In my 20+ years of coaching runners and triathletes, I've discovered a certain mentality around exercise that plagues most of us. It's a mentality that might seem harmless at first, but when you look beyond the surface you'll find that it actually promotes the very things that we're trying to avoid: chronic stress, overwhelm, lack of energy, and even chronic pain and injury. I call it the 'workout mentality', and I've seen over and over again, six common pitfalls of this type of thinking.

In this post, I'll cover the first 3 pitfalls of the workout mentality.

Pitfall #1: Workouts Create Physical, Mental and Emotional Stress

In today’s modern world, men and especially women are busy and ambitious. They’re overcommitted, overworked, and overwhelmed. They tend to be overambitious, and their physical, mental, and emotional banks are overdrawn.

The workout mentality promotes the idea that a workout is one more thing to cram into our day. Unless you’re a collegiate or professional athlete, then running is probably just another thing you need to fit into your daily routine--you’re trying to figure out if you’re going to run at 5 o’clock in the morning before you go to work, or if you’re going to do it at lunch time, or maybe you’ll do it after you get home from work but before you make dinner for your family. Just trying to squeeze a workout in can be mentally and emotionally exhausting.

Perhaps more damaging, is the way traditional workouts over-stimulate the autonomic nervous system, so we’re always triggering the fight or flight response when we’re operating with a workout mentality.

A workout mentality has us always pushing to run faster and harder and work through the pain, causing stress on our body.

Pitfall #2: Workouts Sacrifice the Gift of The Journey

The workout mentality is destination focused. When we focus on a destination, especially if it's one that's outwardly motivated v. inwardly motivated we set ourselves up for disappointment and possible failure. When you’re focused on the end result of working out, what happens if you never achieve your goal? You feel like a failure, right? What happens when your motivation to achieve an outcome is based on something outside of yourself, like losing weight to attract the opposite sex or losing weight because your doctor says you should? When you finally reach your goal, you may quit working out and end up right back where you started in the first place. This leads to feeling frustrated and unfulfilled because your goal wasn’t truly congruent with your internal value system.

Pitfall #3: Workouts Promote The 'Quick-Fix'

The workout mentality is often associated with quick fixes and speedy results. I’ve been a health and fitness professional since 1992, so I’ve seen all of the popular weight loss and fitness challenges that promise amazing results. Lose 25 inches in 6-weeks! Lose 10 pounds in 10 days! Melt Your Belly Fat Without Going to the Gym! I’ve seen the ads for Ripped-Abs and the infomercials for Brazilian Butt Lifts. It’s great marketing, and that’s about it. Sorry, but there’s no such thing as a quick fix or super speedy results—at least not without consequences to long-term health.


The truth is, we've programed to have a workout mentality from the time we participated in PE class in elementary school. Later in life we may have had coaches, personal trainers or fitness instructors who perpetuated this mentality. In addition, popular weight loss reality shows, fitness infomercials and even magazine ads all promote the 'no pain- no gain', 'push-hard or go home' attitude.

In my next post I'll cover the remaining three pitfalls of the workout mentality.

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About The Author

Lisa Engels's picture

Lisa's passion for running and triathlon and her dedication to understanding the physical, mental and emotional aspects of peak performance as a teenager eventually lead her to become a mind-body health and well being expert, author and mindset mastery coach. She is the author of Breathe Run Breath, and creator of the Breathe Run Breathe Program.  Lisa is also the head running coach for the Silicon Valley Triathlon Club.  Visit to learn about her programs.

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