Workout Mind Games

Posted: July 22, 2011 at 7:00 am

I have two important hellos to give out today – one to FRIDAY! So nice to see you again! And another to all the new faces I have seen around here. Make yourself at home and thanks for stopping by. For all you “old faces” – I love love love love love you too! You will find it either heart-warming or get-a-grip-girl-ridiculous when I tell you that I got all watery eyed yesterday thinking how blessed I am to blog and have you all in my life to make it happen. I’m a softy. Sue me. 😉

I could go on and on about my adoration of each of you, but I have something to get off my chest. I know you all think I eat, live, and breathe working out. Well, I do. Howeeeverrr, I certainly have my days where I do not feel like it either. Days where the motivation somehow failed to come along for the ride. I faced that scenario yesterday afternoon!

I couldn’t head to the gym in the morning because Makenzie has contracted some sort of random rash this week. It has improved immensely since its random outbreak on Tuesday, but I always play it safe when exposing my kids to other children. No gym child care for her today! Which meant afternoon workout for me. Ewwww.

I have no trouble pumping myself up for a workout in the morning. I’m fresh and ready to go! In the afternoon, I just want to spread out on the floor like roadkill and allow the two children to use me as a jungle gym (Makenzie) or teething toy (Mr. B). I knew if I skipped out, though, I would regret it since it would have come from pure laziness. I bucked up and dragged my booty to the gym.


The workout felt good, but I don’t want to lie and tell you I breezed through. Oh no. I spent the majority of that workout playing the little mental games I turn to when I have to power through. I have quite a few because, like many others, sometimes I have to distract myself. And boy do I have a  variety of ways to do that.

The Mind-Games Tina Plays During Blah-Don’t-Want-To-Do-This Workouts

Goooooaaaaaaaalllllllllll!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!: Okay, maybe I’m still stuck in earlier this week with the Women’s World Cup. Anyways – I remember my goals. On runs, I picture myself crossing that finish line for my upcoming half marathon. I picture myself becoming a personal trainer and wanting to have the pizazz to motivate others, including myself. I picture myself lugging kids around without my arms killing me. I picture feeling confident in my bathing suit. Don’t you tell me that doesn’t motivate you a bit too!

Can’t Touch This”: I cannot believe I am about to admit this. When I need a little pump up in my workout attitude, I will tell my workout it can’t get the best of me. How? By singing MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” in my head over and over and over again. Whilst also picturing a scene like one of my favorite flash mob videos I have ever seen breaking out at my gym. Ohhh ohhhh! Ohhhh ohhh! Can’t Touch This! Not. Even. Joking.

Break It Down: I will break my workout into smaller chunks. Instead of thinking “I have six exercises to get through” I will focus on the first two. Kind of like with running and the whole “take it one mile at a time” approach. Focusing on one part over the whole helps it feel more manageable when I don’t have high levels of gung-ho-ed-ness. It’s a word.

The Final Countdown: In a similar vein, if I count my reps down in my head it makes me feel better. I guess I like hearing the number get smaller and smaller. Just…two…more…jump squats…

jump squat

….because, heck no do I always look so peppy in a round of those suckers! 

The Blog: I know you all would never feel disappointed in me…but at the same time, knowing I share workouts with you fabulous folk can give me a swift kick in the pants. Besides…its more fun for me to write and for you to read about pushing through a workout and envisioning Hammer Time flash mobs than me saying “oh, I didn’t feel like working out today”. I thought so.

Jesus: Yes, I go there. If that man can go through what he did for me, then pretty sure I can handle that last set of push-ups. Plus, a healthy body is a blessing and I don’t want to take it for granted.

“Fooooooood”: Visions of sugar plums may not dance through my head, but visions of oatmeal sure do! Even though I eat a snack before most of my workouts, I can never fail to distract my thoughts with food. Maybe that’s another reason I don’t enjoy working out in the afternoon. Oats and smoothies are more fun to think about than leftover pasta salad, no matter how delicious it may be.

pasta salad dinner

Watch Out, Girl! I must admit that I also stoop to the level of picking some poor soul in the gym to “compete” against. I choose someone busting butt and refuse to let that person one-up me. Not the best side of me, but at least it gets the job done!

Your turn! What are your favorite mental games for during tougher workouts?

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63 Comments to “Workout Mind Games”
  1. I REALLY love that you just shared you listen to can’t touch this to pump you up. That is awesome! My favorite mental game is to think about sitting on my couch and relaxing after a workout, or let’s be serious a big iced coffee. 🙂

  2. Mandy says:

    Oh the evening workout…I have a hard time getting pumped up for them too. I have to do it today though–since this morning I have a newborn session. I’ll be doing some of these mind games myself lol 🙂

  3. Loved this post! it is so true how your mind wanders when your workout haha. I usually pray, think of a recipe I want to try, or something I need to do after the workout is done. I zone out and just geet ‘er done 🙂

  4. I have been using the competing trick lately, but it’s with this middle aged guy that just joined our gym that works with my hubby. He’s a little creppy looking, and I love using a piece of equipment he just used and upping the weighs! He did leg extensions that other day on 70 lbs (for BOTH legs) and I upped it to 100!! There is usually no guy I could come close to one upping and the only girls who really lift a lot are much bigger than me so I don’t try to one up them too often!

