I Got Off Track With My Fitness, and How I'm Fixing It.

It was close to 7:30 in the evening when I unboarded the school charter bus, coming back from the dreaded and obligatory yearly camping trip that we take as a "team."


I'm a teacher. Each year we take the students on a camping trip. Over the weekend. Unpaid. Un-optional (but that's another entry). 


That evening I felt the exhaustion bear down on me--it wasn't just the exhaustion from that weekend--there'd been numerous, stress-inducing meetings, phone calls to make, forms to collect. 


I didn't write in this blog during that time. I didn't get enough sleep. I barely made it through my workouts, and instead of feeling relief that evening upon my return, I just felt drained. 


And that's how I got off track. 


It took me a week for my digestive system to recover from the processed food I had to eat. I'm still getting over a sinus infection that gave me another setback. 


I felt busy...uncontrollably busy. And I know you've felt the same way. 


It's the type of busy that makes you want to pull your hair out and scream at everyone to leave you alone. 


And it's the kind of busy that marches into your life and begins to control your diet and exercise routine--two things that are now sacred to me. 


And yet look at me--this is my first blog entry in months. My illness has prevented me from working out for most of this week. How am I going to get back on track?


I'm going to view this as a two-part problem: the first is mindset and the second is circumstances. 


Problem 1: Motivation inertia or mindset. This one will trap you in its web. Our routine is interrupted. We slip back into our coma of inertia. 


In this state it's hard to concentrate; it's hard to be creative; it's hard to get into a state of flow and enjoyment that we experience those weeks when we've eaten in a healthful way or when we've done all our exercises faithfully.


And how can you be creative when you're stuck in a vicious cycle? Tell me if this sounds familiar: you wake up late and get behind on your tasks, your meal-planning, and you skip a workout; and in the evening you attempt to squeeze it all in, which causes you to go to bed late. And it begins all over again the next day.


Who wouldn't feel defeated if that were the story day after day?


Problem 2: Circumstances. My graduate school professor once said, "we are all victims of circumstances." She was right. It doesn't matter the circumstance--a flat tire or a funeral. It happens. Camping trips happen and exhaustion happens. 


I have a cold. I have a full-time job that requires a lot of energy. My hours do not allow me to come home early enough to take advantage of my evenings. The list goes on, and I'll bet yours does, too. 


Circumstances, when mixed with the motivation inertia (our mindset), becomes a powerful combination to create major setbacks on our goals. 


But what if we could just snap out of it?


We can't snap out of it all of a sudden. Actually, it took some time to get myself into this mess, so it's going to take some time to get myself out of this mess.

And this is why I want to share with you what I am doing to crawl out of this situation, little by little. Ready?


Get rid of the fatigue. Most of my problems right now are caused by fatigue and mental fog: I don't have the mental clarity to do anything. So what's the culprit? Staying up late. I've been taking melatonin at around 8:45 PM just to help me sleep and each night I aim to go to bed 5 minutes earlier than I did the night before. Whatever it is, what do you want more: to scroll through the newsfeed one last time, or wake up feeling refreshed and energized?

Set a timer. Yes, I'm setting a timer for various tasks. As I write this, I have a timer set. If I know that I have 15 minutes to devote to something, then I'll give it my full concentration. And what I need right now is to give something my full concentration without feeling interrupted. Timing yourself works wonders for checking Facebook, writing a blog entry, and even doing the dishes. 


Work out first. Today was the first day that I was able to get back into my workout. There are some tasks that, if I fail to complete them, will linger in my mind for the rest of the day. Exercise is one of them, and because of that, I make sure to do it first. In fact, I know that my morning exercise is the reason why I can have mental clarity and a feeling of overall accomplishment for the rest of the day. 


Master your evenings. I'm guilty of not doing this sometimes, and it comes around to bite me in the rear. Mastering the evening means preparing for the next day, and you can bet that I know exactly what I need for the next day: clothes, lunch prepared, and my coffee maker. That's it. Just these three things greatly reduces the stress of my mornings. 


But I think the most important thing here is consistency. I consistently made choices that led me to get off track--not sleeping, skipping workouts, etc. over a period of time. 


Likewise, it's going to take a period of time of consistent corrections to get back in the game. This means that all of those tips I'm sharing above--you can't do one to the exclusion of the other; they all have to be done simultaneously. 



Libet Chang