Attacking life as an obstacles course

Last week, some friends, strangers, and I completed an obstacle course workout at TNT Fitness. Amazing! Looking at the obstacles from a distance was a bit daunting. My heart raced. I was concerned that my knee, hip, and shoulder would inhibit my ability to successfully complete some of the obstacles. I worried that I was not strong enough to conquer the obstacles ahead.

photo (37)

Strong – there is no other choice

I did not feel strong enough for the obstacles laid out before me. I did not feel equipped.

As usual, I put my game face on and I prepared for the obstacles. Do not think, just DO IT!

Those who know me personally, know that I overthink. I was thinking about the hip that was sore. I was thinking about the calluses that I had recently ripped off my palms. I had to center myself and stop thinking. When I find this space of not thinking is when I find my strong. photo (38)

Not traversing the wall was not a choice. Not flipping the tire was not an option. Skipping or avoiding obstacles was not an option. Digging deep and being strong was the only choice. And we worked as a team to help others get up and over – sometimes lending a helping hand and often cheering and encouraging one another. My strength came not only from digging deep within myself, but also from trusting others.

“Mini Mt. Everest” was a mental challenge for me. I was afraid that I could not do it. My friend Mo went first – and he stood at the top waiting for me to come. I was confident that if I did not make it, he could reach for my arm and help to pull me up and over. The best part, this gave me the confidence to do it.

With my physical strength, I managed to overcome that obstacle alone. But I drew my confidence and mental strength from others.

Translating this strength onto life’s obstacles

My life has changed pretty significantly these last few weeks – in positive ways. But there have been numerous obstacles. One after the other. And there will continue to be one after another.

Just like last week’s obstacle course workout, not attacking those obstacles is not an option.

I have a vision for my life – my personal and professional endeavors. I have a rough timeline for where I would like to see myself in 5 or 10 years. There are education and experiences I desire to obtain. But God and friends have a different plan and timeline for me. The vision, the same, but put on fast forward.

I do not feel strong enough. I do not feel equipped. These are the same thoughts I experienced prior to the obstacle course workout.

The bottomline

Life is an obstacle course – and I need to learn to treat it like the one that I recently conquered. I conquer fears one at a time, and I suppose obstacles in life are to be overcome in much the same manner.

Much like the obstacle course workout, I have friends who are reaching out to grab my hand – ensuring that I do not fall or hit my face. The faith others have in me today, helps me to build my confidence and push forward with determination. The obstacles are inevitable, but I know that the hands are there to grab onto.

I am ready to attack this life as the obstacle course that it is!

Are you with me?

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Why is it so hard to accept appreciation?

Every gym has it. The group of young men – they do more standing and talking than lifting. I do not judge them – I do my thing and they do their thing. But I have no desire to interact with them. Earlier this week, I was drawn into a conversation of form and technique. I might have upset them. Alright, I probably DID upset them. But I impressed myself with how eloquently I expressed myself – and the clarity with which I offered guidance and direction.

While my feedback was not exactly accepted with open arms – you can never expect telling a man to lower his weights to be accepted – I walked away from this situation feeling incredibly confident in my knowledge and abilities. This scenario is one of many that reinforces that I am pursuing my purpose.

I also walked away from this situation feeling great gratitude…


Eucharisto, the Greek word meaning “to give thanks.” In recent years, I have given great focus to expressing my love and gratitude. I have given focus to eucharisto. I left this gym encounter with a strong desire on my heart for eucharisto. I owe a great deal to my friend and mentor – he inspired and encouraged me. He empowered and taught. He was a major influence in my decisions to do what was needed to become who I am today.

I left the gym and called him immediately – intending to leave a message because he never answers his phone. He answered. Intending to keep my call short and sweet I said, ” I just want to thank you for helping me to be smart.” He refused to accept my gratitude – defending that I am smart on my own, with the passion, desire, ambition, and intellect to learn and apply what I needed to in order to do my job and do it well.

