Exercise more. Lose 10 pounds. Look good for the beach. Desire to be fitter and healthier? Build muscle. Get stronger. Run faster. Improve agility. Jump higher. Hit harder. Desire to be a better athlete? We all have reasons to go to the gym, get on the treadmill, or go to the track. Every day we are hit over the head with email spam and facebook posts telling us about the best workouts, the top five exercises we are not doing, and how to get flat abs. All of which is great information. But all of that information is useless if you are not really pushing yourself when you work out. You can go to the gym and do those exercises without seeing any results if you do not feel discomfort. Discomfort in straining to lift the weight, discomfort in burning muscles, discomfort in labored breathing, discomfort in sweating. All of this collective discomfort is experienced as suffering. This is where well-intentioned exercise regimens fizzle out, which is a slippery slope in which one can feel defeated, frustrated, negative, and experience a sense of self-hatred.
I would like to offer a possible remedy for avoiding that slippery slope. Rather than focusing on the agony of the work out, focus on the pride. I know it is sometimes hidden, but it is there. It can be found when you’ve finished the second to last set of 30 burpees. Your legs are slightly cramping, shoulders are burning, and your breathing resembles someone in the throes of an asthma attack. But behind the grimace on your face is that flicker of hope that you have only one more set of pain. It is the feeling you get when you take in a deep breath and feel alive because you are testing your limits. It is the quiet voice in a sea of naysayers that says, “Damn I am good.” Then the last set is done and so is one more workout. But the search for the pride shouldn’t end there. You should regularly remind yourself how good it felt to push yourself to you physical limits. For the person looking to lose weight and be fitter these regular reminders come in the form of self-statements that you are on your way to reaching that goal and today was a big step and fantasies of looking and feeling great. For the athlete, these regular reminders come in the form of fantasies surrounding making the team, setting a new personal record, scoring goals/points, and championships. It is these regular reminders that can become the much needed fuel form motivation. Search for that workout pride, especially when it is hidden behind the pain and suffering.