PUSHING YOURSELF During Exercise: Delay of Gratification

Boy not thinking of delaying gratification as he pushes himself to run on the beach in the heat.

Delay of Gratification is the fifth article in the PUSHING YOURSELF series which is designed to help you get the most possible benefit out of your exercise session.


This is a series on pushing yourself while exercising. It can be applied to any exercise, but in this series I’ll talk about running and walking/running up steps. Those are the two exercises that I do daily – one or the other.

Delaying gratification is something I use whenever I feel really strong and I know my exercise session is going to be a heroic effort. You know those days when you feel on top of the world as you start exercising and it doesn’t get worse – it just gets better? So you push, and it still feels great. You push more – still great.

I use this technique of delaying any gratification I allow myself to feel on days just like this so I can keep the level of effort high and stretching out as long as possible.

What this means is – I don’t let myself feel happy about what I’ve already accomplished. I stay level-headed and rational about it. I recognize that I’ve done well so far, but I concern myself more with the next push and what it will entail than focusing on the how great the effort I’ve already made was.

In this way I’m able to stop the mind from saying, “Ok, good enough! Wow, that was great… let’s take it easy and call it a day. We did a good job.”

On those days when I have an abundance of energy, strength, and endurance I want to get everything possible out of my session. This happened on the steps about three weeks ago. I usually have my notebook computer, battery, charger, camera, phone, some shirts and sweatpants as shock padding for the notebook, water and a carton of milk for the mangy dog that’s at the top of the hill some days. On occasion I have a kilogram of rambutan too – if you haven’t ever tried rambutan fruit you must see if the asian market in your city has some. It’s the most delicious fruit in the world…  I digress.

So I’m usually on the steps with a backpack that weighs ten to thirteen pounds. I can go up the stairs with the backpack twice with no problem, but I’ve only done the steps three times if I didn’t have the bag with me. On this day I had the bag but I felt good at the top the first time. I went down to the bottom and I still felt good – so I went up again. I rested about ten minutes and went back down. I still felt great. I had some time so I thought, ahhh, do it again. I did it the third time and I STILL felt good but had run out of time.

I don’t think I would have gone a fourth time anyway, better to do 3x a few more sessions before I try four times up and down. The problem with steps is that it’s easy to pull a muscle going more than twice. Usually it happens on the way down I notice a little twinge of pain in my foot or behind my knee cap.

The reason I was able to do three times that day (3,711 steps up and 3,711 down) is because I didn’t let myself feel the satisfaction of doing it the first or second time. Even after the third time when I thought I might give it a go the fourth time I still hadn’t let myself feel good about the effort yet. Once I feel good about what I’ve done I notice that I’m less inclined to push myself much more.

Delay the gratification by not letting yourself feel the satisfaction that is due until you are completely done with the session. Then – bathe yourself in compliments for pushing it so hard!

Best of Life!


My Pushing Yourself Series Covers:

1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

1 thought on “PUSHING YOURSELF During Exercise: Delay of Gratification”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *