Mind Over Matter

All physical exercise is ultimately a mind game

John Cousins
4 min readSep 10, 2019


Every time I exercise I have to talk myself into starting. And every time I finish I’m glad I did it.

Every time I exercise I first have to negotiate with myself. My brain starts listing all the reasons why now isn’t a good time. This must be some remnant of survival instincts that want to conserve energy in case it is needed to fend off some unforeseen threat.

The likelihood of being attacked by a sabre-tooth tiger or ambushed by a mastodon are pretty remote these days. Now my survival is more tied to being fit and opening a can of whoop-ass on a burglar. But my brain tells me its better to relax on the couch than visit the pain cave of exercise.

Lying on the couch watching sports is so easy. And pizza is so good. When we watch sports our brain conflates the physical effort we see with our own effort. Fandom is bullshit. What do you mean, “we won” kemosabe?

We lounge, get soft and tired, rinse and repeat.

The physical demands of exercise and activity aren’t nearly as challenging as overcoming the self-talk that is convincing us to stay put.

The only thing that holds us back or gets us our ass in gear is our mental attitude. We can do the physical work. We just create myriad excuses to not do it right now. Kick the can down the road.

Life is a lot like working out. The hardest part is deciding to get going. Once you get over that, its easy.

Getting started each time is the hardest part.

Yogi Berra said,

Baseball is 90 per cent mental. The other half…