So… The first month of 2016 is nearly over. Whether you’re trying to ramp up your fitness to the next level, or simply trying to make regular exercise a habit this year, this is about that time when the reality of life and your dreams of fitness perfection start to have to wrestle. And your dreams feel like they are weakening.
When work stress starts to get real again after the holiday period, and getting good sleep and good food regularly become real challenges, it’s common to feel frustrated and like the world is conspiring against you, and that you’re destined for another year of not getting in shape. If you’re kind of feeling like this, this post is for you.
You’ve been doing great. You’ve been doing almost perfectly. But it’s getting harder to keep it up, and you don’t think you can keep this up for the rest of the year. And you know what? Chances are, you’re not going to be able to. But that’s okay. The truth is, if you’re interested in making health and fitness a part of your life permanently, you’re going to need to learn that your training, much like everything else in life, has to be able to accommodate to the ebbs and flows of life. Here are a few tips and strategies that will help to make your exercise habits last:
1) Realize that you’re not alone.
Unless you’re a professional athlete, it’s highly unlikely that your training regimen is going to be perfect. The folks at Ritual work in the fitness industry and still don’t have anything close to perfect training and eating schedules, either. And that’s okay. There’s nothing catastrophic about skipping a workout every now and then, or having a few beers on the weekend. In the grand scheme of things, it’s about what you do consistently, as I talked about here.
2) Be aware of the ‘floodgates’.
For some people, if it can’t be done perfectly, it can get tempting to just give say “screw it!” and just let the floodgates open. A few cheat meals and skipped sessions turns into jumping off the wagon head first into ice cream. Acknowledge that if your schedule is interrupted by travel and work demands, or you’re simply too tired for a session today, it’s okay to scale back and let loose a little – just remember that there’s no need or reason to let the floodgates open.
3) Talk to a coach.
Like I mentioned earlier, none of us have it dialed in perfectly all the time. What the coaches have gotten really good at is going by ‘feeling’. You don’t have to be fully tuned in and strict all year long, and it’s okay to have your fitness levels vary throughout the year. In fact, it may be healthier to let your body chill sometimes. The coaches have real-world advice and experience with making things work even with imperfect sleep habits, work schedules, family commitments and travel plans, and they’d love to help out where they can.
4) Be okay with rest days.
The fitter you get, the harder you can push. Sometimes, this means your body might need a little bit longer to recover from hard sessions because you’ve simply done more work than you used to be able to do. In addition, when real life gets in the way and you don’t get enough sleep, for example, your body simply might not be ready for a session, which we talked about here. Don’t be afraid of taking a rest day – but also don’t use it as an excuse to eat all the pizza you want! Get outdoors, get some sun, or catch up on sleep.
5) Do an easy week.
In addition to taking rest days, it might be a good idea to intentionally fit in an easy week of training every few weeks. Traditionally, athletes extend this concept to something called periodization. As we talk about here, since we don’t get to train like athletes, it may be a good idea to simply give yourself an easy week every now and then. This doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t train at all – it could mean that when you come in you simply practice the basic movements and work on the finer details of your breathing and technique without pushing too hard. In the long run, these easy weeks will pay off because you get a chance to recover, and you get a chance to work on improving technique instead of just smashing workouts all the time. Talk to a coach about it!
6) Catch up on sleep.
We’ve danced around this throughout the article, and it’s because sleep is so important. We’re less able to recover from and deal with stress when we’re sleep deprived. On top of this, it’s actually really difficult for your body to get good results if you don’t get enough sleep because hormonally you’re thrown off your ideal balance. If you’re feeling run down, make sleep a priority.
7) Are you eating enough?
Sure, it might be hard to calculate calories in and out, but the concept here isn’t hard to grasp: If you can do a lot more work in your sessions and train more frequently now, your output has increased significantly compared to what you could do a couple of months ago. This means you’ll need more food to recover from all the workouts. I’m not saying you should eat another burger, I’m saying it might be a good idea to eat a little more healthy protein, fat and carbs. Again, talk to a coach about it if you need some guidance, or take a look at our Grub Guide.
8) Keep yourself accountable.
There are many ways to do this, and one easy way is to bring a friend along (or make friends at the gym) so you have a buddy to train with. Another thing you can do is make use of the app and track the number of sessions you do in a week, and set yourself a weekly or monthly goal you can work towards.
It’s tough to incorporate exercise and healthy eating into your everyday life, but if you decide to take pride in your ability to adapt to what life throws at you, you’ll be better off and more likely to stick to the habit. There’s no need to get overly frustrated if your workout schedule gets interfered with or if you let yourself skip a workout or two. Adjust, and move on with your day. It takes a while, but once you accept that sometimes you’re just going to have to improvise, it gets less and less frustrating when you don’t ‘get your way’. Think about this: if you go out to dinner with your partner and get to your favorite restaurant and find that it’s closed, would you decide to just not eat dinner that night? What if your partner gets a phone call and has to leave to deal with an urgent work issue? Would you decide that you’re never going to eat dinner with him/her ever again because things didn’t go exactly as planned? Probably not. If you want training to be a regular part of your life, you have to be able to be flexible, and acknowledge that things aren’t going to be perfect all the time. And that’s okay. Also, don’t forget that we’re here for you. Everyone needs support now and then, so reach out. We’re in this together.