Action Cures Fear

by Michael Plank

What’s the hardest part of the workout?

The burpees? Kettlebell swings? Thrusters? (by FAR, my least favorite)

Nope. It’s not that those things are so hard… It’s making yourself do those things that’s so hard.

When your pulse is pounding in your ears, sweat is pouring into your eyes, you’re gasping for air, and all you want to do in the whole world is stop, making yourself pick up that bar, drop down to the floor, swing that kettlebell… that’s where the real battle is.

I think it’s because we’re afraid. We’re afraid of more discomfort. That’s reasonable. And so we walk around a few more seconds. We get some chalk. We get (another) drink. We toss our heads back and grunt a few times. Anything to keep that feeling that we know is coming at bay for just a second longer.

Whenever I feel that way (which is often), this is what I tell myself:


When you finish those jumping pull-ups and walk over to the barbell, dreading the burn that you know is coming… pick up the bar and JUST GET ONE.

When you’re so blasted you can hardly see straight, but you can still make out that kettlebell on the floor… waiting for you… laughing at you… pick it up and JUST GET ONE.

One rep is all it takes. That discomfort you’re afraid of has the most power in that moment of fear and hesitation. But if you do one rep, you take all that power away. The worst part of long workouts for me is the 10-second countdown before I start. Ten seconds into the workout, it’s not nearly so bad, because now I’m taking action. And it’s very difficult to be active and afraid at the same time.

Do just one rep and it proves to you that you can do it. You do one rep and it keeps you moving forward. And 9 times out of 10, one rep turns into 3 or 5 or 10, and before you know it, the workout is behind you and you’re fitter and stronger.

It’s a huge psychological win. And that’s not half the battle… it’s the whole war. (And, like so many other things, it carries over into the rest of life too. Making those phone calls, sending out those resumes, cleaning those rooms… when you take that first step, no matter how tiny, it’s way easier to take the second).

And better yet, it improves with practice. Every time you do it, you get better at it. So grab that bar. Swing that kettlebell. Drop to the floor.