Suddenly, the wheels were turned, and it was my turn to empower him, my mentor. I gave him a speech. The short of it being that yes, I may have the natural born intellect and drive, but he empowered and he taught. Most importantly, he believed in me. He listened. He replied, “Thank you for listening to me when I spoke and for making the effort to learn.” (Notice, he still did not accept my gratitude.)

I closed with another giving of thanks, informing him that whether he accepted it or not, he had a significant influence on who I am today. For this I will be FOREVER grateful.

Accepting eucharisto

Why do we have such difficulty accepting eucharisto, thanks, gratitude? I know that I struggle with this acceptance. When clients thank me (for doing my job) I often deflect, “Thank yourself, you put the work in.”

As a culture, we are disturbingly hard on ourselves. We rarely accept positive thoughts, compliments, or appreciation. This is a cultural disaster! Years ago I learned how to accept a compliment with a “thank you” in response. Unfortunately, this became an automatic response and I never learned to believe the compliments that were given to me!

Step one – Be aware

Like any attempt at change, the first step to accepting appreciation is awareness. We need to be aware of when others are expressing gratitude or appreciation. We need to learn to be aware of eucharisto.

Do you think that this step is too simple and perhaps silly?

Can you tell me the last time someone expressed gratitude do you?

Or the last time that you expressed gratitude towards someone else?

We often let appreciative comments and interactions go in one ear and out the other. We do not cherish them. Do we hear them? Do we let them sink into our hearts?

Are you aware?

Step two – Believe

Just as simple as step one, step to is to BELIEVE. Believe the appreciation. Gratitude. Eucharisto. Simple, but not easy. Write them over and over until you believe them. Keep a gratitude journal. Keep notecards in your purse. Write appreciative notes to yourself and to others. Leave messages in the car, kitchen, and bathroom. Let appreciation shine and you are sure to being to believe.

Step three – Shine

Express eucharisto and let it shine! Give thanks for the little things. The more you give thanks, the more you see it, the more you can accept it.

I was raised in an environment in which appreciation did not exist. You did what you did – because it was expected of you. There was no thanks for something that you were simply supposed to do! And you did what you were supposed to do in order to avoid the possible consequences. This makes both providing and accepting appreciation a challenge that I have worked long and hard to overcome.

The bottomline

Similar to make of my posts, there is no easy answer. Why is it so hard to accept appreciation?

I could pretend to have the answers, but I do not. I am a work in progress. I am TERRIBLE at accepting appreciation. I prefer to remain humble – and have not quite fully learned that you can be humble and accepting of appreciation. I realize that I influence individuals daily – and for that many show great appreciation. But I deflect – in my mind, others are far more powerful and influential!

Using anger for good

I’ve noticed that I am quick to anger lately – moreso than usual! I am angered by much of the activity in this world. I am angry and the way we judge one another. I am angry at selfish people who have gotten in the way of my and others’ goals and dreams. I am angry.

I have recently been angry – but only with one individual specifically. I have been more an more upset lately by the ways that he inadvertently hurts me. In all reality, I know it is not intentional. But I allow the hurt to become anger anyways. My pattern of letting my feelings boil up inside of me leads to this anger.

Exercise for anger management

Some have asked how they can learn to love working out and exercise like I do. Sometimes I joke that all you need is to be as angry as I am. I have a lot of anger. And disappointment. And frustration. This fuels my workouts.

Working out is a healthy outlet for my anger. It is my natural tendency to allow everything to simply build up inside and to tell myself that the thoughts and feelings will eventually go away (do not misinterpret Proverbs 29:11). This is not realistic. My workouts, however – it is incredible to have this healthy physical release! This past weekend, anger shaved :30 of per mile on my long run. This is evidence to support that a great portion of running ability is mental. And I felt fantastic afterwards – physically and mentally.

Exercise is medicine – for the mind photo (31)

Of all the things in the human heart, anger can be one of the most intense, destructive, and unhealthy emotions that we can experience. If not handled in the proper way, it can have drastic life-changing consequences. It can lead us to want to destroy (and we often self-destruct).

