Mind Gym

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People often ask me how I stay so motivated to work out, but the truth is… sometimes, I don’t want to work out at all!  :)  But I do work out with regularity because I’m always signed up for SOME new, fun race, and I find that to be extremely inspiring when I feel like slacking off.


Shannon recommended that I try this book about self motivation for athletes, and I’m really enjoying it so far!  It’s called Mind Gym by Gary Mack.


I was REALLY dreading going for a swim tonight because I’m been struggling with my swimming lately.  The triathlon is getting so close, and I don’t feel quite ready for the 1.5K open water swim.  So much of training for a race – any distance – is just gaining confidence and convincing yourself you CAN DO IT.  Athleticism is physical, but it’s also very mental.


I decided to try one of the Mind Gym tricks tonight…


I REFUSED to let myself quit in the pool.  I got tired and slowed down a few times, and I floated on my back a few times… but I refused to hang onto the side or stand up.  You can’t hang onto a ledge in the middle of the lake, after all! 🙂 It took me 36 minutes and change, but I did it, and now I feel so much more confident about the race.




I had about 1.5 cups of brown rice with some Alfredo sauce mixed in, plus kidney beans and leftover roasted mushrooms and asparagus.


And an orange for dessert!


Afternoon snacks included Pumpkin yogurt and 1.5 servings of granola:


And a bowl of organic fake Cheerios.  I was craving carbohydrates after my two-a-day!


Do you use any mind tricks to motivate you during your workouts?  I love mantras (like, “pain is temporary, quitting is forever!”).



  • maria February 17, 2010, 8:57 pm

    Sometimes just knowing I can stop if I really want to is enough to keep me moving and motivated. It’s like I tell myself, “Nope, I am going to keep going…” and I realize I WANT to.

  • Julie @ Wearing Mascara February 17, 2010, 9:00 pm

    Tonight, I fully intended on going to the gym but it was one of those days where it just didn’t work out and I’m okay with that. Since I’m a runner, my mantra is always “I am a runner!” because as a new-ish runner, I always saw other people running on the roads never thinking I could be like them. Now that I am, I tell myself that I’m a runner and feel a lot better! Also, I use “It’s all downhill from here!” Or “Stopping is not an option.” Those tends to help as well 🙂

  • Allie February 17, 2010, 9:00 pm

    Laugh if you want, but my mental motivation is envisioning a really attractive guy watching me workout. Creepy? Possibly. Effective? Yep!

    • caitlin February 17, 2010, 9:06 pm

      this comment LITERALLY made me LOL

    • Rachel February 18, 2010, 4:57 am

      The fantasy technique for motivation. I know it well 😀

      Congrats on the 1500m Caitlin

    • Nicole (dishin') February 18, 2010, 1:02 pm

      I love this one! I’m going to try it because it works when there really is a guy there. Imagining it will probably work too!

  • Kara (@ Kara's Marathon) February 17, 2010, 9:02 pm

    Sometimes I bribe myself with different rewards (if you workout for an hour you can have Chipotle for dinner), but most of the time daydreaming gets me through my tough workouts. I think about shopping for awesome bikinis, running faster and longer because I’m fitter, getting discovered to be on TV, etc. 😉

  • lauren @ Eater not a runner February 17, 2010, 9:04 pm

    I definitely talk to myself a little, I just try to think about how I know I am capable. And then I feel so much better after!

  • Natalie February 17, 2010, 9:04 pm

    Motivation is the hardest thing for me right now, too (I say this as I am literally trying to get myself in the mindset to go run!). When I run, I find that praising myself for how far I have gone and how far I have to go helps so much. With each lap I run, I get to scream in my head that I am ____ of the way there! It helps so much to feel like I’m accomplishing something. Last workout, I started thinking this: “Have I ever regretted getting up to go work out?” No! of course not! Every time I go work out, I feel so much better, so I’ve been reminding myself of that and will continue to!

  • Jenn @ Livewellfit February 17, 2010, 9:07 pm

    Workout motivation…such hard stuff sometimes, isn’t it. 🙂

    Here are some of my tips:
    1. Find a collection of workouts that you truly enjoy (yes, some days nothing will seem fun but make sure the basis of what you do feels good, energizes you and makes you feel great!).

