On day two of my hike to Machu Picchu, I was beat. My lungs felt like they were going to explode, my quads had quit and the calves were violently cursing me. As my body traded insults about which part was in the most pain, my brain kicked in. "Hey guys, let's all just relax, I've got some Queen queued up," she said. "All together now: Tonight I'm gonna have myself a real good time. I feel ali-hi-hi-hive and the world, it's turning inside out! I'm floating around in ecstasy. So don't stop me now. Don't stop me, 'cause I'm having a good time, having a good time!"
Freddie and friends carried me all the way through the tears that tough day two and on to the Sun Gate two days later. When that quitting part of the brain starts raising its voice, it's staring myself in the mirror and repeating that classic Marine saying, "Pain is weakness leaving the body," or mouthing the words to "Work This Body" that keeps me going. Angry breakup song lyrics work well, or sometimes it's literally visualizing looking like a rock star in that dress I bought last month. Whether it's a breathing technique, mantra, your group fitness instructor shouting a one-sentence inspiration or song that keeps you going, having the ability to power through that moment of wanting to quit is key in any kind of training.
In fact, your brain is actually wired to keep you from discomfort, meaning that when you're pushing your body to its perceived limit, your brain will step in to "protect you" from yourself. According to a CNN interview with Dr. Emma Ross of the English Institute of Sport, your brain senses muscles deteriorating from fatigue and will do what it can to keep them from being damaged. "In an untrained person the [central nervous system] is quite conservative but shifts as you train," Dr. Ross says.
Train your brain to overcome those natural barriers and you'll be shocked by the things you're able to complete. Which is why having an inspirational saying can mean the difference between defeat and dominance. It can be all too easy for your brain to talk you out of pushing your body to the next level, so steal one of these motivational sayings submitted by SparkPeople staff and members and reach that next level of fitness prowess, whether that means hitting a new PR walking on the treadmill or completing that last set of bicep curls with the heavier weight.
When the Going Gets Tough
Chris "SparkGuy" Downie: In this situation, there are a few things I do. I challenge myself to get better every day, knowing that this short-term workout challenge will lead to positive results and major breakthroughs in all areas of life if done consistently. I visualize my goals that will be easier with improved fitness, like being a better father. I [also] track my average fitness minutes per day, so during a tough workout, I know that each minute helps me maintain or increase that average. This [mindset] helps keep me from stopping while nobody is watching because that average is a coach for me.
Mike Honkomp, Ad Operations and Yield Director: What keeps me going? I think about how far I have come and what I used to be. Thinking of how out of shape I was four years ago, not able to run a quarter mile or do two pushups, [and] that is usually enough to keep me going.
TRACEE5: You just hit three miles—I bet you can't make it to 3.5! I love challenging myself!
Melissa Rudy, Digital Health and Fitness Journalist: If I'm struggling during a run or workout, I will often say things like, "You're strong" or "Can't stop, won't stop." It's amazing how just saying the words out loud can change my mindset and remove the option to quit.
MOMMO77: Stopping when it got hard was what got me where I am now. Keeping going will get me where I want to be.
Jen Mueller, Community Director: When I’m in the middle of a hard run or totally spent hitting pads during Muai Thai, I remind myself that I would never want my kids to see me quit. My mantra is "Be tough for them!"
Rachel VonNida, Vice President Accounting: When I am running and feeling like I want to stop, I take a deep breath and try to relax my brain. I try to clear my head and enjoy the moment or song I am listening to or view or running partner.
MOTIVATED@LAST: Slow down, recover and then go again. Just don't stop.
Paul Elfers, Vice President Engineering: When I'm in that spot—lungs hurting, legs hurting, ready to quit—I have the audio from these two videos among my mp3s. When I'm running or working out, I'll sometimes put them on as "music" and they're pretty motivating.
Amanda Kanaga, Chief Revenue Officer: I say a few things when I do my boot camps, spin classes or go for a run: no pain, no gain; make my kids proud; defy age; be that strong mom; don't let someone else win; and feel the burn, it's my turn!
Elizabeth Lowry, Assistant Editor: I usually just tell myself, "If you quit now you're just going to have to do it all over again, so shut up and finish."
RUBYREDSTAR19: You'll never make it to the Olympics if you don't keep pushing!
Merle King, Customer Support Specialist: I try to tell myself, "It is easier to keep going than it is to stop and restart later." Sometimes it's, "Just 10 more minutes! Surely I can do anything for 10 minutes."
MLAN613: Each step gets you closer to the finish line—and there's a medal at the finish line!
Kelly Crockett, Office Manager and Human Resources Coordinator: When I feel like stopping in the middle of a workout, I remember that I can do anything for five more minutes! When that five minutes is up, I tell myself I can do anything for two more minutes! When this seven minutes have passed, I'm generally past my "Make this stop hurting" point and I can focus on why I work out—which, let's be clear, is so I can have a glass of wine without guilt!
What do you tell your body when your brain tries to tell you to stop?
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