Bad Advice: Tell Yourself, “This feels good.”
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on November 12th, 2013


Last week (Nov 6 to be precise) the NY Times published an article with the headline Keep Telling Yourself: “This Workout Feels Good.”

This is a prime example of what I call  the Western Industrial Exercise Complex.

The article’s main message was that if you practice exhortatory self-talk you’ll get better at enduring unpleasantness while exercising. Or at pushing yourself deeper into exhaustion.

But why would you want to?

Bottom-line thinking about exercise is that it’s something we should do because ‘it’s good for us.’ And  thus we should accept that it will probably feel more like duty than pleasure.

This view of exercise is why–for all we know about the dangers of indolence–only a vanishingly small number of people make physical activity a regular part of their lives.

Ironically, last March in the  same publication, in the article Changing Our Tune on Exercise science writer  Jane Brody reported on research which showed that the people who exercise most regularly–and therefore enjoy the best health–don’t do it because they hope to avoid a health problem somewhere down the road.

They exercise because it will make them feel happier and less stressed today!

As countless studies have shown (see Stanford marshmallow experiment), few of us are wired  for delayed gratification. We want our reward now!

When it comes to fitness, that means using your body in (i) a functional way; and (ii) a way that feels good–physically and mentally. Not reciting a feel-good script to cover up the fact that you don’t.

Related: How to Make Exercise Addictive

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2 Responses to “Bad Advice: Tell Yourself, “This feels good.””

  1. Mary says:

    I agree exercising does relieve stress! I love to swim, and swam competitively from Kindergarden through senior year or high school.

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  2. […] two weeks ago, in a previous post, I pondered the wisdom of advice in the NY Times “Well’ blog which suggested you keep […]

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