Where is your rock bottom?

raise your standardsThis is not about a glute workout.  This is about an important question: when things are falling apart, how far do you let them go?

It’s a question that bears examination throughout many areas of your life, but for this space I’m just talking about the health and fitness sphere.  When life starts throwing things at you, how do you handle your workouts and nutrition?  What needs to stay?  What can go?  Can you make swaps?

The response to this question is one of the things that separates my clients who reach (and maintain) their goals from my clients who struggle to make it.  It’s not a matter of making “excuses” – it’s just how you handle the inevitable shakeups that happen, good and bad, pretty often in our lives.

How low can you go?

If you go on a vacation, how long do you want to travel for without working out?  Are you really walking that much (maybe yes, maybe no!) that you don’t need to add in any other cardio?  Are you really so tired – or gone for such a short window of time – that you don’t want to take 10 minutes to do some wall push-ups and lunges in your hotel room?

If you have an unexpected late night at work (or any other activity that would throw you off your evening game), do you skip your workout that was planned for that night?  Shorten it?  Swap it out for something that makes sense, given your energy levels and fitness needs?  What about dinner – do you skip it?  Get fast food?  Eat something that’s already prepared from your refrigerator or freezer, even if it’s not what was in the plan for that day?  Do your best with the unplanned snacks and miscellany that are in your house?

There are no right responses to these questions; sometimes sleep is the best workout, and sometimes it’s the time to push forward and just get things done.  Sometimes dinner is yogurt.  But how often, and how far, do we let things slide?  And how do we know when we are sliding – how do we hold ourselves accountable?

Staying on Top

One of the biggest reasons that I’m such a proponent of food tracking is exactly for this kind of contingency planning: if you are tracking what you eat, even (or especially) on less-than-ideal days, you will have a clear picture of how much variance your body can tolerate without taking you off track from your goals.

If you need a lot of fancy tools to remind yourself to stick to your goals, you might want to re-examine your goals and see if they’re still things you care about achieving!  Working toward your authentic goals should be almost as automatic as breathing and blinking.  If you’re scared to keep working, remember to take things one tiny step at a time.  (Tiny steps are the only kinds of steps – and they are way better than no steps.)  If you want the results but you don’t want to do the work, I’ve already addressed how to handle that here. If your plans are constantly derailed and you are “starting over” every Monday, take a quick ride with me on the “wagon” that doesn’t exist.

For Example…

My personal limit (for me) is two days.  Real chaos can disrupt life for two days – that is, I can miss workouts and have meals that end up being a protein bar, an apple, a string cheese, and anything else that I could throw in my bag for up to two days in a row.  By the third day, no matter how much sleep I’ve lost or how much extra work has found me, I want to be back to my regular energy levels, so I want to be back to eating vegetables, getting enough activity, and doing the workouts that help me reach my goals.

If I notice that a pain point has cropped up – for example, if my schedule has shifted and I now have 12 client-facing hours on a certain day instead of my usual 9ish, plus the 3-4 admin hours that go along with those appointments – I don’t just resign myself to missing a workout or undereating; I make sure to be prepared with some kind of snack or meal, and I rearrange my workouts as needed.   I’m human and I can still get caught by surprise, but when I can see a change approaching, I make room for it.

Maybe you are always starving and exhausted when you get home from work – is that how you really want to feel, or would it better to have a snack at 4pm?  Or maybe you need to have a dinner waiting that can be microwaved in under 5 minutes?

Maybe you miss more than half of your planned workouts – is that helping you get where you want to be, or do you need to change your plans?  Do you need to consolidate your workouts?  Change your planned schedule?

“Chaos preparedness” is as realistic as “emergency preparedness”.  It’s always good to have a backup meal on hand, even if it’s a frozen dinner, and to have a few backup workouts that you know you can do no matter where you are.

The worst doesn’t have to be “the worst”.

Your rock bottom doesn’t have to be the lowest barrel-scraping standard of human existence – it’s a boundary that you set for what you are willing to accept in your life.

There are plenty of people who can’t afford vegetables, or don’t have access to fresh food, but my personal vegetable goal doesn’t have to be set at that level.  What’s comfortable for me, and what allows me to be my best me, is getting my 5+ servings daily, and my rock bottom is <2 servings for 2 days in a row.  Just because I could squeak by on less doesn’t mean it’s what I’m willing to accept.

You don’t have to accept the very worst.  You don’t have to put yourself very last.  You don’t have to wait for someone else to remind you to take care of you – in fact, that reminder may never, ever come. You get to decide where your rock bottom is, and you are free to raise it any time you’d like!

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