    2. Feeling low? Turn on your most favorite dance music that instantly changes your mood when it starts. OR…take a group class. It’s amazing how being around others can reset your frame of mind and often those classes have fantastic music).

    3. Have something small to eat that you enjoy. I know, sounds weird but often my mood can be a result of too little water, too little carbs or simply not quite the right foods. So…put something GOOD into your body, wait an hour or two and then GO!


  • Jessica @ The Process of Healing February 17, 2010, 9:09 pm

    I love mantras too. My favorite (and what seems to help me most) is “you are stronger than you think” and “you’ve got this.” Silly maybe but they really help!!
    I also like to make new music playlists..something new to look forward to!

  • Allie (Live Laugh Eat) February 17, 2010, 9:09 pm

    I’ve been craving carbs too due to my workouts. Definitely had a LOT of granola yesterday and this morning….I had so much energy for my workout!

  • Tammy @ Defining Wellness February 17, 2010, 9:13 pm

    I tell myself that since I dragged my butt to the gym, I’m going to finish the workout, even if it’s at a slower pace than usual. I also tell myself that I might get my second wind halfway through the workout, which does happen many times, and that the tougher the workout, the easier it will be next time!

  • Jenny February 17, 2010, 9:13 pm

    I do need mantras from time to time–I always think about how GREAT I will feel having completed my workout. And once I heard a spin instructor say “You can do ANYTHING for one minute” So when it gets really hard, I think go for one more minute!! And then I can ease up and go again!

  • Bec February 17, 2010, 9:13 pm

    Great job on the swim! Are you planning on doing an open water swim before the race?

    • caitlin February 17, 2010, 10:01 pm

      yes! at least one!

  • John February 17, 2010, 9:14 pm

    Nice job on the swimming!

    I make deals with myself when I’m not into it or wanting to quit. Like run to the corner and you can stop. But usually before I get to the corner I’m making a new deal to go to the next corner.

    And related to Allie’s comment> The only 1/2 marathon I’ve run so far I figure my time improved by just finding a nice woman who was just a bit faster than me and try not to let her out of my sight. It worked as I got my 267lb frame around in 2:12:24 😉

  • Mary @ Fit this girl February 17, 2010, 9:16 pm

    Your amazing!! Swimming the whole way without stopping or touching, awesome!! You may not feel ready, but I bet you are. 🙂 Congrats!! We used to write affirmations in Cross Country: Good, better, best, never let it rest, till good is better and better is best!

  • Morgan @ Healthy Happy Place February 17, 2010, 9:16 pm

    racing is totally mental! It’s amazing how far you can push the body by just putting your mind to it.

  • Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday February 17, 2010, 9:18 pm

    I say to myself “Just 1 more minute” after every minute. It’s pretty effective and makes the time go by faster.

  • Lisa (bakebikeblog) February 17, 2010, 9:19 pm

    Great work and (as always) great attitude!!! I find that if I am lacking motivation – I just try and visualise how good I will feel afterwards. It doesn’t always work – but it usually does 🙂

  • Anna @ Newlywed, Newly Veg February 17, 2010, 9:21 pm

    Yay!!! Congrats on the awesome swim!

    I work on thinking about every muscle in my body that I’m working, or repeating a mantra in my head to kind of “zone out,” rather than focusing on the time.

  • Ashley February 17, 2010, 9:25 pm

    Do you like how you feel after swimming? Whenever I would swim in college I always felt SO good…[but extremely hungry, lol] I feel the most “fit” when I incorporate swimming into my routine and I swear it really helps to keep a flat stomach! p.s. i love organic fake cheerios…but it’s funny b/c cheerios are probably more fake 😉

    • caitlin February 17, 2010, 10:02 pm

      i love how it makes my entire upper body sore (in a good way)!

  • Kt F @ ThroughTheFinish February 17, 2010, 9:28 pm

    That dinner looks gooood. To motivate myself, I use some of your same tricks. Most effective is signing up for a race, without doubt! Otherwise I try to remind myself how good I’ll feel after I work out.

