By Haley Perlus, Ph.D. Sport & Exercise Psychology, Certified Fitness Professional
We’ve all been there. A few fabulous days of healthy living and then — BANG — all of sudden life happens. A late night out with friends, a last minute business trip, or a sick child forces you out of your healthy lifestyle. You’ve either missed your training session or you simply don’t have the energy (or desire) to prepare a healthy meal. Either way, you’ve hit a wall and are having an “off” day.
Sometimes an off day is just that — one day off track and then you’re back to following your plan the next morning. Other times, it can take several days before you’re inspired enough to return to your healthy routine. It’s a vicious cycle, but it can be stopped.
As an expert of sport psychology, one of my objectives is to help my clients quickly recover from the off days we all inevitably experience from time to time. Here are three tools you can use right now to not only get switched back on during an off day, but also limit the amount of off days you experience altogether. The end result is that you’ll give yourself the greatest opportunity to follow through on your daily intentions and achieve a personal best mind, body and spirit.
1. Undervalue the bad times and overvalue the good ones.
We have been conditioned to harp on our mistakes and graze over our successes. It’s time to flip the switch and pay more attention to the things that bring us confidence so that we can continue to live a fun, healthy, and energetic life.
In sports, professional athletes and coaches often say that the person who wins is usually the person who can best recover from errors. Top athletes have learned to identify their mistakes, but instead of dwelling on them, they quickly learn from them and move on. They also take the time to pat themselves on the back for all of their achievements, both big and small.
When life gets in the way of sticking to your training or nutrition plan, take one minute for positive personal reflection. Identify the key things you could do better next time to prevent this off day. Then, focus on at least one achievement you have already made that day (or perhaps yesterday). Use your past achievement to give you the confidence you need to make your very next meal or training session a positive one.
2. Change the environment.
Having an off day can cause people to lose motivation to go for a run and eat their veggies. Instead, they crave instant gratification in an unhealthy chocolate chip cookie or an extra hour on the couch. Fortunately, there is an easy fix to this problem.
Research continues to prove that motivation and productivity increases with a change in the environment. In fact, a commonly used phrase in sport psychology is: “A change is as good as a rest.”
Any type of change, such as stepping outside for some fresh air, turning on motivational music, finding a new plant-based recipe, or getting off the treadmill and onto the elliptical can generate fresh motivation to help you keep moving forward towards achieving your goals.
Whenever you feel a lack of energy and inspiration, change up at least one aspect of your environment and experience what it’s like to have your batteries recharged and motivation restored!
3. Just move!
Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is get up and start to move. However, once you start moving, and dopamine and endorphins are released, you’ll find it much easier to keep going.
During off days, it’s less important to stick to your pre-planned program and more important to just get up and do something positive. If you really don’t feel like lifting weights, get outside and just start walking. If you don’t feel like spending 20 minutes in the kitchen preparing a healthy meal, grab something simple to eat (e.g. Vega One Meal Bar or piece of fruit) that’s still healthy.
Off days do not have to completely throw you sideways. With these three tools, you can quickly recover from an off day and keep moving forward with the confidence and excitement you need to live the life you want.