About a month ago, my husband and I got back from a 2 week vacation in Europe. We visited the arts in Paris, hiked the mountains in Switzerland, toured the city built on water and lastly we stopped in ancient Rome. It was a jam-packed vacation with lots of sight seeing and constantly being on the move. While our trip was filled with lots of incredible memories and worthy of a blog post in itself, my post today is going to be about what we didn't do while we were away. The lifestyle we had for those 2 weeks was quite different from our typical normal day. I didn't have access to my beloved protein oatmeal, I hardly ever saw a leafy green and going to a nearby gym just wasn't in the itinerary.
What I was able to do was eat a lot of carbs. Croissants, french bread, pasta, pizza, gelato... It was the diet fit for an endurance junkie. The only problem is I never once ran, cycled or did any high-intensity exercise for that matter. Fortunately, we did get plenty of walking everyday, otherwise I may have gone into a diabetic coma.
To many people, this may come as a surprise. A fitness professional eating unbalanced meals and not participating in any planned exercise for 2 weeks?!? But it's true.
Could I have planned out meals better and gotten up a little earlier to do some body-weight workouts? Sure.
But I didn't because my body needed a break. I spend the majority of the year working out and feeding my body quality food. Striving to be flawless isn't what it's cracked up to be, and it can actually take a toll on your mental health.
If we don't allow ourselves days to eat and move with a little bit of wiggle room, then we are likely to become obsessed. Obsessed with perfection. With always doing things the "right" way. With always having control over what we consume and how much we move our body.
Google's definition of obsessed is this " to preoccupy or fill the mind of (someone) continually, intrusively, and to a troubling extent". Having been there in the past, I've learned that obsessing over perfect health is not worth it. Fitness should be something that brings pleasure, it should empower you to achieve more. It is not something that you should have to worry about constantly. Had I been constantly fixated on my diet and exercise in Europe, I would have never really enjoyed the moment. It's not in our power to be perfect, so trying to do so only leads to disappointment.
With all that being said, my approach is now is to be gentle with myself. I no longer go for the all or nothing approach. Life is about balance. It is important to do your best but it's also equally important to accept yourself on days when things aren't ideal. Know that stuff happens and getting off track for a bit will not throw everything you've done out the window. The main thing is you get back into your routine and pick up where you left off. You may even have to gradually work your way back up and that's ok.
The key is to not look back. You may not be able to control all life throws at you but you CAN control how you react to. Below are 4 strategies that will help you do exactly that!
1. Set your intentions every week and plan for obstacles ahead of time. Planning on getting 5 days of exercise this week? This may sound great on paper but when things come up (kid gets sick, you have to stay late at work, car issues arise, etc..) it's important to have a backup plan. This may just be getting in a quick 15 minute body weight workout at home before bed. Or it may mean accepting the fact that you might only be able to get in 3-4 workouts this week. This is ok. You're still doing better then all those that are sitting on the couch not even thinking about it!
2. Find ways Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. This can include things like walking more, taking the stairs, playing catch with your kid, going for evening bike rides, etc...
Finding ways to add more light activity into your day will help lessen the negative impact when you indulge more and don't get in planned exercise. So after the family eats dinner, make it a tradition to go for a walk immediately after. If weather doesn't allow that then find fun activities you can do indoors, such as Wii Sports or playing Twister (one of my favorites).
3. Be kind to yourself. When you do encounter setbacks in your fitness journey, don't put yourself down. Remind yourself of all the good things you are still doing. This may be things like remembering to eat breakfast, sleeping 8 hours a night, or drinking water throughout the day. It can be easy to get wrapped up in all the things you are doing wrong, but doing so will only make you feel like a failure. This will only set you up for failure in the future because that is what you expect.
4. Reflect on ways you can improve. On days you don't quite meet your fitness and nutrition expectations, think about why. Was it because you ate out every meal? You stayed up late watching Netflix? Or maybe you had too much stuff to get done after work? Thinking about what it was that stalled your progress will help you plan for the future. For instance, if you're tired during the day from late nights watching Netflix then reflect on why you're choosing Netflix over sleep. For many people, it's the only time they have to wind down and relax by themselves. Try to strategize how you can work around this to improve you sleep in the future, It might mean compromising with yourself. It would probably be too much to commit to going to bed early every night, but maybe 2 the 5 nights you can commit to going to bed an hour earlier.
My trip to Europe was awesome, but in some ways it was a challenge. Going in, I prepared for this by I following the tips above. By doing so, I had a great time and I barely lost any progress in my fitness. Sometimes it is hard to let go of unrealistic expectations... but when you do you'll adjust TREMENDOUSLY in dealing with life's obstacles.
To finish off I will just leave you all with this quote: