This time of year in particular, life seems to find an infinite number of ways to interfere with our healthy lifestyle plans. From holiday-related parties with delicious and abundant food (and calorie-laden beverages) to juggling the kids’ after school activity schedules – the deck gets stacked against us pretty quickly.
The experts at the American Council on Exercise (ACE) know it can feel like the entire universe is conspiring to keep you from reaching your fitness goals, but they’ve also found ways to clear those hurdles and get back on track.
- Hurdle: Stress
When life hands you a sick child, a looming deadline at work, a phone that won’t stop ringing, and those incessant reminders that Christmas is only [x] days away – well, something’s gotta give. It’s easy to let exercise fall by the wayside and focus on more pressing matters, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Physical activity – even just a brisk walk around the block – is a great stress and anxiety reliever. You’ll come back to the stressors in a better frame of mind if you stick to your exercise plan (even if you have to shorten the time allotted).
- Hurdle: Unrealistic Expectations
You don’t have six-pack abs after three weeks of working out? The weight isn’t melting off in 10-pound chunks? Welcome to reality. ACE experts say it takes six weeks of regular exercise (maybe more) before you’ll see noticeable results on the scale and in the mirror. Instead of looking there, pay attention to how you feel as you work out. Does it feel incrementally easier? Can you do a little more, go a little longer? That’s progress. Embrace it and hang in there until the rest of your body catches on to the new routine.
- Hurdle: Overtraining
Rest is an important part of any exercise plan. ACE recommends scheduling one or two days off each week, so most of us can clear this hurdle with room to spare. On top of taking that time to recover, alternate between demanding and easy workouts. For example, if you’re running one day, swim or cycle the next. If you’re hitting level ten on the elliptical today, back it off to level seven tomorrow.
- Hurdle: Negative Self-Talk
If you’re berating yourself for missing a workout, stop. Calling yourself a lazy bum isn’t motivational. Acknowledge your (perceived) shortcoming and resolve to get it right next time. Whether you’re just starting on your fitness journey or trying to take your fitness to the next level, it will take time and effort. Give yourself credit for every step along the way. You’ve earned it.
- Hurdle: The Unexpected
We’re back where we started: the unscheduled overtime, your gym had a pipe burst and it’s closed for repairs, little Jenny comes home with a last-minute urgent request for 48 cupcakes for class tomorrow. At times, it feels like life sits back and scoffs at our attempts to make plans. Try to get comfortable rolling with it. Yes, you’ll need to prioritize, but make sure exercise isn’t always last on the to-do list.