Down and Out?
Often times when things are going well for you, everything seems to be going well – the sun is shining, you’re doing well at work, and your personal life rocks! You have an extra bounce in your step. Everything seems to make sense and seems so easy and simple to do. You are high on life and your confidence level is just as high. We all experience those moments. Some of you may attribute your recent success to your awesomeness; or you may think you’re just running on a lucky streak. You are also probably well-aware by now that that feeling of elated happiness doesn’t last forever and usually is followed by a time of ‘lows’. Some of you may even be so used to this cycle of ‘highs & lows’ that when you’re in the middle of a ‘high’ time, you start thinking to yourself, “Oh no! When is this great run I’m on going to end and how bad are things going to get?”
As we all know, life will have its ups & downs – that’s nothing new. What you don’t want happening is to let the downs be perceived worse than they actually are and then having that magnified by your actions. To give you a simple example of what I mean, it’s like when you lose a game of tennis and think to yourself; you suck and you shouldn’t really be playing tennis because you just don’t have the talent for it – then quitting the sport and not playing again. That may sound like an overly dramatic example, but that actually happens a lot. You’re in a rut and it’s lasting for more than just a tennis match. In fact, it’s lasting for over a week and you still can’t seem to shake this dry-spell. You may even start to feel down and depressed and although the winter definitely has a contributing factor with its shortened days and limited sunlight (SAD), I am excluding this part from this post as it doesn’t really pertain to what I’m talking about.
Then something happens and things get better again. You don’t really know what shifted your mood but you’re happy again. It’s cyclical, isn’t it? You probably think you have no control over it, and so you ride out the highs and lows like a life raft lost at sea – going up and down with the tides.
Well, guess what – training is the same.
You’ll have good days and you’ll have bad days. Some days you’ll be able to do more than you ever have – reaching personal bests and feeling extremely focused and IN THE ZONE (more about being in the zone in future posts!). Other days, you’ll be completely out of it – not focused at all, feeling lethargic, barely able to do half of what you normally could.
And then there are the times when you get completely derailed from your training routine. Perhaps due to a 2 week work trip, or maybe due to an injury like a pulled muscle or a sprain. Or maybe it’s the holiday season when you’re going to Christmas dinners every night for 2 weeks and you party and stop exercising completely (does this sound familiar?). These are the times when hope sticking to your training regime usually collapses. And for good reason too. You’ve practically lost all momentum; all the muscles you’ve worked so hard to gain, all the conditioning you’ve done to get yourself fit has pretty much dwindled away. That is, unfortunately, caused by the adaptability of your highly efficient body trying to re-allocate resources within your body where they are needed most. So if you stopped exercising, your extremely expensive muscle tissues will be stripped down and the amino acids used to build them will be sent back into amino acid pool where they will be recombined for other uses. That is actually a good thing; your body is constantly on auto-pilot, balancing the internal environment with the external environment. The bad part is that you now are weak and out of shape again and the inertia to kick-start seems even heavier to overcome than when you first started. Life sucks again.
Well, I’d like to present a new way of looking at this bleak picture. This is what I often tell my private clients when they train with me because they also experience bad runs when they feel like giving up on the program and going back to DVDs and fast food instead of training and eating well.
Training and fitness is like the stock market index.
There will be periods of ups and downs. The lows may even seem like they are endless and unrecoverable that span weeks or months even, but if you look at the stock market index for the long-term, say 5, 10 or even 15 years, they always track upwards. That’s how you should look at your training and fitness. It’s something that’s a part of your life and as long as your health is tracking upwards, you are doing well. Don’t let the downs get you down and more importantly, don’t let them make you give up.
So you go out binge drinking at Yongkang Road Friday night, and had McDonalds at 5am; shake it off and go do your Sunday workout. You may only be able to do 70% of what you normally do, or maybe you can only do half the workout. A couple of days later, you’ll be at 85% and then 100% a week after that. Two weeks after that, you may be doing more than you ever have. But if you took the other fork in the road and decided you didn’t want to do the Sunday workout because you know you will suck and you don’t want to do worse than your usual performance, you may go down a very slippery slope that may last a week or even more of skipping out on your workouts.
Momentum is a magnifier. It can carry you forward into leaps & bounds of progress, or it can beat you down and make it even harder to start. Manage your psychology to manage your momentum. Know that even if you do fall down that slippery slope of not exercising for over a month, that you can start the routine again and make gains almost immediately.
Think long-term. Don’t let the recent downs hold you down. They will pass and you will rise up again and be worth even more than before. Always be tracking upwards.
See you in class – yes, even after your Christmas dinner.