The only thing harder than start exercising regularly is getting back to it after a long hiatus. Results don’t happen overnight, and you worked hard to get in shape, but when you take a couple weeks off than it can seem that we’ve never did a single crunch in our whole life. Does it look familiar? Life happens. Even if we swear that we will never take time off again, someday we will travel, or get injured, or take on new project that eats up all our free time. And, it can be so frustrating when we can clearly remember our six-packs in the mirror, or how we were able to do a hundred crunches, or easily jog across town, but now it seems that we’ve never did a single crunch in our whole life, it’s all gone, and seems so far away!
This is one of the human body’s biggest injustices, and this is why getting back into our exercise routine can feel so darn difficult. I think it won’t be surprise you if I say that it’s not just a psychological reaction, but detraining has measurable physical effects also. Studies showed that the so-called VO2 max (aka the maximum rate of oxygen consumption measured during incremental exercise, that reflects our cardiorespiratory fitness) can drop 7-10% after only 2 weeks off and 17-20% after 4-6 weeks off, making it more difficult to get back on track even if you know how to start exercising again after a break.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 13 But don’t worry, studies also showed that any decline in performance caused by taking a few of weeks off from an injury or any type of private reason, can be rebuild with a couple weeks of good training. So, don’t let your frustration set you back!
“Do something today that your future self will thank you for.”
– Sean Patrick Flanery
JUST DO IT
If you want to take a dip in a cold water, you have several choices. You can go in gradually. First you just dip your toe in the water, then go in waist-deep…wait for a couple seconds…after that you can go a little bit further…wait again and so on. Our you can just jump in! Ask yourself, what do you really do if you go in slowly? You only extend your pain! The same is the true with your workout, the more you think about it, analyze it, doubt it, justify it, or even just want it, the less you do it!
Maybe the biggest enemy of success is procrastination. This monster won’t get his claes directly into you, he just says: “Yeah buddy, you’re right, but we have sooo many things to do, let’s leave it at that for today and talk about it again tomorrow.” And you know that this day will never come…
We all know that the hardest part of accomplishing something is starting. But Make that damn first step today! Stop thinking about it, just do it!
“Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.”
– Tom Cruise (Vanilla Sky)
So, make your plans today, stop thinking and start doing! But be smart, because jumping back to where you last left off and taking on more than you can handle can lead to excessive soreness, fatigue and burn-out at best and injury at worst. Strat the next chapter of your fitness journey today, but start smart!
GIVE IT 3 WEEKS! NON-NEGOTIABLE!
In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, researchers tried to find out how long it actually takes to form a habit.6 They found that on average it takes 66 days before a new behavior becomes automatic, where it is performed whenever the situation is encountered without thinking, awareness or intention. More complex habits need more time while less complex need less, but this can be a good starting point if you want make exercises a part of your everyday routine. But regular exercises are not new for you, you already know how good you can feel with them, you just took a break! So, if you want to get back on track after a longer hiatus, plan for 21 days, and treat it as a non-negotiable deadline!
Make your plan for the next 21 days, but during that time don’t overthinking, don’t scanning the results, judging yourself, the scale or your abs… just doing! Don’t sabotage yourself by getting discouraged after a few days and slipping up again! Just stick to the plan no matter what!
During this 3 weeks, you can rebuild your workout capacity and start feeling the positive physical and emotional consequences of physical activities. This time frame is short enough to be inspiring, but long enough to make changes.
A plastic surgeon, called Maxwell Maltz published a book called Psycho-Cybernetics in 1960 about his thoughts on behavior change and personal development. As a plastic surgeon, he found that it would take a patient about 21 days to get used to seeing their new face or body and adjusting to the new situation. A number of motivational and self-help experts including Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar have used this concept in their coaching techniques! Now, it is your turn!
CHANGE YOUR “HAVE-TO’S” TO “WANT-TO’S”.
“There is no such thing as discipline. There is only love. Love is the most powerful creative force in the universe. You are the result of what you love most.” 7
– Charles Poliquin
To motivate yourself, always think about when you feel your best. No one wants to limit treats and train their ass off, but we do it because we want the feeling and the results that come when we do. Focus on what you love and what you want, not simply what you have to do to get there.
Instead of saying: “I have to wake up early and go to the gym to get back in shape”, just say: “I want to feel great, energetic and attractive again.”
Instead of saying: “I have to skip the dessert tonight or I can’t go out and eat a burger”, just say: “I want to see my abs again.”
And next time, when you are tired and want to skip your workout or you are in a front of a box of glazed donuts, just ask yourself: what do you love more, a glazed donuts or wash board abs? You can’t have booth.
