“Negative fitness” is a term I use to describe a situation where everyday life leaves you too exhausted to train. You miss training because you are too tired, and you become less fit - a negative cycle that can be frustrating and difficult to break. We’re talking unhelpful tiredness, examples of which include: long hours working on your feet, too little sleep, stressful drives in bad traffic, sleepless nights due to young or sick kids, staring at a computer screen for too many hours without getting up, and more hallmarks of our modern lives.
When you find yourself succumbing to the dreaded pull of negative fitness, here are a few ideas for making sure the training train stays on the rails in the midst of a busy life.
GOOD, BETTER, BEST. If possible, avoid pass / fail grading. When training feels black and white, just a few failures invite discouragement to set in. For each task, there is a level of success that will work if needed, one that would be preferable, and one that would be ideal. Keep yourself in the game by prioritizing 1-2 days with a little earlier bedtime, a little better nutrition, or just a little more time to fit your training in - even 10 minutes makes a difference. With a couple of decent or pretty good days each week, you can stay fit enough to have the opportunity for the occasional special effort.
BLOCK OFF THE TIME. This is easier said than done, but crucial. You’re likely a more productive,, encouraging, and patient person when you are feeling positive about your health and physical condition. Mary Wittenberg, former CEO of both New York Road Runners and Virgin Sport, recently advanced the idea of Fitness Time Off (FTO). Schedule your week with a time or two where you’ve committed to investing in your fitness. Is this possible every day? Perhaps not, but over the course of 168 hours each week, 1-2 hours may be.
KNOW WHAT GETS YOU DOWN AND WHAT CAUSES YOU TO SKIP. I really do not like running in the dark. Others are just not morning people, would prefer not to run alone, on the terrain around their home, or don’t relish training during their lunch break. Often we don’t know that these habits get us down until we take the time to think about it. Once you know what you don’t like, it’s much easier to make plans to maximize the type of training you do like.
GO POINT TO POINT. Commuting doesn’t have to only be for heading to and from the office. Drop a letter at the post office, or pick up a needed small item from the store. Run to, or home from, family activities where another can drive and you’d be sitting in traffic for the time needed for your run anyway. Even if your daily travel takes you farther away than is reasonable to run, get dropped off early and hoof it the rest of the way home. You may get the additional benefit of enjoying an area that wouldn’t be within your normal running radius.
SCHEDULE A GOAL RACE. Commit with a race entry, travel plans or other advance work and now you have an imperative. Having some skin in the game or a verbalized goal can provide the motivation to prioritize sleep, nutrition, and care for your body to be ready for the task, developments which are positive regardless.
Note: This is the third in a month-long series of blog posts as a featured coach on Strava. Hope you’ll follow along!