  • Danielle (Coffee Run) February 17, 2010, 9:28 pm

    Congrats on the swim 😀 You’re going to rock the triathalon

    During a run, I’ll tell myself “Ok, I’ll take a walking break until it gets to the chorus in the song” or I’ll walk until I reach a lamp post. I’m always making deals with myself

  • Heather (Heather's Dish) February 17, 2010, 9:31 pm

    this is really kind of lame, but i like to pretend that other people are watching me. i feel like if they’re watching me then i can’t let them see me be weak (which i know could turn into a problem if i’m not careful). it works though!

  • Caitlin @ Right Foot Forward February 17, 2010, 9:32 pm

    I usually think “you can do anything for one more minute.” Sometimes I say it minute after minute 😉 It usually works to keep me going toward the end of a workout.

  • Jolene (www.everydayfoodie.ca) February 17, 2010, 9:38 pm

    I convince myself that once I start I will enjoy it – it is just getting started that is the battle! I am always right. I feel SO good after a workout.

    I love the mantra “you never regret a workout.”

  • emily February 17, 2010, 9:39 pm

    Apparently all of my mind tricks involve talking myself OUT of my workouts. 🙁

    • caitlin February 17, 2010, 10:02 pm

      hahah i am good at those too.

  • Lauren @ A Fit Foodie February 17, 2010, 9:50 pm

    I’m totally going to be using mind tricks when I run my 15 miles this weekend! Here’s to hoping I don’t let that stupid little “quit” voice pop into the forefront.

  • Lee February 17, 2010, 9:51 pm

    I tell myself that in order to get faster, I have to run faster. It helps.

  • Fallon February 17, 2010, 9:52 pm

    My way of making sure I don’t let me mind convince me not to go to the gym.. whatever I write down in my planner I MUST do so I can highlight it and know it was completed. So I put my workouts on there of what needs to be done at the gym and I have to do it because it was written down. Always works for me!

    I also convince myself that “hey tomorrow is my rest day and it only an hour I need to workout!” It like watching a TV show. I can do it!

  • Krista February 17, 2010, 9:56 pm

    I always tell myself that I have never regretted a workout when its over, but I DO regret skipping a workout (without a good reason) so I better just get out there and do it or I’ll feel like a loser all day.

    Of course its fine to take time off when you need it and I take 2-3 rest days a week, but sometimes you just have to GO!

  • Leena February 17, 2010, 9:57 pm

    i love using mantras too. yours is great! some of the ones i use the most are “live strong” and “pain is weakness leaving the body”, they both really motivate me when i am at a weak spot. i also always tell myself to “breathe”.. cuz sometimes i forget 😉

  • Diana (Mymarblerye) February 17, 2010, 9:58 pm

    I put on my gym clothes and remind myself how I would feel AFTER a workout…It sucks during the workout and pain but afterwards be proud you owned it and DID it.

  • Meg @ Be Fit Be Full February 17, 2010, 9:59 pm

    I just posted about the mantra “something is better than nothing”. I have that mentality when I know I can’t get in a “good” workout. It’s better to do something active even if for a short period of time!

  • Laura February 17, 2010, 10:01 pm

    When the weather doesn’t permit an outdoor workout I do exercise videos at home and…. pretend I am the instructor. I can’t give up midway through the workout and let my “students” down after all! 🙂 haha Whatever works…

  • Run Sarah February 17, 2010, 10:03 pm

    Awesome job on the swim! I find I get motivated by thinking how great I feel afterwards, it really helps!

  • Amy B (Second City Randomness) February 17, 2010, 10:06 pm

    Let us know how the rest of that book goes! I’m intrigued…

  • Gabriela February 17, 2010, 10:09 pm

    Amazing job on your swim! I´m so happy for you 😀
    All your snacks looked amazing – I was wondering, organic cheerios? Holy YUM! Hahahaha.
    Brazilian XOXO´s,

  • Matt February 17, 2010, 10:15 pm

    I just think about how crappy I will feel if I don’t run 😉

  • Darci February 17, 2010, 10:22 pm

    the book sounds interesting!! can’t wait to hear more about it!!

  • Megan February 17, 2010, 10:24 pm

    I usually don’t require a lot of motivation to start working out, it is the keeping going part that I struggle with. Things I like to think about are “Go just a little farther than yesterday” or “just keep moving!” or “just think how good you’ll feel after you’re done!”

    It also helps if you have a workout buddy to say those things to you so you don’t even have to think them : )

  • Amanda February 17, 2010, 10:27 pm

    I love mantras too! That book looks like something I might like to read. Will you write a review of it when you are done? I’d love to hear your thoughts before I buy it.

