Escaping the Downward Spiral of Skipping the Gym

06.21.24 |

You might see yourself in this story:

A few difficult months at work have meant several weeks of going in early and coming home late. During the day, you barely leave your desk, and when you do, it’s to grab a quick bag of takeout and return to your keyboard so you can eat bites of a greasy burger in between answering emails. You push to hit as many deadlines as you can that day. You had intended to go to the gym, but it’s late, so you commute home instead.

Tired from the day yet still buzzing from stress, you go to the refrigerator and consider cooking dinner, but instead you grab a can of beer, collapse on the couch, and order Chinese food.

When work finally returns to more normal working hours — though you still find yourself spending more time at the office than you’d like — you consider resuming your gym routine but your back hurts from the long drive in and out of the city, and your desk chair isn’t helping. You decide to let that heal before trying to lift weights again.

One week turns to two. Two weeks turn to three. You keep feeling worse and worse. You’re so tired, your back pain has not improved, and now you’re gaining weight.

And that cycle continues to repeat, so each day that passes makes it harder and harder to return to building Habits of Health.

I hear variations of this story every day. A person might want to live a healthy active lifestyle, but their persistent pain and their low energy levels make it feel impossible.

If you are trying to jump from a lifestyle where you have little to no activity to a lifestyle where your day is filled with Habits of Healthy Motion, the chasm is always going to be hard to cross in one leap. Instead, use micro Habits of Health gradually reduce what can look like an immense challenge.

If pain or a lack of endurance is keeping you away from the gym, start with a light daily walking program and add steps over time. Depending on the nature of your pain, you could consider talking to a physical therapist and incorporating exercises that help to resolve the issue directly.

If a lack of energy or a general feeling of sluggishness is to blame, the micro Habit of Health of adding more steps to your day is also an answer here as exercise has been to help here as well. You should also look at your Habits of Healthy Sleep and your Habits of Healthy Hydration because the real culprits could be a poor sleep schedule or a lack of water in your system.

The micro Habits of Health of a few minutes of mindfulness meditation before bed and adding more glasses of water to your day (aim for 8) are small, manageable changes. These are not the herculean efforts of packing a bag and driving to the gym to lift weights for 45 minutes. These are an extra flight of stairs on your lunch break, a few quiet minutes of slow breathing, and a few more glugs from a water bottle.

Not so bad, right?

Though the accomplishments may look small on paper, a few small changes reverse your course. No longer are you spiraling, dragging yourself from tired day to tired day. You get to feel the pride of making healthy choices, and you start to feel the benefits. If you keep adding little changes to your day, you can create the active lifestyle you dream of and reach a healthy weight on the way.