June 26, 2017

Simplest, Dumbest Cardio Workout Trick Ever

image credit here
By Crabby McSlacker

So this post features one of those weirdo counter-intuitive motivational hacks that you either: (a) already know or, (b) are going to think sounds totally insane.

It's for those days when you're having a Really Shitty Workout.

I already knew the trick, and have probably already written about it. But guess what? I forgot. And then I remembered again. And it's come in handy a few times recently.


You know what I'm talking about, right? You can see it coming less than two minutes into your run or swim or whatever. Something is Just Not Right. You're only warming up and you're already counting the seconds until you can stop. You keep going, and keep going, and you're only getting more miserable and the seconds seem like hours. The rationalization-machine in your brain starts cranking up, firing on all cylinders, spitting out all sorts of creative reasons why you really don't need to go through with this exercise thing after all.


And this may indeed be true! You may need to not finish this workout as planned. If you are a regular exerciser, you know part of the secret to long term success is a certain amount of strategic flexibility. Workout suckage is sometimes best dealt with by complaint, cowardice, and quitting. Tomorrow is a new day and all.

But next time you're feeling at your worst, try this!


image credit here

Okay, so you may find training an attack dog is impractical. (But you gotta admit it would be pretty darn motivating)

No, the real trick is this:

Promise yourself you can stop entirely... right after you bump your intensity WAY UP. Just for say, 30 seconds. Even though this is not an interval day or an interval workout. (Note: this trick doesn't work at all for interval workouts, sorry).

No follow through is required. Just 30 seconds of undeserved horror and you're done.

This may sound as appealing as eating a live eel, or making out with Sean Spicer. You're already miserable, right? You may think you'd rather dive naked into a steaming vat of raw sewage than take your already beleaguered body and force it to perform harder, faster, and more powerfully. Even for two seconds, let alone 30.

But try it. What happens?

It was terrible no doubt, but was it nearly as terrible as you thought? The initial ramp-up period to high intensity effort sometimes comes with a time-delay, sort of like the way you can walk out of a warm building in the winter and have a few seconds of comfort before frigid reality penetrates and you're miserably cold. It may be that a good part of that 30 seconds was the same level of awful as you were feeling before, and only the last few were total torture.

Maybe your sprint even ignited a weird little spark of something inspiring and empowering deep within your beast-brain? Or maybe not. The effects are subtle and capricious and you may not notice anything at all.

Either way, you're done now. You can slow WAY down, or stop and rest, for as long as you want. Feel smug. You can go home. You triumphed over sloth, you kicked it in its metaphorical scrotum. It lies there thrashing and howling in ignominious defeat.

How could this be true when you're quitting so early? It's because in the long haul, mental bad-asssery is way more important to cultivate than physical bad-assery. Taking adversity and turning it into a challenge? Those are really good brain cell connections to build.

Plus, after you're good and rested, instead of going home... you could see if you want to experiment with something else that's totally not on the agenda for today. Maybe just one more sprint, this time all out just for 15 seconds? Maybe some backwards running, or swimming a different stroke that you suck at, ellipticalling with your eyes closed, a quick break for pushups, handstand practice against a wall, throwing rocks or climbing a tree if you're outdoors, trying the rowing machine or other unfamiliar gym equipment if that's where you are, just for fun, to see what it's like? And then you're really done.

You've already "blown" your regular workout, and replaced it with an incredibly virtuous psychological victory. Now anything goes, and you get amazing extra credit for anything you do, the weirder the better.

Or going home is good too. You're already awesome.

Anyone else use this weird trick sometimes?

18 comments:

  1. Excellent advice, Crabby. I've done something similar by making a bargain with myself to just do a bit this time, even if I don't feel like it, because I can always blow off the exercises another day if I've done something today.

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    1. You seem to be pretty fit and active Leah, so it must be working for ya!

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  2. So may I get out of bed and go running for the coffee as fast as I can, and that will count as my morning exercise? :D
    I know, I know...NO.
    I might just try this sometime. Heaven knows I have got to figure out how to get off my butt more than twice a week!!! (hangs head in shame)

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    1. Well twice a week beats zero Sherri, but I know what you mean! It's easy for healthy habits to start sliding, takes annoyingly constant vigilance. Good luck!

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    2. So I tried the 30 second thing today. Interesting. I was very surprised at how fast my heartbeat rate went up. This might be a good thing, even for me! :)

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    3. Excellent! Way to challenge yourself Sherri!!!!!

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  3. It is amazing how our brains work and what will motivate us. Somehow i think i've missed this tip before, or i've just completely forgotten it, and i'm glad you posted it now.

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    1. Brains are indeed strange, wonderful, bizzarro places Messymimi, and motivation is tough enough that I think anything we can find in there is fair game.

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  4. I can imagine doing this and going from "I hate how this feels today" to "Oh, but I really hate how THIS feels," to "Okay, what I was doing before doesn't seem so bad now, maybe I can go a little longer." Neat trick.

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    1. Love the way you frame it Lindy, because yeah, I think probably that's exactly what's going on. But strangely enough, sometimes the extra misery actually translates into an unexpected burst of energy. (OK, not often, but when it happens it's kinda cool).

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    2. I don't doubt that a bit. Physiology can be perverse in exactly that kind of way. I love little tricks like this that take advantage of that.

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  5. I have never tried this and am unlikely to, since a lifetime of health problems has taught me that pushing myself to do what I don't feel up to is usually a bad idea. (Yesterday, which I spent doing basically nothing instead of a lot of errands, is an example. Sunday after work I did a lot more than I felt like of things that Had To Get Done, and then I paid for it.)

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

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    1. Sounds like you know yourself and your body pretty well Mary Anne, and sorry about the repercussions for your diligence in getting things done! No good deeds go unpunished I guess...

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  6. Good trick - I will have to try this next week when I'm running by myself (the easiest time for me to bail out of a run).

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  7. Sometimes I feel like TOTAL shit when I am headed to the gym and know it's going to be a rough one - but just KNOWING that MENTALLY (maybe not necessarily physically that day) I am going to feel worlds better when this work out is over... PUSHES ME THROUGH!

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  8. This post had so much hilarity I was able to get an ab workout as well as cover today's cardio just from laughing!!!

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  10. This is a really nice article. Checkout my blog for more weight loss tips http://looseweightviews.info

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