Sometimes workouts are hard – like really, painfully, I’m-going-to-throw-up-or-pass-out-or-have-a-heart-attack hard. During such times, we have a choice: give up or keep moving. I prefer the latter.
There’s something invigorating about pushing through the pain. It’s exciting and almost strengthening.
But why? What is it that causes me to feel a surge of energy whenever I make up my mind that I’m going to max out and push through no matter how absolutely horrible I feel?
Sometimes it’s an adrenaline rush. Sometimes I pretend that I’m a character in an action film. Sometimes I pretend I’m in the Olympics or about to break a world record. No matter what I imagine, however, it never lasts. And imagining means that I’m not being mentally present in the moment.
So, since I can’t always make-believe my way through tough workouts, I started using another strategy – and it’s perfect.
The Perfect Mental Strategy For Getting Through Tough Workouts
Working out involves discomfort. We typically want to avoid discomfort, so we tend to avoid activities that make us feel uncomfortable.
This is so dangerous. More dangerous than experiencing discomfort.
Not allowing ourselves to feel discomfort prevents growth. It is only when we stretch ourselves past our boundaries that we grow, mature, evolve, and build really toned and tight muscles. When we stay within the confines of our current abilities, we do not give ourselves the resistance needed to build strength.
Instead of avoiding the discomfort of a hard workout, we need to embrace the discomfort. We need to accept that discomfort comes with the territory. No pain, no gain, right?
But how do we accept discomfort and use this mentality to push through, especially when our thighs feel like bricks and our biceps stop working?
Here’s the perfect strategy: recognize that discomfort is temporary.
The discomfort will not last. It will last only for the 30 minutes of running or the 20 push-ups or 100 jumping jacks. The discomfort will not last forever.
Let this be your mantra: this feeling is only temporary. Trust me, it works.
This strategy takes practice. So, practice it periodically until it becomes a natural part of your workout.
In the meantime (or if that’s just way too abstract for you right now), there are some other tactics you can use to transform the way you think before, during, and after your workout.
Kristi Burress Kicks Butt
My friend Kristi Burress has been kicking my lil’ patooty lately. Kristi is an awesome roller derby athlete and certified personal trainer that leads me in a weekly bootcamp class at Ala Moana Beach Park.
After warming up in my first class, Kristi said, “We’re going to do a tabata.”
To which I replied, “A ta-what-a?”
For the remainder of the hour, we performed intense exercises to wake up sleeping muscles and challenge the heck outta them.
Kristi’s bootcamp definitely awakened muscles I didn’t even know I had. Plus, Kristi gave me lots of support and encouragement and truly inspired me to start taking muscle development more seriously again.
For the past year, running and yoga have been my priorities; but building and maintaining muscle is so crucial, not just for physical strength, but for posture, energy levels, and confidence.
Kristi reminded me what strength feels like. And I remembered how much I like it.
Kristi’s Tips For Getting Through A Tough Workout
Although Kristi leads bootcamp in a grassy area at Ala Moana Beach, her class is no walk in the park. So, I asked Kristi for some tips on how to push through a tough workout.
“The biggest step is starting the workout,” Kristi says. “It’s typically more difficult to find the motivation to start a workout than it is to challenge yourself once you’re in it.”
To help get through a tough workout, Kristi uses these motivators (this portion was written by Kristi Burress):
1. Find a buddy.
We work harder and have more fun in groups. And if you find a buddy that is in slightly better shape than you, you’ll have more motivation to push harder.
2. Think about the rewards.
Whatever your goal is – fitting into a dress, a big event, looking ripped, impressing a special someone, feeling good about yourself – think about how what you’re doing helps you achieve that goal faster.
3. Find a chase car.
Are you driven by being competitive? Pick someone out in the group that will help motivate you to go faster, harder, and finish first.
4. Find your balance.
The first 10 minutes of the workout is the hardest. Focus on the activity and shut your brain off to the hundreds of other things bouncing around in your head.
5. Pace yourself.
It’s important to push yourself hard throughout the duration of your workout. But don’t go so hard at the beginning that you can’t complete the rest of the workout safely and at a similar intensity at which you started.
6. Don’t get scared away by numbers.
100 anything can sound like a lot. When you break the number down into more manageable increments and focus on the exercise, not the number, you’ll find it easier to accomplish.
7. Keep moving.
Pushing your body to its limits can be tough, but rewarding. Keep telling yourself that you can do one more. Modify things if you need to, but don’t stop moving.
8. Get up the next day and do something.
Don’t let a good workout yesterday be an excuse to do nothing today. It’s important to allow your body to recover, but it’s also important to move, stretch, walk, or do some light to moderate activity the day after a tough workout.
9. Allow yourself to celebrate your accomplishments.
After a good workout, don’t beat yourself up about what you didn’t do. Be proud of taking steps to make your body stronger.
10. And as always, listen to your body.
No trainer knows your body and what is normal for you. Working out should be challenging, but it shouldn’t be painful. Don’t keep repeating an exercise that is painful. Good trainers have lots of modifications they can show you, and you should always see a doctor for medical advice.
Go get ’em tigers! Use Kristi’s methods to get your rear in gear and push through to the end! And always remember, discomfort is temporary. You got this!