Unfortunately, life has a way of throwing us a few curve balls. It happens to all of us. I recently spent several weeks helping my parents move into an assisted-living facility. It totally consumed me — mentally, emotionally, physically. I felt like my life was turned upside-down. One of the most important days you will face is the day you quit following your exercise routine. For whatever reason, you stop — and now, you've got to convince yourself to get started again.
"No, that will never happen to me," you might be saying. "I'm committed to my health." Still, there's a chance you'll backslide at some point in the future. And if this happens … it's essential to know what to do.
Your first backslide is the biggest challenge. If you handle your first slip successfully, then you're much more likely to recover from any other future slips.
Here's how a typical backslide works. You go through a period in your life where things are so hectic that you decide to go off your program for a day. Then you put it off a second day, which makes it easier to put it off a third, as you say to yourself, "Well, let me get the rest of my life in order first — let me get all my projects done — and then I'll really get back on track."
The backslide turns into an avalanche. Suddenly, the whole idea of exercising again seems so overwhelming that you put off your program for a week, and then another week.
Have you never noticed that one of the toughest things to do in life is get out of a warm bed into a cold room? The longer you lie there and think how unpleasant it will be to get up, the more difficult it becomes. But there's no way around it; you have to throw off the covers and put your feet on the floor.
And once you do it — once you take the first small step out of bed– you realize that it was not so bad after all.
It's the same thing with a backslide. The longer you wait, the harder it is. Put aside any disappointment, frustration or anger you're feeling with yourself because that only postpones the effort.
And always, always, start back in small ways. Take little steps, just as you did when you initiated your exercise program. Don't demand perfection of yourself right after a setback. Don't set unrealistic goals to try to "catch up."
Far too many people set themselves up for greater failure after a relapse by imposing strict rules and guidelines that they cannot possibly follow. Leading an active healthy lifestyle on a regular basis is a journey, not an overnight trip. Like any road you travel, there will be bumps, red lights, yellow lights, detours and unexpected stops. You just have to stay the course.
I suggest you review your goals (those reasons why you decided to start to exercise in the first place). Go back and see what you did the first week of your program, and then plan an easy exercise session for yourself. If you haven't written down your goals, do it now!
Take out a sheet of paper, mark a vertical line down the middle, and in the left-hand column list all the benefits of sticking to your program. Write down everything that comes to your mind ("I've lost 15 pounds," "I have more energy"). On the right side of the page, write down all the consequences you know will come if you continue to backslide ("I'll be out of shape," "My belly will come back").
Spread around some motivation. Put a note on your bathroom mirror with a sentence on it about achieving your goals. Stick something to the refrigerator door about the wonderful things that proper nutrition will do to support your body while you exercise.
Most importantly, make sure you do at least one thing before the day's over to help you get back on the program. Don't make the mistake of telling yourself that you're going to do something and then not keep your word.
As odd as this sounds, it's very important to establish trust with yourself. Each time you break a self-promise, you chip away at the supply of your own trust until you eventually get to the point where you're plagued by self-doubt.
To Thine Own Self …
Let's say you get up in the morning with the goal of restarting your exercise program, but as time goes by you say, "I'm too busy now. I'll do it later." When "later" comes, you still don't do it, and then you say, "I'll exercise first thing tomorrow morning."
Make a small promise to yourself about how you'll recover and then keep that promise, even if it's as simple as going up and down the stairs in your home for 15 minutes, or lifting light weights as you watch the evening news. Take a short walk after dinner or at your lunch break. Do a few sit-ups when you wake. All of this is a way of letting your subconscious know that you're serious about your goals.
As you get back on your program, make fewer commitments, and keep the ones you make, rather than making too many and breaking them.
Rita Bryan is president of Genesis Personal Fitness of Newtown.