Exercise is a healthy coping mechanism for me. I miss my boxing and grappling, but I have other outlets. Nothing is better than using anger to lift the heavy weights of the ground. I might have my bad a$$ face on in the gym, but I do not care. The gym is where I get my therapy – and more often than not I want to be alone. Just me, my workout, and God.

After my workout, my mind is clear and rational. The anger is significantly diminished, if not completely gone! I have a mind that is constantly on overdrive, so to be able to free my mind from this cycle is the best medicine!!

Sources of anger

I often wonder, what is there to be so angry about? While this line of thinking protects me from hanging onto anger, it does not eliminate the onset of anger.

What makes me angry?

Inconsiderate  and selfish people.

When I do something incorrectly.

When someone offends me or someone I love.

Arrogant people.

Lies and deception.

Unethical marketing and business.

The bottomline

Anger can be good – and even useful. The physiological and psychological responses to anger can be channeled and used productively. (Can I be angry on race day so that I run really fast???)

How does anger impact your workouts?

Do you healthfully cope with anger?

“Is all anger sin? No, but some of it is. Even God Himself has righteous anger against sin, injustice, rebellion and pettiness. Anger sometimes serves a useful purpose, so it isn’t necessarily always a sin. Obviously, we’re going to have adverse feelings, or God wouldn’t have needed to provide the fruit of self-control. Just being tempted to do something is not sin. It’s when you don’t resist the temptation, but do it anyway, that it becomes sin.” ~ Joyce Meyer

Finding motivation to run with the wind

It is April 14th, and it is snowing. It is pretty windy and only going to get windier. As I dress for my long run, I am struggling to find the motivation. I keep checking the weather on my phone, hoping that I either saw it wrong or it will change. But…it isn’t changing. And I had better get out there soon, because the blustery winds and snow/rain mix are on the way for the afternoon. photo (1)

I am doubting myself. I am not sure that I will make it a full 115 minutes — two hours? It is April, it is not supposed to be like this. This lack of motivation has be weighing my options.

I could run inside on a treadmill. Ha! I can barely run 30 minutes on a treadmill.

I could skip the run altogether. NEVER! Not an option.

And so it looks like my only options is to bundle up at fight my way through the mild winds.

What is my motivation? Well, my parents taught me to do what I say I am going to do —

How to measure fitness improvement

April 1. No pranks for me, I meant business! It was assessment day – meaning I had to repeat my baseline workout to see how I have improved since January. The bodyweight workout is designed to be indicative of overall fitness. Having regressed in 2012, I am determined to reclaim my fitness in 2013. Weight goals and measurements are not effective for me – in previous years obsessed with weight goals and always making them lower. I needed to focus on achievement this year!

My assessment measure physical achievement on basic bodyweight exercises. I was disappointed with my performance in January. I was most disappointed with my pullups and burpees – having allowed my fitness level to decrease significantly in the previous 9-12 months. However, I did not focus on these assessment results the last 3 months – and I built my initial training around my 2013 goals.

  1. Headstands & Handstands photo (26)
  2. Heavybag Crunches
  3. 10 STRICT pullups
  4. Replacement behaviors for emotional eating
  5. Bench Press bodyweight
  6. Squat 300 lb.
  7. Planche (last minute add on)

Mind Games

I was anxious the night before my assessment, in anticipation of my performance. While I have been training without fail and have seen weekly gains, I was presuming failure. I was experiencing a fear of failure. I did not want to have the same ‘scores’ – nor worse. However, there was absolutely no reason to suspect I would not display improvement.


Sunday was a race pace 10K – and I admit my legs were a bit fatigued. The insane winds that I ran through exhausted my lungs more than usual as well. The night before my assessment, I was already making excuses – if I underperform it will because of my run today and I will know to rest the day prior to an assessment next time! 

