By Kate Hendley, Rhapsody Fitness Nutritionist

Whether we mean it, most of us have caught ourselves in the “have-to” hamster wheel when it comes to our training. 

I just got back from vacation, so I have to go to the gym.

I had pizza last night, so I have to go for a run. 

I saw the scores on the leaderboard, so I have to match or beat them.

Sound familiar? Although goals are good and consistency can be our super power, the rub here is the source of your motivation – punishment and reward. 

Punishment-Reward Cycle

The problem with the punishment-reward cycle is that it is based on external pressures and expectations served up with a heaping helping of guilt and shame. Steeped in a lack of self awareness and, most importantly, self love, it’s a bad ride to nowhere. 

More so, the punishment-reward cycle is sneaky and doesn’t tend to stay in one place. We’re referencing it in the context of fitness, but, best believe, this toxic mindset will creep outside of the gym and into other areas of your life if left unchecked. 

5 Ways To Break The Cycle

So now that we’ve covered hard truths about why “have to’s” are a red flag, let’s tackle 5 ways to break the cycle and get back to moving with gratitude:

  1. Once you see it, sit with it. Take a beat and ask yourself where these nasty “have to’s” are stemming from. Stress? Insecurity? Comparison? 
  2. Redirect the thought. Instead of looking at the task ahead as a punishment or reward, ask yourself what will serve you best in the long run. Does the action align? If yes, then how?
  3. Show some respect. Your body is capable of incredible things and deserves its due. Take a breath to appreciate what your healthy body affords you and all the things you are able to enjoy by keeping it mobile, strong and fit. Walk your dog through Hampton Park? Pick up your toddler? Run the bridge with your partner on a gorgeous day? How sweet it is…
  4. Reset those expectations. Goals are grand, but sometimes we need to dial it back. As much as we love those benchmarks and PR’s, not every action or training session has to be result-oriented. 
  5. Get back to gratitude. Every day, I write down one thing I am thankful for or appreciate that my body does for me. However you go about it, getting back to a gratitude practice will do wonders to ground you and drop-kick that punishment-reward cycle to the curb.  

Your body is amazing and deserves better than being punished or rewarded based on guilt, shame, pressures or expectations. Find gratitude for movement and the challenge of fitness.

It takes practice and deprogramming, but moving from “have to” to “get to” is one of the most liberating, energizing and motivating things you can do for yourself. 

Ready to let some Rhapsody into your life? To learn more about Rhapsody Fitness in Charleston and our range of programs, including Rhapsody Nutrition with Kate Hendley, get in touch with Team Rhapsody today.