Fitness Reboot: Starting Over Doesn't Have To Suck
Don't fret over a few pounds of winter pudge. Here's your 5-step plan for getting back on track.
Name: Abby Huot
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Education: St. Mary's University of Minnesota (2004)
Occupation: Athlete, writer, fitness model, bikini/figure competitor
One of the snowiest winters in history is behind us, and spring has arrived with the speed of a freight train. It's like we went from a frigid winter to the upcoming summer months almost overnight. With shorts and tank-top weather right around the corner, choices made during cold-weather months are starting to come to light. Were you "good" this winter? Did you stay consistent in your training? Was your diet tight?
Cool, me neither. *screen knuckle bump*
Months of snuggling on the couch with a warm blanket and hot cup of cocoa—and pizza ordered in—are probably starting to show. Your clothes are tighter, you're sluggish, and you've got a case of the "I don't wannas" or, even worse, the never-ending cycle of "I'll start over tomorrows." But tomorrow hasn't come yet, has it?
Look, we're only human. We're fallible, and we burn out. It's not normal for us to find joy in eating out of Tupperware containers and gagging down chicken all the time. Our training routine loses its gusto, and one day missed at the gym due to a scheduling conflict suddenly becomes one month missed. Let's be frank; sometimes you physically and emotionally need a break from training and measuring out your food.
Summer's going to be here before you know it. What's your plan? Do you even have one? It's time to revive the sleeping athlete inside of you. Bring your body out of rest mode and turn it back on to beast mode with these tips to kick-start your summer.1
Let Yourself off the Hook
As annoyed as you are that you slacked, beating yourself up isn't going to help. In fact, it's keeping you exactly where you are. Self-forgiveness is a skill that's vital for you to jump back on the wagon. Agonizing over "I felt so much better and looked so much better X amount of time ago" is useless because that's the past. We're talking about right now!
Forgive yourself for screwing up your goals. It happens to the best of us. I've been associated with the fitness industry for six years, and there are still times when I find myself marinating in wine and watching "Family Guy" reruns. Pro physique competitors and top fitness models fall into "meh" times too. Shake it off—you're just wasting your time and being counterproductive.2
Set up a Plan
Training and dietary changes don't have to be 100 percent strict, but you have to ease back into it. That means giving up greasy food and couch sitting and starting to work your way back to health. Set up a training routine for 4-5 days a week and shoot for those workouts to be 45-60 minutes long. Know exactly what you're going to do from the moment you toss your bag in your locker. If you wander around the weight room like a vagabond and just do what's available or what you feel like, you're setting yourself up for failure from the start.
This is a revival plan, people; get to it! If you're unsure of where to start, check out workout plans on Bodybuilding.com to get some direction and advice in terms of a training program. There is something for everyone at every level!
Nutrition is more than half the battle. When you're grocery shopping, recognize what's going in your cart. You'd be surprised by how often your cheat food ends up in there out of comfort and boredom. In my own case, Cookie Butter from Trader Joe's was my "treat" purchase—except I was burning through a jar of that legal gingerbread-laced crack within two days of buying it. Guess what? No more. The last few weeks, that stuff has been left on the shelf at the store. Don't set yourself up to fail from the get-go by catering to your emotional triggers and cravings for things you know aren't a great idea to have at the house. Leave them alone, and set yourself up to be the victor.
If you absolutely must have something naughty in the pantry, stick a Post-it note on the package, reminding you to have the recommended serving size. Half a cup is half a cup! As good as ice cream sounds sometimes, you're often truly craving the flavor of it and not so much the amount. A little bit can go a long way in terms of cravings!3
Check Your Ego at the Door During Month One
Have you ever missed the gym for a long period of time, only to return weeks later and find that a weight you once used for a warm-up was now impossible to squat, bench, deadlift, curl or, well, lift period? Yep, me too. No fun, but guess what? We did it to ourselves.
Look, we all know muscle memory is a lifesaver, but realizing you have the strength of a newborn fawn is a serious ego blow for the experienced gym rat. You feel bad enough that you fell off the wagon, but it's even worse when you're now lifting just two-thirds of the weight you did before.
Just remember that your strength will come back. You're going to have to be patient though. Muscle memory is a wonderful thing, but it doesn't happen overnight. Each workout you complete and each day you eat well is a day you're moving closer to your goal. Track your workouts in a journal and take progress pictures—even if they pain you. Compare them side-by-side at the end of the month. Though it often feels like an uphill battle, you will usually be surprised by how much progress you can make in just four weeks.
Your numbers will rebound with time—just be sure to practice self-forgiveness as you curse your way up and down the stairs after lingering leg-day soreness. Your ego has no place in the gym anyway. It's all about you doing your current level best. Be patient. The strength comes!4
Download New Music
Training routines can get boring, and if you're listening to a playlist you've had since the '90s, a monotonous music selection can heighten that feeling. Something as simple as downloading current hits can be enough to get you amped to head back into training at full force. Use social media to ask for recommendations, or look online for great playlist ideas for you to piece together.
Studies suggest that your level of motivation may be affected by the type of music you have on your playlist.1 Fast beats are ideal for working out. Look online for tunes that meet that criteria, or download a ready-to-go playlist that makes it easy to tune in and tune out.
Still searching for inspiration? Look up some of your favorite athletes and see if any of their favorite training music is online. In the end, it all comes down to knowing what makes you tick.
It doesn't matter if you're listing to O Town or Rage Against the Machine—go with whatever pumps you up. Who cares what anyone else thinks, anyways?5
Get Started to Build the Habit Again
Have you ever found yourself having an inner temper tantrum as you're heading to the gym, only to remember your passion for lifting once you get there? Sometimes it just takes that initial spark to get you going.
Give yourself a week, and I promise the rut you're in will be a thing of the past. And don't be afraid to treat yourself. As long as you skip the junk-food reward, treats can be anything from a message or a mani/pedi to a movie or a round of golf with friends. After the first week is done, allow these splurges to happen once a month for a job well done. Extrinsic motivation is a wonderful tool when utilized properly, so use it to your advantage to keep your eyes on the prize.
The real benefit is that you'll feel better, sleep better, have a more positive outlook, and genuinely feel more like yourself and less like a lethargic ogre. Pushing yourself for those first few days is all you need to find yourself back on track and moving ahead at a comfortable speed. Just believe in yourself. Now get to it!
- Brownley, K. A., McMurray, R. G., & Hackney, A. C. (1995). Effects of music on physiological and affective responses to graded treadmill exercise in trained and untrained runners. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 19(3), 193-201.