“People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.”
Today we are exactly 6 weeks away from the start of 2013!
This is important for several reasons. First of all, it means that the Mayans think we’re all gonna die really soon. Second of all, for most of us it means getting ready to celebrate the holiday season. Thanksgiving with our families, panicky shopping sprees set to Clay Aiken’s Christmas soundtrack, and of course… taking our perfectly reasonable health & fitness goals (that we’ve been working hard on all year) and throwing them directly out the window.
Every single year, I see my clients (and many others) make the same mistakes: they start the season with the very good intention to keep moving towards their goals, but get totally derailed by the season’s craziness. Once they’ve experienced a few unscheduled setbacks, they go bananas. They decide “WTF, this sucks. I may as well quit the gym, eat & drink to excess, and just get back into shape next year.”
Which is fine. Except you’ll feel sluggish, you won’t sleep, you’ll succumb easily to stress, and you’ll basically start the New Year like a bloated hungover mental patient.
I would like to offer another option for this year. Basically, schedule your setback in advance. I propose that if you change your goals to reflect this yearly setback at the beginning of the holiday season, then you can stay on track and even start the new year with a few solidified health habits in place. You’ll be a lot less likely to give in to the “I’m already being bad, so I may as well be REALLY bad” mentality, and you’ll avoid tons of undue guilt and stress every time you make a decision that seems to counter your goals.
My goal is to overhaul your goals in the short term, in order to better reflect what you’re realistically capable of for the next 6 weeks. I will place a high priority on recovery & stress-management, and I will insist on you scheduling all your You-time in advance. This often means doing shorter workouts (and less of them) and scheduling yourself weekly massages. Sound fun? Great. But don’t be fooled… this plan will help you get into better shape faster come the new year, and it will keep you from going bonkers, gaining weight, and destroying yourself in the meantime.
Step 1: Look at your current fitness goals. How long have you had them? How close are they to being accomplished? How often do you check your progress? How much time do you regularly have to spend working out/recovering each week?
Step 2: Consider your next 6 weeks. Do you have a job that gets extra stressful or busy at the end of the year? Does the burden of shopping/traveling/hosting/etc fall mostly on your shoulders, thus making you a spinning whirlwind of stress? Does visiting family bring you to the brink of an emotional breakdown? How much sleep can you plan on getting for realsies? Have you ever found yourself hiding in a laundry hamper Christmas Eve frantically hoping that your little terror of a niece would just LEAVE YOU ALONE?
Step 3: Write out a new plan. I’ll call it your “6-Week Scheduled Setback Plan.” (Say that out-loud 5x fast!) Start by completely letting go of your fitness and weight loss goals. Seriously, trust me on this. Then choose 3 of the following 5 goals to fully commit yourself to for the next month & a half. (Feel free to write your own if you like, but choose wisely & only tackle things you’re sure you can stick to.)
1) Get at least 7 hours of sleep/night, at least 6 days/week
2) Eat something (a small meal or healthy snack) every 3-4 hours
3) Get in 2 full-body 45-minute workouts per week (or three 30-minute workouts. Anything more can be considered a bonus.)
4) Spend 60 minutes every week doing soft tissue work. (This can be done as a chunk, like a one-hour Swedish massage, or broken up, like 15 minutes of foam-rolling 4 days/week)
5) Spend 60 minutes every week doing a stress-management activity of your choice. (Again, this can be done as a chunk or broken up. Options include meditation, writing in a gratitude journal, spa treatments, going for a walk, zenning out to some good music, yoga, reading for pleasure, or anything that lets you be aggressive, like boxing or flower arranging.)
Step 4: Did you choose your 3? Great. Now, schedule them into your next 6 weeks, and be specific. Write it in your calendar, your phone, and your To-Do list. Tell you family. Post it on Facebook. Tweet about it. Seriously, tweet ME about it! Consider these weekly appointments your non-negotiable bare-bones commitment to yourself. Then set back… and relax. (See what I did there?)
Check out your week, does it have your 2 (or 3) workouts planned? Do you know exactly when you’re going grocery shopping so you have healthy snacks & meals to eat at your desk? Does you masseuse know to focus on your tight shoulders every Thursday at 6pm? Perfect. Your fitness setbacks are planned for and pre-countered, so now you get to focus on your work, and your shopping, and your… lovely niece. Go ahead, spread some holiday cheer.
Questions? Here are a few I often get:
Why scale back the workouts? Aren’t I just “lowering expectations” or being a wimp?
There are some trainers who love to propogate the “sleep when you’re dead” myth… they’ll tell you that stress, exhaustion, sickness, and decapitation are all totally invalid reasons to skip your workout. These are usually the same people who believe in “burning off your bad habits” with tons of exercise—they believe that more is better, often at the expense of the quality of exercise or the ability to recover from it.
But guess what? More is not better. Better is better.
Recovery is important if you actually want to make any body composition changes, and you can’t recover properly when you’re exhausted or under a lot of stress. For some people that’s a year-round condition, and we just have to deal. But for most of you it’s short term or seasonal. And when your season hits, I would rather you spend a little more time recovering and a little less time on the gym floor. I promise you’ll be in way better shape, both mentally and physically, at the end of it.
What should I do for my workouts?
This will depend on what your goals are and what you’ve been doing thus far, but I almost always recommend a full body strength training session or intervals (aka sprint/walk). These things ghtive you the most bang for your buck, and they are much more likely to keep your metabolism humming along until January 1st.
What if I mess up/ miss one of my appointments with myself?
Great! Either reschedule it for the next day or just let it go and know that it’s not the end of the world. Since your goal is just to maintain some structure and to stay sane & healthy, focus on something positive and just move on. For example, if you only got 6 hours of sleep 2 nights in a row, either schedule a 30 minute nap that day, or simply let it go and focus on how great it is that you made it to yoga yesterday for your stress-busting hour.
What if I’d rather make it my goal to get super shredded this month, so I look like a total smoke-show in my New Year’s eve outfit?
Be my guest. And if you succeed… without having a total meltdown… PLEASE send me an email. I want to know your secrets.
Any other questions or comments? Leave ‘em below! (Best comment will get a free email consultation with me to set up your personalized 6-Week Scheduled Setback Plan!)