Just about seven weeks ago, I asked you to consider taking some time off. To think about letting go a little bit for the summer. Resting. Trusting. Did you give yourself that space?
I truly hope you did. I hope you had an amazing summer filled with all the things you love and even more of the things you enjoy. I hope you let your vacations be actual vacations. And I hope that even if it only looked like a week or two of a looser routine, it provided you with some of the perspective and growth that comes from taking a break. And maybe some renewed motivation for your next season of life.
For many of us, that season is Fall. I can scarcely believe it, but Labor Day is this weekend, most kids are back in school, temperatures are already dropping, and my desire to wear overalls and plaid is ramping up. Many times, as we say goodbye (for now) to the breeziness of summertime, we also start to feel a bit more receptive to settling in for a period of focus.
I know I’m zeroing in on a few things, especially work-related things. I’ve got three talks at events coming up, I’ve taken on several new clients, and I’m continuing to build relationships to increase that flow. I’m in the second phase of a great training program, I’m being thoughtful about nutrition. I’m also setting aside some time for growing my faith in more intentional ways.
In my experience, it’s just a beautiful, natural time to prioritize health – mind, body, and spirit. When it comes to our physical health, that can look all kinds of different ways for all kinds of different lives. Maybe a little like actually making a list and grocery shopping. A few less burgers-and-ice-cream meals. Getting back outside for regular walks or runs or bikes. Ramping up on a lifting goal or strength training program. Meeting up with friends for classes more regularly.
Believe it or not, Fall is an ideal time for planting seeds. Still, that can feel like starting all over, especially if the break from the planting was extended.
Sometimes, the transition or re-entry feels easy. But sometimes, it feels jarring to go from freedom directly into a rigidity. Like you need an extra step, or a little bit more of a guide to go from totally footloose to thoroughly consistent with less resistance. (I didn’t realize that was going to rhyme so well, but here we are.)
I totally get that. There have been times in my life when I’ve been ready to jump wholeheartedly into the next thing, and there have been plenty of times when I’ve kicked and screamed my way to whatever it was, even if I wanted it.
So how do you make that whole process easier?
Well, hey. First of all, decide what “it” what “that” what “the thing” really is. Decide what you want. It may be what you wanted before the chaos of summer hit. It may be something different right now. Explore it. As some questions. Dig a little deeper than, “I need to get back in shape!”
Did you take off for vacation or fall into summer in the midst of a program you really liked? Do you want to go back to that? Is now a good time to try something new? What would that new something look like? Do you want to gear up or gear down into a new phase of effort, or work toward an entirely different goal? How do you want to feel?
Before you just walk back into the gym, or jump into whatever, it’s in your best interest to have a plan. But knowing specifically what you’re shooting for in the first place will better shape the path to get there, and set you up for the success you’re looking for and the way you want to feel.
Once you’ve decided on the priority, start with small bites. Even if your vacation or summer was an active or healthy one, it can feel totally different to be active and healthy in the ways that fit into at-home life. As you get back into your routine, don’t worry too much for the first week or two about getting exactly back to wherever you left off – start with smaller bites that fit your schedule. 10- or 20-minute walks or workouts or bursts of movement, just a few days a week is a great start, no matter what goal you’ve decided on. It’ll prime your body and your brain to get back into more structure, more regularly, and be much less jarring or overwhelming.
Same goes for eating, if that’s a thing for you. You don’t have to go straight to chicken and rice. But you can start to empty your pantry of super-extra-fun-foods. Capitalize on all the delicious fruits that are coming into season right now. Choose just one habit to focus on for the next month.
Here’s the thing: It might be tempting to pick up on a program or workout routine right where you left off. Or to go straight to the newest diet craze. We always want to go back to “used to.” Stop right there and don’t, though, OK? Resist the urge and opt to ramp it up instead. It’s entirely possible that you could make that abrupt change easily, you’ll likely feel better, stronger, and less overwhelmed if you ramp up instead. You’ll also be way more likely to stick with it long term if you’re more thoughtful about how you initiate things.
For instance, in a strength training program, you might start by dropping 1-2 sets from your usual training, depending on the volume of your workout program, and backing off on your effort just a bit. Or go only one or two days to class instead of three or four. Try that for a week or two. Not only will it feel better physically, but it’ll help cushion the impact of inserting this time back into your schedule too. By easing back into things, you’ll be at full tilt in no time with a lot less fatigue.
One more thing that might make your transition feel more comfortable is to set a date. While there’s nothing magical about it, sometimes picking a Monday, or whatever certain day, just feels easier. Give yourself a few days to continue to rest and recover – take a vacation from your vacation! savor a few days to yourself with the kids back in school! – and make an appointment with yourself for that first gym date. Or the day you’ll start your new menu. In giving yourself a few extra days of freedom, you’ll likely find yourself looking forward to that first workout back. Or, believe it or not, to that first batch of roasted veggies.
Really, these ideas are applicable to anything in life. They could be applied to starting a job search or a business, or embarking on a personal development journey, or revisiting or beginning a hobby or skill. Even with what I’m focusing on now in work and life, it feels a lot like a bucket of cold water over the head after taking a nice nap poolside. So I’ve been using these concepts to build back up, making sure of what my priorities are, and then being intentional about setting myself up to be able to put my most attentive and effective effort toward the process of making those priorities a reality.
That meant picking a date that I would get back to work in earnest. It means getting back in the office a couple of days a week instead of working at home every day where I can more easily let myself off the hook. Setting more meetings. Crafting a digital minimalism manifesto. Planning my workouts and meals in advance and not buying anymore damn chips. Joining a small group at my church.
Knowing what we want is first, but facilitating the process in a way that makes sense for our lives and feels good is the best way to actually get it without feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or discouraged.
Transitions or re-entries can feel challenging, especially when it’s often implied they should be so easy, that we should just be able to snap our fingers and be back to “normal” and have everything handled and optimized (God, I hate that word) and make progress immediately. I believe that’s even more the case in the health and fitness space. But in all of it:
Take the pressure off. Start where you are, not where you were. Plant the seed. Do what you need to do, not what you think you need to do.
Remember, you get to choose. That includes choosing what you want for yourself, how you want to feel, who you want to be. And it also includes choosing your process for making that happen.
If you need a little help figuring out your process in any part of your life right now, that’s my specialty. I can help you clarify your priorities and craft the plan to make them a reality. Email me anytime, or set up a call below to chat about how we can do this together.