• Matt Ferrara BS C.S.C.S

Going To The Gym Is NOT Good

"Well, I did go to the gym yesterday" Sarah told herself as she hit the snooze button on her iPhone alarm labelled "GYM :(".

She would not be seeing the cute guy with the headphones or the talkative old Italian woman at her local gym this morning.

Instead, she rolls over and pulls the blanket back up to her chin. She wakes up again an hour later, eats, and heads to work.

Later that day she would also order a pizza for dinner, adding a side of mozzarella sticks. Again, she went to the gym yesterday. She could do something "bad" and get away with it.

Can you identify Sarah's problem in this scenario?

I'll give you a hint, it's not that she skipped the gym or ate the pizza and mozzarella sticks....

So What Is Sarah's Problem?!

Sarah has a negative relationship with exercise and uses "moral licensing" to justify whether to go to the gym or not.

So what the hell is this moral license anyway?

When you do something "good" you typically feel pretty damn good about yourself. Likewise, if you do something "bad" you most likely end up feeling pretty bad about it.

Unless you are a sociopath. By this logic sociopaths are very good at sticking to their gym routines and following their diet...

So these good and bad feelings should end up being somewhat of a Pavlovian feedback loop right?

Do something good and you will feel good, making you more likely to do it again. Do something bad and you feel bad, making you less likely to do it again. This is basically how you train your dog.

Unfortunately, it's not so simple. When it comes to willpower, we often let the after glow of previous "good" deeds affect future decisions.

Studies have shown that people who accomplished something challenging or charitable afterwards were more likely to splurge or do something they considered bad.

You've done this to yourself plenty of times before without even realizing it.

"Oh I went to the gym every day this week, lets order a pizza."

"I ate healthy for lunch so I deserve this cheesecake"

All of these involve a relationship between both something considered "good" and something considered "bad". The whole problem starts with the labeling of these things as good and bad in the first place.

A Plan Of Action

You are going to need to slowly fix your relationship with certain activities in order to achieve your goals.

Let's start with the gym.

The gym isn't a good thing, nor is it a bad thing.

It is simply a necessary step in achieving your goals in fitness.

If you learn to love it, embrace that. If not, simply see it as something you do.

Do you brush your teeth every night because you absolutely love it? No. You do it because you don't want gum disease and want to be healthy and attractive and it is a necessary step towards that outcome.

Likewise, your nutritional habits should support your goals and fuel your body. Don't eat "good" food or "bad" foot, eat those that help you reach your goals and avoid those that don't

Obviously you can still enjoy certain foods, just keep in mind the role they play in you achieving your goals.

Will this automatically make your training efforts much easier?

No, but nothing will. Instead it will slowly reshape the relationship you have with exercise and keep you from making lapses in willpower due to moral licensing.

Remember Your Why

One of the most effective ways of not falling victim to moral licensing and resisting temptation is remembering your why.

Think back to why you started this journey in the first place. What is the motivating factor behind your efforts?

I recommend writing this down somewhere as a visual reference for the future. You never know when you may need a reminder of your original "why".

Your long term goal will always be more important than a short term temptation. You know that and I know that. The hard part is that in the heat of the moment your brain justifies the short term temptation.

However, using the strategies outlined above you can start to lay down defenses against momentarily lapses in judgement.

If you need help implementing these or have any questions, please don't hesitate to email me. In the meantime, sign up below for my newsletter below!

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