As a competitive athlete, the thought of quitting is unimaginable. Unheard of. Not an option. Athletes never give up; we power through the pain, go the distance and never say die.

I’ve run my body into the ground training for marathons; I’ve herniated discs playing sports; I’ve limped and hobbled my way through competitions of all kinds, but nothing is more painful than having to quit. It’s truly the agony of defeat.

When it comes to quitting, you gotta know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em. So how do you know when it’s time?

Just ask any of the GOP presidential hopefuls who, after months of campaigning and primaries, dropped out one by one, knowing they had no chance of winning.

John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, and the rest of the gang, all had to bite the bullet, suck up it up, and call it quits—even though it probably pained them to do so.

We’ve all been told that “quitters never win, and winners never quit,” but I’m starting to think that real winners know exactly when to quit. They know there’s power in giving up.

And by power, I mean having the strength to end something that’s run its course, isn’t working, or has no future. Having the power to quit means facing reality, making the hard choices, and finding the next course of action in life.

quitting timeWhen it comes to quitting, you gotta know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em. So how do you know when it’s time?

In fitness, there are a few signs:

When You’re Burned Out

When you’ve lost that loving feeling about your workout or routine, it’s time to change things up. Feeling passionate about your fitness regime is everything. So before you let boredom and burnout get the best of you, pick up a new sport, try a class, check out a new gym, or find a new activity that will keep you engaged and challenged.

When You’re in Too Much Pain

I’m a firm believer in “no pain, no gain,” but only to a point. After that, pain becomes counterproductive and unsafe. If a certain workout is causing you excessive discomfort—like strenuous yoga or CrossFit—it’s time to take a break, modify, or quit altogether before you really hurt yourself. It’s vital that you listen to your body and respect its limits.

When You’re Not Improving

If you’ve been doing a sport or workout for a period of time, and you’re not seeing any improvement or results after substantial effort, it’s time to hang it up. You’ve hit a wall. There’s nothing more discouraging than pursuing something that doesn’t pay off, especially when you’ve devoted a lot of time and energy. If you’re not losing weight, or getting in shape after giving it your all, don’t be afraid to move on.

When There’s Something Better You Can Be Doing Instead

If you feel like you’re wasting your time, spinning your wheels, or wishing you could be doing something else, that’s your cue to quit. Maybe you’ve exhausted all the possibilities or accomplished your goals and find no value in continuing. Whatever the scenario, your time is precious and no one should fault you for being true to yourself.

treva brandon scharfI know someone who played tennis all her life and hated every minute of it, but kept going because she didn’t want to disappoint her parents. I have a client who won’t stop dieting even though she never loses weight. Even I know the hazards of not quitting—just ask my orthopedic surgeon.

It’s true, persevering is a virtue—until it kills you then it becomes a vice.

Quitting is not the worst thing in the world; in fact, it could be the best thing you could ever do. It’s all in the way you look at it. Quitting doesn’t mean you’re a failure, or a loser, or a wimp. It just means that you have the courage to honor your highest good.

And if your highest good means quitting, then more power to you.

Treva Brandon Scharf

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