Back to the Beginning – What I Learned From 17 Days Off

I cringe at that number. 17. That’s the number of days I’ve been traveling in South America, 15 of which I’ve taken off from running. That’s the longest amount of consecutive days I’ve taken off in years. YEARS!! Probably a good 5 years. Aye-aye-aye!

Perhaps you’re thinking this is silly to be worried about – or maybe you’ve been there yourself. If you’ve ever been derailed from your normal routine due to travel, work, family or other life demands for any amount of time, you probably know what I mean. Doesn’t it suck? Feeling like you’ve lost your #gainz is a bummer when you’ve made so much progress.

On top of the fitness in South America, my food choices have been sub-par. Carbs on carbs with higher sodium, lower fiber, fewer veggies and protein. I miss peanut butter, protein powder and oats. I miss handfuls of fresh berries. I miss freshly cut veggies at every meal.

My current state? I feel out of shape. Sluggish. Irritable. Tired. Not like myself. I’m itching to run. To move. To lift. To sprint. To pick up heavy things.

This trip has me thinking: how is this not a big deal for everyone else? Why is it not?

What this has made me realize is this:
Fitness is a matter of priorities, a mental shift, the decision to make exercise and nutrition important in your life.

The more fit you are, the greater impact a slight derailment has on your fitness. The more you push off exercise, continuing to skip another day, the easier it is to let it slip altogether.

Let’s put it this way: a higher level of fitness or nutrition puts you at a increased sensitivity to fluctuations. The effects of a large meal, a high sodium/carb day or a few skipped workouts become immediately noticeable and prove themselves more amplified. You instantly notice if you bloat after a meal, skip an extra day at the gym or wake up dehydrated. You instantly detect when things start to decline, and whip yourself into gear to get them together.

This trip was the longest I’d taken off from my running and weight lifting regimen — progress I watched slowly slip away (or did it?). As the days off my routine began to add up, I found myself increasingly sedentary. I realized that it became easier to throw in the towel altogether.

BUT – I reminded myself that something always beats nothing. Each time I chose to hammer out a set of push ups, hold off on the extra indulgence, each step I took, counted for something.

And it did… When I got back to the states, I was worried. It felt like starting from square one.

Running was hard – but it was manageable. My first day back, I procrastinated until noon… and then went for a 4 mile run in 90 degrees, in which I stopped about 3 times… in addition to the stop lights. Yet I hit a few miles at my normal easy run pace. I stepped on the scale… and did not gain a single pound. I could still hold the plank for a minute. I could still pick up my normal 15 pound weights and nail a set of reps. So… progress not gone?

Every now and then, you have to fall off the wagon in order to remember what it feels like to hop back on. Getting on the wagon in the first place is a slightly bigger ball game, but it starts with the same reason: WHY.

If you let a day slip away, don’t let it become a week. Don’t let a week turn into a month. Anything is better than nothing. 10 push ups a day, a couple of 30 second sprints across the street, a round of jump squats while you wait for the microwave — it all counts. Every day, every decision, is either moving you towards your goal or away from it – what will it be?

When you find yourself falling off, take a minute to get real with yourself. Pause and reflect. Revisit your reasons. Take a look at your mantras. Why should you keep going?

Next time you’re in need of motivation:

Remind yourself of the post-workout feeling.

Remind yourself of what you are set out to achieve.

Remind yourself of the reasons you started.

Remind yourself why.