GIVE YOURSELF A REWARD
Regular physical activity is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your health. It’s not just about being in shape, keeping disease and premature death at bay, but hundred studies proved the potential of physical activity to upgrade life quality through enhanced self-esteem, improved mood, increased energy, reduced anxiety, resilience to stress, and improved sleep. However, in addition to long term benefits, treating yourself with real and more tangible rewards can make a huge difference, especially in the beginning!
Charles Duhigg the author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business8 explains a three-phase process that all habits follow:
- Trigger: something that starts the actions/behavior, this is the original stimulus that causes the following actions take place.
- Routine: this is where the actions take place, the behavior that you perform, so this is the habit itself.
- Reward: the benefit that is associated with the actions/behavior, this is what makes doing the routine worthwhile.
If you’re trying to form a new habit but having a hard time, it could have less to do with the habit itself and more to do with how they’re arranged. So, if you can make the reward of a particular behavior more tangible, it can help you to cement it.
For example, reward yourself with your favorite protein shake or a delicious protein bar after every great workout. Go to your favorite restaurant if you were able to stick to your 21-day plan, or buy a new pair of shoes or something that you really want if you achieved your training or weight-loss goals over the last 3 weeks.
Like Duhigg explains “… an extrinsic reward is so powerful because your brain can latch on to it and make the link that the behavior is worthwhile… it increases the odds the routine becomes a habit.” 8 Over time, the brain begins to associate struggle, sweat and pain with the surge of happiness, and the motivation becomes internal.
FIND A WORKOUT BUDDY
Some of us prefer solo workouts, but if you need a little push in your motivation and consistency, a workout buddy can be the solution. A training partner is one of the best ways to get and stay on track, make exercises more fun, and keep you accountable!
Studies found that healthy actions and exercise behaviors of those around us may from our own habits. A study from Stanford University showed that simply receiving phone calls every two weeks that asked about the progress of participants increased the amount of exercise they performed on average by 78%! Another study from researchers at Indiana University found that couples who worked out separately had a 43% dropout rate, while those who went to the gym together had only a 6% dropout rate. A third study published in the Journal Obesity found that overweight people lost more weight during weight loss interventions if they spend more time with their health-conscious friends.9, 10, 11, 12 In addition, friendly competition has also some major boosting power, and can take your exercise routine to a whole new level.
- Mujika, I., Padilla, S. Detraining: Loss of training--induced physiological and performance adaptations. Part 1: short term insufficient training stimulus. Sports Med. 2000 Aug; 30 (2): 79-87.
- Mujika, I., Pacilla, S. Detraining: loss of training--induced physiological and performance adaptations. Part II: Long term insufficient training stimulus. Sports Med. 2000 Sep; 30(3): 145-54.
- Neufer, PD. The effect of detraining and reduced training on the physiological adaptations to aerobic exercise training. Sports Med. 1989 Nov; 9(5): 302--320.
- Coyle, E.F., Hemmert, M.K., and Coggan, A.R. Effects of detraining on cardiovascular responses to exercise: role of blood volume. Journal of Applied Physiology. 1986, January; 60(1): 95--99.
- Ready, A.E., Quinney, H.A. Alterations in anaerobic threshold as the result of endurance training and detraining. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 1982, 14(4).
- Lally, Phillippa & Jaarsveld, Cornelia & Potts, Henry & Wardle, Jane. (2010). How are habits formed: Modeling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology. 40. 10.1002/ejsp.674.
- Charles R. Poliquin: The Myth of Discipline, Let Love Be Your Driving Force. Published on-line: https://www.strengthsensei.com/discipline-myth/
- Charles Duhigg: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We do in Life and Business. Doubleday Canada, 2012. ISBN 0385669755, 9780385669757
- Meghan, Madden & Plante, Thomas & Sonia, Mann & Grace, Lee & Allison, Hardesty & Nick, Gable & Allison, Terry & Greg, Kaplow. (2010). Effects of Perceived Fitness Level of Exercise Partner on Intensity of Exertion. Journal of Social Sciences. 6. 10.3844/jssp.2010.50.54.
- Andersson MA, Christakis NA.: Desire for weight loss, weight-related social contact, and body mass outcomes. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016 Jul;24(7):1434-7. doi: 10.1002/oby.21512. Epub 2016 May 26.
- King, A. C.: Identifying subgroups that succeed or fail with three levels of physical activity intervention: The activity counseling trial. 2006 Health Psychology, 25(3), 336-347
- Wallace J. P: Twelve month adherence of adults who joined a fitness program with a spouse vs without a spouse. 1995 J Sports Med Phys Fitness, 35(3), 206-13
- Krogh-Madsen R1, Thyfault JP, Broholm C, Mortensen OH, Olsen RH, Mounier R, Plomgaard P, van Hall G, Booth FW, Pedersen BK.: A 2-wk reduction of ambulatory activity attenuates peripheral insulin sensitivity. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2010 May;108(5):1034-40. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00977.2009. Epub 2009 Dec 31.