ It’s a program that features an outline of the benefits kettlebell training confers along with an extensive range of exercises to try. The litany of benefits justified Pavel’s claim that:


‘Repetition kettlebell lifting is one of the best tools for all around physical development.’

Granted, this is more a ‘training wisdom’ quote than a ‘workout motivation’ quote. However, he or she who heeds these wise words could well reap a bumper crop of fitness rewards.

It’s not up for argument – not here anyway – kettlebells are a superior form of physical training. As I argue in this blog on the benefits of kettlebell training, those who follow Pavel’s advice and his exercise system, will begin forging enviable full-body fitness.

Pavel himself quotes a celebrated 19th-century weightlifting champion as having publicly proclaimed that ‘Not a single [exercise discipline] develops our muscular strength and bodies as well as kettlebell athletics,’ (p23).

That’s a bold statement and, I imagine, many would doubt its validity. To the incredulous, Pavel challenges them to try a set of snatches or a 5-minute long cycle AMRAP. As they say, proof is in the pudding. (Put your fitness to the test with these Pave Tsatsouline workouts.)


Workout motivation quotes #5: Dave Brailsford

Dave Brailsford is the mastermind behind the recent success of British pro cycling. Before Brailsford, ‘professional cyclists in Great Britain had endured nearly one hundred years of mediocrity,’ (Atomic Habits). In that time, British riders brought home just one measly Olympic gold medal and in total barely enough to fill up the top shelf of a small trophy cabinet.

That all changed in 2003 when the governing body for GB Pro Cycling appointed Brailsford as head coach. He immediately got to work implementing his now famous one per cent marginal gain strategy. It works like this.

In the world of elite athletics, large gains are as good as impossible. For example, a coach couldn’t possibly increase the maximal power output of a cyclist by 100 watts. At the pro level, an increase of a couple of watts is worthy of celebration.

But Brailsford realised that, while significant gains aren’t up for grabs, marginal gains are within reach. And, while a single marginal gain makes no noticeable difference to the performance of a professional athlete, in abundance they start to tip the scales.

‘The whole principle comes from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improve it by 1 per cent, you will get a significant increase when you put them together.’

In his enormously successful book, Atomic Habits, James Clear tells us that Brailsford eked out marginal gains from many weird and wonderful places. For example, Brailsford and his team ‘redesigned the bike seats to make them more comfortable and rubbed alcohol on the tyres for better grip,’ (Atomic Habits). As well as testing different massage oils and optimal bedding, they also asked riders to wear heated overshorts so that their muscles remained at ideal temperatures for training and recovery.

Performances started to improve. Successes started to come. But Brailsford wasn’t satisfied, and he relentlessly continued his search for marginal gains. The feedback loop was clear – more gains equalled a greater increase in cycling performance which ultimately translated to more medals. And the medals came thick and fast.

In addition to a slew of world championships and a whopping sixty-six Olympic golds, during Brailsford’s tenure as team captain British riders brought home five Tour de France victories.

But the question remains, what relevance does Dave Brailsford’s method have to do with workout motivation? Well, like most people who participate in physical exercise, you no doubt want to improve your performance. Perhaps you want to lose a bit more weight or increase muscle mass or surpass a long-standing personal best. Or maybe you just want to maintain training consistency, something you’ve been struggling with for some time.

Whatever your exercise objective, making marginal gains can help. Start the ball rolling by outlining a goal or area that you want to improve in. Then seek out possible marginal gain opportunities. Now seize the opportunity and make the change. Once you’ve formed a habit, look for another. Repeat until the desired result has been achieved.

Related: Find out more about Dave Brailsford’s method in the fascinating book Mastermind: How Dave Brailsford Reinvented The Wheel

Workout motivation quotes #6: Kenneth Cooper

You’re probably thinking, who on earth is Kenneth Cooper? In the age of the epidemic of social media influencers and fad fitness gurus, genuinely inspiring people have all but gone extinct. Well, it sometimes seems that way. But, if you’re willing to go looking, there are still a few natural wonders lurking in the undergrowth. Let me introduce you to one.

