February 2016

The Willpower Workout: Swapping Weighty Reps For Mental Reps

Relationship status with running: complicated.    That’s how I’ve been feeling towards running the past two weeks of my marathon training as my weekly mileage has increased and the weather has become colder.       

I went to a Frame Fitness class at Gymbox recently and upon entering the class, I felt like I was cheating on running. That day was meant to be a run session. I was early for the class so I went on the treadmill and ran 7km. But, I felt so guilty for wanting to skip running altogether that day. I felt that I had cheated on running. 

It’s not the first time it’s happened to me. There have been times where I’ve gone to sleep, dreading putting on my running trainers the next day. How I just want to be in a fitness class elsewhere, working up a sweat, getting hot and not bothered instead. I’ve woken up on the day of a running session, thinking of how I’m just not in the mood to run that day. I’ve looked forward to rest days more so than any other other time I can remember.    And then, I imagine crossing the marathon finishing line, I lace up my trainers in the evenings, start to run and I’m fine. It’s somewhere in that period between the aftermath of a running session and before the next session that my willpower fades. That’s a muscle I seem to have neglected.    If things aren’t going as you planned, sometimes all you need is to change your perspective. Sometimes one step in front of another is not enough. And that is where a willpower workout is what you should consider, as I recently discovered. 

“Willpower workout”: It sounds a little bit spiritual. Not quite believable. Doesn’t it? 

Whitworths Shots invited me to join them n a willpower workout. It was definitely not the typical type of workout I am used to. It was a workout without sweat, DOMS, trainers or lycra.   


The aim of the workout was to learn how to strengthen your willpower, which in turn would enable you to accomplish whatever goal you have in mind (it doesn’t have to exercise-based). It was divided into four mini sessions:   STRETCHING   We started the session with a set of stretches, guided by Lilly Sabri. Sitting in a cross-legged position, for example, helped us to  focus on our posture. In a way, I see this part of the session like meditation and the goal of this was to train our minds to stay focused.    DIET   Whatever you do, we all know that eating well is important. Sian Porter, a dietician, guided us through the importance of eating well. Writing a food diary of everything (and I mean every morsel of food) is helpful in strengthening your willpower because you can find out what your weaknesses are (I know mine are dark chocolate and peanut butter!). Swapping office midday snacks, like a packet of Digestives, for healthier options like Whitworths Shots or celery and hummus, is something else to consider.

Personally, I’ve found Whitworth Shots are particularly great as an alternative to gels during my long, slow runs in my marathon training.

  HYPNOTHERAPY   Darren Marks, a hypnotherapist, talked us through setting SMART goals, which will help to strengthen our willpower. SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused and Time-bound. 

Mine, for example, is to train for the marathon, completing it on 17 April. 

We then lay in a comfortable position, and with eyes closed, pictured in our minds the exact moment when we know we have accomplished our goals. For me, I know that exact moment is when I cross the finishing line. 

This didn’t feel like hypnotherapy. It felt more like learning how to think positively. Even still, positive thinking is very useful because by thinking positively, you become more optimistic, which in turn builds up your confidence and willpower to achieve your goal.


The Sleep Geek, aka James Wilson, talked us through the importance of sleeping well and how to get a good night’s sleep. I have never met anyone so passionate about sleep! I also didn’t realise how complicated sleep is. He knows his stuff when it comes to sleep. Have a question about sleep? Follow him on twitter

I took a lot from this part of the session. Certain hot drinks, like ovaltine, are good to drink before you sleep as they contain tryptophan, which causes sleepiness. Hot Chocolate, not so much. Go for cranberries, almonds, almond milk or dairy milk as they all contain tryptophan. 

A good night sleep isn’t necessarily about quantity, but rather quality. Look at your environment: Is your phone on? Do you look at your phone two minutes before you nod off? Is your mattress comfortable? Is there light in your bedroom? Is your bedroom quiet?    What did I learn? My mind is a muscle and it too needs to workout to make it as tough as my body. 

If you want to take part in a willpower workout, Whitworths Shots’ willpower workout class is available on Youtube.   

Mara xxx

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