Counting Reps Is a Strategy to Make Exercise Easier (4 min read)

Tamara doing yoga at the park near her home.

Do you have an at-home workout routine? Are there ways that you motivate yourself or keep yourself going  so you don’t stop before time is up? 

Personally, I find it difficult to workout at home, especially when I’m not “in the mood.” 

There are days when I find myself getting tired quickly or allowing myself to stop before the allotted time or practice.  I’ll be in the middle of exercising and feel the motivation disappearing and taking with it my desire to move my body, sweat, or challenge myself to improve strength or form. Then I’ll say something to myself like, “Yeah, I’m over it,” or “That’s good enough.” And I stop.  Unfortunately, what usually happens afterwards is that I feel discouraged or guilty or disappointed in myself for the lack of commitment. That’s definitely not how I want to feel.

My most successful strategy is to workout with someone else. 

Typically I’ll do this by going to a gym or studio where talented instructors motivate and push me to keep going for the full 1-hour session. Plus, being in a class reinforces the mindset that I’m there to work hard. I’m with others who are making fitness a priority for the day and there’s always a little competition going on, either with myself to do more or with others because I want to keep up. Being a fitness instructor myself, I can be critical of how others teach and picky about the level of intensity of the class so I’ll go to places with a deal like “1st class free” or a Groupon so I can get a feel for the studio/gym and instructors. If it’s a good fit, it’s time to WORK!

A strategy that works really well to manage my home workouts.

But working out at a gym isn’t always convenient. They may not have a class I want at the time I want, or sometimes I just don’t want to leave the house. So, I have a strategy that works really well to manage my home workouts. I count. Usually to 10, sometimes to five, and there are times when 1 is all I got, but counting works and keeps me accountable.

Let’s say I’m doing some ab exercises. These aren’t particularly challenging for me, so I know I can do way more than 10. I’ll choose a number that’s a multiple of 10, let’s say 40, and then I do 10 and then 10 more and then 10 more and then 10 more. Voila! 40 crunches done. Breaking them up into tens makes that movement doable and I get a small sense of accomplishment every time I reach the 10 mark. Psychologically, I trick my brain to think I’m only doing 4 since the entire 10-crunch set counts as 1. And 4 sounds easier than 40. Plus, there’s not a lot of remembering that needs to happen because I can count to 10 without losing count. If I were to count all the way up to 40, at some point I’d be questioning if I was on #26 or #36 or even #46, which means I should have stopped already. 

If I’m doing something I find more challenging like push-ups, I still use the number 10, but maybe only do two or three sets. I can get through the first 10 fairly easily and then things start to become difficult. This is where the magic of the 10 count comes in. I know that I only have to get to 10 no matter how many may be after that; I only need to get to the 10 and can take a break after that. Ten is doable. 

If I’m doing something really, really challenging, then maybe I cut that number down to 5. Because I can do 5. And if I can do 5, maybe I can do another 5 after that. When things are crazy hard, I’ll do 1. And if I can do 1, I can probably do another 1. Do 1. Take a break. Do 1. Take a break. Eventually, I might get to 5 or even 10. Done.

Tamara doing yoga in her backyard.

A major benefit is the change in self-talk that happens.

Besides the obvious physical benefits of getting to 10, a major benefit is the change in self-talk that happens. Rather than, “I’m tired. I’ll just quit,” the talk changes to, “I can do it! C’mon, it’s just 5 more. I can do anything for 5.” When the 10 is done I feel proud, strong, and accomplished.

Counting is just a little game that I play with myself to make exercise more fun to support my physical activity habits and to keep myself motivated and accountable. Just like all other mammals, we learn through play. Play improves mood, creates stronger memories and associations, and just makes things more enjoyable. 

What can you do to add play to your fitness routines?

Author: Tamara Kino, Lifestyle Mentor