I say "push yourself!" a lot. I use it in every Spinning class I teach. I use it in many personal training sessions with clients. I even use it in regular everyday conversation with friends, family, and even strangers. I do not say this to be cliché. I say it because I believe in it, and I know that when you push yourself, amazing things can happen.
I know that you can push yourself harder. It's always true. I don't like to say "always" or "never," but in this case, I'll actually put my money on always. We tend to limit ourselves in a lot of ways, but especially physically. And limiting ourselves physically comes straight from the brain -- it's really all mental. This is why I repeat the "push yourself" phrase so much. You need to think about it for just a second, then forget about it, and just do it!
Little personal example from just this morning. I went out for a 5 mile run. Absolutely beautiful morning, and I thought it would be an awesome run! Just over a mile into it, I found myself dragging. Like, seriously dragging! Not a little off pace, a lot off pace, even for an easy run. What the heck?! I said to myself. Maybe my legs are tired, maybe I'm just tired, maybe I'm dehydrated, maybe I'm still not totally recovered from whatever...lots of things went through my head in the next couple of minutes. But in the end, I just came up with one glaring option: push yourself. Push the pace, push your body, shut up your mind, don't make excuses, and just run. So I did. Pushed it just a little bit, and sure enough, the magic happened! My pace returned, and the rest of the run felt fantastic.
Lesson: When the going gets tough, push yourself! When you think you can’t go one step further, get in one more rep or one more minute, push yourself. Instead of quitting or giving up on the next step, push yourself. I promise that you’ll amaze yourself and go beyond every limit you’ve ever set! Why not raise the bar and realize you’re stronger than you give yourself credit for? Push yourself today and every day!
So I was in the gym this morning, all pumped up because it’s Monday and the week is starting off right. Here I am, already done teaching Spinning class, moving on to my own workout, kicking butt. Feeling great, woohoo! And I look up into the mirror at myself and I thought, “Wow, I look great today! I look and feel pretty, and man, my shoulders look awesome! And I look strong!” And you know what? I didn’t feel guilty or wrong or anything about admitting to myself that I am beautiful!
There is such a terrible culture these days centered on constantly degrading ourselves. Being so negative about our bodies and minds and everything we do. No one is ever good enough or pretty enough or thin enough, and it’s rampant among women and men! It’s almost as if we are seen as a bad person for having any self-confidence, for allowing ourselves to think positively and have a positive body image. Personally, I despise this culture, and I’m not going to stand for it anymore! It is one thing to be modest, but it is another to be so self-deprecating, you convince yourself and everyone around you that you are worthless. To me, that is worthless.
It’s time to start focusing on the positive. We all have wonderful qualities! I have strong shoulders, business acumen, and I can run for hours. I’m not embarrassed to say that, or to tell the world about it! I’m not bragging, I’m just not dragging myself down either. It’s a crazy idea, I know, but try it. Next time you have a judgmental thought about yourself, just say no, and turn it around. Give yourself permission to sing your own praises, just a little bit. I promise it will make a difference in your day, and in your life!
As I took off for my long run last weekend, I passed a duo of ladies finishing up their run and overheard this:
Lady runner #1, “Wow! I never thought I would be able to run 8 miles!”
Lady runner #2, “I knew you could! Great job today!”
I smiled to myself, because thoughts and conversations like this are so common among runners, beginner or experienced.
There is a time when you start something new, whether it’s running, or a fitness regimen, or a change in eating, or even a new job, when you think, “I’m never going to be able to do this, or to get better at it!” That’s a pretty standard thought at the beginning of anything new and different. And then, as the days go by, you suddenly realize that not only are you doing what you never thought you could, but you’re doing it well! Crazy, huh?
I see it especially in running—that negative mentality and self-talk. I can’t run, I can’t run fast, I can’t race, I can’t go far. There are lots of mental blocks to keep someone from realizing their potential. And frankly, that’s all they are—mental blocks! The reality is that you are completely capable of doing whatever you are telling yourself you’re not. You just have to try. And then you just have to keep doing it! It’s amazing what can happen when you stop telling yourself, “there’s no way!” and start telling yourself, “let’s do this!” You become better, faster, stronger, and soon you start adding even bigger goals!
As I started my run after overhearing those ladies, I couldn’t help but think of myself. I never thought I would be able to run like I can now. I couldn’t even run a whole mile in high school! I gave the old, “I can’t run,” line to everyone up until 5 years ago. And then, I just said, “well, let’s give it a try and see what happens.” Now, a few years later, I’m a marathoner, and running is my passion! It makes me so happy when others go through the same moments of joy and accomplishment, and it’s my hope to guide many more to that joy!
