Last week I covered the importance of taking ownership of your life to get what you want. The process of creating new habits takes effort at the beginning, but it becomes easy once you are in the routine. Your workouts will make you feel good all day and sleep better at night. Healthy meals will help you lose fat and avoid the random energy slumps during the day.
Once this becomes second nature and you are in your groove, you will wonder how you lived before feeling so good. It seems easy. You’ll see.
Then, BAM. Life will hit you.
You’ll get a reminder that you aren’t actually completely in charge. More often than not, it will be a small but significant change that throws off your schedule, such as:
- a minor injury that doesn’t require extensive treatment but necessitates change in your workouts
- a change in work schedule
- a vacation that throws your train off the tracks just long enough to shift your momentum
- new responsibilities that take more of your time
Not all of these are even bad events. The work change can be because of a promotion, and vacations are sometimes the sweetest parts of life.
How to Handle a Small Disturbance
Plan for one week
These small but significant changes are often temporary. Sometimes you know the time frame, other times they go on indefinitely. In both cases, plan for the upcoming week. Just one week. Pack workout clothes to exercise at a different time of the day and scope out healthy fast food near you. You might even plan for fewer workouts this week, and that is OK! See how you manage this one test week and adjust accordingly.
If do fewer workouts, that’s ok; acknowledge that you are choosing how to spend your time, like you do a fiscal budget. Don’t say “I can’t, I don’t have time.” Acknowledge that your time was better served knocking down your to do list, and that you’re going to get back on it tomorrow or next week.
If you have a small, non serious injury, continue to workout around it. If your wrist is bothering you, don’t skip the gym! Go, and work the things you can. Lunges, step ups, possibly other cardio. Or go for a walk or run! Likewise, if your knee or hip hurts, continue to get your upper body and core stability work in. If getting to the gym takes an almost unreal amount of motivation for you, then it’s even more important that you don’t quit going! Go, and stretch. Go, and work the 3 exercises you can safely. Don’t lose your momentum!
Look to Learn from Others
Look around at other people who are in your position and successfully managing to do what you want to do. Ask the guy in your office who seems really fit how he handles the work hours, home life, and fits in exercise. He might know a killer cafe just off your regular path, or a great little gym you weren’t aware of.
Ask the busiest people you know how they manage their time. (Protip: be respectful of people’s time. Ask a succinct and specific question: “I have noticed that even when you’re super busy, you’re very successful. How do you manage all your work responsibilities, and find time to eat healthy with your family?)
Cut Down On Your Workout Frequency
This might not be what you expected me to say, but it’s absolutely ok. Sometimes you are just in a phase of life where you cannot workout as much. It’s OK to be on a maintenance plan. Re-evaluate your schedule, adjust accordingly, and find the best option. Workout twice a week if that’s all you can do. Take a half mile walk around the block twice a week if that’s all you can manage.
How to Handle a Large Disturbance
Unlike a minor setback, large changes in your life can be tremendously challenging and stressful for long durations. These are the worst of bad situations that only happen a few times in life.
This is when life dumps bad things on you, when everything is wrong, all at once; when you are stretched to your limit emotionally. This is usually serious and painful, like an illness threatening yourself or a loved one, or an extremely challenging work program.
Step back and identify your main goal. What do you need to do? Get through residency. Graduate from the fire academy. See your chemotherapy through. Care for your mother, who is caring for your father, who has ALS. Support your wife while she’s exhausted, up with the new baby every 3 hours, all day.
Don’t work toward your exercise goals as aggressively during this time. Remember, these are the times you train for. You train for exactly this, to be healthy when you need to be, to be mentally sound when others need you to be. To have great habits to fall back upon, so that even your “unhealthy” isn’t disastrous.
Be Kind to Yourself
Be honest about what you can do. If you are extremely taxed emotionally or physically, you won’t recover as well, so your workouts cannot be as strenuous. Same scenario if you aren’t sleeping as well.
What do you like to do? Put on your favorite music and stretch? Do that for 10 minutes a day. Get a spontaneous walk around the office when you finished a project early.
In short, remember that moving and eating well will make you feel better, which can make the tougher times easier to handle. However, you must be kind to yourself and give yourself a break if you aren’t your usual superman or woman.
Remember: this too, shall pass.
About the author
Kathryn Alexander is a strength coach and personal trainer in Austin, Texas. She loves hiking, college football, and the feel of a perfectly knurled barbell. Read more about Kathryn here.