I allowed my head to drop onto the arm of the big comfy chair in our living room. I scooched down a little further until I arrived at that perfectly comfortable place that was sure to lead to a very appealing unscheduled nap. The only problem was that I had a long bike ride on my training schedule for the day. Although I had just had a really good night’s sleep, the last thing I felt like doing was going for a long bike ride. After all, my “big goal” is about 50 weeks away, I reasoned to myself; what difference would missing this ride make in achieving that goal? My brain was spilling out all kinds of reasons why it would make good sense to skip today’s long ride – except that it didn’t really make good sense. Yes, there are times when we need to listen to the body and take a break, but I knew this was not one of those times.
Prior to my career in physical fitness and coaching, I had a career in mental health. As the executive director of a counseling clinic, I learned many things from my staff of mental health professionals. Among those things were specific tools one could use to help overcome mental or emotional challenges. One of the skills that has become a favorite of mine is Opposite to Emotion Action. When how we feel doesn’t truly match the situation (for example, when one experiences great fear or anxiety that is not based on the actual circumstances or logic), we can use this skill to get unstuck. On numerous occasions I have used this skill to help me overcome the temptation to skip a workout.
It’s true that I rarely need to convince myself to go for a run, but swimming and biking are a different story. I enjoy both, but for some reason, I’m not nearly as ready to go when these workouts are on my schedule for the day. I’ve come to know that I cannot depend on feeling like doing a workout. Swimming and biking are newer to my training regimen, so I am less confident and comfortable with these workouts, and thus, less enthusiastic about them.
Using our wise mind (another mental health skill), or just looking at things logically, is a great tool, but as we all know, logic doesn’t always succeed in helping us overcome how we feel (I know eating this warm chocolate chip cookie would not be good for me, but I sure want to). Logically, I know that if I want to be a stronger, faster swimmer and cyclist every workout matters. Every time I hop on the bike or jump in the pool, I have the opportunity to become a better triathlete – and that is what I want. So, logic should totally win this argument.
But, it doesn’t always win. That’s where the Opposite to Emotion Action comes in for me. Although I feel so sleepy at the moment, if I do the opposite of what I feel and get my butt out the door and on the bike, I will regain my energy and then feel so much better about going for a ride. I’ve done this often enough and long enough to know that within a matter of minutes I will be so glad that I went for this bike ride. I just need to get out the dang door.
I no longer need to tell myself what I tell many of my clients: Just give it five minutes, and if you still don’t feel like doing your run (or walk, ride, etc.), then you can turn around and head back home. At worst, you got in a 10 minute workout. More likely, though, you keep going and feel great that you just did your full workout!
Once again, Opposite of Emotion Action won. My bike ride felt phenomenal! On top of that, I discovered a new bike route that I look forward to taking again. By the time I got home, I was in a great mood and I felt so much better about biking. Without a doubt, I would have regretted taking that snoozer in the big comfy chair; and we all know by now that you NEVER regret a workout!