Picture this scenario in your head. You’re at the gym on the rower and you have been given a target of 1000 metres in less then 4:30. You have reached this target once before so you definitely know it’s achievable, but for what ever reason today you are just not feeling up to speed. Maybe you had a long day at work and you are tired, or perhaps you skipped lunch and feeling a bit flat or maybe your mind is preoccupied with that argument you had with your partner earlier. For what ever reason, you have been performing like crap throughout your workout and now just when you think it’s over your trainer throws you on the rower for a final sprint to the end.

You start off strong as the trainer is yelling in your ear, to keep you going and to get you at that optimum pace. However, the first minute that fatigue kicks in and you notice yourself slowing down. You start to do the math in your head, and you realise you are not going to reach your target in time. You think why even bother, I should just give up now and stop altogether. At the same time another part of your mind starts to tell you too put your head down and dig deep. Then those negative thoughts come back and they scream at you telling you that your not fit enough and that your weak, that it’s easier to just give up. Meanwhile your trainer is standing behind you telling you to keep going.

You have all these voices in your head, and you spend the entire workout in your mind listening to them, as they play tug o war with your mind, either encouraging you to push more or to give up. You now have a difficult decision to make.

There are times when the positive voices and the trainer wins and they in fact get you across the line in time. You step off that rower proud of yourself, and like you have achieved something. Not only has your heart and cardiovascular system gotten stronger but your willpower has too.

But at times the negative voice wins; you give up. You let go of the handle and unstrap your feet from the foot rest. You hunch forward gasping for air say those infamous two words; I can’t. After you collapse on the floor and get your breath back, you get some water, say goodbye to your trainer and by the time you exit the front door your heart rate has gotten back to normal, but you don’t feel happy, or like your achieved something, you feel like you have failed. You wonder why you stopped, and why you couldn’t endure those extra few minutes of discomfort (just think of that extra calorie burn you would have got)

I’m sure we can all relate to this. What happened in this moment is that the negative thoughts overran the positive ones. This losing battle can be discouraging and at times you may feel like never bother to return because if your fitness isn’t improving at all. The truth is,  your fitness has improved, but you just let the power of your mind get the better of you.

It’s important not to beat yourself up if you drop the ball occasionally, but instead, let this crappy feeling of failure be a driver for the next workout, so the next time you are on the rower and those negative feelings start to come back, you can remind yourself of that feeling you had last time. You can reassure yourself that everything is going to be okay, and if you can endure this mild discomfort for just a little while longer you will be rewarded with this euphoric feeling of accomplishment and endorphins afterwards.