  5. LOVED the Hammertime flash mob. I haven’t seen that one before!

  6. i feel like i’ve said it before but i try to play the distraction game by do fractions and percentages of stuff in my head. it’s just distracting enough for me not think about how i don’t love it right then and there, but not so distracting that i can’t pay attention to form!

  7. I also use the break it down method…and the “If i do all my reps & sets I can really enjoy that glass of wine – (or two) later!” So right about Jesus too girl -word! 🙂

  8. Lee says:

    I picture myself crossing a finish line a lot. Specifically to the Chariots of Fire theme song. Super cheesy, I know.

  9. LOL, love this! I sometimes picture myself dancing in the music video of whatever song I’m listening to… or if I’m in a group ex class, I pretend we’re being filmed and if I slack off, I’m gonna get cut. Both pretty lame coping strategies but they work! Oh and of course thinking about my post-workout snack always helps…

  10. Thanks for the Hammertime, Tina!! I had to share it on Facebook…Love it and I want to DO it!!

  11. I love that Hammer Time video! Can’t touch this, woohoo!
    Your mind games are great, I do something similar to motivate myself. I always try to remember how fantastic I feel after every workout, proud and strong. Some of my favorite songs are only on my music player, so if I want to listen to them, I have to workout. And I also thing about food! I mostly do my workouts at noon or in the afternoon, so I think to myself, “The faster I run, the sooner I can enjoy my lunch/dinner.” Works every time! 😉

  12. I have to tell you, I thought about God and Jesus quite a bit during my long runs — and most of the time I’d end up in tears because sometimes I feel so overwhelmed when I think of them and what they did for me. Corny, maybe, but its the truth and I think you can understand where I’m coming from!

    Other mental games — I just tell myself “you are so strong” “this is easy” “this is fun”!!!

  13. Mellissa says:

    I am a big countdown person, only 10 minutes left or 3 more squats. It seems to make it manageable.

  14. Jess says:

    I visualize sprinklers and cold water followed by ice coffee when I’m struggling through a tough run (or other workout) AND of course the breakfast that awaits me. More often than not, some of my best blog posts come to me when I’m running and trying not to think about the fact that I’m running haha. Same goes for tweets and FB status updates, those come to me when I’m trying to ignore the fact that I soooo don’t want to be working out right now. PS. I love “can’t touch this” haha

    • Tina says:

      I always blog in my head. I think thats why I can actually write my posts so quickly. I always know exactly what I plan to say!

  15. I will play certain songs to pump me up or imagine an old coach is watching me so I have to be working hard. I do so much better with someone “monitoring” my workout, so imagining a coach there helps.

  16. Haley Q says:

    Haha these are so great – I relate on every single one of these mental games. The ones I turn to the most are breaking the workout into smaller chunks and planning out what I’m going to eat after. AGREED-a bowl of oatmeal to look forward to makes working out in the morning so much better!

  17. Sometimes, I think we share a mind. I often contemplate my chocolate cabinet at home while pushing myself through the end of the workout. At the beginning, I do the countdown.

    If working out indoors, the morning news is mind-numbing and a helpful distraction.

  18. cheryl says:

    I channel Dory, from Finding Nemo: “Just Keep Swimming!!” Works even though I am never actually swimming

  19. oh my gosh I love your tee shirt and your camera strap!!!

  20. I play treadmill games with the people next to me, I try to run faster or longer than they do. I have stayed on an extra 10 minutes just so I could beat the girl next to me.

    I also ask myself if I can just go 5 more minutes. Usually I can do anything for 5 minutes. After that 5 min is up, I see if I can go 5 more. This is good for cardio, abs or weight training.

    When I want to skip a workout, I try to remember how good it feels when it is over instead of how guilty I will feel about skipping it. That usually gets me out the door to the gym.

  21. Thank you for being open and honest about your workout mind games. This is something I really have to fight, more so at home but still. It can be so easy for me to talk my way out of a workout, but I KNOW I’ll feel great if I just get to the gym. Sometimes when I’m dying in Spin, I literally say to myself “this is crazy, it’s ok to leave the class”. I never do, YAY, but I still think it. I always think about how great I’ll feel when I’m done.

  22. Katherine says:

    hahaa Cant Touch This is awesome! “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” is one of my favorite pick up songs.

