I hate cardio. I hate cardio. I hate cardio.  This was my mantra every time I stepped on the elliptical or the treadmill. (I don’t like the bike either. It’s easier but I get so bored just sitting there and it seems like a waste, so I mostly avoid it. )

A group of cardio enthusiasts at Healthworks

At first, I could only do 4 minutes on the elliptical—level 1. And that was torture. Gradually I worked my way up to 15 minutes but each time increase would weigh on my mind beforehand. All I could think about when I finished, was that the next time I would have to do even more. (That’s the thing about exercise. You’re never done, done. You’re just done for today.) Then one day on the radio I heard an interview with a 20-year old girl who was going to attempt to row across the Atlantic Ocean. When asked how she would cope with the privation and hardship such a journey would entail she replied, “It’s just a mind over matter. You will yourself strong enough to keep going.”

I thought a lot about that concept—that I could actually “will” myself into success. Perhaps it wasn’t my muscles or my heart that couldn’t stand the exercise—it was my mind that gave up too quickly.  If I could only train my mind to push through the discomfort, my body would follow. I also realized something—even though it’s uncomfortable—you reach a point where it doesn’t get more painful. Now when I reach that point, I just say, “Okay, we’re here. It’s not going to get any worse. You’re just going to be this uncomfortable for a little while longer.”

For me, this attitude shift has worked. Last weekend, I made 30 minutes on the elliptical.  I actually could have gone on longer, but I had promised myself I would do 30 and I was afraid to set the bar too high—if that makes any sense at all. I still don’t love cardio, but I have stopped repeating the mantra. And, I have to admit, I like what it has done for me.  I can now walk and walk and walk without getting winded. Two months ago I would plan my day to minimize movement.  Now I even look for ways to move more because I can.

 – Cheryl

How do you overcome mental barriers to exercise?