Many people (myself included), when setting up fitness resolutions, to-do lists, and action plans to achieve their fitness goals, think and plan in terms of absolutes: Thou shalt walk 10,000 steps every day, thou shalt go to the gym 3 times a week, thou shalt not drink any soda.
I don’t know about you, but when I have a rigid dictate and I slip up, my dedication to the whole thing falls apart for a bit.
This is usually what it sounds like in my head: “I said I wouldn’t have pop, but I had that can of Coke yesterday after the race, so I may as well just give up this week and have whatever I want. I’ll start again with the ‘ban’ next week.”
My Former Life
In my former life, I worked in a legal role that found me writing a lot of procedures. I love writing procedures. It’s a weird thing to love, I know – I’m probably the only blogger who enjoyed writing her terms and conditions page.
I helped many business units write their procedures. Many resisted. They ‘wanted flexibility’ or they needed to be able to make exceptions. They didn’t want to document a procedure they knew they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) follow and feared that documenting one thing would prevent them from doing anything else.
Many were a bit baffled when I suggested building exceptions into the procedure.
Documenting under what circumstances exceptions could be made, including what factors should be considered when making an exception, and what the alternatives could be.
‘And what, exactly, does any of this have to do with a running blog?’ you may ask.
Fitness Goals And Exceptions
I was (unknowingly) using this skill set the first time I set up an exception to a fitness resolution. It came in the form of yoga classes.
I’ve found my interest in yoga is entirely teacher specific. Classes with teachers I liked were amazing. But after a series of terrible experiences with bad substitute teachers, I realized that a bad teacher would leave me bitter and hating yoga for weeks.
I once had a substitute yoga teacher mock my form in class. I’m not a yoga teacher, but I’m pretty confident that ridicule is not part of the standard yoga teacher training curriculum.
So I made a rule for myself. I would go to yoga two times a week, but if it was a substitute teacher, I gave myself a pass – I could skip class guilt free.
The damage a bad teacher could do to my psyche and confidence just wasn’t worth any vague notion I had of keeping an attendance streak alive.
Build In an Out
If you (like me) are prone to the ‘[email protected]#* it, I may as well forget the resolution entirely’ mindset after any minor slip up, consider building in some outs when establishing goals and resolutions.
Think of the times you will give yourself a guilt-free pass so you can cheat/skip/bail and still stay on track.
Do Ahead Of Time
Consider your situation, your goals, and the challenges you’ll likely face BEFORE you start.
If you don’t set this all up ahead of time, it is way too easy to reverse engineer an out whenever you want one.
This would totally defeat the purpose.
Consider areas where you may struggle or where you may have a negative reaction or response.
This takes a fair amount of self-awareness and introspection.
Think about past goals and resolutions where you fell off the wagon.
- What were the circumstances?
- Are there patterns to the events that caused a negative reaction?
Create Exceptions and Alternatives
Consider the areas that caused problems and create exceptions for them.
When creating exceptions, include the criteria you’ll use to decide if you’ll make an exception and alternative actions you can take that will keep you moving in the right direction (even if you aren’t following your resolution to the letter).
- I will go to the gym 3 time a week, unless one of my kids is home sick, in which case I can skip the gym. If skip the gym I will do a workout DVD at home or walk at least 15,000 steps.
- I will not eat out, except for the monthly girls-night-out dinner. However, I will suggest a restaurant I know has healthy options and I will not order dessert.
- I will go to yoga 2 times a week unless it is a substitute teacher, in which case I can skip class. If the substitute is one I know (and like) I’ll still go. If I don’t go to class, I will either do a yoga DVD or go to the gym and do a strength workout.
These exceptions should be just that, an exception.
If you find yourself invoking the exception frequently, it may be time to reconsider both the resolution and the exception.
Do you have any workout exceptions?