    I try to break up my workouts into sections by distance or songs. If I’m running outside, I’ll mentally break up a long run into smaller runs so that when I completed part 1, I feel like I’m closer to being done. For some reason it can’t be miles, it has to be “parts” haha…On a treadmill I break it down by songs, for example I’ll tell myself “I only have to run through 10 songs,” and then “OK just 2 more”

  23. I love this post! I definitely have to play a lot of mind games during my long runs. The first half of the run is ok, but usually around the 1 mile mark is when I get bored and cranky!

  24. Breaking up my workout into parts definitely helps it go faster for me! Also, thinking of the delicious food I’m going to enjoy afterwards doesn’t hurt either… 😉

    That’s awesome that the blog is a motivator for you–keep it up

  25. Ali says:

    I break everything down into minutes or divide reps to make things not so intimidating. My workouts tend to sound something like this in my head:

    “Ok come on you can do it, it’s JUST one minute”

    “30 seconds to go…”



    “10? no way, let’s start with 5”

    “Ehh make that 3”

    “No, you’ll hate yourself – stick to 5”

    “Ok 5 done, be a workout monster and gimme 2 more”

    “Oww one more!”

    “Two quick ones”

    “Hmm ok, that was 10. Nice”

    (I’m weird this way. Hahaha)

  26. I love the MC Hammer go-to. “Too legit to quit” doesn’t work for ya? 🙂
    When I’m trying to push through a workout, I always think about the amazing people I run into on the running trail; esp the breast cancer survivors and the incredible man with cerebral palsy. If they can get out there and run after what they’ve been through, I can certainly finish my measly workout.

  27. Haha I LOVED the MC Hammer video! I use old school songs to pump me up too. I get through my workout by telling myself that I won’t regret it if I finish strong.

  28. Bah hahahahahahaha!! The flash mob made my day! That’s the funniest one I’ve seen 😀 AWESOME!

  29. Anna Crouch says:

    Actually, this happens to me A LOT! But not necessarily because I don’t feel like working out, but mostly because…..well, apparently I have a short attention span and I GET RIDICULOUSLY BORED! hahaha So, when I’m going cardio and really don’t feel like it, I will usually break up my workout into phases. I’ll do 15 minutes on the bike, 15 minutes of incline speed walking and 10-15 minutes on the elliptical–or something to that effect! It usually works 🙂 Sometimes my mind just needs mini breaks, so I can pump myself up for another round.

    Sometimes I even use intensity intervals to do the same thing. If I’m on the elliptical, I’ll go gung-ho for 2 minutes, and rest for 1 minute at a lower intensity. Then for another 2 minutes, I’ll go at a lower incline, high resistance, then rest. Then high incline, lower resistance, then rest. The short spurts and variety really give my mind the breaks that it needs when I don’t feel like working out. Plus, it keeps my body guessing every time! I love it

    In addition, I have been bumping up my long run miles lately and have found that those mental breaks are needed then, too. I usually tell myself I can walk for 1 minute every 1-1.5 miles. It makes it SO much easier because running one mile is nothing….so I just know that all I have to do is run 1-1.5 miles, and then I can take a quick mental break…even if my body doesn’t need it! There’s just something about giving your mind a break, that makes a workout/run seem so much more doable. lol

  30. I love all your motivation tips. When I belonged to a gym I would always use others as motivation. I’m super competitive so that one worked quite well 😉 Now, working out alone at home, I’d have to say food is my biggest motivator 🙂

  31. I definitely run/dance. Which can’t be safe, but I get into the music. I’m sure everyone in the gym laughs at me. Oh, and “Can’t Touch This” is WAYYYY better than what I sang to myself as a swimmer. “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” For hours. On repeat. To each stroke. ARGH!!!

  32. Love this post Tina! Like you, I have to work out first thing in the morning to be in the best mental state to do it. Last night I was able to get my tempo run in even though I couldn’t go during the day, and I broke it down into 5 minute segments which helped it go by so fast!

  33. Lisa says:

    Omg hahahhaha TINA! I TOTALLY do that cant touch this too! haha so funny!!

  34. Amanda says:

    I just think “WWJS” which is short for What Would Jillian Say?

    I have a feeling most days she’d tell me to suck it up, that 10% incline for 10 minutes was FAR from lethal, etc. Hey, whatever works 🙂

  35. Jessica says:

    I actually have “Can’t Touch This” on my playlist! I have it set to play at about the last mile and a half of a hard run.

  36. Well, that flash mob scene may just do it for me for the rest of my life now. Hilarious.

    I tend to use the “break it down” technique. If I’m running and thinking about slowing to a walk, I’ll tell myself that I’ll run another mile and, then, if I feel like walking I can.

