By Meredith Nelson, M. Ed. for The Island Eye News
Lots of things can contribute to a workout “relapse” – those periods in life when you just can’t bring yourself to exercise. A relapse may last for days, weeks, months, even years. Truthfully, the best way to manage a workout relapse is to avoid it altogether; as anyone who has taken a hiatus from their fitness regimen will tell you, it’s so hard to come back. However, we all know that life happens, and there are many factors that can contribute to long, unintentional periods of inactivity.
I DON’T HAVE TIME: Work or family obligations often interfere with the time we devote to our workouts, and when these conflicts occur day after day (as they often do), we suddenly find ourselves in a workout relapse. These types of challenges often mean that we need to prioritize our workouts and plan them into our days, just as we do other obligations. Instead of squeezing in a workout if time permits, try blocking out a chunk of time for yourself. It doesn’t have to be much, even thirty minutes, three or four times a week, is better than nothing. Don’t have thirty minutes that often? Research shows that just ten minutes at a time, two or three times in one day, can help you maintain your physical (and mental) health. And speaking of mental health ….
I’M STRESSED: Although most of us know that exercise is a proven stress reliever, it’s easy to give up our workouts when we are feeling overwhelmed. Your usual regimen may seem too intense when your mind is already spinning. During these times, focus instead on activities that you enjoy. If exercise is perceived as an additional stressor, you are less likely to do it, so find an activity that actually relaxes and reenergizes you. Yoga, taking a walk on the beach, or hitting the gym with a friend may not only provide a workout but also an emotional escape from whatever is keeping you down, or mental clarity to solve the world’s problems.
IT’S TOO DARN HOT/RAINY/BUGGY: Life on the islands is certainly pleasant, most of the time. But there are those long stretches of hot and muggy summer days that make us just want to heed the weatherman’s warnings and stay inside. Fortunately, we have many indoor options in this day and age; there’s a gym for every fitness level, workout “style,” and budget. Not to mention the DVD’s, YouTube videos, and online coaches that can keep you fit without leaving the house. And if you just have to have your Vitamin D fix and get outside, it’s easy enough to find a body of water to jump into for a quick swim or water workout.
I’M HURT/SICK: As one who has been side-lined too many times to count with injuries, along with an occasional cold or bout of the flu and pneumonia, illness and injury are probably my least favorite causes of workout relapse. The mind is willing but the body just can’t. In these cases I have learned to focus on what I can do instead of what I can’t. Too sick to do anything at all? When you feel a little better, even a few minutes of stretching or gentle yoga can feel so delicious. Just sick enough to not feel like giving it 100%? Then tone down the intensity of your workouts a bit, instead of your scheduled 8-mile run, try a 30-minute run/walk.
Sprained an ankle (me, recently), feeling a little joint pain (me, with bursitis a few years ago), or worse yet – some type of surgery (me, back surgery in 2012)? Maybe it’s time to try swimming or focus on upper body. The important thing is to just keep up the momentum of some type of movement, so you don’t break your exercise habit and end up in a workout relapse. And while you’re out of the game, don’t forget your workout buddies. Hearing about their workouts can keep you motivated to get back out there when you’re ready.
I’M JUST BORED: Plateaus in your fitness level that leave you feeling bored with your workouts can result in taking an indefinite break from your fitness program.
This usually happens when our goals are focused on numbers and events. Simply remembering that there is more to fitness than what we see on the scale or how we look for a special occasion can help you stay motivated to keep moving. It may help to write down all the benefits you receive from exercising: better sleep, more energy, mental focus, or even just feeling better immediately after a workout.
Boredom with your workouts can also be remedied by changing it up a bit. Try a new workout class, run a new route, or hire a trainer to show you some new exercises.
In the long run, when your motivation to workout begins to backslide it may be time to take a look at why, and begin to put some preventive measures in place.