Prevent Fitness Setbacks Before They Happen
Clearing the 12 Most Common Exercise Hurdles
-- By Jennipher Walters, Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor
Even the most dedicated exercisers suffer from fitness setbacks from time to time. Whether it's losing our workout mojo or over-scheduling ourselves, we're human (think: imperfect). But what if you could prevent those setbacks from ever occurring? What if you could somehow stop setbacks in their tracks, before they set you and your fitness goals back? We compiled a list of the 12 most common fitness setbacks. Read on for how you can play up your defense and stop these workout pitfalls—before they happen!
How to Prevent 12 Common Fitness Setbacks
Setback #1: You're too busy at work. You have every minute of your day planned so that you can leave work on time, get to the gym, work out, and shower before meeting your in-laws for dinner. But the day gets crazy, a million things come up, and you're stuck at work late. Now you're barely making it to dinner on time, let alone working out. We've all been there, but believe us—there is a way to prevent this one!
Prevent It: You have two options. First, exercise first thing in the morning. By getting up a little earlier—before demands on you even begin—it will ensure that you take care of your workout first, no matter what life throws at you later. Second, if you're not an early morning riser, schedule time for you on your work schedule. Even if it's as simple as taking a 15-minute break twice a day or shutting your door and doing some resistance band exercises during lunch, treat workouts as a non-negotiable time for you that can't be pushed back until tomorrow. These physical activity breaks are not only good for your body, they help refresh your mind, too, giving you more focus and energy to work better—and more efficiently!
Setback #2: You forgot your gym bag (or something in it). There's nothing worse than getting to work—or the gym—only to realize you forgot your gym bag at home and you have no sports bra or workout shoes.
Prevent It: Always keep a back-up set of workout clothes and gear in your car or office (wherever makes the most sense for you). It may seem silly to have a second gym bag, but believe us, whether you forgot a hair tie, shoes, socks or deodorant, you'll never regret having a spare gym bag. It doesn't need to be the best gear you have—an older pair of running shoes and a retired set of workout shorts and a top will work in a pinch. And if your gym rents lockers, an even better idea is to store your extra gym bag there. (Note: If you regularly go from gym to work this tip can also apply to leaving a separate set of work-appropriate clothes in your locker or your car, just in case you forget something and can't run home before work!)
Setback #3: You lost all motivation to work out. Motivation to work out seems to wax and wane as your life changes and you settle into (or out of) a routine. Losing all of your workout mojo, though, is something you definitely want to avoid at all costs!
Prevent It: The key way to prevent boredom and keep your motivation high is to set goals that matter to you and to regularly switch up your exercise sessions so that they're fun and fresh. Each quarter, month and week, be sure to set a few fitness goals for yourself. Whether it's going for a walk every night after dinner instead of watching TV or running a whole 20 minutes before stopping on the treadmill, find a goal or milestone that gets you excited. Then, once you reach those goals, give yourself fun little rewards like a new song to download for your iPod, a healthy living magazine or even a whole new workout outfit. Each month, also challenge yourself to try a new physical activity that's outside of your usual workout comfort zone such as kettlebells, Zumba, rock climbing or Pilates. Keeping workouts fresh and focused will help you to keep your motivation high.
Setback #4: The weather is less than ideal. If there's one thing you can't control, it's the weather. Whether it's rain, snow, heat or humidity, Mother Nature can throw a wrench in your fitness plans from time to time.
Prevent It: Have a back-up workout you can do indoors. It doesn't really matter if it's an exercise DVD to do at home, a SparkPeople workout you can do in front of your laptop, or even just a circuit of a few no-equipment-needed exercises like push-ups, jumping jacks, lunges, squats and sit-ups. Whatever it is, any indoor workout is better than skipping your outdoor workout completely. Poor weather is never a good excuse to miss a workout!
Setback #5: You're late for the group exercise class you wanted to take. You've been dying to try a new group exercise class for weeks, only to unexpectedly get stuck in traffic and miss the start time of the class by 10 minutes.
Prevent It: It's never a good idea to jump into any group exercise class late. Many times the warm-ups are specific to the activity you'll be doing, and the instructor will preview some moves or give you tips on what to expect in the workout. Furthermore, it's distracting to the class and the instructor when latecomers roll in. However, that doesn't mean you should just give up on your workout that day! Make the most of the time by doing your own version of the class on your own. If it's a cardio class, do cardio on a piece of equipment you don't normally use at the gym. If it's a strength class, hit the dumbbells. If it's a dance, yoga or Pilates class, head home to do some SparkPeople videos that are similar. Where there's a will, there's a way. And, remember: To really prevent this setback, try to get to the gym about 15 minutes before class begins. This gives you extra time in case traffic is bad, and if you get there super early, you can always hop on the treadmill to get a little additional cardio in!
Setback #6: The gym is packed! All of the [fill-in-the-blank] machines are taken. You're ready and pumped to workout, only to be stuck waiting for in a line for a treadmill to open up.
