How to Keep the Light On: Staying Consistent with Your Fitness When Life Hits the Fan

July 28, 2023

This blog post was inspired by working through my own fitness journey when life has hit the fan and what I have seen and learned while working with clients the last few years as they have faced difficult seasons as well.

There’s a place for fun GRWM videos, “you just have to want it” motivational talks, and a plethora of exercise tutorial videos, but no amount of them are going to help you through when you are going through an incredibly trying situation while also trying to figure out how to keep your fitness routine afloat.

When I struggled with my fitness and wellness routine through a handful of devastating situations the last couple of years, I felt:

  • overwhelmed with the challenge of trying to stay on top of my fitness to not lose my progress
  • anxious because I knew I was asking too much of my body by continuing on the same pace
  • frustrated because I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be doing instead

I’ve watched my clients also walk through some pretty hard stuff: hurtful breakups, death and loss, anxiety-inducing job transitions, and emotionally and mentally coping with injuries.

I often work with clients and hear from potential clients who are going through something and want to wait until it’s over to begin working with a coach. And I hear you, prioritizing your fitness when life is really great looks very different than when you’re going through it. When you boil it down, they are really wondering: why work on something when I can only give maybe 50% effort to it, why not wait until I can give 100%? 

Here’s my question in response: how often in your life have you put yourself last to take care of a situation? Likely often? What if I told you there is a way to make sure that you don’t lose yourself in the process? What would your life look like for the rest of your life if you knew you could face anything that comes your way without losing yourself, particularly your health?

How do you keep some sort of rhythm in your fitness and wellness routine that gives space for your limited capacity without letting what’s hitting the fan also ruin your health?

I’m here to tell you that it IS possible to keep the light on. 

Let’s first define “emotional labor,” the work that you are doing that leaves you feeling like you have limited to no capacity for your fitness and wellness.

Emotional labor is working to regulate emotions through specific situations. 

If you have ever gone through it and have worked hard to show up well for those around you, for your job when your personal life is falling apart, etc., then you know it certainly is WORK. Emotional labor can even include feeling the responsibility of managing the emotions of others. You might carry a lot of this and not even realize it, whether it’s dealing with a demanding job, working through relational problems with a significant other or a friend, experiencing loss, processing trauma, etc. All of these circumstances require a level of emotional labor from you, and it can be exhausting, which can lead to burnout, anxiety, insomnia, depression, etc.

So how do you keep the light on when you are combating emotional labor?

Embrace coping strategies. 

Think through what you need to cope and what habits you already have in place, whether good or bad. It’s important to be proactive about them so you don’t fall into past behaviors that may not have been healthy or best served you. 

A couple of strategies that have worked for me and my clients include prioritizing mindfulness techniques such as journaling, deep breathing, and meditation and leaning on social support and asking those close to you to check on you and give support. 

Continuing with your fitness journey can serve as a powerful coping mechanism if done alongside other coping strategies. It’s important to make sure that your health doesn’t get caught in the crosswires, whether it be throwing yourself into super frequent vigorous exercise to give yourself some sort of control in your life (at the expense of your body) or the opposite and falling into a sedentary depression funk that may lead to binging.

The key is to focus on your specific goals or intentions through this season and to celebrate every milestone, no matter how small, as each step forward is significant.

Protect your mental space.

Pay attention during these seasons to what you are consuming on social media. Be aware of any comparative mindsets you might be taking on, especially in the fitness space. When you are going through an incredibly hard season during which it’s a fight to eat enough and/or sleep enough, for example, comparing yourself to others online does not serve you.

This is your reminder to stay in your lane, focus on what is realistic and attainable for you, and keep blinders on as you go through this valley.

Give yourself the grace to view your goals and intentions on a continuum.

Consistency doesn’t mean perfection; it’s choosing to not give up, no matter what your actions forward look like that day.

An exercise that I recently led a client through was creating her own spectrum of her goals. For example, what do her actions look like towards her fitness goals when she is at 100%? What is still creating forward momentum when she is at 50%? And what is the bare minimum she can do that still creates progress? We did this for nutrition, recovery, mental health, etc. I talk often about breaking the “all or nothing” mindset and it was helpful for her to view her goals on a sort of “dial” instead. 

The key is to allow yourself to be flexible, and if you are going through it right now, I highly recommend going through this exercise yourself. and also maintain a growth mindset in your fitness routine while also honoring that most of your attention is needed elsewhere. 

During these difficult seasons it might seem daunting to try to maintain a fitness and wellness routine, but it is precisely during these times that you can practice using coping strategies, protect your mental space, and practice giving yourself grace in order to keep moving forward.

You are strong.

You are capable.

And no matter what season of life you are in, you are deserving of self-care and personal growth. Sending you love today!

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