And it’s clearly been tough out there the past few weeks.
No, folks aren’t emotional train-wrecks or anything. Just overall mood & motivation are down while scale weights are creeping up, likely due to a mix of the gyms being closed, meal tracking a little spotty, stress really high, sleep quality down, and step-counts dropped to just strolling from the fridge to the sofa.
Yet I’ve also had a number of down-and-out check-ins that read like this:
“Not a great week.
So tough to stick to the diet, just can’t stop snacking. Even had a few cheat meals and more than one bottle of wine. I feel really pissed off because I know better. I’m stronger than this. I’ve never been so weak.”
You’re NOT screwing up.
Well, okay — you are screwing up “the plan,” but in some cases that’s an issue with the plan, not you. It might mean the plan is probably not a good fit for you in our current environment.
Yes, being off work (for example) means you might have extra time but it also means you have kids to somehow entertain, limited exercise options, and growing money stress.
And, also: yes, that kind of disruption may seem trivial compared to having a loved one in the hospital. But it’s still like having a slow leak in your motivation tank. It’s only a matter of time before you’re on empty and just want to put your feet up and eat Doritos.
Both levels of stress lead to the desire to feel better, and we often seek relief in some very physique-unfriendly ways such as alcohol and junk food.
Human contact and exercise are more positive stress relief options, and yet— in a cruel twist of fate— those things are exactly what have been greatly reduced.
So we’re all finding life extra stressful but with fewer positive ways to get a little comfort. As a result, deviations from the plan (aka screw ups) are becoming more of a problem.
But rather than beat yourself up, what can we do to move forward?
1. Acknowledge the mistake.
There’s no such thing as a healthy 12 hour food binge or booze bender. It doesn’t mean YOU are a failure, but it’s still a mistake. Own it.
2. Fail fast.
Tomorrow brings a new day and a fresh start. I’m not saying you should try to pretend the screw-up didn’t happen — just that you shouldn’t let it haunt you, either. After you own it, try to learn what triggered it. Then move on.
Were you hungry or just feeling really stressed? Did you binge on your personal trigger foods? (NEVER keep your biggest vices in your cupboards during high-stress times).
3. Make sure you’re doing my Base-4 every day.
Don’t sleep on this. I would MUCH rather people went for a walk and called a friend than attempt some half-baked bodyweight workout. Well, ideally, you’d do some smart training ON TOP of the base-4, but the key is it’s not a replacement: walking and de-stressing are important ON TOP of whatever “regular” training you’re able to accomplish.
To refresh, the base-4 once again is:
- Sleep 7-9 hours per night
- Healthy, whole food diet.
- Walk 60 mins a day outdoors
- Destress every day, such as call or text a friend.
4. Be diligent with food tracking.
Even if you’re tracking “hot dogs and Jagermeister.” You need to see what you’re doing on paper (or on the screen) before we can work to improve it.
5. Adjust the expectations of your plan.
This goes back to what I mentioned earlier — namely, the challenges of the current environment.
If you’re one of my clients, this is obviously where I come in, to help you come up with something that’s reasonable in your situation, but also congruent with your longer, post-covid goals.
Maybe you need a more relaxed diet to free your mind from the rigors of tracking & even tolerable hunger?
Or, in your case, maybe you need just the opposite: a more stringent diet that limits the need to make choices?
You can see how this depends on you, so figuring out who “you” really are is essential.
Exercise-wise, maybe you need to temporarily pull way back on resistance exercise (especially sub-optimal, duct-tape workarounds) and you do more low-intensity cardio, more stretching and mbility, and restorative work that’ll help you recover and de-stress, rather than pounding your body into the ground.
Some people just plain don’t enjoy dinosaur training; they’d rather do other stuff and save the weights for when they can hit the real gym fresh & recovered. Whether or not that’s the right decision (perhaps they do need to suck it up and put up with it) depends on them and their goals.
Stuff like the above is at the heart of individualization, which is the most important part of my job.
If you are one of my one-on-one clients, that means you need to be communicating with me. This means not just keeping up with your check-ins, but also reaching out to me when stress levels are high, or when new challenges come up. (And if that’s you.. I’ve also emailed you about my new office hours and phone calls.)
Furthermore, with all my one-on-one clients I’ve started separating their pre-shutdown goals from their “during” (or “peri-”) shutdown goals, as well as their post- or end of shutdown goals. And yes, that means adjusting their processes.
NO, simply resuming what we you HAD been doing up until the day the shutdown started is NOT the smart play. Especially if the weeks turn into multiple months.
(If you don’t agree with a damn thing I’ve ever said PLEASE consider agreeing with that!)
Also, the longer this goes on, the more you should re-asses your goals. Maybe not what the finish line looks like, but certainly the mini-marathons that lead up to it.
Life has changed and much has shut down. But WE have got to keep going forward. So I sure as hell ain’t shut down.
6. BONUS TIP (and possibly #1A):
Ask for professional help. There’s no shame in it. If you care about your loved ones this should be the FIRST thing you do. If it’s fitness-related in some way (training at home, weight loss—but also habits and lifestyle to make those things work right now), then I’m here. At the same time, however, there are also other forms of professional help. In all cases, be real with yourself.
We’re all in this together, and we’ll get through this together.