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aviona's avatar

When I don't exercise I mentally beat myself up, but when I do exercise I don't give myself the praise I deserve. Advice?

Asked by aviona (3242points) May 6th, 2009

I’m hard on myself in a lot of areas in my life, but especially exercise. When I don’t go for a run or hike on a day when I’m “supposed to” (I generally go every other day) I mentally beat myself up for it so hard. Even if I’m just having trouble motivating myself to get dressed and go I can bring myself to tears over it.

This happened yesterday evening. I felt like crap, but managed to get dressed and go for a run—a good one at that. I realized that afterward, driving home, I hadn’t given myself any sort of “props,” or pat on the back. I hadn’t told myself “Good job for going on a run even when you didn’t feel like it.”

If I’m so hard on myself when I don’t go, should the praise when I do go be equal? Can anyone offer any tips of maybe how I can reward myself or simply commend myself in a suitable manner? And maybe stop beating myself up so much as well?

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13 Answers

SpatzieLover's avatar

Is there anyway you could combine the exercise with something you love to do?

For example, I love gardening, so I combine my “workout” with vigorous gardening. I love hiking in the wilderness, too. Both of these activities give me a natural HIGH when I do them, so I always want to do them more often.

Facade's avatar

here for the tips. I do the same thing you do. Being grossly out of shape (imo) wasn’t in my plans

3or4monsters's avatar

I think what might help is a shift in perception on how you view exercise.

If it is seen as this awful but necessary thing you have to do to be a responsible person, that makes it a burden of “What I SHOULD be doing”. That makes it less pleasant. That makes you feel like a failure when you can’t be a grown up and just do it, and when you DO do it, well, you should have been doing it anyways, why praise it?

Just… icky. Scratch that. The perception has too many negative connotations hanging off of it to make the change and stop beating yourself up. Negativity and self-abuse go hand in hand!

Firstly, I would focus on the positive aspects. Reflect on what you enjoy about exercise (yes, this IS possible!) and the GOOD things about it that make it worth while. Make it something you look forward to doing instead of this burden of responsibility.

I have some ideas on how to do this, but I’m curious what others provide with their feedback. I can update with those ideas a bit later. :) I used to hate it. Now I love it (most of the time).

wundayatta's avatar

@3or4monsters has a very good idea, I think. I look forward to hearing more about it. You might try looking into Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. The Happiness Trap is a good place to start. They suggest ways to deal with “shoulds and oughts.” I haven’t gotten that far in the book, though.

I suspect is has to do with separating yourself from your self-judging thoughts. “I’m thinking that I should run? Isn’t that interesting?” I.e., your essential self is separate from the thoughts about what you should do. You can choose to pay attention to those thoughts or not, depending on whether it is useful. Useful means that it makes you feel better. In this case, thinking you should have gone running is a way of beating yourself up, so it ain’t good. On the other hand, as @3or4monsters says, thinking about how good that run felt—that feels good.

Praise or punishment are kind of both unhelpful. You probably don’t want to run because you get “props,” nor do you want to run because you’ll beat yourself up if you don’t. You want to run because you want to run. You enjoy it. It makes you feel good. You look forward to it. That ache in your legs when you do run feels better than that ache that happens when you don’t run.

After a while, you’ll start to get used to not beating yourself up, and you may notice that it is easier to feel better about yourself. I really want to lose weight, so maybe I can take some of my own advice. I did ride my bike to work today, which I really enjoy, and haven’t been able to do in over a week due to this incessant rain.

Another trick that works for me is just not thinking about the judgmental thoughts. When they appear, I don’t pay much attention to them. I may ignore them. But usually I tell myself that it’s not worth thinking about. When I don’t judge myself, I can just be. Not good. Not bad. Just daloon. It keeps me more on an even keel when I do this. I still get to those spiraling down thoughts when I do think them, but I see that, and I stop doing whatever it is I’m doing that brings it up fast enough to keep the bad stuff away.

