Let's set a scene — one that's been recurring in my at-home workouts for a few weeks now. There's only three seconds left of a superchallenging exercise — the kind that makes you dig down deep for willpower. But, instead of holding on until the countdown clock hits zero, I ease off and quit.
Pushing myself through the end of a hard exercise has been a struggle, and I've been making excuses for my actions, saying it's no big deal because three seconds is basically no time at all, and I did perform a majority of the move. The reality is, I know working through the last few seconds of an exercise actually matters at a lot — and I got Peloton Trainer and NASM-cerfied personal trainer Olivia Amato's confirmation on that, too.
"I like to think that how I do anything is how I do everything," Amato said. "I would never quit anything early, so why would I quit an exercise or workout three seconds early? In reality, the only person I am negatively affecting if I quit early is me."
As for my excuse about it only being three seconds? Amato said it's actually is a good chunk of time, and it definitely adds up. When I think back to how many three-second intervals I've just spent standing, waiting for my instructor to finish up, it probably amounts to a few full workouts. "I also think that the magic happens when you push through that uncomfortable feeling — if you are used to giving up early, dig deeper, and push through and see what happens!" Amato said.
To break my habit, Amato suggested shifting my mindset, so that it doesn't become a permanent part of my routine. "I like to think I'm not really done with the exercise or task until it's really done," Amato said. "Instead of thinking about giving up with a few seconds left, think about finishing the task and giving a bit more of yourself to the moment. Change starts with you — honor your ability and the strength of your body and mind!"
That means pump yourself up with positive self-talk. "Anytime I get in my head with negative self talk, it's all downhill from there. I have to constantly remind myself that if it's something I truly want, I can do it, and that giving up is only an option if I allow it to be," Amato said. You can also utilize these phrases: "keep going," "you can," "almost there," and "you are getting stronger."
And don't discount the power of music, either. "Getting out of my head and into the music and rhythm of the song is superhelpful for me in general, especially when I'm not feeling as motivated. I find that music shifts my focus and takes my mind off of feeling tired or getting in my own head." Looks like it's time to edit my playlist.
But Amato also wants it to be known: "There is a huge difference between feeling uncomfortable and feeling pain when doing an exercise." So, if you're feeling physical pain or sharp pain at any time during your workout, stop immediately and consult with your doctor before trying that workout again. Your body sends you important cues — be sure to listen.