Reset your mindset on exercise―from punishment to achievement. And get set for success.

You’ve probably gotten the idea by now that I find being vigorously active outdoors exhilarating. And I count myself as fortunate to have friends who like to share in the fun. Yes, I said, “fun”. I understand that some people, perhaps the majority (certainly, the sedentary majority) think of exercise as punishment. And therein lies one of the greatest obstacles to being more physically active and improving our health. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happens when we think of sugary / fat, high-calorie, low nutrition foods as “treats” or “rewards” and exercise as “punishment”.

It’s also interesting how different people’s mindsets are when it comes to exercise activities and the degree to which they are willing to exert or challenge themselves. I get that we are all wired differently as far as our response to exercise and endorphins, but as former hunters and gatherers, we are all wired for movement throughout the day. So why have we become so utterly, physically lazy? And why is exercise viewed so negatively? What of the incredible sense of accomplishment and personal efficacy that vigorous (challenging or difficult) exercise provides? Are we so cut off from our bodies and nature in this high tech society that we can no longer experience the most basic joie du vivre— that primal physical exhilaration and exuberance that makes our blood dance and our hearts sing?

Yes, I’ve been known to be too exuberant and have suffered the consequences – overuse injuries, etc…Sometimes it can be difficult to find that fine line between pushing your body forward to progress and pushing it so hard that you regress. I’ve been called competitive, masochistic / self-punishing, you get the idea. Perhaps there’s a tad of truth there, but I think the reality is that I just have a different mindset… Perhaps we could all benefit from changing our mindset about exercise.

How about we reframe exercise as an incredible daily reward that we are privileged to give ourselves. The exercise time we invest in ourselves ALWAYS makes us feel better and pays exponential dividends—emotionally, cognitively and physically, improving the quality of our lives. What other activity (besides sex, which is a physical exercise – now there’s a favorite pastime we can all agree on, yes?) can boast such far reaching benefits? Speaking of sex, exercise does not have to hold you hostage in a gym you hate going to – you could just blast your favorite music at home and dance around in your underwear for half an hour (which could lead to sex if your partner walks in – all the better). Think outside of the box. (Think outside too – fresh air and sunshine.) What do you love to do? Do it with more pep and more often and don’t call it exercise or punishment, call it fun.

When we challenge our bodies to go beyond their normal range of activities /inactivity, we reap the rewards. Adding intensity, distance, time or speed makes it all the more interesting, beneficial and personally gratifying.

When I’m exploring new areas, I’ll often identify the highest peak, the most difficult trail, most scenic route and then set out to conquer it. I swim with a Master’s team, because it’s a tough coached workout and I get tips on improving my technique—all while enjoying a little camaraderie. I love that I can continue to improve my mastery, efficiency and skill, even as I get older, even though injuries. Since my biking accident and multiple surgeries last year, I’ve had to severely limit my activities and recalibrate what comprises an athletic endeavor for me. While I can’t do many of the activities I used to do and I’m nowhere near “race fit” anymore, I can still set and achieve small goals. When we set and accomplish exercise goals by means of exertion, skill, practice, and / or perseverance, we gain a sense of personal achievement that carries over to all aspects of our lives.

Punishment 1. The act or an instance of punishing/ the condition of being punished.

2. A penalty imposed for wrongdoing:

3. To handle roughly; hurt; mistreat


1. The act of accomplishing or finishing.

2. Something accomplished successfully, especially by means of exertion, skill, practice, or perseverance.

 So what do you say we stop punishing ourselves and starting rewarding ourselves properly?  Now tell me, what are you going to achieve today?

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