I had expectations of my performance – and I honestly do not even know what my expectations were. In my mind, I simply needed to improve. And I was preparing excuses in case I failed! I reached out to a friend who help me calm my mind and refocus into a positive mindset.


Well, I improved. And I performed well – improving on all exercises, even if just a little. I did not know what to expect and I am mildly surprised by some of the results. I have highlighted the greatest improvements:

Exercise Jan. 2, 2013 April 1, 2013 Percent Improvement
Pushups 55 63 14.5%
Squats 206 219 6%
Pullups 11 18 64%
Burpees 25 39 56%
Traveling Lunges 98 112 14%
BB Inverted Row 42 44 5%
SB Plank :35 sec :55 sec 57%
KB Swings (20kg) 81 90 11%

I finished with a 1-mile run at a 1.0 incline = 9 minutes 18 seconds (in January I could not complete a mile run after the workout).

The take home

The highlights.

  1. The minimal improvements on squats and lunges could be the result of Sunday’s training run. While I would have liked to see more improvement with squats, it is unrealistic to expect significant improvements in muscular endurance when I am working on my absolute strength for my 2013 goal.
  2. It is evident that my cardiovascular endurance has improved tremendously in 3 months – burpees and 1-mile run. My pullup training is demonstrating effective as well, with a 64% improvements!

Alterations needed?

  1. I need to closely assess my inverted row – which was more an issue of grip strength during the assessment. July 1, when I repeat the assessment, I will use straps for the inverted rows and hope to attain a score more representative of my back strength and improvements. I also reviewed my workouts for the last 3 months and with my heavy emphasis on pullup training, I have  sparingly performed these horizontal pulls – and this will change in the coming months!
  2. I will rest completely June 30th, in an effort to see greater improvements in squats and lunges.

The bottomline

I had let my fitness level slip – and with it my self-esteem. It was important to me to get back on track. I did this by setting specific goals. I also completed this assessment, allowing me to see my starting point and track my progress. And now I feel good about my success and I am motivated to work more!

Do you have specific health and fitness goals for 2013?

How do you measure success? Improvement? I am on a journey to be in the best shape of my life for my 30th birthday – in just over a month. While the ‘best shape of my life’ is still somewhat ambiguous, I have quantified it into this assessment and my personal goals for 2013.

Are you tracking your journey?

Notes: I chose not to complete body circumferences and body fat percentage for a few reasons – but mostly because I become obsessed with them. I do weigh myself and take progress pictures in addition to these assessments in an effort to monitor progress. I am down 4 pounds from January 2.

Do what you love…and do it often

What do you love to do? How often do you do it? I believe that we have each been blessed with passions in our hearts – and that these passions have purpose. Are you passionate about your day-to-day life? Sure, some parts of life are less than enjoyable, but think big picture. What excites you? What gives you energy and focus? When you find what you love and pursue it, life no longer feels so much like work – or so it is said.

A life transition This is your life

If you can make your passion your career – you are in a wonderful position. I recently made the decision to step away from making a full-time career of my passion – temporarily. I love the change in pace. I love working with incredibly intelligent individuals. I love having ‘normal’ work hours.

Although I am still in the position to significantly impact and improve lives – the outcome is different. The reward is different. And my level of passion is not the same. While my current position is an important stepping stone towards my dream, I am keeping my eyes set on what I love – while adding valuable experience to me expertise and increasing my credentials.

How do you do what you love?

Quit your job

Been there and done that – maybe too many times during my short time as a working adult. Thankfully, in most instances I had better opportunities lined up. If you do not like your job – find another one. Yes, this is easier said than done, but I have done it and it is worth it. During my career in publishing, all of my coworkers talked about “selling their souls” to the company – I was not going to allow myself to get sucked into that mentality. They were all miserable and content, in a  high stress, deadline-driven environment. I had to get out – for my mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

Overall, does your job improve your life?

