One of my go-to tips to find time for your fitness goals even when life gets crazy is setting yourself a bare minimum. Having a bare minimum keeps us from completely switching off, and moves us toward our goals, even if it’s just baby steps. It helps you to change the “all or nothing” or “pause button” mindset that sounds so appealing at first. That mindset sounds something like this:
“If I miss a few workouts, eat the wrong things, drink too much, I fail. Aren’t I more likely to succeed if I take a break until I have the time to do it right?”
Having a fresh start sounds like a great idea at first. That’s why the gyms fill up with New Year’s Resolutioners each year and why healthy habits tend to go out the window as soon as the weekend rolls around. “I had a long week, I’ll pick back up on Monday, I just need a break right now”.
The problem with a pause button mentality? It only helps you build the skill of pausing. Whether you pause for a day, or the weekend, or a whole year, pushing pause gives you a false sense that there will be some time in the future that is the “perfect time” to begin.
It’s why the 8-week transformation plan or the 30-day diet sounds so appealing; who has more time than that? But, they don’t teach you any skills to continue when real life hits, when you’re stressed out from work, busy with the kids, on vacation or a business trip. And that’s why we see so many people return to where they started after a short-term program. It’s not about how bad you want it, you need the skills to get healthy and stay healthy during a normal, complicated, busy life.
Ask yourself what’s going to be different?
If you do decide to press pause and take some time off, what will be different when you start back up? Life continues to happen, work is still stressful, kids still need to be taken care of, your schedule doesn’t magically clear every first of January. You can’t push pause on life, and you can’t ignore the need for health and fitness in your life.
What if you tried to hit pause in other areas of your life? You can’t tell your kids you’ll be staying in a hotel for a couple of weeks, they’re on their own. Or skip out on work and not get fired; pause your marriage and not get – well – hunted. It’s not always the prettiest thing in the world, you just have to do your best with the time that you have and slog through. The same applies to fitness; you just have to keep showing up. There’s no completion award for finishing a 30-day diet, you still have to figure out how to eat healthy for the rest of your life. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about continuing the process.
Change from a switch to a dial
There’s a great quote I heard,
“The all or nothing mentality rarely gets us all. It usually gets us nothing”.
Instead, why not try “always something”. Instead of pressing pause, adjust the dial. Don’t have the capability to be at a 10 right now? That’s ok, let’s adjust to a 4 for a little bit. Maybe you’re a teacher and have some extra time during the summer, let’s crank that dial-up and crush it. But when fall rolls back around and you’re working 12-hour days, taking care of your own kids, and barely hanging on, scale it back. There’s no shame in setting your dial a little lower, sometimes you have to get by with good enough. When you figure out what a 1 or 2 looks like for you (it could be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or replacing a bag of chips with an apple), and how doable it is even in the busiest times, you realize you never have to switch the dial all the way off.
What to do next
It’s all about making progress, no matter what life throws at you, no pushing pause. Here are 3 strategies to use to stop pressing the pause button and adopt a more sustainable way of thinking.
1. Turn your on/off switch into a dial
Figure out what a 10 looks like for you. What do your workouts and nutrition look like? What other healthy lifestyle habits are you practicing?
Then figure out a 1. Same questions. What do your workouts and nutrition look like? What other healthy lifestyle habits are you practicing?
Think about where you’re at right now. Can you turn your dial up a little bit? What would change? Or do you need to turn it down so you can just keep doing something?
2. Aim for just a little bit better
You aren’t always going to be presented with the perfect situation where you can eat exactly what you want or have exactly an hour to get your workout in with all the equipment you need. But making small improvements consistently will still yield results. You might have to piece together an airport or gas station meal, sit in meetings all day, or take the kids to the dentist and soccer practice and piano lessons. It’s not ideal, but you still have choices. Look for ways you can be just a little bit better
3. Plan for obstacles
You already know life is going to happen and stuff is going to eat up your time. I have my clients sit down every Sunday evening and plan for the week ahead. I have them answer two questions: Is there anything coming up this week that you need to schedule around? What is one action you can take to keep moving closer to your goal? Knowing what’s coming and having a plan keeps your head above water when the flood of busyness comes.
Don’t give up on your health and fitness goals when life starts to get a little crazy, it’s going to happen, and you can’t put your health on pause. Set yourself up for success with these strategies so you can always make forward progress.