I know you can do it! So what will you take on today? No matter where you are in your training or on your journey, or what you’re doing, great job in doing it! Feed on those positive accomplishments, and there will be no limits!
As a fitness professional, I see and hear it all the time—friends, family, clients, people I have just met—the classic, “But I hate working out so much! I can’t find the time or the motivation. How do you do that all the time?” Well, Number One, I don’t hate working out. Not even a little bit. Unfortunately, I cannot give a magical tip for this one. The more active I have become, the more I love to continue, the more I look forward to the exercise in my day, whether 20 minutes or three hours. It’s more an attitude change that comes with a lifestyle change. Number Two, I make time. Even if it is not the time I had originally planned on. I make no excuses. Number Three, motivation. This one can be tricky. Some days it’s not even a question, I am up and at ‘em, out the door and done by 8:00am. Other days, I lollygag, I put it off, I tell myself it’s ok to have a rest day. And still other days, I go about my workout somewhere in the middle, and just manage to get it done. To me, those are the important days.
Today for me was one of those in-between days. I have a training plan, and I needed to get out the door; that was my motivation. I also have a hectic life, and my workout got put off for two hours this morning. That increased the lovely summer-in-St. Louis temperature to 87 degrees at the start of my 8 mile run. I decided that I had done a 7 miler without water in similar conditions, so I would test it out today as well. How did that test go? Here’s a snapshot:
1 mile in – It’s hot.
2 miles in – Ugh, it’s really hot today!
3 miles in – I hate all these stupid hills and this stupid concrete and this stupid sun!
4 miles in – HALFWAY, you can make it. Well…maybe you can make it to the water fountain…where is that dang water fountain?
5 miles in – Move the legs. MOVE, LEGS!!
5.6 miles in – Water stop.
And I lapped up that water like a dog in the desert. Way too much water for the middle of a run. I stuck my face right in the fountain. I splashed it all over myself, on my legs, my chest, my head. And then I walked around for a few minutes, and then I came back and drank yet some more water, and then I just sat down. Yep, I sat down in the middle of my run.
This is something that I have never done before. Just pushed myself to the brink and had to literally take a break and not push through. It was pretty tough on me. In that few minutes, my mind went everywhere—how am I going to finish a marathon if I can’t even finish a medium run? What is going on today? It’s just too hot and I knew better (which I did). I’ll just cut the workout short, that’s ok too. No, I won’t, I need to get the training in. Huh, look at that cool bird!
And then after some of that delicious H20 settled, I set off again. This time, with adjusted goals and motivation. I’m tired and it’s hot, it’s ok to slow the pace. It’s ok if I change course and only finish 7 miles instead of 8. This is the point of the training, to find out what you can do! And whatever you can do is great for today. My motivation was now to just get the most out of the rest of my workout.
6 miles in – I’m feeling better, I’ll just see how I feel at 7.
7 miles in – There’s that hill, I’ll be happy with 7.5.
8 miles – There it is. I made it!
And you can make it too! Not every day is going to be perfect when it comes to getting your workout in. You may have a weight workout planned, but can only get in a 30 minute run around the neighborhood because you don’t have time to drive to the gym. That’s a great substitute! Or maybe you were going to do cardio, but you can’t stand the thought of it, so you get in your push ups and squats and planks at home for 30 minutes. Awesome! Or maybe you’re like me and you have a certain training plan that you want to stick to, but some days or weeks it just doesn’t seem to work out. Remember that training plans are just a blueprint and can be adjusted based on circumstances. And you should never be too hard on yourself when you do make an adjustment!
Here’s the deal: be patient with yourself and allow yourself a little bit of wiggle room when it comes to motivation. Don’t misinterpret what I am saying; I am not saying it’s ok to make excuses all the time, or frankly, anytime. Don’t make excuses and don’t be lazy. Just be flexible to the point where with a little oomph, and a mental reset, you can still get it done for the day. If you are not motivated for one thing, do another. Maybe it’s a good day to try out that new yoga studio that just opened around the corner. Or maybe you can call a workout buddy to hold you accountable and make that workout just a little more enjoyable this time.
Motivation, especially when it comes to fitness, comes in all different forms. The key is to find what works for you and use it, even on the in-between days!