I think each and every one of us has come to a point in their lives where the day to day minutiae just seems too overwhelming. We get stressed, we have a crisis, something unexpected throws our world into a tailspin and we just want to say “screw it” and give up on healthy living. It could be overeating, a relapse into drinking or substance abuse, or giving up other healthy habits like exercise or drinking water. Our minds and our hearts stop communicating with each other, and no matter how well we KNOW that continuing a healthy lifestyle will help us, we just feel like it’s hopeless. I’m going through a phase like that right now. For many years, I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression. This winter, it’s hit its absolute peak. It started building in November, and now it’s February and I’ve hit rock bottom.
For someone like me, who is not an emotional eater, keeping my food healthy and limited has not been a problem. My anxiety causes me to feel sick to my stomach, and my emotional distress gives me no appetite. Often what happens is I’ll feel sick and won’t want to eat, and then I’ll feel sicker, realize I haven’t eaten in hours, eat, then feel marginally better until a few hours later when the cycle continues. Blah. The real problem is working out. My mind is all over the place right now, thoughts racing all over and flitting about and thinking negative things. Usually I can quell this by focusing on something intently, but something like going for a walk or doing kettlebells just doesn’t focus my mind enough to distract me. Wednesday I managed to force myself through my bells routine by watching a DVRed episode of Justified. I made it through, and may have even worked harder than usual. I felt better afterward, and had a fairly decent day.
Friday I felt like I needed a change. I’ve been doing the same routine for the most part for about 5 months, with a short stint of a second routine during the holidays. While these routines are still challenging, I thought that maybe adding a third routine could spice up my workout, and learning some new kettlebell moves might keep my mind occupied. Since I work out three days a week, doing a different routine every day could help keep things fresh. Having a regular scheduled work out time helps: although I’ve been a bit slacky on my start times this past week. The thing is, it’s getting started that’s the hardest part. Once I actually start, I finish.
So, Friday, I went to FitnessBlender.com (uhm, if you don’t know about Fitness Blender, you need to check it out – tons of FREE workout videos that are easy to follow) and found a new full body bells workout to try. This may have been a saving grace for me: having to pay attention and learn new moves without injuring myself really kept my mind focus on the work. And the work is satisfying, once you DO it. You’ve heard that quote “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”? Well the hardest part of working out when you just aren’t feeling it is starting each workout. If you make it to the gym, you work out, right? If you workout at home, it’s the act of putting on your workout clothes that triggers the activity. For me, it’s putting on my lifting gloves. Once those babies are on my hands, it’s game on.
In short, here’s my new plan for working out through the tough times (some of these steps I’ve had in place for a while):
- Have a workout schedule and stick to it. I workout Monday, Wednesday and Friday. My start time on Monday is flexible, since that’s one of my days off, but in my really good workout days I started around 6:15-6:30. Lately I’ve been struggling to start, so it’s been closer to 7 am. (And, to be fair, this week’s Friday workout was on Saturday, but that was planned because I was meeting a friend for coffee.)
- Lay out workout clothes the night before and set them near my “gym”. This will have them in plain view so all I have to do is take off my pajamas and put on my workout clothes. I’ve even simplified my workout clothes because I have found my balance with kettlebells is actually better when I’m barefoot. So I don’t even have to put on socks and shoes. (This will change the first time I drop a 30-lb bell on my bare foot.)
- Vary workouts. I will do a different kettlebell routine each day of my week. I will follow each workout with an ab workout, which I’m also going to try to vary, I just haven’t worked out how yet. (Note to self: do planks, they WORK.)
- Plan rewards. I used to reward myself with an extra tablespoon of peanut butter on my English muffin in the morning after a workout. That resulted in, guess what, weight gain! So I stopped doing that. I need to come up with a list of non-food rewards. Ideas: self-massage with a tennis ball, aromatherapy.
- Treat it like a job. Working out is something I do that I usually enjoy, and I get “paid” in physical fitness.
Do any of you have strategies for getting through your workouts when you just aren’t feeling it? Leave your plans in the comments!
6 thoughts on “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Make a Plan”
I wish I had some stellar advice for you, but really, when I hit some version of rock bottom, I can’t manage to do anything I”m supposed to do. Instead of giving you advice, I should be stealing some from you and your planning. I hope the new kettlebell routine will give you some spice and make you feel more like working out when you’re not feeling properly focused.
I hope the anxiety issues lessen up for you very soon. It’s such a craptastic place to be, feeling anxious and crappy. When mine hits at night, I feel like I’m gonna lose my damn mind before it peaks and then goes away eventually. Are you guys getting any nicer weather? Maybe Spring will get here soon and you’ll feel a little better? Hope so!
Feel better! *hugs*
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My anxiety has improved a lot over the last few days, the depression is still there, but I’m not feeling like I’m going to freak out about it anymore, which is good. It’s cold, but the sun was out today, so I got a little joy from that. (My anxiety is always worst first thing in the morning, and tends to be okay by bedtime, thank goodness.)
Anxiety and depression can do a number on motivation. I know in my head that I’ll feel better after and that it’ll help, but some days it’s such a struggle. Good job pushing through and trying new things.
I find that a workout schedule helps me a lot. When I’m in a bad place, I almost need someone to tell me what to do, even if that someone is me from a week ago. When I was struggling a year ago, I committed to a race with about the least amount of training time I’d ever feel comfortable with, and it was enough to break the spell and force me to push myself (the race itself wasn’t great, but the accomplishment was, and it was really the start to feeling more like myself again).
I love the idea of non-food rewards. For a long time, I would use my weekend coffee drinks as a reward for exercise. It probably wasn’t hurting much, but the mindset is the wrong one to fall into. Now I look at it as a weekly treat and social activity because I occasionally want a mocha or a cookie, not as payment for exercise. I personally like cheap grocery store flowers as a reward. It’s pretty bleak here during winter, so for the cost of a giant piece of cake, I can get a splash of colour instead. It helps a bit with the winter depression, and it doesn’t add calories to my day.
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Flowers are a great idea! I should pick some up the next time I go to the produce market. 🙂
As usual, great blog. I recently got a workout buddy. We have very different goals…he’s a marathon runner and I love weight lifting. But we’ve been best friends for almost 25 years. And I’m discovering he pushes me to do more cardio and I get him to do more strength training. Also if one of us isn’t feeling it, we still get to the gym since the other guy will be waiting. It’s really been helpful.