They’ll find you, they always do!
How many times have you fallen off the rails when it comes to working out?
If you’re human, I’d bet anywhere from a lot to a million times. (My hand is raised.)
We all know how awesome it feels to be in the flow of a good workout routine, as you think to yourself, “I feel so good! I’m working out every day! This is awesome, I feel GREAT! I’m gonna tell all my friends about how great I’m doing!”
No denying it, it feels amazing.
But then all of a sudden, like a tennis racket to the face, life goes sideways. You go down with an injury, or a demanding boss with an “I needed this yesterday” deadline has you working nights and weekends, or your kid gets sick and coughs all over you and now you’re laid up in bed.
That’s when ye old habits, locked and loaded, come back with a vengeance, taking back what’s rightfully theirs.
Old habits are easy.
This happens time and time again and it’s hard to get back to being “good” when it feels so much cozier to fall back. Old habits are like those ratty running sneaks that you can’t seem to toss. They know every curve of your foot, every hole and broken lace a reminder of a good run or workout, always at the ready to slip on for a quick grocery run or forgotten school pick-up. They’re always there for you.
It’s hard to let go of a well-worn habit, especially when a new habit feels tight, restricting, and doesn’t fit the curves of your body the right way, feeling stiff and irritatingly uncomfortable.
But you know if you don’t cram yourself into this new mold, you’ll feel like a failure — yet again. You’ll be singing your old tune about how nothing works for you, it’s all effort, no glory — causing you to fall deeper into the pit of despair — uncertain what to do next as frustration mounts.
That’s when the excuses ambush. Like snipers, coming at you from all angles, hitting you right where it hurts. You spin around trying to avoid the battering of excuses but it’s no good, they’ve got you. You’re already halfway to the cookie jar before they’ve emptied their first round of ammo.
Old habits and excuses — they can squash any new routine, no matter how accomplished and better than everyone else they made you feel.
Two essential tools.
At any point in life, when you’re trying to change for the better, i.e. workout more, eat better, take better care of your health, learn something new, to stick with it long enough so that it makes a difference in your life, there need to be two things in your arsenal: Time and Practice. This is true for anything in life.
Time to allow new habits to form—time to screw up, redirect, learn, and make sticky because the more time you give something, its chances of sticking improve exponentially.
There are going to be mistakes and setbacks and life’s little bitchslaps that knock us off our feet, and the critic inside our head doesn’t like too much error, nor does it appreciate results that take too long to produce. This means you have to act deliberately.
To do that, you must be certain of your desired outcome. There’s no dilly-dallying. The vision is essential. This critic is holding you to a higher standard and if it feels the trajectory is going in completely the wrong direction, it will convince you to jump ship.
Being crystal clear on your outcome is what will keep the critic engaged, and that will give you the freedom of more time to pursue your goal. The critic won’t be tapping its foot, pointing at its watch nudging you to move on to the next thing.
Often we embark on the journey with no plan, no backpack filled with snacks, or water and we’re wearing the completely wrong shoes. We’re fed up, frustrated, angry, upset, depressed, feeling lousy about ourselves, and desperate for change — none of which equips us for what’s ahead.
You don’t plan your honeymoon on a whim. You take the time to plan the most luxurious vacation ever because you know this fact: this has to be the best trip of my life. You search out the best restaurants, hotels, spas, and excursions. And your inner critic is all for it, giving you the freedom to do your research because it knows what you’re after. A sexy honeymoon.
Fitness, for whatever reason, is made up mostly of the Land of the Lost people, everyone stumbling around confused as to how this new world works, grabbing at the first opportunity that promises an easy way out — lose 20lbs in 5 days? Sign me up!
It all sounds good, but before we get underway, we’re already looking for the quickest way out because we don’t know what we’re really after, and we don’t know how to stick with something we don’t know. Capisce?
If you deliberately practice, you’ll gain the skills.
When you know what it is you’re exactly after, you can freely give yourself the time to change and adapt to new experiences. And to adapt requires practice.
If anyone has binge-watched The Queen’s Gambit, the heroine Beth Harmon is young, beautiful, smart and one of the world’s top chess players who voraciously studies the game, practices playing and learning from the best, and visualizes playing round after round as she stares up at the ceiling while in bed— usually in a drug-induced haze — but no matter how you slice it, she’s practicing. And she’s world-class.
She’s deliberate in her actions, how she studies, and how she performs. (When she’s not stumbling around drunk in her empty house that is.)
Practice supports your vision. For Beth, her intensity to practice the game was fueled by her desire to beat the world-renowned Russian player Borgov. That desire never faded from the storyline.
Practice is about allowing yourself the time to screw up, fall off course, and suck at what you’re doing… at first. It’s also working hard, having a willingness to get close and intimate with discomfort, feeling discouraged but showing up just the same the next day.
Practice is deliberate. It’s intentional, planned, premeditated. There’s no “winging it”.
“Success has to do with deliberate practice. Practice must be focused, determined, and in an environment where there’s feedback.” ~ Malcolm Gladwell
One other necessary component is having a system set up to provide feedback. It’s Pearson’s law — what gets measured gets managed. How do world-class phenoms do it otherwise? Feedback doesn’t have to be complicated either, pen and paper work just fine.
You can’t walk into the arena unequipped and expect to be successful. You can’t start a routine and expect it to take care of itself. That’s why it’s so easy to fall back into old patterns. There’s no plan, no exception for time, and an unwillingness to get back on the horse when you fall off.
When first starting, expect it to be difficult and there to be rising resistance every time you have to sit down to do the work — or the workout. This is part of what you signed up for (it’s in the fine print that no one reads.)
Practice over time, when done intentionally, improves performance.
It’s easy to veer off course without warning — life is sneaky that way. It’s even easier to ride out the tidal wave of comfort when you find yourself back in your old habits. Giving yourself a wide berth of time to practice deliberately is how fitness should be approached.
Just as if you took the time to plan a trip of a lifetime, use the same energy and excitement to plan how you’re going to improve your health.
And when you fall off the rails, take your moment, visit your old habits, and then bid adieu so you can get back to practicing because time’s not up!
• • •
In case fitness is your jam, and you’re having trouble getting into the flow, I do have a free 14-Day Perky Butt Challenge that can get you started up again! But you must promise to give this the time and practice it deserves!
AM Costanzo is a wellness coach, a motivational junkie, loves a-ha moments, and loves to help people feel strong, powerful, and downright fabulous in body and mind!