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3 Ways to Get Back on Track During an Off Day

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By: , – Haley Perlus, Ph.D.
3/27/2014 12:00 AM   :  14 comments   :  15,136 Views

We’ve all been there. We had a few fabulous days of eating healthy and exercising and then—BANG—all of a sudden life happens. A late night out with friends, a last-minute business trip, a sick child at home. You’ve either missed your designated time for fitness or you simply don’t have the energy to prepare a healthy meal. Either way, you’ve hit a wall and are having an off day. Sometimes it can take several days before you find yourself inspired enough to give your nutrition and exercise program another shot. It’s the vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting at its best, but it can be stopped.
 
As an expert of sport and exercise psychology, one of my objectives is to help my clients work through the off days we all inevitably experience from time to time. Here are three techniques you can use right now to not only get switched back on during an off day, but also to limit the amount of off days you have altogether. The end result is that you’ll give yourself the greatest opportunity to follow through on your daily goals and achieve your personal best mind, body and overall spirit. 
 
1. Undervalue the bad days and overvalue the good ones. Many people have been conditioned to harp on their mistakes while quickly moving forward from their successes. Consequently, this way of thinking and behaving robs them of the opportunity to develop maximum confidence—a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle.

In sports, professional athletes and coaches will often say that the person who wins is usually the person who can best recover from errors. Top athletes have learned to identify their mistakes, but instead of dwelling there, they quickly learn from them and move on. They also take the time to pat themselves on the back for all of their achievements.
 
It’s okay to strive for perfection, but as soon as you start demanding it, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. When life gets in the way of following your diet and fitness plan to a ''T,'' take five minutes for personal reflection. Remind yourself that it’s OK if things don’t go 100 percent according to plan. It's helpful to identify the things you could better control for next time, but then quickly move on and focus on at least one achievement you have already made that day (or yesterday if it’s first thing in the morning). Taking your focus away from the negative and toward your personal strengths and accomplishments will create a boost of positive energy for finishing the day with a success.

2. Change your environment. When people have an off day, they are experiencing a reduced level of motivation for healthy living. Fortunately, there is an easy fix for this problem; research continues to prove that motivation and productivity increases when our environment changes. In fact, a commonly-used phrase in sports psychology is, ''A change is as good as a rest.''

Any type of change, such as stepping outside for some fresh air, turning on motivational music, finding a new healthy recipe, or getting off the treadmill and onto the elliptical can generate fresh motivation to help you stay on track with your diet and fitness plan. Whenever you feel a lack of motivation for your healthy lifestyle, change up at least one aspect of your environment and experience what it’s like to have your batteries recharged and motivation restored!

3. Just move. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is get off the couch and just start to move. However, once you start moving and the dopamine kicks in, you’ll find it much easier to keep going. During off days, it’s less important to stick to the pre-planned exercises or routine and more important to just get up and do something. If you really don’t feel like lifting weights, get outside and go for a walk. If you don’t feel like spending 20 minutes in the kitchen preparing a healthy meal, choose something simple to eat (that’s still healthy).
 
The next time you experience an off day, challenge yourself to commit 5-10 minutes to taking action on one of the three techniques above. Once you start moving, you’ll experience an amazing shift in energy, focus, confidence, and overall commitment to your healthy lifestyle.



With a Ph.D. in sport and exercise psychology, Haley Perlus is a professor, published author, international speaker and peak performance consultant. For more free tips, go to
www.DrHaleyPerlus.com.


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Comments

  • 14
    I had to really force myself the other day to exercise even for 10 minutes. I felt much happier. It was tough to fight through the sadness, but it was worth it. :) And totally true about harping on your bad days. That has tripped me up more times than I can count. - 6/1/2014   12:51:03 AM
  • 13
    This article is exactly what I needed. Tough weekend, both in-laws hospitalized, then kids ball games, then Mother's Day, long tough weekend. I did push myself yesterday, and got in a great workout of jogging, abs and weights. But yes I had to really push myself to do it. - 5/12/2014   9:14:35 AM
  • 12
    Sometines we get to caught up saying tomorrow, I'll start over and it never happens. This article is very helpful to my situation. - 5/6/2014   1:13:14 PM
  • 11
    This was my story yesterday! Am so I am glad I found this article today. Went to work the other night thinking I was only going to be there for a 4 hour evening shift and ended up having to stay for a full 12 hour night shift. That meant I was up for 36 hours, didn't have food packed and was at the mercy of the snack cart for my meal. Came home exhausted, made some poor food choices and fell into bed. Thankfully I was able to start over when I woke up! - 5/2/2014   1:33:22 PM
  • 10
    This was good advice. I'm pinning this one. - 4/10/2014   10:08:47 AM
  • WICKFORD64
    9
    And if you need some more motivation, how about this great story: pazoo.com/fitness/boston-bombing-vi
    ctim-makes-amazing-recovery/ - 4/4/2014   8:52:44 PM
  • GR8GERRY
    8
    Thank you dr haley for your inspirational article. This will help my wife and I as we get healthy for our children.

    Just fyi the link here to your website does not work? I had to paste it into a browser - Nice website too (btw)! - 3/28/2014   2:55:26 PM
  • DRHALEYPERLUS
    7
    Hi, Dr. Haley Perlus here. I have read all of your comments and I'm happy to have been able to provide you with some helpful tips for achieving your SparkPeople goals! I have personally used all of these tips for my own success which is why I trust they will work for you too:-). - 3/28/2014   1:36:09 PM
  • 6
    Thank You! Great information to know and utilize next time I experience an off day! - 3/27/2014   9:23:57 PM
  • 5
    Need to come re-read this from time to time! - 3/27/2014   8:42:02 PM
  • 4
    Easier said than done. I will give these a try though. I know working out in the morning is best for me. Harder to do when I have to be to work at 7am though - 3/27/2014   6:13:51 PM
  • 3
    I really need to pay close attention to both of these. I am in such a rut right now. I feel like I am at loss. I feel like I have failed myself. - 3/27/2014   5:58:27 PM
  • 2
    Today I experienced the shift from a change in environment! #1 seems brilliant to me and like Beingerin, love it! - 3/27/2014   5:41:04 PM
  • 1
    I love the "Undervalue the bad days and overvalue the good ones," tip. This is what I have been striving to do since I started with Spark People. This gives me a great mantra-style encapsulation of what I am working toward. It feels SO much better than focusing on the negative.

    Rock on Spark People! - 3/27/2014   11:05:48 AM

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