Negative Thoughts that Go Through My Head While I Work Out

There is a lot of chatter on here about how hard it is to make peace with our bodies as working moms. We haul around our (irrational, burdensome) guilt with us wherever we go, including at the gym and during meals. Michelle and Sharlene have delved into the difficult topic of body image recently, as have I. One problem many of us share is that of finding the time to fit regular, effective exercise into an already overloaded schedule.

Anyone who has ever discussed diet and exercise with me will know that I put the former way above the latter on the ladder of importance: from the research I’ve done, I believe that bodies are made in the kitchen, not so much the gym. Nonetheless, I’m off my exercise strike and back on the elliptical machine sitting in my basement. Why? I don’t know. I think working out ultimately makes me feel good, as much as I hate it while I’m doing it, not to mention leading up to it (I can’t work out today … I need to … do laundry, yeah).

These are the thoughts that race through my mind while I’m hating my life trying to keep my heart rate up on the machine:

I should just be happy being heavy. Heavy people are successful in their careers, because they don’t have time to work out due to all the business they’re doing, and therefore being big is a sign of success. Skinny people are unsuccessful! Haha!

Stupid bitch. This workout is your punishment for eating ice cream yesterday. Fattie.

I f**king HATE people who talk about their stupid road races and mud runs! Die in a fire, all of you!!!

Actually, no. Sorry. I just hate myself.


[image via]
[image via]

At some point midway in, I feel like giving up and bursting into tears. This is why I work out alone, in my basement, and not at the gym.

The good news is that I always finish ok. I don’t actually burst into tears—I keep that suppressed and try to focus on a podcast or article I’m reading. When the 30 minutes is over, I step off and, amazingly, I feel really good. It’s like the elliptical is some sort of release valve for the negative self-talk.

Looking over what I just wrote above is extremely painful for me. I can’t believe how much pent-up emotion I have about my body, exercise, food, and other weird tangential stuff. I don’t even recognize that person. Would I want my daughters to accuse skinny people of being unsuccessful in their careers (Huh?), or tell marathon runners to die in a fire? Holy crap. That’s not who I am, nor who I want myself or my kids to be.

I had to write this, because I have the feeling I’m not alone, as bizarre as this phenomenon seems to me as I reflect upon it. So often, we read status updates and tweets about how great people are feeling about doing Crossfit or some crazy challenge. What you don’t often see is how less-than-fit people, like me, struggle emotionally with NOT being that person who is easily motivated by someone else’s physical achievements. But I’ve been right here all along, in the basement.


7 thoughts on “Negative Thoughts that Go Through My Head While I Work Out

  1. Just wanted to thank all of you for the great comments. I feel like there is this perceived chasm between the world of proud non-exercisers and the super fit, hardcore runners … when in reality, most of us fall somewhere in between and experience a range of positive and negative emotions about ourselves and where a healthy lifestyle fits into the picture.


  2. Wow. I have similar thoughts when I’m working out. It’s hard for me to not think negatively when I’m uncomfortable with my body, especially when I’m running outside. I have thoughts like “everyone who sees me is thinking who is this fat person running” or “people see me and think damn, it’s a good thing she’s running” Even when I was in really good shape I worried about that stuff. Still do. I try to ignore it but in truth those thoughts remain.


    1. Thank you for this honest post.

      I struggle with body image, too. The reality of it all is that I’m short and I’m fat and because I am STILL struggling to take off the baby weight (25 lbs left!! That’s down from 60), I am a lot more conscious about it than I used to be. I used to be fit – not thin, but fit. All the struggles that you mention (time, etc) are standing in the way of the old me.

      When I looked at it, I realized that what stood in the way *the most* was my own thinking. I always felt like a 10 minute workout wasn’t worth it. I always felt like people were judging me for once being fit and now being fat. I always wondered if people thought, “Damn…why is it taking her more than 3 years to get back into shape.” Once I realized that I was sabotaging my own success, I made an effort (and still have to work hard at reminding myself) to REALLY change my mindset – I constantly have to convince myself that “something is better than nothing…” I have to repeat (in my head!) that everyone can just go eff-off if they judge me because I am making myself healthy for my children. I have to remember to cut myself a little slack because I don’t have same amount of time or energy, and age really is working against me.

      Being an older mom puts this into a slightly different perspective because I CONSTANTLY worry that (to be morbid) I or my husband might die before the kids are old enough to be independent, on their own. I tell myself that every little effort that I put into making myself healthy will be one more day that I can spend with my kids and ensure that they have a healthy parent in their lives. Yes, I am being a bit morbid, but life does sneak up on you and you never know what can happen…

      Don’t put yourself up to the standards of people who brag about their crossfit accomplishments because they are, indeed, bragging and are really only looking for some positive reinforcement or praise. Put yourself up to your OWN standards. Know that every little bit that you do, every 30 minutes you spend on your elliptical in your basement, every single little step that you take that you didn’t take before is giving you one more step at the end so that you can be a happier, healthier and longer living mom for your children.

      You’re a great mom. ❤


  3. Wow Melanie, this is so powerful! I think so many of us defeat ourselves with this negative chatter right out of the gate. Owning it is just so important. It still accompanies me every time I get out there, and you’re right… you’re not alone, nor am I. We can’t turn the tapes off, but we can run another too: one more gentle, affirmative, one we’d record for our kids perhaps. Thank you.


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