Stop watching TV

Do not have time? I hate that excuse. I do not let clients use it – and I dislike when I catch myself using it. It is a limiting belief. It is a default answer, and not always a sincere one. I have always managed to find time for everything – at times working full-time, part-time, and a full-time graduate student. And now, working full-time, part-time (in three different capacities) and working on my business plan. For Lent, my roommate and I gave up watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Thank goodness!! This has given me the time to write blog posts (as I seem to have become insanely busy).

The average U.S. adult watches 5 hours of television every day. EVERY DAY! This is amazing. Not only is this primarily sedentary time, it is time that we could use to do the things that we say we do not have time to do. I am guilty of watching a few hours of television most nights – and I am most often multi-tasking and not truly watching the television.

Can you watch less television?

Life is simple

I hope that my posts can help others to understand how simple many aspects of life are – particularly health and wellness. It may not be easy, but it is simple. The health and weight loss industry wants us to believe that everything is complicated – that is how they make money! Do not fall for it. Similarly, do not fall for the ‘easy’ gimmick solutions that charge a ton of money.

With regards to weight loss, health improvements, and fitness improvements, it is not as simple as fewer calories in and more calories out. However, it is very simple. Think Positively. Eat Mindfully. Move Intentionally.

How can you perceive life more simply?

Share your passion

It should be pretty obvious that I share my passion through this blog – among other ways. With energy and vigor. Sometimes I become heated about topics. Other times I am calm, collected, and share the inner workings of my heart and mind. Regardless, it is my passion educate and inspire others to make healthy lifestyle choices that improve quality of life. Through this blog, I am able to continue to live my dream.

What can you share?

Go out and start creating

And creating I am! I am building a strong foundation from which to launch my personal and professional dream. It is in the works. I have a few creative minds on my team (you know who you are!!) and we are moving surely but surely ahead. I am creating my niche. And I am creating happy, healthy people.

What can you create?

The bottomline

Life may not be easy, but it is simple. I am learning this more and more each day. I am also learning the value of living your dream – as I take this temporary step aside on the route to my dream (but still aligned – fear not). And I am more driven that ever to live MY dream.

“Whether you believe you can, or can’t, you are right.” – Henry Ford

Planning a day of nothing

There is nothing on my calendar today. No classes to teach. No clients to train nor coach. No social events. Nothing. On my drive home from work last night (which was LONG due to inclimate weather), I told myself that I would allow myself to sleep in and then do nothing today – only leaving the house to workout.

I am amazed by how unmotivated I am. I awoke early, but remained in bed, reading and relaxing. I also began to plan out my day (yes, planning my day of nothing).

I should get out and shovel.

I should start some coffee – it will help me become motivated.

I should plan my workout – I can go to an empty gym this afternoon and do anything I want!!!

I should do laundry.

I should do my taxes.

I remained in bed. I was unmotivated. I sent a text to my former workout partner – we now live 5+ hours apart – expressing my lack of motivation. She concurred. HOW am I going to find some motivation, I asked myself.

Step 1 – Get out of bed.

Step 2 – Put contacts in so I can see.

Step 3 – Brew and drink coffee.

Step 4 – Just do it.

So here I am. Writing this post, drinking coffee, and occasionally looking out the window at the snow on the driveway. I guess I ought to go do something about that. And I will, as soon as I am done with this cup of coffee – – – –

Finding more on a weight loss journey

A dear friend shares her journey and her heart.

To love yourself right now, just as you are, is to give yourself heaven. Don’t wait until you die. 
If you wait, you die now. If you love, you live now. – Alan Cohen

Often times, when we discuss love, it is in relation to our connections with others.  We give love anthropomorphic tendencies, describing its ability to create harmony, whether through our own personal connections or a universal exchange (that links all persons in a global community).  Discussions regarding self-love are relegated to conversations relating its pertinence in the face of limited self-worth.  The implicit necessity of loving one’s self is paramount in establishing worthwhile connections with others. 

Since this blog is about health & fitness, I will tailor this entry, relating self-love to my weight loss journey.   

