Recovering From the Mental Aspect of a Fitness Program Relapse


Exercising several times a week usually, if done for a long enough period of time, becomes a habit. Maxwell Maltz, author of Psycho-Cybernetics, cited in 1960 that 21 days was the minimum amount of time needed for us to establish a new habit. Over the next 55 years, the phrase “minimum amount of time” was conveniently lost and most people now think three weeks is all it takes to form a new habit. Not exactly. So what do you do when your 21 days are up and your starting to relapse from your fitness program?

The more steps involved, the longer it takes to establish a new habit. Sometimes, it can take more than a year, depending on the desired habit’s complexity. Arguably, working out consistently is one of the most complex habits to try to get into. When we look at it like that, lapsing back into our old lifestyles doesn’t seem like such a big thing. As William Glasser, 20th-century psychiatrist and creator of Reality Therapy, said, “Good or bad, everything we do is our best choice at that moment.”

Now that it has happened, though, and we’re not working out as much or as often as we used to, what do we do about it? How do we get past the notion that we gave up?

Steps To Take To Recover From a Fitness Program Relapse

Fitness ProgramReview Your Goals

Has your physical condition changed? Has an injury happened? If so, maybe a physical re-assessment and/or an adjusted exercise program is in order. For example, perhaps the knee joints aren’t holding up as well as we thought they would, and running that 5K race is no longer a good idea. A change in goal is called for.

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Recommit to Results

Why did we start working out to begin with? Do we still want the results of our fitness program? This is NOT a justification for “the ends justifies the means.” Exercise binges and/or crash diets to make up for perceived lost time are neither healthy nor do they produce desired results. If we read our goals aloud, if only to ourselves and not necessarily to someone else, we refresh them in our minds. They may become important enough to take action on again.

Rally Resources

Time to consider all the help we can call on. The obvious ones are physicians, physical therapists, personal trainers, and nutritionists. Let’s dig deeper, though. What about massage therapists, psychotherapists, or workout buddies? A truly astounding number of people are glad to help. All we have to do is ask for it.

Another approach, for other-oriented individuals, is to be accountable to another. This may be as simple as walking the dog (we can be accountable to the dog) on a daily basis, or as complex as participating in a competitive sporting event. In the latter case, we would be accountable to other competitors, our cheering squad, and our financial backers if we have them.

Keep At It

There’s an old Japanese saying, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” This is a mind issue more than anything else. We are as close to our program as our next thought. Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never, give up.” We won’t.

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