Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Keep the Momentum Going: It's a Holiday not a Holiweek

Well I guess Hanukkah is a week but generally most other special cultural or national events are 1 day, which is why we call them holi-days not holi-weeks.   Optimally a holiday gets stretched into a long weekend, which you can look forward to and get some extra rest and mental space from your routines.  For some, they get close to a holiday and allow themselves to get pulled off their path by every distracting event offered them and they quickly lose their motivation.  By all means enjoy your holidays, they are our designated days of relaxation, family and celebrating life, however be careful not to automatically check out of your healthy lifestyle for a holiweek as most anti-fitness long breaks start with a holiweek that snowballs into a holimonth or holiyear.

If you find you have used the holidays as an excuse for unhealthy choices, call upon the law of momentum and the principal of prevention to help keep you from falling off your horse and feeling guilty afterwards.  The law of momentum is an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion until acted upon.  What is true for physics is interestingly quite true for human behaviors as well.  When you workout, isn’t it easier to eat healthy?  When you are working out several times a week, doesn’t it feel almost easier to just stick with the routine and hit the gym again today?  Conversely, when you’ve really fallen off healthy eating or preparing food, it seems like such a chore to even choose to make a healthy home cooked meal one night.  This is true of almost any similar positive behavior, such as reading, meditating, cooking, talking to your parents, etc. When you’re doing it, it feels easier and enjoyable, but when you aren’t it feels like a huge effort to start it up again. 

I am no psychologist or biologist but I’d guess that making mental and physical routine changes actually require more energy.  It requires us to both face the unwanted behaviors we have been doing, generating guilt, lower self worth, etc. which are draining negative emotions.  It also takes physical energy to start exercising in higher volume and intensity again from the sedentary period.   And who hasn’t felt those pings of disappointment and discomfort as you get back in the shape you used to be in. Intuitively knowing this, we make an even bigger mental drama of starting back up so we procrastinate and sometimes wait for the perfect conditions to appear before restarting.   We’ve all done it, so no point in beating ourselves up, but we can learn how to just avoid them all together.  We do this by embedding the preventative mindset and switching our beliefs about our “breaks” from a healthy lifestyle.  As Philly’s own Ben Franklin said so perfectly, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The point is to see how much more mental and physical energy it takes to allow ourselves our holiweeks and big lifestyle breaks then it does to just keep our healthy habits going in maintenance mode.  We all are cyclical with our interest in fitness, even trainers, and life can get in the way.  However, the reason my coaching team is able to achieve such high fitness, health and physiques is very much due to our ability to keep the momentum going by slipping into maintenance mode rather than going on total hiatus.  This belief based steadfastness makes a huge difference in results.  You rarely ever slip backwards, so when you are really excited and motivated to work hard on your fitness, you are adding to your prior gains rather than clawing your way back to where you were.  Before I became a trainer, when I traveled around the world, I could have easily taken every day as a vacation, in places that I might assume didn’t have gyms, healthy food, etc.  Instead I did what I could, when I could (1-2x/wk) with running and body weight exercises, healthy eating and the occasional gym and I was happily to be able to maintain myself.  That is until I got to India with little money and could hardly find a clean surface to do a pushup, but I think you get the point… Keep the Momentum Going.  Around this holiday stretch this message is so critical because this is when the average American gains a pound or two each year that they rarely lose.  In ten years that could be 20 pounds “sneaking” on slowly but surely.

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