Well, I could go on, because I’ve just started thinking about how this might work, but for now, I’ll leave it alone. If something urgent comes up, I’ll let you know. @3or4monsters—please do say more.

FrankHebusSmith's avatar

Do the opposite of those things?

aviona's avatar

Thanks @everyone. I do hike and run in a state park that is 5 minutes from my house which is gorgeous and I love it (plus it minimizes the shin splints).

Also, when I do get out and run or hike I always think to myself “I love running!” or “I love hiking!”

And in terms of positiveness I just try to think how good the endorphins are for me or even how happy my muscles are that I’m exercising them. Haha.

I think, mayyybe, a lot of my mental self-abuse has to do with my dad. He has hard on me about exercise when I was younger (and has only recently backed off after a lot of work on my part). I think I may have internalized his forcefulness. Easy to blame it on the parents, though, right?

@daloon I’ll check those out.

3or4monsters's avatar

@aviona Icky. I think I understand how that feels—I got a lot of pressure from my parents to lose weight growing up (within reason, because I was a fat child and a fat teen), and I think in my rebellious stupidity, I even purposefully gained more weight because I found the pressure so offensive/oppresive.

I think it’s very human to find dislike for something we’ve been nagged about, by someone we love.

Your follow-up reply makes me think that you’ve already taken many steps (the ones I was going to suggest, even) to learn to love exercise. This can extend to resistance/weight training as well (“This feels sucky right now, but more muscle means more VOX2 capacity, which means I can run harder and faster later this week and get a greater endorphin high… it’s going to be great”). <—this kind of visualization is also wonderful, because it makes you truly look forward to the next workout.

I think @daloon is right, that you may have to abandon the praise/punishment system. The exercise itself can be your reward. If you miss a day, keep in mind that your body DOES need recovery days to rest up and heal up from the last time you kicked your own ass. :) A rest day WILL get you more benefits on workout days! Those days off are a productive contribution to your health efforst, provided they don’t turn into rest weeks or rest months. :) Though if you are a heavy weightlifter, it’s a good idea to take 2–4 rest weeks throughout the year, spaced out.

@ others: Hating exercise only lasts during the first couple months, and then like any familiar bodily thing, your body shifts and begins to expect and need the exercise, so you begin loving it and wanting it more. Consistancy is key. And maybe brain damage. Or finding workouts that you love, that enrich your life. I believe those exist for everybody.

YARNLADY's avatar

Keep a picture that would be an “after” picture on your desk, so you can look at it and be happy ‘that’ won’t happen because you were good today.

aviona's avatar

Just so you all know, @YARNLADY & @3or4monsters none of this has to do with weight loss or gain. The pressure from myself or my parents…

@YARNLADY what do you mean by “after” picture? Me smiling high on endorphins or a “fit” person?

@3or4monsters I do take rest days & thank you for acknowedging that. My goal is to exercise every other day. And that’s when I get pissed at myself when I go 2 or more days without exercising. Thanks for all your tips.

YARNLADY's avatar

A picture of the opposite of what you would be now, either a ‘fit’ person a ‘not’ fit person, depending on whether you want to remind yourself of your goal, or reward yourself for reaching it.

3or4monsters's avatar

@aviona I’m really glad you asked this question. :) With every post I feel like I learn twice as much about you as I did before. I think I finally “got it” so thank you for the clarifications. I’m so used to participating in questions where people are trying to lose weight and hate exercise, that I wasn’t expecting someone who is in shape and enjoys it! ... but just happens to have a side-issue related to it. Does that sound right?

aviona's avatar

Pretty much @3or4monsters :)& I’m glad to let you know me…

But that isn’t to say I didn’t have my share of body-image issues in high school though

realmeister's avatar

I think the problem is you seem to dread exercising.

Instead of getting down on yourself, try to remember why you do enjoy exercising (the fresh air, the solitude of running by yourself in the quiet morning hours, the sights & smells, the feeling of accomplishment, etc) and focus on those feelings.

Once you associate exercise with “good” thoughts, you will most likely praise yourself more but also feel more inclined to get out and do it on the tough days!

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