Most people would agree that the hardest part of accomplishing something is starting.
Am I the only one who thinks that’s ironic? If the first step is the hardest, and you know taking it means you are WAY more likely to accomplish the goal, and it only will get easier from there….why don’t more people just start?
Procrastination. Habit. Comfort. Routine. Too much wishing. Not enough working.
Those are the usual culprits that keep most people at the starting line dreaming of the finish line (or in this case, on the couch eating junk food wishing they could be one of those ‘healthy-&-in-shape’ people). But the truth is, there are a lot of steps between where you are and where you want to be, and nothing will get you there better than taking action, making changes, and rewiring your habits.
The only thing harder than starting something new is starting something after failing or giving up the first time (or first 50 times). But fear not, keep reading to learn how to start again after a break from the gym or your diet.
What happens when you take a break from working out
You were doing so good. You worked out most days a week, learned how to cook meals at home and even gave up soda and junk food. People started to ask what you were doing, clothes fit better, and the number on the scale dropped. Then you actually started to enjoy your workouts, gym time was non-negotiable and you admired your new physique in the mirror regularly. Being fit felt good.
And then it happened.
You had a cheat meal…that turned into a cheat weekend with more than 20,000 calories and a sugar and sodium load that left you feeling like an oompa loompa.
You went home for the holidays and wanted to treat yourself for the ‘special occasion’ with family. You stopped working out all together and days or weeks of leftover holiday food completely unraveled your hard earned results.
You had a baby. Got injured. Or some other uncontrollable (or not) extended hiatus has made you feel like you are back to square one…or worse.
Whatever the reason for your break, it damages the spirit- sometimes more than it damages your waistline. I hate to break it to you but you need to start again, you just have to. There is no sugar coating or magic pill to undo what’s done; you just need to get back at it.
The sooner you do, the faster you’ll feel great again, because that is what you want at the end of the day, right? I don’t know a single person that ‘found fitness’ and later decided feeling fit, healthy and looking hot was not for them. So chin up, you’ve done this before…you can do it again.
You need a game plan.
Before we get into steps you can take to get back on the (workout) horse, let’s look at three very different people that have very different considerations:
“I fell off the wagon for a few days (or a week).”
It’s ok, it happens to the fittest of us. Life is happening all around you and even though there is a way to successfully balance healthy eating and enjoying yourself, sometimes we take the ‘enjoying part’ too far. A few things to remember: 1) Even though the scale went up (maybe quite a bit), its mostly water weight, you can’t gain 2-10lbs of fat in a few days…you just can’t. 2) It may feel like once you started you can’t stop, but I assure you that you can, it’s just your body craving more of what’s in your blood stream (which at this point is probably lots of sugar. That stuff is addictive. 3) A few days won’t unravel months or years of your healthy lifestyle so even though your abs are under a layer of bloat, it can be undone, and faster than you think.
“The holiday break turned into a month-long hiatus.”
You only live once, right? Okay Christmas dinner isn’t the worst thing but maybe the weeks of left overs, winter storms and no workouts left a little more permanent damage than your usual short breaks from the gym. The average person puts on 7-10 lbs over the holiday months. Hopefully that’s not you, but if it was, you have an advantage: You were on your workout game before the break and your body will respond fast upon its return to your usual routine. Consider scaling back the intensity from what you are used too so you don’t get injured (which will sideline you for longer…trust me on this) and be patient so your body has the chance to adapt. Resist the urge to starve yourself, cleanse, or cardio-overload yourself to faster results-it won’t work.
“I just had a baby (or side-lining injury) and I have no clue how to start again.”
Congrats! (on the baby, not the injury) But this is probably the most challenging scenario to bounce back from because it’s not about will power, it’s about what your body is capable of physically. Before starting any diet or nutrition program post-baby or injury, make sure you consult your doctor and don’t proceed without approval. If for any reason you can’t work out, don’t stress, 80% (or more) of your results are caused by your diet, so refocus your energy for the time being. If you are ready to return to training, start slower than you think is necessary and listen to your body. You only want to come back once, so be smart about it.