Last summer I began a journey towards health & fitness, though my immediate goal revolved around losing a tremendous amount of excess weight, my exigent goal was to learn to love myself.  My excess weight was a reflection of my inner turmoil, my struggle to find acceptance (a struggle I presumed to be externally founded…. thereby, extrinsically resolved).  I assumed that loving myself would be a natural effect of changing the way I looked physically.  By changing my appearance, I would become more acceptable to others, allowing me to become more acceptable to myself.  This change would provide an avenue for me to establish connections with others (at that point I was socially isolated, spending tremendous amounts of time alone with limited social interactions) and increase my self-efficacy (believing I could accomplish the many goals I had set for myself).  To a degree these presumptions were accurate.  I have changed the way I look, I am more appealing to others and have a greater sense of comfort in my physique, but that has not translated itself into increased self-worth. 

There is still a sense of lacking and deficiency.  As I strive towards attaining what I believe to be the “perfect body” (for myself), I constantly have to face the impact of my limited self-worth. I am faced with the unhealthy habits I’ve developed, as I strive to love myself . . .. having formerly “loved” myself with food.  I developed a reliance on food to cope.  In the absence of self-acceptance and social relationships, food became an ally.  In losing weight, the foods I formerly relied on for comfort have become an enemy.  They no longer provide me with the same semblance of peace or “happiness”.  I have come to realize that my perception of myself is highly correlated to all of my struggles, I have to resolve my intrinsic feelings of worth, so that I may find the acceptance I long for.  The lack of connectedness I feel with others is greatly attributed to the lack of connection I feel with myself.  Changing my physiognomy has not changed the pertinence of answering these issues. 

photo (15)

I have to learn to love myself, to be comfortable in my own skin, to appreciate who I am.  I have to become whole.  I have to learn to live, because I’m tired of feeling dead to myself . . .. not knowing or appreciating the characteristics that make me a worthwhile individual.  It’s exciting, this concept of self-discovery.  But this undertaking is by no means easy.  This process has been laden with valleys and peaks.  It requires changing my mind, literally.  Reframing thoughts, addressing hurts, and examining fears.  Exchanging unhealthy behaviors that were once associated with loving myself for behaviors that truly reflect love for myself.  In doing so, I am hoping to experience the tranquility that comes with loving one’s self.  Partaking in the ubiquity of love, as it connects me to those I care for. 

I am grateful for those who are willing to love me along the way, as I learn to love myself.

What has your journey shown you that you did not expect?

AWESOME wellness App – Recovery Record

I put a lot of time and energy into reading weight loss and fitness self-help books, using health and fitness Apps, and – of course – reading scholarly research. This is rarely specifically to expand my personal knowledge but for the benefit of my clients. I want tools in my box to offer my clients as a means of teaching them independence. I want to empower! Finding quality tools has proven difficult! The multi-million dollar industry is filled with a lot of, for lack of a better term, JUNK.

Therefore I have resorted to a lot of “use this, BUT” referrals. For example, I suggest that a client use MyFitnessPal as a food diary but I advise against tracking physical activity and exercise in the App. This follows with a disclosure of the risks of working for the calories that the App claims to you earn. Most calorie expenditure methods are frustratingly inaccurate.

BUT, I have found an App for my iPhone that I absolutely LOVE for self monitoring. (Keep in mind, that I am not a huge fan of Apps and I tend to gravitate towards a pen and paper when it comes to things like journaling, maintaining workouts records, and food recording.)