Kenneth Cooper is considered the father of aerobics training. He didn’t invent aerobics, of course. That was evolution’s doing. However, he is credited for coining the name (rather like Newton named gravity) and, through his brilliant book The Aerobics Program For Total Well-Being, catapulting the concept into the public consciousness.

Before Cooper, aerobic exercise was a thing professional athletes did or weird people wearing brightly coloured costumes. Nowadays, thanks in part to Kenneth Cooper, ordinary folk like you and I can enjoy a jog without being labelled a lunatic.

As well as being credited for ‘revolutionising the way Americans get in shape’, Cooper was director of the Aerobic Centre in Dallas, Texas. In addition, he wrote the official fitness program for both the U.S. Navy and Air Force.

Furthermore, ‘as director of the U.S. Air Force’s Aerospace Medical laboratory in San Antonio, Cooper was charged with training astronauts to overcome the muscle-depleting, bone-wasting effects of being in gravity-free space,’ (Exercised: The Science of Physical Activity, Rest and Health).

What a jaw-dropping resumé! And what a privilege it is to be able to tap into such a deep source of knowledge, experience, and wisdom. When people like Kenneth Cooper speak, smart people listen. His balance hypothesis suggests that ‘total well-being’ can be achieved if we are willing to engage in regular exercise, eat the right foods, and observe other recognised healthy lifestyle practices. Since advancing this hypothesis in the early 80s, science has only supported and strengthened it.

An advocate and proponent of his own method, ‘at age 92 and having logged more than 38,000 miles running,’ Cooper ‘sets an example for maintaining a healthy lifestyle by exercising at Cooper Aerobics Centre,’ a non-profit organisation dedicated to the advancement of human health.

One of the great principles of the universe is the principle of balance. […] The human body is just another part of the universe that is meant to be in perfect balance.



Throughout this article, we’ve reviewed an eclectic mix of workout motivation quotes from sporting legends and inspirational exercise practitioners. But their brief biographies and words of wisdom have provided more than mere motivation. They have provided powerful instructive advice that we can apply to our exercise endeavours.

Before we finish, let’s review the key lessons from each quote.

Arnold Schwarzenegger showed us a simple method of boosting training productivity. By applying his system of tracking the progress of completed sets, you’ll likely find that you can get more done in each workout and in less time.

Mark Allen’s exhortation to test your physical development can yield a wealth of positive outcomes. After all, the only way to determine if your fitness is improving is by testing yourself. Tests can tell us where we are, how far we’ve come, and in what direction we’re travelling. It’s not an exaggeration to say that you are travelling on your fitness journey with your eyes closed and without a map if you are not regularly testing.

Bruce Lee exemplified the potent force of combining theory with practice. Yet, we also learned from Lee that this is not enough: two essential ingredients are missing. To get the most out of training we must maintain consistency while persistently pursuing our goals.

Pavel Tsatsouline’s teaching can be summed up in a single sentence. If you want to improve muscular endurance and physical functionality, start lifting kettlebells.

Dave Brailsford taught us that making marginal gains can garner grand results. In and of itself, a marginal gain is precisely that – a change or improvement so insignificant that its impact cannot be measured. But, when we identify multiple marginal gain opportunities, the impact could be so large that an entirely new method of measurement is required. The marvel of the marginal gain ethos is that it can be applied to health, fitness, and any personal pursuit.

Kenneth Cooper brings the lessons to a natural conclusion when he calls for a balanced approach to training and life. Balance, as Cooper conceives it, is about developing every aspect of your physicality – cardio, endurance, strength, power, and flexibility. He also argues strongly for a healthy diet and the absence of excess. Following this path, which is not easy, can lead you to the promised land of ‘total well-being.’

Start your journey to total wellbeing with these 10 Tips to Staying Fit & Healthy.


About Adam Priest –

A former Royal Marines Commando, Adam Priest is a content writer, college lecturer, and health and fitness coach. He is also a fitness author and contributor to other websites. Connect with Adam at

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