July 9, 2020

What I think about when I work out — or my tips for getting through the mental game of working out

When I travel, I make it a rule for myself that I work out every single morning that I am in a new place. If I travel to somewhere I haven’t been before, I always make sure that I book a hotel that has a gym and that I figure out where the gym is as I check in.

I realized a while ago that if I didn’t make time for myself to work out, meditate or exercise, nobody would make the time for me. Things inevitably gets busy at work and you can’t rely on having the time for yourself later, which is why mornings are incredibly precious times to get the things that you want to get done for yourself. Charlie Munger often said that one of his keys for success was that he sold himself the best hour of every day to himself. I’d like you to do that too!

But waking up early and going to the gym is not that easy (believe me, there are days where I would rather snooze the alarm, stay in bed or browse social media than to get up, put my gym clothes on and get in a good sweat). There’s a lot of self talk that I go through to get myself to the gym, to get myself through a particular workout or to motivate myself to continue working out despite being dead tired or having worked out a few times already in the past week – and I’d like to share what I say to myself and why:

To get myself to go to the gym – “If you aren’t going to work out now, when?”

Like I said, the line of my work is such that we work late on projects. I’m not really sure why that is – I suppose that it is easy to keep on working when you are already in the office but I rarely see other consultants getting in early and leaving early. When most of your team gets in later and works later, I think that affects you in much the same way that spending time with people around you that get fast food all the time will affect your diet and health. We tend to be similar to the people that we spend the most time with so if everyone around you is working late, you will work late as well (and that means that you are working extra if you are going into the office early). I don’t think there is anything wrong with working late but I do think that if you plan to work out after work, it will be much harder to do when you get out of the office at 6 or 7 PM, have to eat dinner (perhaps by yourself or with the team) and then either work some more or get to bed by a reasonable hour.

Wake up early and spend that time going to the gym. Because if you don’t go to the gym now, you won’t have the time later.

To continue going to the gym despite feeling exhausted – “Exercise helps give you more energy”

It’s weird isn’t it? Going to the gym and exhausting yourself somehow gives you energy outside of the gym? But it’s true – exercise has a ton of benefits, has an amazing return on investment, helps keep you active, gives you focus, prevents injuries, helps you lose weight or gain muscle and much, much more. I’ve been through both kinds of days: one where I work out in the morning despite not getting enough sleep, and days where I do not work out in the morning but also do not get enough sleep. On both days, in the afternoon, I struggle to keep my eyes awake. But what I have found for myself is that when I work out in the morning, it is easy to get that second wind – I’m not exactly sure why but that extra kick in the ass in the morning helps put me into overdrive later on in the day.

Getting through a tough workout – “When you think you are at your limit, you are actually at 40%”

Our body does weird things to ensure that it is not stressed – one of those things, and if you have worked out you probably know this, is that your body tells you, aches for you to stop as it reaches its limit. But what I learned from Jesse Itzler’s book Living with a seal is that when you think you are at your limit, you are actually at 40%. Your body can keep going. And no, you are not going to die. It’s how the seal that lived with Jesse Itzler (David Goggins) has done so many amazing feats. It’s all about the mental conditioning that you need to get through a tough work out.

I also never worry when I feel like my body is at its limit. Failure is stopping completely – if you take a break, rest and then continue the work out, that still counts!

Here’s another thing about quitting – quitting perpetuates. I read an article about someone who never hit the snooze button on the alarm. Because hitting the snooze button on the alarm represents you quitting in a way and that quitting then manifests itself in other ways throughout your life. Don’t snooze. Don’t quit.

Tackling a maneuver you haven’t done before – “Eat that frog!”

I’m always scared whenever I try a new workout. Heck, I am scared before I do a pullup – for whatever reason, I get nervous before jumping up to reach that bar and then going for the pullup. But I feel the fear and I do it anyway. Why? Because I don’t want to make a habit of quitting even before trying, or quitting just because I am fearful. Why am I so afraid anyway? Is it because I might fall? Is it because I might embarrass myself in front of others? Is it because I might only be able to do a few pullups and then have to give up (i.e., I’m afraid that I am not ‘athletic’ enough)?

The great thing is that if you tackle something impossible in the morning, even before your day starts, you will feel like you are on top of the world. It’s why Brian Tracy says to ‘eat that frog!’ Tackling the hardest thing, the first thing in the morning, will give you the confidence and motivation to tackle other difficult things. It’s when your willpower is the strongest. And it helps give you the habit and mindset that you can tackle difficult things if you just gave it a shot.


What are some of the things that you tell yourself when working out? Before a work out? During a tough exercise? What kind of self talk do you have?

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