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Motivation Monday ~ Getting Past the Punishment Mentality

I was on the bike in the gym last week grinding out a tough workout of progressing intensity.

Quick aside – yes I’m only one sentence into this blog post and I’m already doing an aside – anyone who tells you that you can’t get a good workout on an upright bike in a gym doesn’t know what they are talking about. The hill setting on level 11 and up is IN-tense. Aside over.

So, there I was, on the bike with my legs burning and sweat pouring off of me. Yayyyyy for being that girl who has sweat dripping onto the floor that she has to clean up like a shmuck after she’s done. Anyone else feel me on this? No? No takers? Ok, fine, it’s just me. I sweat like a man. I had been on the bike for a good 45 minutes at this point which was all I told myself I was going to do, but after rethinking my dietary choices of the previous days decided that I should extend my workout a bit longer as if to make up for my bad behavior.

I continued for a little past the 60 minute mark until I finally hit the cool down button and hopped off the bike. I then went into an upper body/core weight circuit for another 30 minutes before finally stretching out and leaving the gym. I proceeded to skip my post workout snack, head home, and make a smoothie for dinner, all the while patting myself on the back for what I thought was a job well done. I had ‘atoned’ for my mistakes of yesterday AND totally kicked my workout in the ass.

Yikes, even just reading this makes me cringe. I have some bad habits when it comes to working out, one of them being that I tend to overdo it when it comes to my workouts. That is, after all, the whole reason that I am my current running hiatus. I was so completely burned out from pushing too hard and not training smart that I had to take some time away. But here I find myself stuck in the same bad habits, different exercise.

What it all comes down to for me, and I would venture to say for many others out there as well, is that I am far more prone to punish my body rather than reward it. Now this might seem like a little bit out of left field at the moment, but you will soon see what I mean.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that I was making up for some poor dietary choices by extending my sweat session on the bike. Whether you have done it as consciously as I did or not, this type of thinking has probably infiltrated your thinking as well, especially if you are currently trying to drop a few pounds. It’s a pretty logical and common thought – I took in some extra calories here, so I’m going to burn off some extra there and wipe the slate clean.

The problem is that this thinking is rarely, if ever, helpful to your overall goals in the long run. For starters, this type of behavior tends to become a cyclical pattern. You eat more than you think you should, workout extra hard to make up for it, then maybe a day or two later you end up overeating because you’ve run too big of a deficit and the cycle repeats.

Secondly, your body does not tend to progress fast enough to keep up with your mouth. It’s sad but true. I know, we all want to believe we can burn off whatever we take in as soon as we take it in, but this is not what our bodies were designed to do. You know what they say, physiology gets in the way of even the best laid plans.

Or, you know, something like that. You mean that’s not a saying?

Well I just made it one.


What I mean though is that our bodies are designed to adapt according to the type and amount of stress that is put upon it through physical training. Those adaptations can lean to a stronger cardiovascular and muscular systems if given the right amount of time to do so with the proper fueling. The key words here are time and fueling. Adequate time, otherwise known as rest, allows your body to do the work of adapting, and fueling gives the body the materials it needs to rebuild the stronger, fitter you. This is a process that does not happen instantaneously, so when we overwork it consistently, the body can’t keep up with the demand. This is when we start to see some declines in our performance, burn out, injuries and the like.

You may be tempted to say to me at this point that you can’t relate to this post – that you are never guilty of punishing your body in this manner. Though you may not find yourself stuck in a pattern of overeating and overexercising, you may still have tendency to punish your body, rather than reward it. If you’ve ever pushed yourself harder than you should in an effort to be fitter, faster, etc. even though you were scheduled for a lighter workout that day, you’ve punished your body. If you’ve ever neglected a rest day, skipped your fueling, or neglected to stretch, you’ve punished your body.

The ultimate irony in all of this is that all of our efforts to get back on track through our fitness only end up setting us back further. How annoying is that?!

Fortunately, there is a way out of this pattern of behavior, and it’s one that I’ve been gradually trying to get myself to shift towards. The shift starts in your head with recognizing the behaviors that constitute body punishment. Instead, we need to replace punishing with rewarding, and at first, this may seem like a pretty radical shift to make, but it’s really not as hard as you think it might be. The key is to catch the behavior as it happens.

Allow me to illustrate the difference between punishing your body vs. rewarding your body:

Punishing your body is not taking regular rest days; rewarding your body is scheduling rest days into your routine and ACTUALLY taking that rest day.

Punishing your body is making up for overeating by working out above and beyond what you would normally do; rewarding your body is learning to adapt and change your nutrition habits. Punishing your body is spending an extra 10 minutes doing in your workout while sacrificing stretching; rewarding your body is making time to stretch and foam roll for recovery. Punishing your body is cutting calories to the extreme; rewarding your body is fueling your body throughout the day and especially heading into and after a workout. Punishing your body is working at hard intensities the majority of the time; rewarding your body is intentionally varying your workout intensity to maximize recovery and fitness.

Now this is just a few examples, but can you see the difference?

Our bodies are an amazing piece of equipment when we treat it properly, and indeed it can withstand a lot of the abuse that we put it through, but chances are we haven’t even scratched the surface of our potential.

Take some time this week to take stock of your fitness and nutrition behaviors. How many of them end up punishing your body? How many of them reward your body for all that it does and all that it has the potential to do? A shift in your mentality could make all the difference.

Get Fit For It, Beth

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