    And, of course, when I finish that mile, I’ll tell myself that I’ll just run one more mile and see if I still feel like walking. I’ve done that for my entire long run before, but it works. Just knowing that I’ve got that out if I want it, even thought I know I’m not going to take it, works for me, mentally.

  37. Carly says:

    I’m so with you on the first thing in the morning!!! Afternoon workouts are like torture, yet I love my workout in the morning. I too also think about my yummy breakfast 🙂 When I weight train I usually do 3-4 small circuits, so I pump through the first half and then remind myself that I’m more than halfway done, so it only gets better. Today I was doing a killer sprint workout on the treadmill – 10 sprints, so as soon as I hit 5, I convinced myself that I was almost finished! My favorite thing to get my through a plank hold is to sing the Star Spangled Banner, at the right tempo, it can usually get me through a whole minute 😉

    • Tina says:

      I do the same. 51% = almost done in my head too. And love the Star Spangled Banner trick. I will have to try that one. 🙂

  38. Thanks for these motivation tips! I definitely do a little countdown in my head while doing reps. I also sing myself songs (not audibly. haha). When I’m running I’ll think, “Just one more chorus!!!).

  39. Love your mental games Tina and I can totally relate to you about being a morning exerciser…in the afternoons I always end up getting too tired and distracted by my latest DVR episodes of RH 😉

    A mental game I like is beforehand telling myself I can just do an easy elliptical day while reading my magazine and not putting so much pressure on myself to have to go balls to the wall…however once I get there and I feel the energy from other gym goers and I got my workout music on, I more often than not get a burst of energy and end up having an awesome sweaty workout 🙂

  40. flash mobs bring such joy into my heart <33

    the "one mile at a time" outlook definitely works for me. i set little goals for myself: for instance, on the treadmill i will say "just run until this song ends, then you can stop," but by the time the song ends, i think to myself, "psh, why would you stop now? you're on a roll!" works every time 🙂

  41. Karen says:

    I ask myself “how bad do you want this”. (I’m in the process of reclaiming my health after four years of letting it go). When running I’ll says things like “only 2 more miles, you can do that easy-that’s just a short run”

  42. […] pushing through my workout last night (and envisioning flash mobs of “Can’t Touch This”), I happily welcomed a rest day this morning. I had time to leisurely start my day, including a […]

  43. Khushboo says:

    Those all sound very familiar to me, especially ‘food’! Nothing gears me up more than knowing I have breakfast to go back home to!

  44. teresa says:

    Once again, you’ve written something that is so useful to me at this very moment.
    And no matter how intimidated I sometimes get by all your comments, I’ll never hesitate to write again.

    • Tina says:

      Definitely don’t hesitate. Every comment is precious and I fully read each and every one. I love hearing from you! 🙂

  45. Anna says:

    I have to text a friend and tell her what I am doing at the gym. It is like a mini contract with myself and that individual if I do that. We meet up and motivate each other when the other is not wanting to go and what not.

    I also remind myself of how being fit makes me feel so much better! I usually jot down notes about my day and include how I feel after a workout. That helps me to remember to keep on keepin on.

  46. This made me smile because my “go to” when I’m struggling near the end of a workout is also Jesus. Especially when my legs feel like they will fall off from running. “Dear God, please let me finish.” “Dear God, thank you for giving me legs that I can run with.” Helps me everytime 🙂

  47. I always remind myself you have to fake it ’til you make it!!

  48. The Final Countdown is my go to method for sure. I’ve had a really tough time on my past two runs (treadmill, you are the death of me…) so pretty much once I hit the halfway point I’m counting down the minutes. I also really like the mantra method of having a phrase you repeat to yourself to keep going. I once read something Kara Goucher wrote about that saying that she says “fighter,” so now I say “I’m a fighter” whenever I’m getting super beat (because Kara Goucher and I are obvs on the same running level…hahahaha I wish!).

  49. haha love this post! Oh the crazy mind games we play in the gym! I totally do the food thing, or I’ll bribe myself with peanut butter if I just do a bit more, that usually works because I always want an excuse to have more peanut butter!
    Splitting it up into more manageable chunks is a really good technique; I’ll cut up a 30 minute workout into 6 sections, and then by the time you’re on to the 4th, the 6th doesn’t seem far away at all. Or I’ll play a game using whatever music I’m listening to – easy on the verses, all out on the chorus etc.
    If I’m REALLY not feeling it, I’ll move around the gym a lot. 10 mins, or a certain distance, on each cardio machine and a quick full body resistance workout, mixing up the exercises a lot. I usually end up doing about the same (sometimes even more!) than I would usually, but it feels SO much easier.

  50. Look at you in your FFF shirt! Super cute! One thing I do when I am feeling like I want to give up (especially with reps of weights) is I will focus on what that exercise is doing for my body. Better posture? Skinny jeans? It helps distract me from what I am doing and makes me excited to finish the exercise.

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