champagne and fries

Stop “earning” things with your workouts

I don’t believe that exercise is inherently “good.”

There, I said it. Like all decisions, the choice to exercise – or not – is neutral. Choosing to exercise may help you reach a certain goal, but that doesn’t make it the right or good or morally superior choice. Why does any of this matter? Because equating exercise – or any hard thing that we don’t currently do – with “goodness” or worthiness just leads to feelings of failure and a shame spiral that most certainly does not bring us closer to our goals.

When we only exercise because we “should,” we look to things like rewards to motivate us to do it. Let’s take one example: Earning a food treat for completing a workout. (Let’s just set aside for a moment the notion that you probably treat that food as a reward because it’s “bad” or “naughty” or “wrong.”)

Let’s say you do complete the workout as planned. You get the treat. You’ve reinforced to your primitive brain that the only reason to exercise is for a prize. Hint: It’s not! In order to create a sustainable behavior change, you need to make choices for the inherent reward built into them. When setting your goal with me, you’re making the decision to exercise for a concrete reason: pain relief, stress relief, improved mobility, or a toned appearance. I want to help you learn to love exercise because it brings you closer to that goal, not to mention a bevy of other short-term benefits, like improved mood, better sleep, etc. When you only exercise for an external reward, you rob yourself of the incredible experience of learning (choosing, even!) to enjoy exercise and find it intrinsically valuable.

If you learn to love exercise and value it for what it is, I promise, you will shatter your goals. Because you’ll stop having to strong-arm yourself over and over again to exercise. It will just become who you are. You will become that obnoxious person who can’t imagine skipping a workout (you can hardly wait, right?).

Now, let’s imagine you don’t do the workout. I can teach you so many ways to help reduce the chance this happens, but whatever the reason, s&*$ happens. This is the moment when your disappointed, discouraged self needs love and forgiveness most. You want to be telling yourself: “Wow, your workout is so important to you. I know that XYZ must have been incredibly important to take this away from you. I’m so sorry that happened!” If we are trying to earn a treat, we instead tell ourselves, “Ugh, you lazy slob, you don’t deserve [reward]. Who do you think you are anyway, trying to exercise all the time? You’re never going to exercise regularly, because you never have. Blah, blah, blah.”

Let me tell you a secret: You already deserve everything you want. And no, I’m not talking about cookies, and Netflix, and quitting your job. I’m talking about the things you really want: Your biggest, earth-shaking, life-changing goals. The version of yourself that you only in your wildest dreams imagine is possible. You deserve all of that. And you get there by setting your sights further ahead than just the next workout or the next week or the next month. Let’s connect and figure out the strategies to get you from here to there.

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