In the process of my own self-improvement, no one App seemed to meet my needs. I found I would need to use 4, 5, or even more Apps in order to track everything that I wanted to track. This was not efficacious nor efficient. Further, it did not allow me to compare them all and I was looking for correlations. One of the most critical things for me to track has been my pain – how do my activity level, activity choices, and nutrition correlate with my pain. Is there a weather association? Mood? How do these all interact? I compiled my own worksheet for self-monitoring to meet my needs.

self monitoring


I am excited to share that I recently discovered the Recovery Record App. It looks to me like someone beat me at my own game – this is my worksheet in an App! Initially designed for use as eating disorder therapy homework – do NOT let this deter you! With Recovery Record you can track:

  • Meals and snacks (e.g., what, where, when)
  • Emotions
  • Motivation
  • Self-Efficacy
  • Accountability
  • Goals & Achievements
  • Hope
  • Pain
  • Thoughts & Feelings
  • Eating behaviors (e.g., bingeing, desire to binge, dietary restriction)
  • Hunger
  • Physiological/Somatic symptoms

Fully customizable, you can establish reminders and rewards, find accountability partners, and share your information with others (e.g., dietitian, physician, counselor, family). While you can track disordered eating behaviors, you can also disable that tracking – along with any other logs you may not want to keep.

You also have the option of logging in via your computer, which I prefer if I want to add a lengthy note or track a significant amount of food.

Stop calorie counting

One of my favorite things about this App is that there is no built-in calorie counting. I discourage calorie counting and encourage mindful eating – and tracking everything that you put into your mouth is just as effective – if not more effective – than counting calories (Cooper, Fairburn, Hawker, 2003; Fairburn 2008).


How often do we use the excuse, “I forgot!”? The reminders in this App are useful without being annoying. The App will nudge you to record your meals, but you are free to go back and record information later as well. the best part, you can disable the reminders you do not want.

The bottomline

This App will help you improve and monitor whole-body awareness. This is an App that will EMPOWER you. We know that how and what we eat and exercise are correlated with thoughts and feelings. How about where and when you eat? If you suffer from chronic pain or illness – do you eat more or are you restrictive during times of suffering? Do you avoid exercise? Once you are aware – you can work to change where you may see a need to change. And you can share this information with nearly anyone you choose!

And no, the developer is not paying me to endorse the product – she (they) do not even know that I exist. But they will soon! Kudos to developer Jenna Tregarthen – she may have made it to the list of individuals I want to meet in my lifetime.


Cooper, Z., Fairburn, C. G., & Hawker, D. M. (2003). Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Obesity: A Clinician’s Guide. New York: The Guilford Press.

Fairburn, C. G. (2008). Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Eating Disorders. New York: The Guilford Press.

Hays, K. F. (1995). Putting sport psychology into (your) practice. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 26(1), 33-40.

Will work for coffee

If you have read many of my posts, you already know that I hate aerobic exercise – commonly referred to as cardio. I incorporate my cardiovascular training into my strength training program and also finish most days with a bout of cardio. This is doable. And is my level of fitness adequate? Yes – but I will not be running a marathon anytime soon!

Tuesdays and Thursdays are designated as my aerobic fitness days. I begin each workout with a warm up and maybe some core (this is what entices me to get to the gym). The bulk of my work is done in aerobic intervals. I can stay on a treadmill 5X longer if I am doing intervals than if I do a steady state.

And when I want to quit, which is often with cardio, I tell myself that after my workout I can treat myself to a coffee. Mind you – I do drink black coffee and I allow myself to drink it whenever I want it so the concept of it being a true reward is mute. Somehow, this works for  me. While doing my intervals this morning, I thought I should make a sign, WILL WORK FOR COFFEE.

Why it works

There are multiple explanations for why my process works. I trick my own mind! I use strategies and mental skills to keep my head in the game! The most important? Goal setting.

Intervals = Task goals

We can improve motivation through goal setting (Hardy, Jones, & Gould, 1996; Wilson & Brookfield, 2009). While we often think of outcome goals (e.g., long-term goals) as big dreams or milestones that can only be achieved in time – those are certainly outcome goals – equally important are incremental goals. Some of these may be smaller outcome goals and some may be minute task or process goals. Each week, my Tuesday and Thursday workouts are outcome goals. And I set task goals that allow me to reach the outcome goal – completing the workout. Let me explain.

