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By Fitness team


Monday, July 21, 2008.


Does it sometimes feel like the world is out to sabotage your weight loss efforts? You stick to the plan for days on end then you get a dinner offer you can’t refuse. You buy only the foods on your low fat shopping list and your neighbour brings you back a box of chocolates from holiday.


Your train is delayed on the way home, you are starving and the only option is to buy something out of the vending machine (and we all know that means crisps or chocolate!).


What I’m trying to say is that life is unpredictable - no matter how much we try, we don’t know what challenges we are going to be up against on a day to day and week to week basis. This is particularly true when it comes to your exercise routine.


If you weren’t already exercising regularly when you started your online weight loss programme, it may have been the most difficult part of the plan for you to adapt to. Perhaps you always took the car, no matter how short the journey was. Perhaps you had a tendency to take the lift whenever possible. Or perhaps you hadn’t seen the inside of a gym since you were wearing a gymslip and plimsoles (yikes!).


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These ‘exercise avoiding’ habits are difficult to break. You are not alone if you have struggled to get started. As Mark Twain so accurately said, “Old habits cannot be thrown out the upstairs window. They must be coaxed down the stairs one step at a time.”


Once you do start to exercise however, within a few weeks it will begin to feel normal. You will have carefully reassessed your weekly schedule to fit in your regular exercise sessions by getting up an hour early, purchased your video tapes, joined the local gym or forfeited your lunch hour for an aerobics class.


All of these measures take a lot of effort. As a result, meeting your exercise goals becomes very important - and rightfully so.


A missed exercise routine may therefore leave you feeling panicked or feeling guilty. There is no need to beat yourself up. Soreness will happen and life will throw your otherwise foolproof schedule out the window (unlike the old habits!) – you may go on holiday, you may have a particularly heavy workload that keeps you in the office late into the evening, you may have to look after an ill family member, you may have indulged too much the evening before, you may even have simply pushed yourself too hard the day before.


The list is endless. Getting sidetracked from your exercise routine is common. However, you don't have to lose everything you've worked so hard to gain.


Look at the positive side:


1. If you hadn’t put so much effort into getting active you wouldn’t be so upset. You’ve obviously come a long way.


2. You had every intention of exercising but you can’t control everything. You didn’t do anything wrong.


3. So you missed your normal session – use this as an opportunity to find an alternative activity. Buy an exercise video as back up so you can exercise at home whenever you want to, walk into town for your shopping on Saturday instead of taking the bus. These are just a couple of the most easily accessible options for most people.


4. Hard-earned muscle does not degenerate into jelly overnight! In fact, it takes 72 hours for unused muscle to begin to atrophy (shrink in size and strength). That gives you three days to catch up.


5. Resting once in a while is good for muscle. If there is residual soreness that hasn't gone away, there may be low level inflammation and tears that are keeping the muscle from getting stronger.


6. A break may actually boost your energy levels. If you have been diligently working out and find that you are low on energy, you may benefit from occasionally taking a break. A short break can actually get you back into your routine stronger than ever.


7. If you're a frequent exerciser (five or more days a week), a day off once a month from your regular routine can allow your body time to refuel lost glycogen stores that may need replenishing.


The key is to recognise a break from routine as what it is – just that. It doesn’t jeopordise the habits you have developed. What really matters is how quickly you can get yourself right back on track.


Think about how important exercise was to you before the break, remember how much you enjoyed it and remember the benefits you saw in your body and in your mental outlook. Then…just do it!


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