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Don’t Cheat Yourself: A Lesson in Exercise and Life

In search of a small change from my running routine, I went to spin class over the weekend. If you’ve never been, give it a try. It’s tough! But also very good.

As we were getting started, the instructor said something that was maybe the best exercise advice I’ve ever heard. Or if that’s hyperbolic, it was at least exactly what I needed to hear that morning.

“Don’t cheat yourself today,” she said. “Give yourself what you need.”

Don’t cheat yourself. I knew exactly what she meant. In spin class—and of course, many other workouts—it’s possible to meet the minimum standard without really pushing yourself. At any given point, it’s possible to coast or slack off.

And sometimes that’s fine. Sometimes you need to take it easy for whatever reason. You need to pace yourself, protect against injury, etc.

But those are the exceptions. Most of the time, when you go to spin class, you should be prepared to go hard. It should be tough. The pain is good for you, the challenge is what makes you better.

When you go to your limit, you feel better!

And on the other hand: when you refuse to give your full attention to the task, when you give in to the temptation to coast, you are in fact cheating yourself.

It makes no difference to anyone else; no one cares or even knows. But you know the difference between giving the minimum and giving it your all. Take it from me, you’ll feel better when you don’t hold back.

The analogies to life outside spin class should be obvious. You know what you’re capable of, and what you require to meet that standard.

You owe it to yourself to give everything to yourself.


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