Benefits for performance to punish ourselves with exercise?
When I was a kid, I allowed myself to get mixed up all the wrong circles.
Without going into details, I caused trouble in my town, got involved in drinking and drugs at an early age and went from being one of the brightest students in school to massively under-achieving in exams, and eventually being asked to leave.
For a long time after that, I was haunted with regret and shame for this behaviour and it fuelled my workouts.
Once I’d got back onto the right tracks and adopted fitness as my number-one ally, I’d push through gym workouts by considering it a punishment.
My mentality, whenever I was close to exhaustion,, was that I didn’t deserve to have it easy.
I honestly viewed hard training as my redemption!
Using this mindset as a tool had its benefits and the pic above is my own 10 year 'before and after'.
On the flip side of this, I see people often failing to reach their fitness goals because they mitigate the enjoyment factor.
I also have coached people on personal performance who’ve exacerbated self-esteem issues because of behaviours such as excessive negative-self-talk.
For these reasons, I’m really careful about how to approach the idea of ‘exercise as a punishment’ with clients because it’s a tool that needs to be handled very carefully and certainly isn’t for everyone.
I do believe very firmly that everyone in time should have elements of their exercise regimes that go beyond ‘challenging’ and into the realms of ‘uncomfortable suffering’.
This isn’t a sadistic fetish, rather I understand from my own experiences the massive benefits to one’s mindset of resetting the boundaries of one’s limits.
To have felt what it’s like to get to the point where you want more than anything to give up, but to put the middle finger up to your own safety mechanisms, and push through.
To know that we are able to voluntarily tolerate suffering, for at least a little while, strengthens us in ways that just isn’t possible by any other means.
David Goggins, author of ‘Can’t Hurt Me’, has developed a huge following of people that have made amazing transformations both physically and mentally, many of whom attribute their success to the same sort of mindset I described earlier from my younger days.
I don’t have any particular actions points from this post, I only want to provoke you into a bit of self-questioning.
What’s your relationship with exercise right now?
Do you see it as a punishment or a chore?
How much enjoyment factor is present in your training?
When’s the last time, if ever, you pushed yourself into the realms of uncomfortable suffering and caught a glimpse of what you’re truly made of?
Can you say with certainty which mentality benefits you most; exercise as a punishment, or comfortable enough to keep you doing it?
There’s no right or wrongs here necessarily.
As always it comes back to a deep understanding of oneself in order to determine a strategy for self-development.
Question your own ideas.
Understand your limits.