    • caitlin February 18, 2010, 8:38 am

      yes i will definitely do a review! i should plow through it quick its a pretty small book.

  • Deva (Voracious Vorilee) February 17, 2010, 10:30 pm

    I love mantras, too. When I run intervals, my mind trick is that during each interval, I’m running at my “zombie pace” – a pace at which the zombies wouldn’t be able to catch me (and yes, that is me totally admitting to being a huge nerd!).

    • Stina @ Girl Can February 17, 2010, 10:59 pm

      Are these traditional, slow moving zombies chasing you or the more modern fast moving, more spry zombies that are chasing you?


    • Jen February 17, 2010, 11:19 pm

      That has got to be the coolest idea I’ve heard in a while. Have you read World War Z?? Awesome book!

      • Deva (Voracious Vorilee) February 21, 2010, 10:55 am

        I have not read World War Z – I MUST go check it out now!

        and Stina – these are the more spry zombies, but the ones that can’t sustain any sort of long run – hence the “zombie paced” intervals (7.5-8.5 mph) 🙂

    • caitlin February 18, 2010, 8:38 am

      I agree… this is an awesome comment.

  • tiffnie February 17, 2010, 10:41 pm

    On days where I don’t feel like working out but have planned on doing so, I’ll simply go to school dressed up in my workout clothes. I feel like once I do that, I’m obligated to go to the gym.

    Like other people have said, one never regrets working out (but we usually regret skipping), so sometimes I tell myself, “Just do it! You’ll feel so much better afterwards!” And it’s true! Other mind tricks include the “just go for 1 more minute!” strategy and/or trying to finish a workout on a “nice number” (if I’m 4 minutes away from completing the current mile, I’ll try to push myself for another 4 minutes and/or if my goal is to run, say, 4 miles, but I complete that in 37 minutes, I’ll run another 3 so that I get a nice 40 minute workout in…I’ve done this so that once I reach one ‘nice’ number I’m tempted to reach the next…)

    My favorite mantra: “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”

  • Melissa February 17, 2010, 10:51 pm

    When it’s getting crazy hard, and I just want to quit, I tell myself “my body is just the transportation,” put my mind somewhere else, and let my body just take me where I need to go. You know how when you’re driving your car in a daze and all of a sudden, you’re at your destination, but you weren’t really even paying attention to driving the car? (scary, yes, but it happens!) 😀 anyways, it’s like that.

  • Stina @ Girl Can February 17, 2010, 10:57 pm

    The most common mind game I play with myself is telling myself I can stop after x more minutes, miles, laps, whatever, and then when I get to that point, I tell myself I can stop after y more minutes, mile, laps, whatever.

  • Amber K @ sparkpeople February 17, 2010, 11:00 pm

    Wow, 36 straight minutes of swimming! That rocks! I can not go that long doing any one type of exercise. I just get bored SOOO easily.

    What I like is when I am doing a low-intensity day because I can just hop on a treadmill or an elliptical with a good book or magazine article and get so wrapped up in it that I forget that my workout time is passing me by! I can even do HIIT while reading.

  • Jen February 17, 2010, 11:02 pm

    Awesome job with the swim! It just gets easier from now on! Now, you KNOW you can do it. I think I know EVERY mind trick to get me to the gym – good music, new clothes, good book, “just a little workout”, what else am I going to do?, hot tub at the end. BUT, the best motivation is that race that’s in the future. I always tell people to sign up for a race.

    Is that book worth buying?

  • Andrea @ Run, Eat, Date, Sleep February 17, 2010, 11:22 pm

    I usually do a ton of self talk during my runs. I usually have to say out loud “you’re an athlete. You’re strong” And I love the “pain is temporary, pride is forever” mantra. It’s on my bathroom mirror.

  • Samantha @ Mama Notes February 17, 2010, 11:52 pm

    Great job Caitlin! That’s awesome!

  • Jasmine @ Eat Move Write February 18, 2010, 12:09 am

    Good job! I definitely use mind tricks to get myself going at the gym (and TO the gym). In fact, if people could hear all the convo’s going on, back and forth, forth and back in my head, they’d take me out of there in a straightjacket. he he

  • Jamie February 18, 2010, 12:22 am

    The roasted mushroom and asparagus look SO good! I’m so sick of beans and rice though; I just lived on $2/day for a week and I think I ate beans and rice for dinner 6/7 nights!

