Why a fresh start might be sabotaging your fitness progress

It’s very tempting to slam on the gas pedal whenever you start off a fitness regime. After all you’re fuelled with fresh enthusiasm and want to reach your goals the soonest possible.

Only, after a few weeks, you find yourself crashing and burning. Sounds familiar?

It’s “all or nothing”…right?

You overslept and missed your morning Wednesday workout, and Thursday was hell at work, so you didn’t go for the workout on Friday. And… since it’s already the weekend, you might as well restart your fitness regime on Monday. We all know what happens next. Monday becomes next month, then after the New Year, and when you’ve come back from your holiday.

We’re all brought up with the idea that to achieve great results you have to go “all in”, but really, just because you weren’t able to go for two classes in a row – had a hiccup – doesn’t make you a failure or mean that you’ve failed.

Life is never perfect, so why must you be?

Willpower is overrated

Let’s face it, real life is never perfect. Life just happens. Despite your best efforts you might get swamped with work and miss your class, or something bad happens at home and you had a big slice of cake to feel better. You hit “pause” and wait for things to improve and so your fitness life looks a bit like this:

We often blame our expanding waistlines and lack of progress on our lack of willpower to resist temptation and stick to our exercise regimes.

More often than not, we grind ourselves into exhaustion wrestling these inner demons. What if we had a mindset change, instead of fighting this devil on your shoulder, you outwit him instead?

Time, and life will not wait for us. None of us would even dare to tell our bosses (as much as we’d like to), “I’m overwhelmed by work and just need some time to regroup. I’ll be back once things get easier in my life”. Instead, we do our best despite our circumstances.  So why should treat our fitness and health journey any differently?

The point here is trying for “all” often ends us with “nothing”.

“Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly” ~ Robert H Schuller

Pressing pause only serves to regress your fitness progress, often back to where you first started, but doing something even as little as taking the stairs instead of the lift, or walking to the shops instead of driving – is a small step forward rather than backward.

And, when we keep moving forward, no matter how little it is, we win the game eventually. So what can to do next? Here are few strategies that you can use to break out of the “pause button” mentality and head into a more realistic and sustainable approach towards your goal.

  1. Don’t press pause, adjust the dial.

Think of your fitness and nutrition efforts as a dial. Say you’re training for a full marathon, you could dial your efforts all the way up to 10 out of 10 – this means training almost every day, freshly made meals five times a year so that all your nutrition needs are met one hundred percent. Family, work and hobbies will all be on the back burner until the race is over.

After you’re done with your marathon what next? Will you still have your dial up to 10? The “normal” response would be to down your efforts to level 3 to 5 to accommodate other demands of your life. Instead of pounding the pavement every day, you settle for 3 – 4 times a week of being active. Nothing wrong with that.

What about your less-than-ideal days? Maybe it’s that time of the year where you are swamped with work, or God forbid you get an injury. Then you will need to turn the dial all the way down to 1 or 2. Meaning instead of going out to train, you park your car a little further away rather than right at the doorstep.

Wherever you are on the dial, it’s okay – so long as you’re still on the dial (i.e. not turned off). Which lead us to the next point.

  1. Do a little bit better.

Now that we know the “all or nothing” mentality usually gets us nothing, what then would work? The key is consistency. No matter how small the improvements, when done over time, they will eventually add up.

In a less-than-ideal situation you would probably have to make a meal out of cafeteria food. You might have to forgo your Yoga class as you had to stay back at work until late at night or miss a meal because you get stuck in a full day of meetings at work.

These are not ideal scenarios but don’t feel hopeless. Look around and let your creative juices run wild – carry your shopping instead of wheeling it around the supermarket, lunge to your front door instead of just walking over.

To achieve your goals it’s more important that you consistently do something to make small improvements, rather having that perfect workout (or not at all).

It’s about what you can do today – it could be 50 squats or just a two-minute plank – not what you may do tomorrow. Remember “something” is always better than “nothing”.

  1. Anticipate, embrace and plan.

Life will always be full of surprises (both good and bad) so, why not look at your fitness and health in the context of real life?

Embrace the surprises and strategise a plan to tackle them before they happen.

What will likely to get in the way of your goals right now or in the future? And what can you do to keep you going no matter how small the improvements are?

Things can, and probably will, go awry when you least expect it, so stay in your game by being prepared.

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