We all have, at one point or another, “fallen off the program.” Whatever that program means to you – working out, waking up early, eating well, or just being a generally good person. As we’ve explored countless times, living a healthy life is incredibly simple but it is not easy. If all you need to live a healthy life is 4 weeks of extreme exercise and crash dieting, we’d all be super-fit. But, the truth is, what you need is years – decades – of small, incremental, and consistent change to achieve the health you desire. Tiny, imperceptible change applied consistently is very difficult.
So, it becomes easier to skip the gym, eat some donuts at work, and throw your program out the window from Thursday through Sunday. If you find yourself deviating from your “program,” here are some tips to make a course correction.
Always start with gratitude. Be thankful that you live in a first world country with calorie-dense foods. Be thankful that you have a car to go to the gym. Be grateful that you have a job that makes you feel busy. Be extremely thankful that you have a family and kids that ask for your attention. You are unequivocally in the 1% of Earth’s inhabitants if you even have the luxury of optimizing your health. Sorry to be blunt – you have nothing to complain about. Be thankful that you even have a wagon from which you can fall.
“If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation.”
We often times hear things like “work is busy” or “someone brought donuts into the break room” or “things are crazy right now.” While each of these may be true, you need to re-frame the discussion. Our first instinct will always be to externalize our feelings. This is a completely understandable reaction. Have you ever tried to sit with really uncomfortable feeling and just feel it? It sucks. It’s much easier to place that feeling on something outside ourselves. I am not suggesting you beat yourself up. I’m suggesting you do a little personal inventory before you start to look elsewhere for answers. So, instead of “work is busy,” what if we said things like: “I could not hit snooze and wake up a little earlier.” “I’m not doing a great job of managing my time and commitments.”
As I’m writing this, I’m looking at a meeting I have this afternoon with a banker. The initial request was that we have this meeting at lunch. I only like having lunch meetings with friends. Business meetings don’t belong at lunch – they’re inefficient, take three times as long as they need to, and usually contain three times as many calories as they need to. I value efficiency with my time because its my only non-renewable resource. As a result of avoiding this lunch meeting, I’ll be able to hit my usually 45 minute workout this afternoon.
Don’t dwell on the fact that you fell off the program. Start back up right now. Make your next meal a healthy meal. Go walk some stairs. Come to the next class on the schedule. The worst thing you can do is dwell on the fact that it’s been a week or two since you last worked out. This dwelling and bargaining can last for months. Rip off the damn Band-Aid and get moving.
You can’t und0 a weekend of bad decisions on Monday. Don’t go to Whole Foods and spend $300 and make a bit Instagram post about “Meal Prep Sunday.” Just pack a baggie of vegetables and eat them at work. Don’t come into your next workout and go crazy with a 3 hour training session. Changes are made over the course of years, not days and weeks. DO NOT DO ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY. Go back to where you were on the program and pick up where you left off.
Our biggest red flag for new athletes and injuries is the athlete that was formerly very committed to a workout program, fell off for several months, and wants to make a comeback. Almost universally, this is where we see injuries occur. Your goal is consistency over time.
If you find yourself off-program repeatedly, don’t do the same thing you’ve been doing. Seems pretty reasonable, right? There’s some lack of accountability that is keeping you from maintaining consistency. I want you to “feel it” next time you’re on the brink of falling off. So what does this mean?
Make sure someone’s counting on you to show up. Find a workout partner. Join a class with a friend. Don’t hide out in open gym and do comfortable shit. Hire a 1-on-1 coach once a week if you find it easy to duck out of group classes. We’ve found that folks are more apt to take action when they feel their actions will disappoint others versus when their actions will harm themselves. Build in some accountability early.
Lastly, forget that shit. So you ate donuts for a week? Who cares. Tomorrow, you’ll pick it back up. Just get back on the program. Think of your health in 1,000 day increments. If, at the end of 1,000 days, did you have 700-800 good ones? A 7 day week of laziness and poor food decisions isn’t all that bad when compared to 1,000 is it? Put it out of your mind and move on. You got this!