Because I do not enjoy cardio, it makes it hard to make it to the gym in the first place. Therefore, I begin my workout with something that I enjoy. Lately, I have been practicing headstands and handstands – which I thoroughly enjoy. I WANT to do my practicing and I have to go to the gym to do it. Once I am at the gym, I might as well put in the work! I’m warmed up and get right into my intervals, somedays :60/:90, some :30/:30, and so on. Honestly, the time split doesn’t matter all that much. What matters is that I think about getting it done one interval at a time. My mind is usually fighting me and I ask myself, why am I doing this again? So I start, telling myself that I will do half of my intervals and then reassess the situation. So,

          • outcome goal = 8 intervals
          • incremental goal = 4 intervals (reassess)
          • task goals = each interval

More often than not, by the time I have completed half of my intervals, I am pumped on adrenaline and working to the end is no longer an issue. And as a woman true to her word, and will not quit. I will not be stopped!

Short-term goals MUST be established. Short-term task goals will help increase self-efficacy and enhance sense of self-worth through the reinforcement of accomplishments (Hall, Kerr, Kozub, & Finnie, 2007; Wilson & Brookfield, 2009). Further, the use of task goals can encourage flexibility for those of us who normally retain a rigid approach to attaining perfection (Hall, Kerr, Kozub, & Finnie, 2007).


Related to goal setting strategies is self-regulation. Kirschenbaum (1984) defines self-regulation as

“the processes by which people manage their own goal-directed behaviors
in the relative absence of immediate external constraints.”

Self-regulation generally requires five stages: problem identification, commitment, execution, environmental management, and generalization (Kirschenbaum, 1984). And you may find it beneficial to journal or log your personal stages. For example, I

  1. have identified a problem of disliking aerobics,
  2. have committed to a desire to change,
  3. will execute change through various workouts,
  4. have enforced that my workouts (including my headstands) must be completed at the gym, and
  5. will eventually apply what I learn to other generally difficult situations.

The reward system?

I motivate myself with the reward of coffee. But this is not a true reward. I would have had my coffee whether I had worked out or not. You see, I simply cannot function without coffee. So, what have I done here to improve my motivation?

I have ignited the reward center of my brain by placing pleasurable bookends on both ends of something I find aversive. We do not like everything that we do in life. Sometimes we just do things because we have to. Other times we choose to do things because we know the pleasurable outcome.

A bit about rewards

I want to advise against using food or drink as a reward. Hypocrite? A cup of black coffee contains 5 calories and caffeine has been shown to provide numerous post-workout benefits. If coffee works as a reward for you – that is the only exception I will allow! The problem with using food as a reward? If you are working towards adopting a healthy lifestyle, your reward of food becomes equally pleasurable and aversive. You have now confused your mind! (As if we do not have enough confusion in life!)

You are used to eating after your workout? Good, you should. Make it a planning and allotted for snack or meal! That is not a reward.

Plus, there are so many pleasures in life beyond food!!

The bottomline

I WILL work for coffee. The chances are, I would do more work for more coffee – but that is another post. I have some challenges for you. Are you ready?

  1. Find at least one exercise or activity that you LOVE.
  2. Incorporate that love into EACH and EVERY workout.
  3. Set a daily goal – and possibly task goals within that goal.
  4. Reward yourself for every goal you complete – large or small.


Hall, H. K., Kerr, A, W., Kozub, S. A., & Finnie, S. B. (2007). Motivational antecedents of obligatory exercise: The influence of achievement goals and multidimensional perfectionism. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 8, 297–316.

Hardy, L., Jones, G., & Gould, D. (1996). Understanding psychological preparation for sport. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Kirschenbaum, D. (1984). Self-regulation and sport psychology: Nurturing an emerging symbiosis. Journal of Sport Psychology, 6(2), 159-183.

Wilson, K., & Brookfield, D. (2009). Effect of goal setting on motivation and adherence in a six-week exercise program. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 7, 89-100.