Powering Through

Sometimes we have to do hard things.

Aug 8, 2021
If you're working to improve your fitness level, it's a constant cycle of experiencing a stress and adapting to it. You end up stronger, but have to keep pushing (appropriately) in order to keep improving.
This means things never really get easier. And that is OK. It's more than OK, it's great - but that's a topic for another day.
For today, I want to share some of the simple things I do to help myself get through tough workouts. Some of these, although not #1, I also use to get through big projects at work and folding laundry.
  1. I count. Sometimes I pick a number (50 or 100) and count to it. If I'm running, I usually count every four steps. If I'm rowing, I count each pull. The goal is to get to the target number. Then I start again.
  2. I focus 100% on the set in front of me. The anxiety of a long list of exercises (or todos) can really cramp your style. I tell myself the future sets don't exist. What's in front of me is all there is. I will cross the bridge when I get to it. A fantastic approach to managing an inbox too.
  3. I set micro goals. I recently did 30 rounds of short sprints. After just a few rounds, I started feeling like this was interminable. So I focused on getting to round 10. Then, I focused on getting to round 15. Similar to technique #2, I forced myself to ignore what's past that next micro goal.
  4. I give myself pep talks. "I can do anything for one minute." Or, "I can do anything for 10 reps." Or, "This discomfort will pass." Or, "This run is shorter than a TV show... get over it!" Sometimes I am a more profane.
  5. I focus on the post-workout feeling. The post workout bliss is euphoric and I want the right to fully bask in that feeling. I know how great I will feel after accomplishing whatever I set out to do, and if I don't live up to my plan, it won't feel the same.
  6. I recognize the brevity of the situation. A long workout is at most 75 minutes for me. That's about 5% of a day. This is really helpful when I'm doing a tough set of squats. The entire set is going to last a minute at most. I know I will squat at most twice per week, maybe only once. So why leave anything on the table? 
Each time you make it, you gain a little confidence. The next time you face a daunting workout or task, you have that experience in you. It's still hard as hell to push yourself. But your track record of successes will inspire you to find the strength to power through. You may also get really good at counting.