OK, now that we have that covered, you need to actually take action to get started. Why not start now?
Steps to take for a successful come-back:
1. Start small.
Like really, ridiculously small. It takes less than you think to challenge your body and start inspiring changes. But you should mainly start small because your biggest friend right now is: momentum. Starting small makes sticking with it more likely and will provide small wins that build confidence and add momentum. Committing to running 30 mins every day vs. running 5 mins a day will lead to more risk in not meeting your goal = giving up. Start small. Kick ass. Increase. Repeat.
2. Just do it.
I realize this is easier said than done but there is no way around it. You just have to do it. The more you think about it, justify it, analyze it, doubt it, want it…see, I got lost just thinking about you thinking about doing it. Refer to the other steps, but just do it. Start today…the time will pass anyway.
3. Set a schedule and stick to it.
The calendar app on your phone is your friend (do people even have real calendars anymore? IDK). Have you heard that unless it’s written down, it isn’t real? Well, it’s true. Schedule your workouts, meals or hike dates like they are your important meetings at work that you would NEVER MISS. Write it down, pick a time, and don’t cancel on yourself. You are someone who follows through. Don’t let yourself down. Besides, it’s easy to talk yourself out of something you just thought of doing, but it’s not so easy if it’s written down.
4. Start your day with a win.
Remember that momentum thing we talked about? A new morning is the perfect time for a fresh start and what better way to start it than like a WINNER. Have a badass morning routine and you will set the tone for a productive, positive day. Look at you, waking up on the right side of the bed and being a nutritional badass the rest of the day.
5. Set yourself up for success.
Throw away everything in the kitchen that tempts you or causes you to go off track (donate it if you don’t want to waste food). Please don’t rely on will power alone, you need to preserve all you can. If you know you go crazy on peanut butter, don’t buy it and get it out of the house. Plan date nights for the next few weeks so you can avoid unhealthy dinners out and pick activities that support your focus for now. Maybe it’s time for a workout partner; when you don’t feel like it they can force you and vice versa. Tell your friends, family or social media what your goals are so you will have accountability support and then get to work.
6. Give it 72 hours. Non negotiable. (for off-the-wagons of 7 days or less)
If your workout hiatus was less than a week, especially for those that just had a really baaaad weekend, I have a rule. When you get back on track, you have a non negotiable 72 hour period of effort regardless of progress. Here’s why: Let’s say you are in really good shape, and you have a crazy weekend. Your crazy weekend is not like most people. You eat. A LOT. Everything you craved fit into a 48 hour period can have ugly consequences. But have you ever noticed that sometimes after a cheat day you look better the next day? And maybe even the next? And then it hits you…hard. Well, the same applies to eating clean. Just because you were ‘perfect’ on Monday after a bad weekend doesn’t mean it will show Tuesday morning.
GIVE IT 72 HOURS. Don’t sabotage yourself by getting discouraged after a day and slipping up again and having it turn into an ‘off’ week. You are still dealing with cravings from the sugar in your system and that will go away after 72 hours for most people, as will the bloating. So next time you have one of those weekends and you are ready to get back on track, you are in it for 72 hours before judging yourself, the scale or your abs. Mk?
7. Change your have-to’s to want-to’s.
This is a mindset thing. It’s important to address because while the other tips are great for short term success in getting you back on track, this one will lead to long term success and happiness in your chosen lifestyle. It’s time to change the have-to’s to want-to’s for realsies.
Old: “I have to workout to get back in shape”
New: “I want to feel great about my body again so I’m doing this”
Old: “I have to avoid all sweets and sugar”
New: “I want to see my abs again”
Because that’s why we do this isn’t it? No one wants to limit treats, but we do it because we want the feeling or results that come when we do. Focus on what you want, not what you have to do to get there.
Eating healthy and working out is simple. Don’t overcomplicate it to the point it consumes you. The people who figure out how to enjoy it and make it an abundant and replenishing part of their lives are the real winners.
I want to hear from you in the comments, when did you take a break (whether you wanted to or not) and how did you bounce back? Let’s help each other learn from our experiences. It’s more fun that way.
I’m rooting for you.