Irrational Thoughts on Hard Workouts


At spin class the other night, I was forced to confront an ugly aspect of my attitude that I had forgotten about. My legs were aching and sore from my run and kickball the day before and teaching barre3 that morning, and I struggled to push myself through spinning. Sweat was pouring off my body in a way that was simultaneously impressive and disgusting, even for me, and I forced myself to keep going and not let up. At the end of the class, I only felt one thing: anger.

tumblr_o236nmw5cQ1ql5yr7o2_500I didn’t feel proud. I didn’t feel like I had accomplished something by pushing myself. I didn’t feel satisfied or exhausted in that way that tells you you’ve done all you can. Instead, I was busy fixating on the fact that it felt hard in the first place.

Sometimes – ok, a lot of the time – I forget that hard workouts are supposed to feel hard. It’s like I believe that there is this point that I’ll reach where no workout will be hard because I’ll be in good enough shape. Any time I have a tough workout where I struggle, it’s a reminder (in my mind) that I’m not in the shape I want to be in. And trust me, I know exactly how ridiculous that is.

tumblr_o236nmw5cQ1ql5yr7o3_500This feeling, and my inability to be proud of a hard effort – has shown itself multiple times this training cycle, including in my attitude immediately after the Swamp Rabbit Half Marathon. It’s also the reason that I’ve never really liked weight training (working my muscles to fatigue makes me feel like a failure) and why I’ve never enjoyed speed work. Logically, I do know how absurd all of this sounds (and is), and when I sit down to think about, I can talk myself down. But in the moment, my first instinct is always just to feel angry.

tumblr_o236nmw5cQ1ql5yr7o1_500I don’t really know how to fix this besides to recognize when it is happening and counteract the negative self-talk with positive thoughts. I mean, that’s all I can do, right? The reality is that every workout where I push myself is one in which I am becoming stronger, and it means I can push just a little bit harder next time. I guess there’s still plenty of work to be done when it comes to upping my mental game!

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16 thoughts on “Irrational Thoughts on Hard Workouts

  1. My personal training clients would ask this all the time – “when does it get easier?” my response was “when you give up.” And I know you’re not a quitter!!! It’s funny though because I really don’t expect it to get easier but I do get upset when I can’t run the same paces or nail my swim splits. I try not to compare and just do my best every day but the struggle is real.
    Dying over the gifs today – LOL!!!

    1. I think you actually said what I was trying to say! It’s not that I expect my workouts to get easier, I just more get upset when I can’t reach the same level of performance with the same amount of effort. But, instead of being proud of myself for getting out there and trying anyway, I just get mad. That in turn limits my desire to try new workouts that I KNOW will be hard.

  2. I do the same!! Think to myself ‘when does it get easier?’ But it doesn’t get easier because I continue to push myself. Luckily I still manage to feel satisfied after a work out (although admittedly a bit frustrated)

    1. Very true! There’s always a “next level” we can reach so it is unrealistic to think there’s ever a place that we can get to where every workout is easy! But I still can’t help but hope, haha!

  3. I really like this post. It never really gets easier but we are able to get stronger. (so cliche but true). I’ve had some terrible workouts that I look back and I’m like…well I made it through and that is all I can really say. I do believe it’s important to counteract the negative talk with positive.

    1. Definitely, Hollie! I have been trying to counteract the negative self talk but just found it particularly challenging on that day. Sometimes just making it through is the best you can do!

  4. I have no idea what you are talking about. Every run, every challenge for me is entirely composed of sunshine and rainbows. When I arrive home unicorns bring me my coffee, and angelic choirs proclaim that my sweat enhances the smell of every room in the house. I smile and ackowledge that this, like all other runs, was a joy and a wonder and a blessing.

    Yeah, the mental game is quite a challenge … this morning the temperature dropped 20 degrees over the course of my run and the wind was brutal and arctic … I was already in a rather foul mood, and I believe my mantra could be summed up as either “c’mon Mike, you can do better than that” or “jeez I am done with winter” … maybe both.

    1. Hahaha well sometimes, it does seem that way! I mean, with as much running as you do, I’d think most of your workouts are good/fun/enjoyable/full of sunshine and rainbows and unicorns because otherwise, I would think you would run less! You have a huge obstacle with the weather and I have so much respect for you for getting out there no matter what!

  5. Oh, yes! I am in the strength-building phase of PT for the shoulder fracture I obtained at the NYC Marathon in early Nov. my PT is one tough personal trainer…each time I come close to mastering one thing, he comes up with another (harder) thing. He has literally pushed me from minimal rom to nearly full rom. Not pleasant, but very effective!

    1. Oh my gosh!!! How did you fracture your shoulder at a marathon?! That is crazy! I’m so glad you are on the mend!

  6. Yes. This. I want the effortless run over the panting trot, the smooth gait over the lumbering galumph. I want payback I can see, right now. But, like your life, you get out what you put in. I’ll feel ten times better having earned my goals rather than have them given to me or watered them down. I’ll work through my anger at my body’s betrayals, and pick up and keep going, because I know how good it will be at the end.
    Then I’ll sign up for another race and repeat the process.

    I love that you’re posting more!

    1. So true, John! You really do get out of it what you put in…but sometimes, it’s nice to just have that effortless run 🙂

      I’m glad you noticed I’ve been posting more 🙂

  7. I’m not sure if I’m correct in this, but I attribute a lot of my mental strength to swimming as a kid. Probably because as a kid, you don’t overthink, you just do, and so, I do. That doesn’t mean I don’t have hard workouts, but I play a bit of Suzy Sunshine and realize I’m doing the best I can each day. I also don’t let limiting words or thoughts into my head (I hate XX, I can’t do YY) because I feel like I’m only setting myself up for failure. I know, I know, it’s enough to make you want to vomit.

    1. That probably has a lot to do with it! I didn’t do any type of team sport as a kid and I really think that limited me in a lot of ways. Probably a different post for a different day!

  8. Workouts are for the mind as well, as you know. Whenever I’m feeling hopeless/helpless, I just try to focus on something smaller–like the next span of x minutes/miles or intervals or whatever. Or I just say FUCK and know that it is going to be a slog.
    And hope to jesus that the next will be better. And then get a margarita

    1. Margaritas make everything better! I don’t really have a problem continuing to push myself – it’s more in how I feel afterwards. When I should be celebrating, I am feeling down on myself for having to push in the first place. It makes no sense.

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