Long term changes are built through habits and habits thrive under routine.
Unfortunately life often doesn’t work under a nice controlled routine.
A big surge in workload, family duties or social commitments can reduce your free time and throw a spanner in the works and leave all of those hard built habits in disarray.
At this time, there is nothing worse than someone who doesn’t have any of the above concerns say “If you want it enough you will do it.” It’s entirely missing the point. Of course you want to and of course it will require dedication, but the main aim is not slipping into common pitfalls that landslide into a halt in your progress. Here’s how:
SET YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Some weeks will be better than others. Its unreasonable to assume that you will be firing on all cylinders year round. Know that on occassion, life won’t always accommodate your fitness goal and despite your best efforts you won’t be able to capitalise fully at the potential progress you ideally could have made, had things been different. It happens and its okay!
If your child gets ill and you have to skip the gym in order to look after them, that this is a rare occurrence and that it will have a negligible impact on your progress. If work requires you to go abroad for a few weeks, understand that this may reduce the rate of progress, but it need not bring it to a standstill.
PREPARE BY OUTLINING POTENTIAL STRUGGLES
Try to see these situations before the occur. If you know you have your friends 40th birthday coming up. First things first - you want to go and have a good time. But also have a think about what that entails and identify any potential problems. For example:
1.) Im going to drink.
2.) Im going to eat more than usual
Acknowledge that its a rare occurrence and if you are not an elite athlete in the run up to competition, you don’t need to be the guy/girl that says ‘I’m not drinking’ if its something you want to do. Be considerate of your goal, make the best decisions you reasonably can and appreciate that they may not be the most productive actions towards your goal, but they are better than nothing! Solutions may be as follows:
1.) I could drink lower calorie alternatives.
2.) I could drink less than I usually would.
3.) I will select healthier eating options if I can.
Also think on why the problems could have an impact on your progress. In this case, the extra eating/drinking can throw you into a calorie surplus (consuming more energy than you burn off). This makes some social events potentially tricky for those training for fat loss. So how can you minimise this struggle?
You need to either consume less calories when you are in a position of more control (breakfast at home) or burn off additional calories (ensure you train on that day) to minimise the calorie surplus. That way, you can still go and have a good time, with limited restrictions and minimising the potential deviation. Its basic damage control!
Now lets have a look at a more long-term deviation from a routine.
Lets say work requires you to stay in for extra hours for a couple of weeks. This could bleed over into the time you usually set aside to train either reducing your energy in sessions, or making you miss the session altogether. That outlines our primary problem.
1.) You aren’t getting to the gym and therefor reducing your opportunities to progress.
Possible solutions include
1.) Reducing the duration of your session so it accommodates your schedule better.
2.) Have a ‘go to’ home workout that doesn’t require you to travel to and from the gym, saving you time.
3.) Dial it back and go for a brief run or mobility session.
Again, they aren’t going to be as effective as your typical session - but they are better than nothing. Identifying the issues is key to finding viable solutions that you will actually adhere to.
PRIORITISE MOVING AND NUTRITION WILL FOLLOW
During these sustained periods of madness, nutrition is often a quick one to fail. A lot of the time its because people stop training and feel like they have already slipped off the wagon and make poorer choices as a result. If you know you have a crazy week coming up, I would focus on staying training so that you feel less inclined to scupper your hard work by getting rid of your nutrition habits.
Start by seeing if you can fit in your regular sessions and scale back from there to a point where you know you will make it happen. Even if you scale it right down to 10 minutes per day - its something!
FOCUS ON ONE THING AT A TIME AND DO IT WELL
You may have worked to install a many number of habits. When everything gets a bit hectic, rather than trying to adhere to them all at once under a new routine and do neither particularly well. Pick one and enforce it. I typically start with hydration. No matter how busy I get, I can always get in 4 litres of water per day. Its a habit I build and its my first focus when things don’t go to plan. When I have figured out how I will make that happen, I look at my protein intake and go on from there until I reach a point where I think I’m being unreasonable.
It could come down to something as simple as ‘No matter what happens, Im going to eat 5 portions of veg’ Even if it means munching on a bag of spinach all day at your desk. After all, eating nothing but a bag of spinach is better than eating nothing at all. Even eating a load of junk food and a bag of spinach is better than eating just a load of junk food.
COME UP WITH EASY TO COOK/PREP MEAL SOLUTIONS
A new routine can make finding the time or energy to prep your food. This is where simplicity and speed is key. I switch my regular evening of cooking with quick solutions like an omelette or stir fry. These are all pretty unique to each person so figure out what, out of the meals you can cook, take you the least amount of time or effort to prepare. These are your ‘go to’ meals when your routine gets bent out of shape. If you know a busy week is ahead - stock your fridge with the ingredients to make them.
DONT BEAT YOURSELF UP
Life happens - its fine! Some circumstances are unforeseeable. Just do the best with what you can and it makes it easier to resume your normal habits once your typical routine resumes. If things didn’t go as planned, don’t get upset about it, learn from it. What would you do different next time to make a deviation feel less destructive? That way you are prepared for the inevitable return of a spanner in the works!