Exercise can be hard, physically uncomfortable work. This is, of course, painfully true if you are just starting an exercise program after years of being sedentary. But it is at least as true if you are among the craziest of exercise enthusiasts, the kind who run marathons and lift very heavy weights. So why do some people love their exercise and others hate it? One answer may lie in the meanings that the enthusiastic exerciser and the reluctant one assign to the difficulty and discomfort of exercise.
People who hate exercise are more likely to assign negative meanings to the effort and struggle involved. For example, people who experience shortness of breath on a new, aerobically challenging walking or jogging program may think, "huffing and puffing means I'm out of shape." Evaluating oneself as "out of shape" may engender feelings shame and defeat that derail further engagement in exercise.
People who exercise regularly and enjoy it are likely to assign positive meanings to the effort and struggle that they experience during exercise, and the soreness they may feel later. They may view these physical sensations as signs that they "got a good workout" and therefore feel proud of themselves.