Interrupted routines and how to survive them

This last week was a busy one around here at Healthy Bastard. Exams to write, social engagements, the constant work of life…it can get overwhelming. Because I had procrastinated earlier this month, I was under some deadlines for school, and I had to choose between the gym and my education.

I chose education. That meant I missed three days of my routine this week, two lifting days and one running day. Oof. Does this mean that I’m no longer a gym goer? Does it mean I lack discipline? No, it doesn’t.

One of the things that everybody runs into when changing their diet or their exercise regimen is interruptions. So here you are, you have this great plan to eat right every day of the week, to hit the gym three or four times a week, without fail, and to keep it up. No excuses! No retreat!

We all talk like that, either to our friends or just to ourselves. But the reality is that eventually, life will outpace you. You will not be able to hit the gym on Monday morning, like you have been doing for three weeks. You will not be able to go grocery shopping and start your week off with a full meal plan and your fridge stocked up. Sometimes, life just gets busy.

I’ve been the guy who has started and stopped routines in the past. You work so hard, for weeks or months, and then you get knocked off your game, your streak gets wiped out, and boom, that’s it; your motivation is gone. This is the point where many people quit; where they say, “Okay, I’ve had enough. I’m just the sort of person that can do this.”

And every time, they’re wrong.

You see, even the best athletes know that discipline isn’t about never falling down; it’s about standing back up again.

Photo Courtesy Severin Sadjina

So what do you do when your routine is a mess, you’re behind on your meal plan, or you’ve just blown your calorie limit?

1. Step Back, Re-Assess and Learn

You need to be realistic about what has happened. Sometimes people turn a minor scheduling issue into a massive, routine-killing debacle. You need to step back for a moment, pull yourself out of the situation, and ask yourself, “what just happened in the greater scheme of things?”

Maybe you missed the gym for a day. Maybe you missed it for a week. Does that undo all your progress? No. It just means that you’ve missed a tiny portion of your overall effort, but it doesn’t invalidate the sweat and focus you’ve already put into your routine. I always find that putting things into numbers help; let’s say I’m doing a three-day-a-week, 12-week workout program and I miss one day. That one day I missed, which feels killer, less than 3% of my overall goal, and I can fix it by just adding that day back on to the end of the routine. Not a huge setback, by any stretch.

The problems you encounter are often a great chance to learn; take a moment, analyze the causes of the problem. Figure out what happened, and what’s needed to prevent it from happening again. Then make changes in your routine so you don’t have to deal with the issue again. If you can’t see a way around the issue, then let Google be your friend; it’s almost certain that somebody else out there has solved your problem.

2. Review Your Progress

Go back into your training logs, or your fitness journal, or even go stand on the scale. Look at all the progress you have made, and remember that with consistency comes achievement. Consistency does not mean perfection. Perfection is impossible. Consistency is resilience. Consistency is stubbornness. Consistency is pushing through the setbacks, no matter what.  And one of the best ways to be consistent is to look at where you’ve been already, and relive your success, even if just for a moment. Maybe it’s the first day you got through your workout at the gym. Maybe it’s just the first time you stayed under your calorie limit for the week.  You’ve worked hard; remember that. Own that.

3. Remember the Goal

Remember why you started this in the first place. Maybe it’s because you want to be healthier. Maybe your doctor told you to. Maybe you’ve got a wedding coming up. Maybe you just want to look better in a swimsuit; whatever it is, focus on the goal. Envision where you want to be; don’t focus on the obstacles you’re facing. They’re temporary, just waiting to be overcome.

4. Look to Your Friends and Family for Support

You know what will get you through the tough times? The people in your life. Your friends, your family, even your co-workers — when you’re feeling down and unmotivated, sometimes all you need is that outside perspective, that other voice to look at you and say, “hey, you know what? You can do this. I have seen you do this already. You just need to keep at it. You’re amazing!” Sometimes, a little bit of support is all it takes to chin up.

5. Re-commit Yourself And Let It Go

Once you’ve gone through the self-doubt and the frustration that comes with imperfection, use it to your advantage. Use it to fuel your commitment. Focus on your goal. And when your routine says it’s time to get back at it, continue on. Acknowledge the break, but don’t let it define your performance. Get back on program, and move on.  Remember, patience and discipline will see you through to the end.

Thanks for reading, and stay healthy.

-HB/Steven

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