We can be really hard on ourselves sometimes – trying to balance family, work, our exercise plans, diet, and hobbies. With all of our attention going outside ourselves, there is often very little room for self-examination and self-love. And guess who needs love more than you think? Guess who is neglected more than you think? YOU. We are not perfect, and we won’t always be perfect in our work and our exercise plans. Sounds obvious, right? But when was the last time you really looked at what you do to push yourself to do your best? And do you show yourself some love in the process?
We often think that just because we can’t do something perfectly, we are not good enough. Or perhaps even worse, we think that because we didn’t do something perfectly, it is proof of what you thought about yourself all along – the fact that you are not good enough. Let’s use a typical fitness plan as an example. You are training for a race. You miss your tempo run because you had a late meeting. The next day, you miss your speed work because you don’t want to get out of bed and your running buddy is sick. On the third day you feel guilty and cranky, so you proclaim that this has been a horrible week and you might as forget about being healthy this week. You tell yourself it doesn’t matter anyway because you will never be able to run a 20 minute 5K, so there’s no the point of trying. As you can see, pretty soon your negative thoughts are not only spiraling out of control, but are controlling your behavior! Slightly exaggerated? Yes. Far from what’s going on in our head? Probably not.
So let’s step back now and look at the big picture, the purpose of it all, and let’s start from the center. In pilates, all movement radiates outward from the center. Developing a strong and stable center is absolutely crucial in performing the movement. In your fitness plan, the center starts with you. This means that you can’t be successful in your training without having a healthy outlook about your training, being able to see the purpose of why you’re doing it and making sure you see the big picture of it all.
So what do you do? How do you stick to your fitness plan, and show yourself some love in the process?
6 Tips for Sticking to Your Fitness Plan:
Believe you can do it: One of the most valuable things I learned about our beliefs from Anne Bishop from Body Brain Connect, is that your belief about whether you can do something, will actually impact your ability to do it. This deep connection between what your mind thinks and what you can actually do shows that in a sense, you set your own limits. Other research about the body-brain connection shows that a patient’s fear or deep pessimism about a diagnosis actually alters how their body responds to a disease. Let’s be honest — yogis are not born knowing how to do headstands, and pilates enthusiasts are not doing Teasers in their playpens. These people work hard on their craft, and so do you. You CAN do it. Haven’t ran a 10K before? That’s ok. Just increase your mileage by 10% each week and slowly add distance to your long runs to build up the endurance. Can’t do a Teaser? That’s ok. Focus on doing the Teaser prep with good form and your body will get strong enough to do the full Teaser before you know it. Believe you can do it, and you will.
Don’t compare yourself to others: Competition is good; it can push you to work harder and do better. But we often let competition overwhelm us to the point of giving up or injuring ourselves. There will always be people that are better than you at something. That’s ok, focus on your body, your goal, your plan for the day. If the person next to you is holding plank for 5 minutes straight, hold your plank as long as you can while keeping proper form. If your hips are dipping, you’re arching your back, and your fingers are turning white from gripping the mat, STOP. You can do more harm than good to your body. Have competition push you, but not into injury.
Find inspiration: Whether it’s a song that will make you run faster, a podcast that will get you out of bed in the morning, a quote on someone’s twitter, find what moves you. If you love running, read Runners World, join a running group, train for a race, or simply make a good playlist. Look for information, and stay curious.
Just go: Debating whether to take your bike out for a spin? Even a 20 minute fast-paced ride will increase your circulation, speed up your metabolism, and elevate your mood. You may even keep going for 20 or 40 more minutes once you are out there. How many times have you regretted going to pilates class when you were tired, or were upset at yourself for running a couple of miles after a stressful day? I would venture to say not many. Put your shoes on and go, you can always turn around and come home. The reality is that you usually don’t once you get yourself out the door.
Have fun with it: Try a new class. It’s really easy to get in a rut, and get bored with our fitness routines. Getting creative doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend a ton of time researching and making complicated plans. Just sign up for a new class once a week to change up your routine. If you’re a runner, taking a pilates class once a week can help you run more efficiently, with better form and greater endurance. You will be surprised how the little things can get you back in love with your sport.
Give yourself a break when you need it: Sometimes overtraining can cause physical (injuries), and mental exhaustion. Taking rest days is important. Give your body time to recover at least once a week, and I promise it will reward you with better results. If you can’t stay still on your rest day, take a walk or stretch. At the same time, schedule your workout days and try to stay consistent – don’t take really long breaks (unless you are injured, then by all means PLEASE do so).
Remember, every day is a new day and an opportunity to start over. People generally have better outlooks on life in the mornings. Whether we realize it or not, we actually wake up with a sense of renewal and hope for the day. Don’t get down on yourself if you are not perfect. Leave some room for love in your workout plan and you will see results.
Maria writes about nutrition, exercise, and life balance at limetreelife.com