People with a desire to get fitter, leaner and healthier are a determined bunch. A pursuit for muscle, strength and physique undoubtedly requires some sacrifices in order to ensure the longevity of the changes they seek. But one thing you should never sacrifice? Forgiving yourself – unconditionally.
Let me clarify: forgiving yourself doesn’t mean making excuses and trying to justify things that are rationally not helpful to your goals. Forgiving yourself won’t change the past. But it WILL free you from a cycle of regret, restriction and whatever behaviour it is you are trying to eliminate from happening over and over.
Life sometimes throws you a curveball and we don’t always feel equipped to deal with it. Sometimes – fitness and nutrition falls to the wayside. That is, unfortunately, how life happens to be sometimes, and that can be really demotivating. Nothing feels worse than to have built up to a goal and then feel like all of your effort has been thrown away. But I know that personally I wouldn’t appreciate my triumphs so much if I hadn’t had those battles with my weaknesses to look back on. And I also know that any mistakes we make never erase those triumphs – they’re just lessons we have to learn.
It can be very easy to let that slip into a free-for-all. Saying things like, “I’ve messed up, so it doesn’t matter if I do x, y and z as well,” or, “I knew I would never achieve this – I might as well give up.”
Even the often touted, “It’s okay, it’s a new day tomorrow!” can be unhelpful as the forgiveness is delayed and conditional. The ‘tomorrow’ implies everything today is an omission which can be made up for.
Forgiveness needs to be an immediate reaction. The ‘new day’ can begin right in the moment of struggle. 24 hours ago to this moment, it was another day. A new day starts the moment we need it in this respect, not necessarily when the sun goes down.
If you respect the way your body looks, it’s also important to respect your mind, as each reflects the other. The theory of cognitive primacy underpins how our cognitions (thinking patterns) affect our emotions and behaviours in positive or negative ways.
By empowering yourself mentally using positive cognitive strategies such as forgiveness, you will feel more motivated and able to achieve the goals you set yourself.
As the old tale goes with the tortoise and the hare, it is better to go slowly and consistently than it is to jump to extremes and burn out.
If you do find yourself ‘falling off the wagon’ and burning out like the hare often then your routine may also need tweaking to fit your lifestyle better. Trying smarter, not harder, is the way to go in respect to our physical AND psychological health. Pushing yourself beyond what is already difficult to maintain may only make your routine harder to follow and make burnout, and dropout, more likely. This does not mean you are inferior – it means you are human! Imagine you are an adventurer – if the path ahead looks impassable, don’t give up and go home – look for a better way around!
I have faced my own problems with my routine because of my eating disorder. I never have a problem with training, but diet-wise I can suffer immensely if I let my cognitions take the back seat. Immediate and unconditional forgiveness has been a key element in preventing me falling back into a disordered eating cycle. Being able to push any shame aside is key to making long-term changes. Many of my biggest fitness inspirations share their difficulties along these lines, and I find these revelations to be some of their most inspiring contributions, because it isn’t always the battles we can see that are the most difficult to win.
Always try to forgive yourself the moment you hit the floor. Not because ‘you can make up lost ground’, or because ‘you can exercise all those calories off’, or because ‘you can workout twice as long next week’. Forgive yourself because it is the key to moving forward at a consistent rate for the long term. Then stand back up and climb back on board and continue on your journey. Every fall is a lesson – and so in not letting a mistake disrupt your stride, you’ll beat all the hares who crash and burn their way to results instead of enjoying the process.