Workout of the Day

Breaking Even


Imagine a world in which all of the hard work you do in the gym only allows you to break even -- there’s no net gain, no improvement, no real payoff -- it just keeps you right where you are.
I’m guessing we can all agree that this doesn’t sound like a good deal.

While this scenario isn’t strictly true (we do have the opportunity for considerable payoff from our exercise endeavors), you can effectively put yourself in this zero-sum world with a few at-odds choices. In fact, I see it happen all the time. It’s the individual who uses their regular exercise practice as an excuse to abandon self-care and discipline in other respects. This approach views exercise as a point in the “positive” department that gives the individual a freebie in the “negative” department (an unhealthy food, a drink, etc.). The internal dialogue is something along the lines of “I exercise, so I’ve earned this second slice of cheesecake” -- “I work out, so I’m healthy enough to have another drink and stay out later tonight.”

While I am an advocate of occasional indulgences, this way of thinking -- of viewing health-positive efforts as tokens that boy you health-negative freebies -- is problematic. I call it the “break even mindset,” and it’s an easy trap to fall into. This approach is ultimately a self-sabotaging endeavor, and one that is likely not to last. With the break even mindset, you operate under the unspoken agreement that you’re not in this to get any better -- you’re just in it for the sake of damage control. You value your health-positive endeavors only insofar as they earn you choices that would otherwise bring you guilt. This leaves you not only stagnant in your overall health and fitness progress, but it becomes a game that’s hard to keep up. Poorly fueled and uncared for, your exercise performance suffers. Your progress halts. Your body composition goes the wrong direction. Your frustration mounts. Yes, you still get in the exercise, but all of your other choices are pulling you in the other direction. Often, this eventually leads to a breaking point -- you lose vision of the value of your exercise practice (because all of the other habits have sabotaged the potential progress from exercise) and give up on it altogether, deciding that if exercise isn’t going to make it any better, what’s the point in putting in all that hard work. The whole situation is self-imposed, but it can be incredibly difficult to see for what it truly is.

With an unhealthy view of healthy habits, we can easily walk ourselves right into the arms of this unsatisfying world of zero-sum endeavors. I don’t know about you, but I’m more into getting something out of all my hard work. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

- PS


  • Rear foot elevated split squat - 3x12/leg

  • Glute ham raise - 3x8

  • 7 min AMRAP

    • 7 burpee box jump overs

    • 7 C2B pull-ups

    • 7 HSPU