Gut-busting workouts don’t just challenge your body—they’re equally hard on your psyche. Ask any Olympian, elite CrossFitter, or sub-three-hour marathoner: Those brutal sweat sessions in the dead of winter or the hottest days of summer will make even the toughest athletes wonder why they’re putting themselves through such hell. And yet: Once the workout is over and the foam-rolling is complete, they’ll be ready to hit the gym again.
So what gives? We asked Nicole Detling, a University of Utah professor and sports psychologist who’s trained Olympians, what loving extreme workouts may say about you. Here are her three big points for the masochists among you:
1. You’re driven to see what you’re made of
These workouts humble you, but you crave that. While the rest of society wants to stay in their comfort zone, you want to understand your limits. “You won’t know them till you fail—and that’s what keeps you going,” Detling says.
2. You’re unusually motivated
The purpose driving your workout—whether it’s getting ripped or breaking personal records—puts your brain in overdrive. “Think: Why are you pushing yourself?” Detling says. “You should have a good answer—whatever it is, keep it front and center.”
3. You’re a proud son of a bitch
You can’t bear the thought of losing or turning down a challenge, a trait that incessantly drives you to finish a tough workout. You won’t stop till you earn bragging rights. “[This is the kind of person who thinks,] ‘I want people to see me doing this. Not many people are willing to put themselves through this kind of pain, so I must be pretty special,'” she says.