Rewarding yourself for exercising can help you feel even better about prioritizing your health while motivating you to stick with your new routine.
“The human brain has a dopamine reward system that creates a natural high when we reward ourselves,” says Kate Cummins, PsyD, a psychologist based in San Francisco, California. “Once we continue the reward system, it helps create a sustainable healthy relationship with working out and makes us feel good.”
Read on for more tips on how to reward yourself for working out and recommendations to keep you motivated.
The key is choosing rewards that are in line with your goals. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, rewarding yourself with a doughnut might be counterproductive. And there are best practices to keep in mind, too: “Create small end-of-the-week rewards as well as a large reward at the end of the long-term goal,” Cummins suggests. That way, you’ll have multiple goal posts and markers that make you look forward to working out.
Need some ideas? Try these expert-approved ways to reward yourself for working out—without undoing your progress.
- Invest in a New Wearable
Fitness trackers like Apple Watch monitor your daily activity—and they can help you reach your goals. People who wore a fitness tracker took an extra 1,800 steps per day and lost an average of about 2.2 pounds, according to a 2022 meta-analysis in The Lancet.
Ready to buy a wearable (or upgrade your existing one)? The Paceline App connects with Apple Watch, Garmin, or Fitbit, so you can get rewarded for moving more. And you can get up to $429 reimbursed¹ when you purchase the latest Apple Watch with the Paceline health and wellness credit card.
- Show Off
There’s nothing wrong with tooting your own horn once in a while—especially when it’s so well-deserved.
Hear us out: After a tough workout, “text a friend or family member who genuinely supports your journey and is your cheerleader and share a photo of your awesome stats!” says Miriam Shestack, CPT, Equinox group fitness instructor & running coach based in New York City. “Studies have shown that positive reinforcement helps people continue their routine and do what’s best for them.” You can also now share your Paceline activity stats on your favorite social networks and a photo from your own camera roll.
- Treat Yourself to a New Workout Outfit
Having fresh workout clothes can be a huge motivator to hit the gym. “Set a monthly fitness goal (like going to the gym three times a week and scheduling walks with friends two days a week) and when you achieve that, buy yourself a new outfit,” Shestack suggests. Plus, while getting new gear might motivate you to exercise and feel confident, it can also help you stay comfortable. For instance, “properly fitted shoes provide support and reduce [risk of] injury,” says Jim White, RD, an ACSM health fitness specialist based in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
- Try a New Workout Class
Reward yourself for a job well done by attending that Pilates or HIIT class you wouldn’t typically shell out for. Or, get familiar with how to create a workout routine by setting up a few sessions with a trainer. Giving a new modality a go can challenge you both physically and mentally because introducing new movements can help you target different muscles, according to White, and boost your motivation by keeping workout boredom at bay. Major bonus: You can get up to 5% cash back² on eligible workout classes and personal training sessions with the Paceline Card. Download it now.
- Hit Snooze
Adopting new healthy lifestyle habits also means getting enough sleep. Short naps (think: 10 to 20 minutes) can help you recharge and improve your performance and mood, according to the Mayo Clinic. “Set the stage—make sure your bedroom is quiet, shaded, and comfortable with no distractions—and take your nap before 3 p.m. to avoid nighttime sleep disturbances,” White says.
- Get a Massage
A massage is an excellent post workout recovery method. “The benefits of a massage are countless: It reduces stress, releases muscle and myofascial pain and tension, improves sleep, and stimulates immune function,” White says.
But that doesn’t mean you have to shell out for a
- Hit Up a Comedy Club
A good laugh goes a long way. In fact, chuckling boosts the levels of feel-good endorphins in your brain—much like a solid workout does. “Laughter relieves stress and stimulates circulation and muscle relaxation,” White says. And these perks might just kickstart your post-workout recovery. Laughter is also associated with an improved immune system over the long term, according to the Mayo Clinic. So why not make a rez at your local comedy club or watch your favorite comedian on TV after crushing a workout goal?
7 Ways to Reward Yourself for Working Out is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as financial advice.