For many of us, the winter holiday season is joyous and magical. This 6 week period is typically a combination of fun, nostalgia, and certainly an uptick in stress. The holidays, particularly the winter season, is unique in how it affects our perspective on health and fitness.
From the start of the season around Thanksgiving to its page-turning New Year’s conclusion, it’s enough time to alter routines and second guess life choices. Over the years I’ve heard many variations of similar thoughts from people during and after this season. We are all unique individuals, yet are so similar when it comes to insecurities and conceptualization of self.
As we move through the winter holiday season or if you happen upon this during another time and need a helpful perspective shift, I’d like to share a few points to help your mindset.
Exercise is neither punishment nor penance.
“I need to sweat this off.”
“This workout needs to kick my ass.”
“This is going to be brutal but I need it.”
We like eating cookies, enjoying homemade special dishes, and/or downing eggnog. What we don’t like is how we feel in retrospect. If we can’t change the past, what do we do? We use exercise to exorcise the demons of holiday sweets. I’m often asked do the ends justify the means in this case? In other words, if you’re exercising does the reason really matter that much? The answer is a resounding, yes.
If you are framing exercise as punishment or using it as penance for past deeds, then you are setting an unsustainable precedent. A strong relationship is founded and grounded in trust and consistency. You benefit from exercise when you commit to a healthier tomorrow, instead of making up for a less desirable yesterday.
You are an evolving process.
Speaking of a healthier tomorrow, let’s discuss the idea of a new you. Around New Year’s it’s a popular motivational heuristic to “turn the page.” We see and hear people wanting to be better or a new self. The concept is certainly enticing. Why bother working through challenges, when a fresh start is right there for the taking. However, as with most concepts, the theory is much different than implemented reality.
As soon as you buy a new car and drive it off the lot it becomes a used car. This rings true for you as well. If your only consistency is fragmentation then the process needs to be re-evaluated. Your mind keeps score and your body adjusts accordingly. Instead of using the New Year to start a journey towards a new you, look at it as an opportunity to audit your process. You are an iterative process. Take a look at the previous 3-4 years. What has worked for you in regards to health and fitness? What hasn’t worked? If you are like most, life has certainly thrown you some curveballs. Expect more of the same. Knowing that, make a plan that is built to help you iteratively improve towards a sustainable process.
You are the sum of your process. Make the process a priority.
Forgive, but don’t forget.
Lastly, I’d like to touch on the topic of personal guilt, remorse, and kindness. From my experience, each of us are our worst and harshest critics. Yes, you may have toxic people in your life that push your buttons. However, no one is in your head as much as you. So many of us hold on to “should and shouldn’t have’s” and limit growth because of road bumps along the path.
Don’t let the memory of a less than yesterday, keep you from the reality of a better today. If your process audit results are less than ideal, that’s ok. You probably already knew that. I know it’s a lot easier said than done to forgive oneself for past failures. You don’t have to forget. The iterative process is not easy, which is why it often works.
To move forward you must recognize that you will make similar mistakes that sidetracked you before. Life will inevitably challenge you. And once you have a process in place you will be able to adjust accordingly.
The long game.
Exercise, and training, in particular, are important aspects of health. We often call it an investment. Sure, there is typically a financial component. Our members pay Recharge to help guide and optimize their health. However, the investment metaphor is more accurate because of future gains.
Health is a game we all have to play, yet will never win. The investment you make is to improve and enjoy the journey you are on. We exercise and train for a better tomorrow. Once you buy into that concept, you can grow your investment portfolio with sleep, nutrition, social relationships, and self-care.
The human body is incredibly resilient and capable. Once it’s in sync with the mind, the possibilities are endless. All you need to do is optimize the process.
Dr. Gene Shirokobrod is the co-founder and CEO of Recharge. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.