Working Out For Reward vs Punishment
Written by Arielle Bloom

When you think of burpees, one of two thoughts can pop into your head- “Yay Burpees!” or “Oh no! Burpees.” My guess is that for most of us, the latter is a much more popular response. Why is that? Are burpees really that bad, or is it just that we associate burpees with pain, torture, and misery? As CrossFitters, we are accustomed to burpees popping up in some form several times throughout the week in workouts. However in many sports, burpees are used as a form of punishment, to drive out a particular behavior, whether it is lateness, or failure to follow instruction. Using a movement that is so beneficial to the body during exercise as a punishment trains athletes to dread the movement, rather than appreciate the benefits of utilizing it.

Getting Down to the Root of the Problem

When you think of your workout, are you excited to sweat, or are you dreading the torture? This is how the punishment vs. reward mentality is developed, which may be where our hatred for burpees stems from. Let’s look a little deeper; Are you working out to feel good, or are you working out because you feel like you have to? Many times, we associate exercise with fixing a problem that we have created in another area of our lives. This could be a perceived problem with our nutrition, body image, health or self-confidence. The benefits of exercise in terms of reducing the risk of various health concerns are well-defined, well-known, and well-represented in the fitness community. However, how often do we really look into the benefits of exercise on mental health?

Love Your Workouts

Here is where we can reframe how we look at our workouts so that we can really appreciate the benefits. As we know, constantly varied, functional movement executed at a high intensity when utilized as a consistent program prescription for exercise has been proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as diabetes, and the various side effects associated with them.

These health benefits, and the way you feel post-workout can far outweigh the discomfort during. In order to reframe the way you think about your workouts, you have to look at why you are exercising in the first place. Think about your goals, and why you show up in the gym every day. Is it to get stronger? Maybe your goal is to feel good so that you can live a long, healthy life. Maybe your goal is to be fit enough to run around with your kids, or your dog. All of these are the perfect reason for you to be in the gym, and they are all the perfect reason for you to love every workout you come across in the gym.

Be Intentional

At Invictus, we talk a lot about being an intentional athlete, and not a reactional one. This has a lot to do with the way we approach workouts. If you are constantly going into the gym, dreading some portion of a workout because the movement is one that may not be “in your wheelhouse,” then you are constantly reacting to your environment.

Dr. Heidi Barker spoke recently spoke at an Invictus Athlete Camp about approaching workouts as if each and every movement is in your wheelhouse, so that you can train your mind to look forward to your workouts. Visualization is a term we use a lot at Invictus, especially in preparation for a competition, however it is also something you can utilize daily to reframe how you approach every workout.

As you wake up in the morning, create an affirmation that you can tell yourself throughout the day to get you excited about your workouts. This affirmation can be as simple as, “today is a great day,” or “I can do this.” Positive affirmations like these can prepare your mind to think more positively, and ultimately will lead to more enjoyment for you in your workouts. The ability to think positively will set you up to be grateful for your ability to perform the movements in your workouts, rather than dreading them. This gratitude can bring you much more enjoyment in your workouts, because from a place of gratitude you can truly appreciate what it takes for you to live a long and healthy life.

“Treat Yo’self”

When you finish that last burpee, pull-up, or squat clean of a workout, you feel a sense of accomplishment rush over you. You may also feel a little bit of relief that you made it through to the end. But that’s just it, you made it through. Your strength, both mentally and physically- brought you to endure the burn of muscle fatigue, to push through even when you wanted to quit, to finish what you started. Every day that you walk into the gym, you walk out a little bit stronger. Every day, you are telling yourself that you can and will accomplish something great today.

So tomorrow, when you head into the gym, give yourself some serious acknowledgement, because you are taking a stand to be a healthier, stronger, and smarter version of you. Love your workouts – because without them, you might not be able to pick up your kids, or run with your dog, or even carry the groceries from your car to the front door. Tomorrow, when you walk into the gym, be thankful for the opportunity you have to make yourself stronger. When you reframe the way you think about your workouts, they become a form of reward, to reward you for choosing to live a healthy life.

Are You an Intentional or Recreational Athlete? Perf. Heidi Fearon-Barker. Invictus Fitness. Invictus Fitness, 18 Feb. 2017. Web. 18 Feb. 2017.

Glassman, Greg. “What Is Fitness?” The CrossFit Journal. CrossFit, 1 Oct. 2002. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.

Hagger, Martin, Chatzisarantis, and Nikos. “The Social Psychology Of Exercise And Sport.” Google Books. Open University Press, 2005. Web. 16 Feb. 2017.

Gibala, Martin J., Jonathan P. Little, Maureen J. MacDonald, and John A. Hawley.

Martin, CJ, Calvin Sun, Heidi Fearon-Barker, and Nichole Dehart-Kribbs. The Invictus Mindset. San Diego: Invictus Fitness, 2015. Print.

“Physiological Adaptations to Low‐volume, High‐intensity Interval Training in Health and Disease.” Wiley Online Library. The Journal of Physiology, 1 Mar. 2012. Web. 16 Feb. 2017.

Also Check Out…

What Motivates You? Ego Or Purpose?

3 Ways Meditation Has Made Me A Better Athlete

4 Symptoms of Low Self-Confidence You Need to Avoid

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