It happens to all busy working parents. You have a great workout routine and you’re firing on all cylinders, getting the gym on the regular and making gains. You’re meal prepping like it’s your part-time job and sticking to your established diet plan. You even make time to ensure you’re getting enough sleep. And then it happens. Work gets crazy. The kids go back to school with even more activities than they had last year. Maybe you even get sick. What inevitably follows is the train wreck that was your health and fitness progress. And while sometimes, you just have to let it go for a few days, it’s best not to let those few days turn into a few weeks or a few months!
It is possible to stay on track or get back on track quickly. It just takes focus and a positive mindset, as well as attention to what needs to be done. If you are committed to it, you will do it! Here are a few tips from my own experiences and that of others that might work for you, too.
- Try not to miss more than a week at the gym. If you have a regular exercise program, you know that it’s hard to get into a groove – a groove that is easy to fall out of, if you’re not careful. In my experience, a week is about the maximum I can skip before it starts to become a new routine. In fact, I usually take a week off for summer vacation with my family and find that I’m ready to go back after that full week away. But, if I take even a day longer, my motivation declines significantly. If I’m sick, typically I’m not down and out more than a few days and I take an extra day or two after that just to be certain before heading back. Don’t get me wrong. If your body and mind is telling you that you need a break, by all means take one. But have a re-entry plan in place so you don’t lose your workout mojo.
- Choose healthy foods even when you can’t meal prep. Meal prepping is probably the hardest part of sticking to a diet plan. It takes a ton of time and is usually the first thing to go when time is tight. I mean, it takes foresight, planning, money, time to prep and you need to have time to eat all the food even on the busiest days at work. I’m the first to admit I don’t always successfully plan. Or I’m famous for bringing my lunch and then not wanting it when noon comes around! It’s OK! But, try to make sure your replacement meals are as healthy as they can be. Avoid the fast food trap where you’re going out for fast food every day at lunch or ordering pizza for dinner. Try to hit the healthier establishments instead! And tell yourself next week will be better!
- Keep healthy snacks on hand that you love to eat. This will help you keep your calories up when you don’t feel like eating, as well as maintain your goals if you feel like eating all the junk. Items, such as protein bars, nuts, fruit bars and meal replacement shakes are perfect to keep on hand at the office. At home, always make sure there are more healthy snacks in the house than junk food. I try to have a 70/30 split in our home although sometimes it varies. We always have fruit, nuts, protein bars and cheese sticks. The kids will eat all those things and they’re healthy for us, too!
- Don’t stop documenting. Whatever system you have in place to keep track of your health and fitness goals, don’t stop writing them down and recording progress. Even if you fall off, mark that down. It will help you later when you’re goal setting. If you know where you tend to lapse and or the triggers that attack your goals, you can create mitigation plans for the future. It also helps keep you honest. If you have to write down that you didn’t drink enough water on a certain day, it holds you accountable to try harder the next day. Bullet journals or planners are my choice because the act of writing something down seems to make a stronger impression than a digital diary. Plus, I love crossing things off! And color helps me, too.
- Stick to your plan. If you can still get the gym and squeeze in even a shorter workout, do it. It’s better to show up and continue that habit than it is to just skip it altogether. You will feel better about yourself that you made that attempt even though you wanted to skip it! Same goes for meal prep. If you truly do have the time to do it, do it. Turn on the tunes, get your kids to help – anything to stick to that goal. If you still feel like you really just can’t, then do at least one thing. Sometimes all I can do is plan dinners for the week and grocery shop. Other weeks I can get through all the prep, hard boiling eggs, cutting up fruit, whatever it is that we’re planning. But, I try to do something. You never know. That one thing might turn into your normal meal prep session before you know it!
These are just some ways that I try to stick to a routine. It’s so easy to quit a routine cold turkey but it’s a bit harder, if you’re still trying to do something. The reward and accountability you’ll feel will motivate you to get right back on top of things. Also, don’t underestimate the power of friends and family to help you keep your eyes on the prize. Use that network and support as much as you can. It might just be the kick in the pants you need to get back on the health and fitness journey!