Tell me if this sounds familiar? You decide you’ll really step up your game and get a head start on the week’s craziness by getting in some exercise Sunday afternoon while things are still somewhat low key. But as you’re headed to the gym your middle-schooler remembers that he has a project due. The next day. That he hasn’t started yet. Oh well. But all is not lost because, you’ll be squeezing in a quick lunch run with a co-worker on Monday. But you walk into the office Monday morning to a crisis that simply cannot wait and you work through lunch and don’t get home until 7pm. Tuesday? The baby is sick. You’re working from home. Wednesday is soccer practices and gymnastics car-pooling after the office, and… oh yeah, you agreed to walk the neighbor’s dog when you get home at 9:30 tonight. Thursday there’s a crisis at mom’s retirement home and, by Friday? Why bother. Really. Throw this week out the window and go grab a bite to eat, right?
Well, a lot of fitness experts would tell you no. Never throw in the towel. Stay on your wellness game no matter what. And, as a general rule, that’s good advice because it will keep you on track through thick and thin. But I often wonder how many of these experts actually have kids. Me? I’ll be real honest with you and tell you that, as a parent – no matter how committed you are to your physical fitness – there are just simply times when life gets in the way. It happens. And it’s inevitable. So, what do you do? Here are three quick tips:
CUT YOURSELF SOME SLACK: Life, by definition, is crazy. And family life is even crazier, so it’s ok – from time to time – to just admit that sometimes life gets busier than any of us can handle. It’s perfectly ok to take a deep breath, sleep in, regroup, and come out swinging again when you’re ready. Don’t get down on yourself or feel guilty about it. In family life, having days (or even weeks or months sometimes) when “life happens” is just par for the course. Don’t sweat it. Seriously. Take it all in stride and make the best of it as you go.
BUT, DON’T GET LAZY: That said… don’t get lazy. Good habits are really hard to develop… and they’re really easy to lose. Bad habits are even harder to break. It’s amazing to me, when I’ve had one of those stretches where “life happened”, how hard it can sometimes be to get back on my wellness game. The human mind and body is incredibly adaptive, and (I’m convinced) lazy by nature. Don’t get lazy. (And I know you’re wondering where that line is when you’ve gotten lazy? Just be brutally honest with yourself and you’ll know right where it is.)
STICK WITH IT: When you look at your own wellness from a day-to-day or even week-to-week perspective, it’s easy to get discouraged sometimes. So look at it month-to-month. Or quarter-to-quarter. Are you able to run faster than a week ago? Maybe not, but if you’ve been committed than I bet you’re running faster than 6 months ago, right? Have you developed healthier habits than you had a month or two ago? That kind of longer-term perspective can feel good. So step back and take a longer view when you need to, and stick with it. As long as you’re making progress, you’re doing just fine.
Ben Murphy, founder of The Father Life, is an Adventure Athlete, Writer, and Wellness Advocate who used to be obese. You can ask him your questions at www.BenMurphyOnline.com. He lives in upstate New York with his wife and three daughters.