By Danielle Steffens
It’s an interesting concept. Why does a person do one thing and not another? Why do some things come easily while others are extremely difficult? How can the motivation feel so strong one second and then poof! In the next moment, it slips away and is gone for days.
Pre-quarantine, I had my workout routine on lockdown. I’d stop at the gym on my way home from work each day. It was automatic. A habit. And most days I was excited about it! Eager to see if I’d hit higher reps or lift a heavier weight.
Then quarantine came. Work from home became the norm and the gym was no longer in my daily path. A week later, it closed altogether! Workouts were limited to what I could do at home, without a barbell and without heavier weights to challenge myself.
For the first two months, I kept my workouts consistent through sheer willpower and the fantastic team at Platform Strength (you can get access to their live virtual workouts through EMPRESS).
Obviously, without access to heavier weights, the game changed and the goal was maintenance rather than building muscle. But the EMPack workouts were a fun and different kind of challenging and they kept my workout routine habitual.
However, after two months, my willpower was depleted. And with it went my healthy eating habits!
The EMPack OG and EMPack Nomad. These were lifesavers during quarantine!
Summer is now in full force and I want to be able to hike, backpack, and do all the outdoor activities that I love. I don’t want to be held back by my current fitness level.
So how do I get back to where I was? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself for the last couple of weeks.
The answer? Rebuilding habits.
Consistency is the hardest piece. It’s best to start small so there’s no excuse not to do it. Once the consistency is built and the habit is in place, the focus can change to improving it. Here’s how I plan to rebuild my fitness habit.
1. Pick an amount of time you can stick to each day.
My pre-quarantine workouts averaged two hours from warm-up to cooldown. That is much too ambitious for a starting point.
Instead, I’m going to start with 20 minutes a day. I can squeeze 20 minutes in before work, during lunch, or after work so this is the perfect workout length for me as I ease back in.
2. Pick a Time
The next important piece is to plan ahead for when the 20 minutes will take place. If I wait around for the mood to strike, it likely won’t happen so I pick a time either the night before or morning of and commit. Write it into your schedule in pen!
3. Pick an Activity
As I’m rebuilding my workout habit, I’m going to do whatever activity I feel like my body needs. Lifting, bodyweight workouts, HIIT, stretching, biking, walking, dancing, yoga—you name it. Anything goes as long as I’m moving my body!
It’s helpful to have a stash of workouts that I’m excited to try. If I’ve learned anything during quarantine it’s that there are so many free workouts at my fingertips! I can find plenty of options to keep me moving and keep me motivated. You can check out some of my favorites here.
So there’s the fitness piece. If after the initial 20 minutes I want to keep going, can I? Absolutely! But 20 minutes is a manageable amount of time I can push through even if I’m not in the mood. And that’s important. That’s how you build a habit—by holding yourself accountable even when you don’t want to.
The second habit I want to rebuild is my healthy eating. I just finished a brownie. Gluten-free and dairy-free, of course, but still a sugar bomb. And it’s 10 am. I haven’t even had breakfast yet. For someone with hypoglycemia, that’s the worst way to start the day!
A little chocolate torture for you. Sorry not sorry.
So how do I get my eating back on track? I’ve found if I do these four things, it’s much easier for me to stay in control.
1. Don't buy things you don't want to eat.
A sure way to not be tempted by something at home is to not have it at home! The easiest way for me to do this is to shop off a list and ONLY buy what I’ve planned for. I don’t even look at other things to see what’s on sale. If it’s not on the list, I don’t buy it.
2. Only buy one dessert food at a time.
I’m not a psychopath. I still put a dessert on the list. But it’s fruit for lunch and one sweet after dinner. And I portion out those desserts. Pan of brownies? Cut them up right away. Tub of ice cream? Measure out that half cup serving. Cookies? Stick them in the freezer and only pull out one a day.
Today will be rough because I already ate my brownie for the day. I’m regretting that decision. But you can be sure I’ll remember this torture tomorrow and make a better choice.
3. Don't buy snack foods.
The only time I need snacks is for a long hike or before an intense workout. When one of those is in my future, I’ll buy some snacks. I’m a salt addict as well so if I have chips around, one chip quickly turns into one bag of chips. No bueno.
4. Awareness is crucial.
It’s easy to overlook or misjudge what you’re eating when you’re not keeping track. The simplest tool I’ve found for food tracking is MyFitnessPal. When I’m trying to get back on target, I use this for a week to make sure I’m getting enough protein, not too many carbs for my activity level, and enough fat to keep me feeling full between meals so I don’t need to snack. After a week, my portions typically return to the appropriate levels and I stop tracking to avoid getting obsessive.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring. I’ve tried many new recipes during quarantine so I know there are easy, healthy, and delicious dishes out there that fit my needs and will help me reach my goals. You can check out some of my favorites here.
So there you have it! I want to be able to do the activities I enjoy this summer and I want to feel good doing them. This is how I plan to rebuild those healthy habits! I can do this. You can do this. We can do this.
Which leads me to my final tip.
If you’re having trouble keeping yourself accountable, tell a friend, or two, or ten what you plan to do! The more people you tell, the more likely you are to stick to it and form those good habits. Once the habits are in place, it gets much easier.
Get out there. Get moving.
Looking to take advantage of the beautiful summer weather and get outside for a workout? Check out my tips for hiking 14ers and what to pack!