  • amanda@thegrainsofparadise February 18, 2010, 1:15 am

    Honestly…the hardest part for me about working out is driving to the gym or putting the surfboards on the car. I try to remind myself that when I’m feeling lazy. Once I’m going, I’m fine….does that make sense?

    • caitlin February 18, 2010, 8:39 am

      yes… i always feel like the hardest part is getting out the door. thats why i do it as fast as possible!!!

  • Freya @ foodfitnessandfreya.wordpress.com February 18, 2010, 1:53 am

    I LOVE that mantra you have!
    I always remind myself of how I’m going to feel one the workout is done, ie fabulous! It works a charm everytime. And, you never ever regret a workout, but you always regret missing one, as they say 😀

  • Bonnie February 18, 2010, 2:43 am

    If I really want to stop doing something, I try to have fun or think of something funny and laugh. When I took a yoga class last year, the instructor always said, “if you’re smiling, your body thinks you’re having fun!” And it would always make me laugh, and I would stop thinking about my muscles wanting to give out on me.

  • Amy February 18, 2010, 3:35 am

    To get through workouts and races I break up distnaces into smaller chunks. I did a half marathon this past weekend. Since I’m living in Japan the markers are all in km. A half is 21km so I broke it up into 5k increments. It seemed so much more manageable. When I’m having a really tough run I’ll tell myself “you only have to make it to the next light post”. Once I get there I set a new, obtainable goal.
    For open water swims I break it into 2 halves because I know once I’ve gotten half way the rest is “easy”. 🙂

  • sarah (the SHU box) February 18, 2010, 5:38 am

    i like a variation of your quote — pain is inevitable, suffering is optional! reminds me that i can decide how to perceive and what to do with the physical pain in my mind. i use it for everything!

  • Jessica @ Fit Chick Wannabe February 18, 2010, 6:34 am

    I love your personal mantra (pain is temporary, quitting is forever). I remember reading it a few months back on here and my friend and I recite it to each other when we’re having trouble during a run. It really does help. That book looks interesting! I might have to check it out. After I finish reading Intuitive Eating – or rather start reading it lol

  • Nicole, RD February 18, 2010, 7:12 am

    36 minutes of swimming!? You go, girl! I could NOT do that, no matter how set my mind was! When I do speed workouts, it’s totally mental.

    I’m glad to hear that sometimes you don’t want to workout. I’d say that happens to me about once a week. I typically convince myself to try 10 minutes. If after 10 minutes, I want to stop…fine. 9 times out of 10, I do the whole workout, but there are times that I really and truly don’t want to workout and I listed to my body 🙂

  • Keri February 18, 2010, 7:19 am

    That book looks great, I’m going to have to read it. btw you have also inspired me to read The Tipping Point 🙂 I’m reading it now!

  • Jessica February 18, 2010, 7:35 am

    I always try to remember how much better i feel afterwards….Instead of I think I can, I say I know I can…
    And listening to the Twilight Soundtracks help too!!!!

    What kind of alfredo sauce do you use?

    • caitlin February 18, 2010, 8:40 am

      Paul Newman brand.

  • Shannon February 18, 2010, 8:11 am

    glad you’re enjoying the book so far! and awesome swim 🙂 you ARE ready 🙂 hopefully i’ll be able to hit the pool today!

  • Stacey February 18, 2010, 8:24 am

    I just try to not think about quitting. If I do, then I try to think about how happy I will be with myself if I actually finish what I set out to do, and how dissapointed I will be in myself if I just quit. That usually keeps me going! You go girl! 😀 Two-a-days sound hard!

  • Kelly February 18, 2010, 8:27 am

    Congrats on your swim, that’s awesome! I have to do the same thing when I’m running, I always want to stop and walk, or tie a shoe, or fix my ponytail.

  • Heather @ Side of Sneakers February 18, 2010, 8:32 am

    Good for you, that’s awesome!! Once you have the physical ability to do the basics, I think the rest is all mental!! I’m taking a sports psychology class right now and we learned about “self-talk” as a motivation strategy- apparently talking to yourself is really important!! I always just tell myself “you can do this”. Simple, but it works!

