What You Should Do If You Can't Get Through A Workout

Motivating yourself to start a workout can be its own monumental task. Once you do, you have to actually finish what you started. Sometimes, no matter what you try, you can't seem to push yourself through the last mile, last set, or the last 10 minutes of your routine. This is the point where many people feel their muscles getting shaky, and their body feels like it's running out of energy. As uncomfortable as that feels, however, our bodies might not be as exhausted as our brains think they are.

Dr. Markus Amann is a professor of internal medicine at the University of Utah. He has conducted many studies on the way exercise affects the human body, and in one such study, he focused on the interactions between our muscles and our brains. Published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise in 2016, the study found that our brains underestimate how much energy we actually have. It then sends signals to our muscles that decrease their efficiency and emphasize our exhaustion.

Knowing this might not help you convince your brain into another set of reps. However, it will help you learn to read other signals when you're working out. Knowing how your body and mind work together can help you push yourself in some surprising ways.

Smile through your workouts

Shape has several recommendations for people who struggle to finish their workouts. The first one falls right in line with Dr. Amann's findings and actually helps you "cheat" the system your body uses to intensify feelings of exhaustion. You can't turn off your brain's messages to your muscles (at least you shouldn't), but you can change the way you're viewing your workout.

It turns out that positive affirmations and making yourself smile through the toughest stretches of your workout can actually help you beat the exhaustion signals and finish a workout. This is because our brains send out those exhaustion signals as a reaction, in part, to how we're feeling. This is backed up by research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, conducted by Dr. Samuele M. Marcora. He found that mental exhaustion and negative outlooks on a workout can both drain a person's energy and leave them feeling more exhausted. When people smile and focus solely on their workout, however, they are able to put forth more effort and get more done.