Diary of a workout: a physical and emotional rollercoaster

Although a workout is generally thought of as a physical experience, it is also usually accompanied by a range of feelings and emotions, starting before you even begin exercising and continuing long after you have finished.

Often, it is this emotional voice that takes over when we are losing the motivation to keep going, or even to start exercising, so I thought I would share mine with you, in case you thought it was just you who had to endure this internal battle each time you get your trainers out!

Diary of a workout

If you are not in the habit of exercising or don’t enjoy it, the first emotions you may feel at the thought of exercise may be something akin to dread! But it’s useful to know that you can talk yourself round to the idea and turn your emotions towards helping you find the motivation you need to make a start.

By keeping your thoughts in check as you go, you can change your thought pattern from positive to negative, helping to keep you motivated in the long run.

Here’s a typical example of the emotional rollercoaster ride that often strikes me when I know I need to do some exercise, but am struggling for motivation.

Before exercise:

  • I should do some exercise now. I have the time, the kids are asleep in bed, and there is nothing physically stopping me.
  • But I really don’t feel like it. I’m tired, I’ve had a long day, and I would rather just sit down and watch some TV – maybe have a glass of wine – and go to bed.
  • But I need to maintain my fitness levels, keep my weight down, condition my heart, help control my diabetes – and I know that regular exercise is great for all of these things. Plus I have a goal: I’m going on holiday in a few weeks and want to look good on the beach! Drinking wine in front of the TV won’t get me there; exercise will!
  • But I really am tired… Maybe I could just take tonight off and do more exercise tomorrow?
  • No! Do it now! You know you will feel great afterwards, and it’s still early – you can relax and watch some TV afterwards, smug in the knowledge that you did it instead of bailing out. Get your trainers on – you’ll be finished before you know it!

During exercise:

  • Wow this is hard – I’m out of breath already…
  • Ok, I’m warmed up now, and getting into my stride. My breathing has found a rhythm and I’m starting to sweat – it feels good!
  • Phew I’m really pushing myself, I’m totally out of breath, my muscles are exhausted, and I want to STOP!
  • But if I stop, I know I will feel like I failed, and I won’t get any of the benefits that I know exercise can give me. So I catch my breath and I push even harder to get through this sequence, because I know that getting through when I almost didn’t make it feels GREAT! And it does – pushing my body to its limits like that feels AMAZING.
  • I did it – YES! And now it’s time to stretch and cool down, my favourite part. This is where I really feel the benefit of the blood pumping and endorphins zinging round my body while I get my breath back and enjoy stretching out my tired but buzzing muscles.

After exercise:

  • I feel euphoric: my muscles feel warm and fuzzy, my skin feels alive, my blood is pumping happily to every inch of my body, and I feel cleansed from all the water I’ve taken in and sweat I’ve lost.
  • Emotionally, I feel empowered by the fact that I did it, even though I didn’t really feel like it at the start, and proud of myself for doing something so great for my body.
  • Now it’s time to sit back and reap the health benefits while I relax in front of the TV, feeling just a little bit (ok, a lot!) smug and righteous!


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