Progress is never a straight line, and even the best athletes in the world have times when they can't accomplish what they want to. But let's face it -- when you have a setback, that's not what you want to hear. It doesn't make you feel any better, does it?
Setbacks can come in a lot of shapes and sizes. So let's try to lay a few out, talk about what makes them so frustrating, and see if we can do anything about them.
You fell off the nutrition wagon.
Even under the friendliest of circumstances, it's hard to eat well all the time. And no Regular Guy I know has it that easy, anyway. There are a ton of ways you can lose track of your calories and macros:
- Convenience: Some days, you're simply on the run from the time you wake up till the time you hit the pillow. On-the-go options rarely meet your nutritional needs.
- Stress: Some Regular Guys are simply emotional eaters. I'm no psychologist, but this seems like a pretty natural phenomenon to me.
- Distraction: Ever have one of those days where you just weren't paying close attention and realize you've eaten more than half the pizza yourself?
- Socializing: We've discussed this before. When your buddies are chowing on wings and downing beers, you're not going to chomp the celery and sip water.
The frustration comes not while you're eating, but sometime after, when you realize that you blew your calorie and macro schedule totally out of the water. But here's the thing: There's nothing you can do about it at that point. You can't un-eat the food or un-drink the beer. Overdoing it on exercise the next day or next week is a good way to get injured. And starving yourself is a good way for your family to get injured.
I believe that this is one area where planning and perspective can get you a long way back. In short, this is where the 80-20 rule makes its money. You usually know when you have social plans on the horizon, or when you're going to have a crazy errand or work day. So allow those days to be the "20." Plan a few days in advance, and maybe dial back a little in the days beforehand.
And after the fact, use the 80-20 rule the same way -- if that stress binge made you feel better that night, don't undo that comfort by wracking yourself with guilt. Make it your "20" and try to put it in the rear-view mirror. If you make it the next four nights without another one, you're right back on target!
You didn't work out because...
I often find that unplanned rest days drive me bonkers. And the worst part, at least for me, is that once you rack up a few in a row, it's that much harder to find the motivation to get moving again.
A while back, we talked about when it's OK not to exercise. So let's assume you had a legitimate reason for not getting to it. And now you're irritated because life got in the way. Hey, it happens. You have an actual job and actual responsibilities. And even though keeping fit is one of those responsibilities, it's not always going to be at the top of your Regular Guy Checklist.TM
So how do you cope?
- It's going to take between 10 and 14 days of no exercise for you to notice any significant loss of cardiovascular fitness. Try to remember that.
- You don't want to overdo it when you get back on track, but there's a reason it's called a rest day -- you'll feel refreshed! I often find that my first workout back after a few days off is awesome.
- Don't make it a habit. No, an extra day off here and there isn't going to be a problem. But when four days a week goes to two days a week for more than a couple weeks, you do need to hit the reset button -- and you will.
- Find other ways to be active. Get off the subway a stop early and walk. Finish your lunch five minutes early and go for a brisk walk. Or -- here's one of my favorites -- find a quasi-private spot and bang out five or six pushups. Every little bit helps.
Your workout sucked.
This is probably the most frustrating for me. I don't know about you, but I have a pretty good inkling in the first couple of minutes how it's going to go. I can feel the tired in my legs or arms, or if my breathing seems more labored than usual.
These are the workouts that suck for no obvious reason. Maybe I won't be able to knock out as many pushups as I'd like, or my plank time falls short of what I was shooting for, or I'm just flat-out wiped after 20 minutes.
But sometimes, other factors do a play a part. For example, on my last long-ish run, I took my dog, and it was dreadful. She hadn't had any exercise in a week because of the cold and snow, so she was pulling at the leash constantly. After 6.5 miles, I was pretty well exhausted. I dropped the dog at home and went back out to finish, but I had only another 2 miles in me. Not how I wanted things to go a week before a half-marathon.
Either way, it'll stick in your craw.
You know you can do more. You've run farther or faster. You've lifted that weight before. You've pulled more reps than that. Just not today.
This is the mental hurdle I have the hardest time clearing, to be honest. I have noticed that my final long run before a race seems to go poorly almost every time, and it doesn't really hurt my race. So I try to bear that in mind. And if I feel truly fatigued, as I did this past weekend, I'll program in a few rest days to get things back in order.
The other thing I'll try to do is look at those factors and learn from my mistakes. On that lousy run, it wasn't just the dog. There was a pretty steep temperature climb during that time, so I also had to shed layers during the dog dropoff. The excess sweating probably left me dehydrated. And my fueling wasn't great, either. I'd had a bowl of Raisin Bran an hour or so earlier, along with a cup of coffee, and that was it. If I come out of a lousy workout with a revised game plan, that's actually a good thing in the long run.
So what setbacks frustrate you?
I didn't really touch on injury or illness, which I also discussed in the post about when it's OK not to exercise. And every once in a blue moon, I have that workout where I feel great but somehow just can't perform. Maybe you guys have experienced some other setbacks that have just left you cranky. So let's hear it!