Avoiding the “creep”
Everyday life can be stressful and full of distractions. Adults have commitments and responsibilities that keep us from sticking to a plan. Even the most noble of causes can be sidetracked by a change in a child’s soccer practice schedule, or an unexpected work function after hours. Even a funeral or a routine oil change (that you completely forgot about until your car “reminded” you) can mess with your carefully laid out plans. Unfortunately for us, what usually seems to suffer the most is our eating and exercising schedule. I know I’m not the only person who feels that how well you eat, and how well you stick to your exercise plan is pretty low on your priority list, right down there with routine dentist cleanings and picking up clothes from the dry cleaners. I like to call this phenomenon “the creep of life” or simply the creep.
Life creeps up on us, and health and wellness can suffer for it. As a Personal Trainer, it’s my job to make sure my clients don’t fall victim to that lethargic behavior and the excuses that people make for themselves. I have followed with a short list of mental strategies and techniques you can use to help avoid the creep and stay on track.
1) Learn to say “NO”! I put this first because it’s SUPER important to give yourself a chance to keep a schedule. The word “NO” has some very negative connotations, and many people who have that “pleaser” mentality avoid it like the plague. I was once a big time pleaser, I have learned that the word NO is only bad if you let it be. When you come to terms with the idea that your time is just as valuable as everyone elses time, you’ll understand that saying NO to some people to keep your own schedule (whether you deem something more or less important that someone else’s request is irrelevant) is empowering and important.
2) Not “feeling” like working out is not a reason NOT to work out. If you create a workout plan, you better darn well stick to it! Don’t let your subconscious brain undermine your conscious efforts. When you don’t feel like doing it, do it anyway, there’s no middle ground here, you just have to do it. Please note, this is different from the idea of making a plan and then realizing it’s not a good plan later, that’s fine, adjust as you go, but once you have a plan in place that you know you CAN follow if you stick to it, you must follow it.
3) Always make food decisions consciously. I know we can’t always eat as healthy as we like, but that’s no reason to unconsciously graze and choose things because they make you feel better. I’m a huge proponent of conscious choices. If you decide that Friday night you DO want to go to that restaurant and you know it’s going to be less than healthy, that’s fine, just make it a conscious choice, accept the consequences of that action, and move on. Where we get in trouble as people is when we stop thinking about our food choices and just “eat”.
4) Make everything count. Your workouts don’t need to be super long or super technical, but they should be maximum effort with the exception of rest days. By that I mean, if it’s a cardio day, make it the hardest cardio you can sustain for the time period that you are sustaining it. If it’s weight training, go to fatigue, whether it’s heavy and short or light and long (see my beginning weight training blog for more info on that), your goal should be fatigue with good form. If it’s HIIT training, the goal should be spiking your MHR to above 90% at every high intensity period. With food, your healthy days should include all the macro and micro nutrients you can find in the right quantities, and of course if you decide to make a less than healthy choice, try to minimize the bad parts as much as possible.
5) Give yourself time (and cut yourself some slack). Don’t pack your day with appointments, give yourself a buffer for everything, if you plan on getting your oil changed at 6:00 and going to the gym at 7:00, throw an extra 30 minutes in there, maybe you get there before that, maybe you don’t but now you have a little more time to play with. And don’t mentally berate yourself if you miss an appointment, be analytical about it, sit down and figure out why you didn’t make it, and if this is something that will be a problem in the future, if you think it may be, adjust to account for it.
6) Plan for success. Don’t just make a schedule; think about what it takes to implement that schedule. If you plan to eat your dinner at 5:30 every night, think about what you need to make that dinner healthy, if you want to go to the gym at 7:00, think about time to dress, shower, stretch, and cool down.
7) Slow down. This goes along with number 5, plan some down time where you have nothing to do for 15 minutes or 30 minutes. And I don’t mean set aside time for unexpected tasks, when you plan this, DO IT. Watch TV, take a quick nap, hop in a hot bath, play with your dog, or read a magazine… anything that constitutes you not being stressed. I like to do this right before bed, I actually meditate for about 15 minutes, it is a great way to lower my heart rate and helps me fall asleep quickly and more deeply (which is important for your health!) If you take a few minutes every day to allow your brain to wind down, you’ll lower stress levels, lowering cortisol levels, which reduces fat storage, and who doesn’t like the sound of that?
These are just a few minor tweaks you can do to help avoid the “creep” of life, I hope you find something interesting in here. Feel free to email me if you have any questions or comments about this section.