  • Andrea (canyoustayfordinner.com) February 18, 2010, 8:40 am

    Honestly, I think I workout more because it’s my lifelong commitment to myself than for any other reason. By just going even when I don’t really want to, I’m strengthening my trust and love of myself. I know that I feel so good when I exercise, but I feel better knowing that I’m daily trying to take care of myself. Does that make sense?

  • Alexis February 18, 2010, 8:57 am

    Near the end of a brutal spinning class, my instructor shouted, “RIGHT NOW is the strongest you’ve ever been!”

    It’s been my mantra for the last couple months … and it works for me!

  • Britt @ Runnerbelle February 18, 2010, 9:06 am

    I definitely play mind games, especially when I’m on the treadmill. Counting down time or miles left, often I convince myself to do a little extra or pick up the pace. Its amazing how you can analyze numbers forwards and backwards to distract yourself.

    Also as I was trying to get my butt out of bed at 5:30 this morning to get a 5 miler in, I reminded myself I was going to regret not doing the run more than I would regret the extra sleep. I got up and knocked those 5 miles out!

  • Jessica February 18, 2010, 9:17 am

    I don’t run races or triathlons, but do workout regularly. I find it difficult to stay motivated too. Possibly it would be easier if I did sign up for maybe a 5k??? I’m inspired by the races you enter.

    • caitlin February 18, 2010, 9:23 am

      5Ks are sooo much fun! you should do it! it’s 5k season soon!

  • Jenny @ nutmegger February 18, 2010, 9:26 am

    Buying a new great workout outfit helps me sometimes! And sometimes I want to listen to a new song that I downloaded so I’ll just put it on repeat 🙂

  • Shannon February 18, 2010, 9:40 am

    I play mind games to get myself out of bed for a morning workout, instead of having a long affair with the snooze button. I put post-it notes on my phone (which is my alarm clock) that say things like “NO EXCUSES,” “Don’t think, just put on the shoes,” or “you’ll be SO proud if you workout!”

    I also play mind games while running, like telling myself I can’t take a walk break until…. this song is over, the mileage is at an even number, I reach that bench or pole, etc. Then I keep picking a new target.

  • Catherine February 18, 2010, 10:04 am

    I keep a workout schedule taped to my front door so I see it before I leave and another one posted up in my cubicle. I always tell myself that nobody can make me go, but if I really want to be ready for my next marathon/race/whatever, I need to want it enough to be tough with myself.

    I am also a huge fan of mantras and seem to always read cool ones on people’s shirts when racing or running in central park. My favorite is “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. Also, when running in the park I often see blind runners running with their guides and people running with prosthetic legs and I always think to myself “there, but for the grace of God goes me”.

  • Juli D. February 18, 2010, 10:24 am

    Sometimes – my kickboxing instructor always “You can do anything for X minutes/seconds.” So, for example, toward the end of a hard sprint, when I want to stop I think “I can do anything for 30 seconds” and finish out my sprint.

  • PippaPatchwork February 18, 2010, 10:36 am

    I pretty much love to work out, and I find that switching between activities keeps me motivated/prevents boredom. But you’re right, I just signed up for my first couple races and that’s very motivating too!
    Also, I always remind myself: you NEVER regret working out after it’s over, but you do regret not doing it at all.

  • Tracey February 18, 2010, 11:17 am

    You are so right about the mental part of athleticism being just as important as the physical aspect. I was a nationaly competitive athlete from the ages of 13-17. And in my eyes I think the mental is more important than the physical. A person obviously needs to be physically prepared for an event but your mind can convince you that you aren’t physcially prepared. The mind is an amazing thing.

    When I was starting to compete in Nationals and really get into my sport my dad had me read the book, Power of Positive Thinking. I still try to use this in everything I do. I picture myself completing the task I set out to do. For example, I’m training for my first 5K and I have a picture in my mind of me crossing the finish line.

    Sorry for the long comment but I really get into this kind of stuff:)

  • Ashley February 18, 2010, 2:29 pm

    i have that book 🙂 i got it in high school , my high school field hockey coach used to read to us from it. i’ve always recommended it 🙂

Healthy Tipping Point