Fall Off the Wagon? Here Are 3 Ways to Get Back on Track

It happens to the best of us. A few great weeks of following your fitness and nutrition plan and then—BANG—life happens. A late night out with friends, a last-minute business trip, a sick child at home, or something as simple as a bad mood can derail you. Maybe you missed your fitness session or you simply don’t have the energy (or desire) to prepare a healthy meal. Regardless, you’re having an “off” day.

Sometimes an off day is just that: one day off track. You wake up the next morning back to being motivated and focused on your goals. Other times, it may take several days to regain your fitness mojo. Off days can be vicious—but they can also be stopped.

As an expert of sport psychology, one of my objectives is to help my clients quickly recover from these off days. Here are three tips you can use 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 stick to your daily intentions and get the body you want and deserve.

1. Change the Internal Conversation

We have been conditioned to harp on our mistakes and gloss over our successes. It’s time to change the internal conversation 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 and energy you need to make your very next meal or training session a positive one.

2. Change the Environment

Having an off day can cost us the motivation to exercise and eat healthy. Instead, we crave instant gratification in an unhealthy, overflowing bowl—or carton—of ice cream or an extra hour on the couch. Fortunately, there is a quick fix to this problem.

Research continues to prove that motivation and productivity increase with a change in 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, or finding a new healthy recipe, can spark some motivation to move forward toward 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. Use the “Just Move for Five Minutes” Rule 

Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is get up and start to move. However, once you start moving, it releases feel good, motivating chemicals like dopamine and endorphins. When this happens, you’ll find it much easier to keep going.

During off days, make a deal with yourself to commit to five minutes of fitness. Most often, five minutes is all it will take to get the heart pumping and the energy flowing, inspiring you to stay for the entire training session. Also, it’s okay if you don’t have 100 percent effort to give that day. If you only have 50 percent, do your best to exert all of it. I guarantee you’ll be proud of yourself and your off day will be long gone.

For nutrition, if you don’t feel like spending 20 minutes in the kitchen preparing a healthy meal, commit to grabbing something simple to eat that’s satisfying yet 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 you moving forward with your fitness goals with confidence.