Prevent It: If possible, try to go to the gym when it isn't packed. This may mean that you go earlier in the morning or later in the day, but it's worth it to not have to stand around. If changing your schedule around isn't an option, it's time to start loving other pieces of cardio equipment. In most gyms, the rowers, stair climbers and upright stationary bikes are usually open no matter how busy the gym is. While most people prefer ellipticals and treadmills, these other pieces are still awesome for cardio, so give them a shot! Because you're not used to doing them, you're likely to work your body in new ways, too, which means a better workout and a higher calorie burn. Bonus!
Setback #7: You are beyond sleepy. If you've lost a few hours of sleep the night before, or are just having a 3 p.m. crash that no amount of coffee can cure, a workout can actually be a great way to boost your energy. However, if you are chronically sleep-deprived and tired, your workouts—and your motivation and energy to do them—will suffer.
Prevent It: Prevent this setback by making sleep a priority. Many of us cut back on sleep to get more done in the day, but that's a losing strategy in the long run. Getting adequate sleep can help improve your health, focus, and mood and even make losing weight easier. Not to mention that you'll have the energy to work out and enjoy it! To improve your sleep habits starting tonight, take SparkPeople's 4-Week Sleep Challenge!
Setback #8: You forgot your workout tunes. If you're someone who loves working out to music on your iPod, this can seem like a major workout killer to try to exercise sans music.
Prevent It: Remind yourself that exercising without music is OK. In fact, everyone did it that way long before portable music devices existed—and they still got great workouts! Even if you love working out with music (research does show that music can make workouts more fun), there's something to be said for doing a workout every now and again with nothing but your body and your thoughts. Doing this in nature is ideal, but it can work at the gym, too. Instead of focusing on the beat or the lyrics of your favorite workout songs, pay attention to your breath, feel your muscles as they're moving, and be totally present in what you're doing. Intently focusing on the mind-body connection can be a great way to de-stress and appreciate your body for how amazing it is. It can also help you work more intensely since you aren't distracted. Try a workout-music-free workout once every few weeks. Then the next time you forgot your iPod, it'll just be another time that you get to tune in to you!
Setback #9: You don't feel good. No matter if you are suffering from a cold, have a stomachache or are running a fever, sometimes we miss our workouts because of our health.
Prevent It: While you can't always keep yourself illness-free year-round, by eating a healthy diet, taking time to de-stress regularly, sleeping seven to nine hours a night and working out regularly, you can help prevent yourself from getting sick. Remember that exercise should be a part of your overall wellness plan to keep you healthy. And for those times that you do get sick? Always listen to your body and take time to rest when you need it. If you feel up to exercising, or doing a workout at a lighter intensity, go for it. Not every sniffle or stomachache is a sign that you shouldn't exercise. In fact, sometimes a light workout can help you alleviate certain unwanted symptoms, like gastrointestinal distress, by diverting blood away from the problem area (your gut in this case) and to your working muscles.
Setback #10: You overslept and missed your workout time. You pride yourself on getting your workout in early, but when you accidentally oversleep, your workout plans go awry!
Prevent It: All of us miss our alarms from time to time, but you can prevent this by doing a few things. First, set two alarms, such as a regular alarm clock and the alarm on your cell phone. In case your power goes out, the cell phone will work as your back-up. Also, don't keep your alarm clock by your bed, in arm's reach of hitting the snooze button. Set it across the room so that you actually have to get up and out of bed to turn it off. Because getting up and out of bed is always the hardest part, once you're up, turn on some lights and put on those workout clothes right away to start off your morning and workout right!
Setback #11: You have to travel. Whether it's for pleasure or business, travel plans can throw a wrench into even the most dedicated exercisers fitness plans.
Prevent It: It's easy to let a trip, along with its unexpected layovers, lack of hotel gyms, or jam-packed travel schedule, to throw off your workout plans. That's why it's important to plan, plan, plan. Before you travel, come up with three workout options that you can do while gone. For example, pack a resistance band in your suitcase so that you do some strength moves no matter where you are. Pack a workout DVD that you can do on your laptop. Talk to the hotel concierge for help mapping out a walking or running route. And definitely pack work apparel and shoes (wearing them to travel in is an extra good idea, so that you're comfortable and can get some extra steps and walking in when you can). Then make a goal to work out every other day at the least. Staying fit while traveling just takes a little creativity, so plan ahead to prevent this fitness setback!
12. You get injured. Oh drats! Injuries are the worst.
Prevent It: By all means not every injury can be prevented, but, many of them can. The majority of exercise-related injuries can be chalked up to doing too much, too soon, too often. So make sure that you're wearing proper footwear for your physical activity; that you warm up and cool down properly, slowly build your workouts in terms of duration and intensity, and take at least one day a week off for active recovery. Always listen to and respect your body. It's the best way to stay injury free!
Hope these are helpful as you plan your week ahead!