fitness · motivation

“Just tell me what to do!”

Sometimes (actually most times) I am a big fan of doing what I want, not what I’m told to do. This extends to workouts, where I typically advocate choice, various degrees of challenge-options built in to the workout (like, if you want to challenge yourself, do this; if you want to take it easier, do this, etc.), and going at my own pace. Way back at the beginning of the blog I posted about doing less.

But other days I want to be told what to do and to feel as if I have to. That’s why I like coaches. This occurred to me during a workout with Alex last week (see Cate’s post about Alex), where they said we could do it or not do, depending how I felt. I actually didn’t feel like doing the thing they were telling us to do, but I also didn’t feel like being given the option of not doing it. That day, I was of the mind that if I didn’t want to do it I wouldn’t have signed up for the class.

As an advocate of doing less and setting the bar low that reaction of mine surprised me. But what it revealed to me is this: some days I want to push myself and without someone else calling the shots I would NOT push myself. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Indeed, it’s probably one of the reasons many of us do classes or hire trainers or coaches—without them we would do less when we in fact want to do more. But we need that extra little push.

I’m not here advocating doing something we really don’t want to do. I’m saying that even the things we (or perhaps I should stick to “I”) do want to do in some sense can be tough to stick with in the moment when it feels hard. Writing is like this for me sometimes (though mostly I do not have a coach for that. But in the past I have worked one-on-one and in small groups with the amazing The Publication Coach, Daphne Gray-Grant). Working out can be like that too.

Undoubtedly it’s not news that we might sometimes need others to motivate us. This can be a coach, trainer or instructor. Or it can be friends or a group or what have you. Working out alone is sometimes great. I love my solo runs for example. But working out with others often for me leads to more effort. (And it’s always more fun.) And on the days where I go in wanting to put in that effort, I prefer not to be given the option of not doing it.

That’s not to say I want to be shamed into doing it (military style) or unreasonably pressured beyond my ability (like Cate described of a yoga class she attended recently where the instructor offered no variations). It’s only to say that sometimes I like having someone else telling me what to do even if it isn’t super fun. It feels good to meet the challenge.

Alex’s classes are great for that. And they motivate even though we are given lots of choices and reassured that we can even tap out if that’s what we need. They motivate because of their extremely high energy. It’s hard not to want to push a little harder when the instructor is super jazzed about what they’ve programmed that day.

Do you prefer to do what you want to do or to be told what to do or does it depend on the day?

One thought on ““Just tell me what to do!”

  1. Couldn’t agree more. Like you, I intensely dislike instructors who use the military style bossy attitude. Who needs that??? But a good and rational instructor…As much as I love tap dancing – I have been taking classes for 40 years now – I have to admit I never put my shoes on outside of class. The companionship, the novel ideas, and perhaps most of all, the specific schedule, all ensure that I actually get there & do it. I was grateful to teachers who went to Zoom classes during the pandemic. I also get a workout schedule online, and although I do almost all of the activities alone – one group ride each week, otherwise, just me – having a homework assignment makes me get it done. All of this really makes a difference for me, in spite of my being pretty much of a fitness fanatic. I have ridden my bike across north America twice – once the year I turned 60, the second time I turned 70 during the ride. But still, I often find that little encouragement from outside very, very helpful.

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