The 5 Stages of Struggling: Memorable Moments from EVERY Fitness Class

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Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

These are the five emotional stages a person goes through when faced with impending death. Whether you’re a rookie to fitness classes or have accumulated enough knowledge to teach your own, we all go through these same five stages every time we have to listen to someone else tell us how to sweat. Even after two years of workout torture, you still manage to get butterflies before class because you never know what the workout is going to be (Dirty 30? Dynamic mode? Burpees? Drop down sets?). But what you do know for certain, is that at some point, you’ll feel like you’re going to DIE.

But death isn’t necessarily a negative thing. Old ideas, old habits and old, limiting beliefs about yourself have to die before a new, fitter you can be reborn. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy or painless. Change is scary and your inner monologue puts up a fight every time! Now, if only your legs ran as fast as your racing thoughts, you’d be in Olympic shape.

So with no further adieu, let us relieve all of the gut-wrenching moments from our last fitness class and predict those moments for we sweat-journalers who’ve yet to experience them.


This stage is often marked by false bravado and arrogance. You’ve probably bragged to yourself saying something along the lines of:

“Piece of cake. I ran track in college.”

“That trainer doesn’t look so tough.”

“This’ll be easy, I’m in much better shape than everyone here!”

But the denial stage quickly manifests as incredulous disbelief at the outrageous demands your trainer is putting on you.

“Oh. My. God. This isn’t happening.”

“Dynamic mode at a 15 incline? No-no-no-no-no-no-no.”

“She can’t be serious. I can’t do this!”

“I can’t possibly sprint today – I’m hungover/injured/tired/on my period/coming down with a cold/too old.”

And then, there’s…


Pain makes people irritable, and so does a lack of oxygen. Death stares and bitchy workout face are the only expressions you’re capable of when rigor mortis sets in. At this stage, you tend to mumble hasty statements you’d rather not share with the class under your breath. Things like,

“I know where you can put this 20 lb dumbbell. “


“I hate my trainer. She/He will be sorry when I’m dead.”

“Seriously? You want me to do what with my what?”

“Um, pretty sure this is some kind of human rights violation. I’ll be calling Amnesty International during the cool-down.”


Somewhere around the halfway point of class, when you feel most hopeless and tired, the mind games begin.

“What’s the point? I’m still fat. Just call me Fatness Everdeen.”

“This class is never going to end. I can’t believe I’ve got a whole half an hour. “

“Why do I always end up running next to a farter?? So. Unfair.”

“I’ve always been on this dreadmill. Dying.”

“Dear God, just take me now and put me out of my misery.”

You look despairingly at some of the early bird students waiting expectantly in the lobby, peering into the studio. You shake your head gloomily at them and wave your arms at them and mouth, “Run, you fools. Save yourselves!” It may be too late for you, but you feel a grim satisfaction at sparing an altruistic thought for others, even though you were busy dying.


This manifests as an endless series of bribes or mental carrots (really, more like pathetic crumbs) you dangle in front of yourself to keep it together.

“Okay, if you get through this run, it’s smoothie time, afterwards – with chocolate. Maybe even a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. ”

“If you run intermediate speeds the whole class without cheating, you get a rest day tomorrow!”

“If you do the entire mile without stepping off, you get to WALK afterwards.”

“Just two more reps and you get to shake it out.”

But it always ends in pleading to a higher power for help:

“Sweet Jesus, please let me make it through this run without puking or fainting.”

And finally…


As you take the bench for the last set, you can see the light at the end of the dark tunnel. Those pain-relieving endorphins have finally hit maximum saturation and you’re giddy with oxygen deprivation.

“I love my trainer. He/She is a genius.”

“I could run forever. I’m a machine!”

“I feel soooo amazing right now. I’m going to come every day!”

“Burpees are my bitch! Can’t wait to post about this on Facebook!”

“I wonder if it’s too dark in here for a selfie?”

You have to admit, there’s a certain satisfaction is struggling during a fitness class. You feel awed that you not only survived, but that you exceeded my self-imposed limitations. Bathed in sweat, your face is glowing and happy because it takes a near-death experience to feel most alive!



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