“Failure.” Nobody likes to admit to it. So let’s re-frame: a failure is really just a learning opportunity, a chance to take stock of what doesn’t work and to move forward with what will. It would be fun but fake for me to say that I’m just always perfectly on top of all of my fitness and nutrition goals and that every approach to exercise or eating I’ve ever tried has worked out effortlessly. Let’s just cut through that crap. Instead, I thought it would be worthwhile to share times I’ve gotten off-track with my fitness and/or nutrition goals and what I did to re-group and get back on track (or to change tracks entirely). As per usual, I’ve also made an Instagram video series on this topic (and if you’re not on the ‘gram, the videos also show up on Facebook.)
Here we go with five times I
failed had learning opportunities to enhance my ability to stay on track with my fitness and nutrition goals.
Working Full Time
When I first started working full time it was the first time such a large chunk of my day was pre-planned for me, in terms of work start time and finish time. Sure, I was used to being busy in university with classes, part-time jobs and swim team workouts, but my schedule was a lot more flexible and I could fit in a workout here or there. Can anyone else relate? Having a set schedule for my swim team practices also kept me on track.
Suddenly my calendar was full of meetings and I didn’t have the university swim team practice regimen to keep me disciplined (honestly, I think sometimes we just have meetings about the meetings we are going to have). So when I realized that part of what kept me on track with consistent workouts was the scheduled swim team workouts, I started scheduling and blocking time in my calendar for my gym workouts. If it worked for our myriad meetings, I figured it would work for getting me to work out, as well. And it did!
My first lesson is to schedule and protect time for workouts and use that time to actually work out (avoid using it to “catch up” on work – the work will always be there, and there will always be more of it!). Put it in your calendar with a status of unavailable/busy, especially if other people have access to see your calendar and book meetings with you. This will make the time less likely for others to try to book a meeting with you during your scheduled workout time.
Having A Baby (Human or Otherwise!)
Infanthood (the first year of a baby’s life) might seem like the longest year of your life (or the blink of an eye), but it’s a time when a lot more is on your plate, so to speak. There is a higher physiological load for moms AND dads, biological or adoptive. In fact, this is even true when you invite a new four-legged furry member into your family – puppies and kittens and other pets also require increased time, effort and patience from you. So I invite you to extend yourself some grace in this special time in your child’s or pet’s life.
Yes, it’s still wise to make healthful choices so that you can be healthy to take care of your (fur)child (mentally, physically and emotionally) but it’s also a time when nutrition and fitness goals might take a backseat to other priorities and THAT IS OKAY (just in case you needed someone to tell you that). Or maybe it just means redefining your fitness and nutrition goals. This time in your life might not be the best time to start training for an Ironman or other grueling endurance or competitive event.
This applies to other seasons of “busyness” and creation as well, such as launching a business or starting a new job or career, or studying for an educational requirement – these are also your “babies.” You do not have to be all things at all times. Honour those seasons and treat yourself with kindness and compassion – just as you would a friend going through a similar time.
Moving to a new city/province/country – I’ve actually done all of these things, starting with a new city when I went to university, a new province when I graduated from university and started working full-time and also when I was relocated with that company, and finally a new country for an expatriate assignment overseas in South Korea. In each new place, I joined a group to get me back in the groove with my favourite activities (in all cases it was a local swim team at a minimum, and other groups as well) and to provide me with accountability to show up for workouts and give them my all. Plus, the added bonus was the social element to help me meet and connect with new people and forge friendships in my new location. This is hugely important for mental health, which of course is a component of overall health.
You can also take advantage of the opportunity to try a NEW activity – you can use your status as the new person to ask ALL the questions you might otherwise have felt too shy or intimidated to ask and build from the ground up. You have a chance to re-write your script! It’s a blank canvas – like starting fresh at a new school or a new job. How exciting!
Have you moved? How did you adapt or maintain your fitness routine?
Working With/Around Food
In my case, this meant working in an office environment that was continually stocked by my employer with processed cookies, crackers, packaged cakes, soda and mixed nuts. All of these foods can fit within a healthful, balanced, moderate diet, however I found that they were really calling to me and taking away from my nutrition goals.
First, I had to figure out why they were so appealing (beyond the scientifically researched perfect ratios of salt, sugar and fat leaving all of us pleased by and craving more of such foods – it’s a big money business). Was I not incorporating these foods regularly enough, making them seem scarce and off-limits (a surefire way to make foods more appealing and tempting)? Or did these foods create a “reward response” in my brain that I needed to fill in a non-food way, like getting endorphins from exercise, or connecting with a friend or completing a task at work? In some cases it was the former, so I made sure to include these foods at least weekly, if not every few days until I got the message that they were “no big deal” and readily available, taking away the temptation factor. In other cases, I realized that poking through the cupboards for a snack was really just a way to procrastinate from starting (or finishing) a work deliverable or putting off an uncomfortable but necessary conversation. When I realized those were my true motives, I was in a better position to actually tackle them rather than hoping that a chocolate-covered digestive biscuit would magically make them disappear (yes, digestive biscuits really are a weakness for me).
Then, I also set out to make versions of these foods that were optimal for my goals and have them stocked at my desk so that if a craving did strike, I could honour the craving and eat a version more suited to meeting my goals (a lot of the recipes on my blog are my experiments at making higher protein and/or lower-fat or lower-carb versions of my favourite foods). In my experience, honouring a craving in the moment often takes away its power and urgency and actually makes the food less appealing than if I try to “white-knuckle” the urge and “ride out” the craving. Just the simple act of plating the food is sometimes enough to show me that the food is available to me at any time and then I don’t want it as much (if at all).
“Stock for success” would also apply to anyone else working around food such as in a restaurant, bakery or chocolate/candy store. I make sure to have healthful snacks in my backpack, in my car, at my desk and in my pantry and I know my go-to choices for optimal “on-the-run” options like protein bars, beef jerky or veggies and dip.
Has “just life” ever happened to you? It certainly happened to me: I just wasn’t achieving the goals I had set out for myself. This was tricky because there was no one area to pinpoint in my life, and these can be the most frustrating and challenging times to get on track (or back on track).
Even though I have a lot of knowledge and personal experience as a trainer and coach (and this might describe you, too), we all have blind spots with respect to our own regimen. So, I hired a coach! And lo and behold w,ith some seemingly little but important tweaks, and the accountability of paying someone for their expertise, I was back on track and met my performance goals.
1) Schedule, block and commit time to working out and honour this time by actually working out!
2) Honour certain seasons of your life with grace and allow yourself to reprioritize or change your fitness and nutrition goals during that season. Having a new baby or new career might not be the best time to train for an ultra-marathon or bikini competition.
3) Consider joining a new group activity or class to shake up your routine, meet new people, and have the accountability of people looking for you to attend.
4) Stock for success to ensure you have healthful food on hand to support your goals.
5) Hire a coach to provide expertise, independent third party perspective and troubleshooting for your blind spots.
Let me know if you’d like to share or seek support for any of the above.
Have a fit day!