Managing Exercise Expectations

At this time of year many of us are still keenly focused on new years resolutions for improving our health and happiness. Whether we’re looking to lose weight, reduce reliance on medications or improve mood, exercise is often central to our goal of better managing our health… But we all know maintaining an exercise habit is hard!

In last weeks blogs we talked about the importance of knowing yourself and consciously setting a realistic exercise plan you can stick to AND that’s fun enough for you to want to stick to it! But somewhere in there we have to also face up to the fact that life often gets in the way and that our best laid plans often go awry. So we also need some contingency plans and to manage our expectations of what we can realistically expect ourselves to achieve in the context of real lives filled with family and work commitments.

It’s really easy to become disheartened when you don’t achieve a goal you set yourself but an exercise plan shouldn’t be a short-term, quick fix but rather a routine we aim to maintain for the long-term. I’m talking years or decades…so when you miss a session, a week or even a month… zoom out, shift your attention to the big picture a see the potential of what you can achieve, even when the wheels fall off for a bit.


Do what you can, let go of what you can’t

It can be tempting to think “I haven’t done what I set out to do” and to feel guilty about this. You might feel “I only did 10 minutes of my 30 minute session, I might as well have not bothered.” This is a small success in itself, acknowledge the dedication it takes to salvage an opportunity when your plan is derailed. Not only have you done 10 minutes more than if you hadn’t bothered, the research clearly shows you can make real gains with as little as 10 minutes of exercise at a time. In fact, as little as 3 minutes improves health and decreases the risk of chronic illness so if all else fails a few planks and squats before bed can help you salvage something from even the worst wreck of a day.

Remember that establishing a habit takes time, so keep in mind your successes when thinking about what didn’t go to plan. Perhaps make a list in your activity diary about some of the positives you get from each training session.

Consistency is key

You may sometimes feel you “haven’t worked hard enough” during a session. When managing fatigue, it is important to exercise to your tolerance at that time, not how you felt yesterday or even 4 hours ago. Much like “do what you can, let go of what you can’t,” only work as much or as hard as you feel you can. You may want to leave a little in the tank so you can do your normal daily activities like shopping, cooking or hanging out with the kids. Those things matter too.

Much of your gains will be made from doing a little bit each day. Too much on one day might mean taking more time off for recovery, which can make it a challenge to get back into the groove again.

It’s ok to have a bad day

Sometimes, nothing feels right or goes to plan, and that’s ok. Everyone has those days (even if you feel you get more than your fair share). When this happens, feel free to write the day off. Do what you can’t avoid, but take some time out to relax. Life’s challenges are better addressed when you’re fed, watered and rested, so do all those things and leave any major tasks until the next morning. Maybe write a list of what’s bothering you but put it aside to read (and solve) the next day. This can also help you sleep, as you no longer have to worry about forgetting what to worry about!

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