January 23, 2013

Rewards and Punishments

For the last two weeks, Brynn from the Refine Challenge has been asking us to focus on two very important things: punishments and rewards. Without consequences, it’s way too easy to do whatever you want! However (unfortunately?), we are all adults, and punishments and rewards exist for all the choices we make in our life.

For me, attending or skipping a workout comes with its own inherent punishments/rewards. Last night, I stayed up way too late working on something, and when my alarm went off this morning for my 6am Flywheel class, I had zero interest in attending – more than anything, I wanted to go back to sleep (and hopefully have a pleasant dream this time instead of a stupid nightmare about work). However, I knew that if I skipped my workout:
-The extra hour of sleep wouldn’t really make a difference to my alertness levels.
-I’d be mad at myself for wasting money on a class that I didn’t attend (hooray for no Flywheel refunds after 5pm the night before!).
-I’d likely be running late and having to rush from my hotel to the office, since I wouldn’t have the class to keep me on track.

And if I went?
-I’d start the day with my workout already knocked off my to-do list instead of having to fit it in later.
-I’d start my day by getting to see one of my favorite friends.
-I’d get a huge boost of energy from the adrenaline and endorphins produced during a workout.
-I’d have time to stop at Starbucks for a leisurely cup of coffee before work.

Basically, working out = mood boost. Not working out = mood killer. I think the choice was clear! So I went to Flywheel as planned, and spent the first three minutes hating my decision. I was so sluggish and slow! But then something shifted gears in my mind – and I picked up the pace. When I realized toward the end of class that I was only 14 points behind the first woman on the leaderboard, I gave it everything I had. I didn’t win, but I did finish with one of my highest scores ever. Day officially off to a great start!

Photo credit: Flattop341

When Brynn asked all the Refine Challengers to identify a “big juicy reward”, I struggled. As I demonstrated above, working out is its own reward! (Okay, perhaps I’ll keep that to myself from now on since it sounds kind of cheesy.) I procrastinated for several days on coming up with exactly what this reward would be, and it wasn’t until this week’s challenge, when we were asked to also come up with a punishment for skipping a workout, that I finally buckled down to figure it out.

My Reward
I’m not into designer clothes/shoes/stuff; the biggest splurge I’d want to make would be on travel. I thought about my favorite travel experiences, and the one I kept coming back to was my solo vacation to Peru, which was one of the best weeks of my life. But why was it so great? I realized that I loved being able to set my own schedule, have zero obligations, and get to just bliss out on sunshine, sleep, and a ton of books. Hey, it doesn’t take that much to make me happy!

I considered making my big juicy reward a solo weekend away somewhere (the Caribbean? A cabin in the woods where no one would find me?), but then I realized that there is something else that’s a hot commodity in my life: time. With work pulling me away from NYC four days a week, and marathon travel taking me away for at least one weekend a month, squeezing in time to see my friends can be very difficult. As much as I’d love some time to myself, it would actually be rather stressful to me to take more time away (I know, I know, #FirstWorldProblems).

Instead, I’ve decided to do something completely different: a midweek staycation. At some point in April (to be decided in a few weeks based on my work schedule), I’ll take a Wednesday off to spend the day at King Spa in Dallas. Since I’ll be away from home already, there’s less temptation for me to dedicate that time to seeing friends or doing errands. Meanwhile, I can bring some books to the spa and spend the day reading, relaxing, and feeling Zen – perhaps even throwing in a spa treatment like a body scrub (I’ve never had one!) or massage (luxury!) as an extra reward. Who doesn’t want an awesome midweek pick-me-up like that? I think taking “Hump Day” off will be even more rewarding for me than creating a long weekend by doing this on a Friday or Monday – I’ve found that taking too much time off at once can result in periods of boredom, whereas I am thrilled by one extra day and am more likely to make the most of it. Plus, recent studies show that shorter vacations help maximize the happiness boost. More vacations certainly sounds good to me!

So with that settled, it’s time to turn my attention to…

My Punishment
This was even tougher for me than coming up with a reward. Again, skipping a workout is already kind of a punishment in itself; plus, I hate thinking in such negative terms. So I’ve decided to have some fun with this one…

If/when I skip a workout, I will make a little sign that says “I skipped my workout today,” and take a picture of myself holding it up, shame-faced mugshot-style. This picture will become my new Facebook/Twitter pic for 24 hours, during which time I’m sure I’ll get plenty of good-natured teasing from friends and followers for not living up to my commitment.

But honestly? My month-long challenge to work out daily has been going swimmingly so far. Exercise is surprisingly easy to fit into my day when I’ve made it a commitment and a priority. It’s been three weeks already and I haven’t yet found a day that I couldn’t squeeze in at least a quick ten minute workout before bed. (And in fact, I’ve only had to use that as a minimum twice – most days I’ve gone far above and beyond that limit.) In fact, I’m so confident in this that I’m going to commit now to extending my January challenge all the way to the end of March, to go along with the 90-day Refine Challenge. While this “punishment” was originally intended to only be about skipping my Refine workouts, I will take it one step further and make it my punishment for skipping any workout between now and April. In it to win it!

What are your biggest motivators?


3 thoughts on “Rewards and Punishments”

  1. And your morning buddy thanks you for encouraging her to get to flywheel (or whichever Laura designated workout is on the schedule) every morning!

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