Here's why you can't help putting off your workout

Getting fit and staying fit can be hard. We all want to be healthy but even the best will and prep can fail us sometimes.

Whether it’s struggling to get out of bed for that 8am Instagram Live class or pulling on your trainers for an afternoon jog, the mind isn’t always willing – even if the body is. We know that we’ll never regret a workout but that doesn’t seem to make turning up any easier.

But why do we sabotage opportunities to feel better?

Well, it turns out that it’s a really natural reaction to potentially unpleasant events. A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology suggests that our bail-factor is dependent on how we experience anticipation, excitement and dread.

Researchers got 171 participants to eat jelly beans that ranged in flavour from watermelon to rotten eggs. While people felt impatient and excited to eat the tasty beans, they (understandably) felt dread at the prospect of having to eat the nasty ones. Interestingly, however, they also recorded feeling unhappy at having to wait to eat them.

That led scientists to conclude that when we imagine future positive things, we enjoy the imagining but we’re also keen to just get on with it. Negative things, however, are stressful to even think about – so we’re more likely to kick them down the road. The anticipation is stressful but our impatience to get something horrible over and done with is only as strong as our fear of doing it. That means that you’ve got a 50/50 chance of doing something that you don’t really want to do. When it comes to something positive, however, we’re 100% likely to do it.

So how do you improve the odds?

It’s all about reframing the way you think about exercise. Rather than focus on the potential negatives of going for a run or workout (muscle aches, breathlessness, stitches, sweat, the faff of getting changed), we need to see exercise as the one chance in the day to do something for us. It’s one thing you can do to flood your body with endorphins, to actively improve your health, and to give yourself a break from everything else that’s going on.

You don’t have to do a workout, you get to do a workout. It’s a privilege to be able to move our bodies freely. Running isn’t something that we need to do, it’s just something we do.

It’s the same when we talk about food. Saying that you can’t eat meat implies that someone else is forcing that onto you – absolving you of any responsibility. I don’t eat meat, however, reaffirms something you’ve chosen to you yourself and that makes it more of a statement of fact.

That might apply to the way you talk about eating your five-a-day or cutting out the booze; whatever it is, language and the way we frame our thoughts is important.

Start thinking of your workout as a positive thing and you might find that you start to feel impatient about doing it – in a good way.

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