I am pretty sure you have heard the phrase:
“Fitness is a way of life” or the old time favorite “Fitness isn’t a phase it’s a lifestyle”.
DISCLAIMER: Please BE ADVISED THAT THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS OPINIONATIVE IN NATURE. THE EVENTS AND ADVICE DESCRIBED IN THIS ARTICLE IS BASED OFF OF THE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF THE WRITER AND SHOULD NOT BE USED TO TREAT, DIAGNOSE OR BE REPLICATED IN ANY FORM.
Okay, I might have butchered that last one but you get the jist of what I am trying to say. Once we get introduced to the fitness world, whether it’s through sports, traditional gyming or resistance training, CrossFit, swimming, running or cycling, pilates, yoga or even just joining your local walking club - It has a drug like effect on us. We literally get addicted to how it makes us feel.
Now, I know this isn’t the same for everyone and their respective experiences with exercise and fitness, but this is generally the rule of thumb for most fitness enthusiasts. Fitness almost engraves itself in our lives.
And in a world filled with uncertainty, ups and downs, pandemics and economic recessions there seems to be many factors that can threaten our ability to maintain a constant and consistent fitness based lifestyle.
What do we mean by that? Well, let’s look at a calendar year for example, out of the 52 weeks the average person might be physically active through 40-45 of those weeks. Obviously some are more active than others and some people get far less exercise throughout the year; but this is a general outlay for the most part for the average person.
That being said, if you were to take a deeper look at those 40-45 weeks you will quickly realize that despite the overall amount of weeks painting a constant picture of fitness, the actual consistency was far from ideal.
Because something being a constant doesn’t necessarily mean that it presents linearly. And that is ultimately the point we are trying to make here - Life happens.
Injuries happen, we get sick, pandemics rage the globe, family holidays or work related commitments, exams and everything that school or college throws at you on a weekly basis. All of these factors or events can knock you off your fitness stride affecting your consistency despite being able to maintain a good life-fitness balance through any given year.
Ultimately, life affects us all in different ways and unfortunately this sometimes means we need to sacrifice our fitness in order to achieve certain goals in other areas of our lives. And when that happens, getting back into the routine of things is one of the hardest things to do. It will challenge both physically and mentally to the point where most people let themselves go for an extended period of time or even actually give up on their fitness lifestyle completely.
Now don’t panic, this is why we are here! This article is going to provide you with a blueprint on how to bounce back when you get knocked off your fitness saddle. We are going to take a look at my own personal story and how it inspired me to write this article as well as common roadblocks that you might encounter on your fitness journey- And how to kick their butt and get back on track as fast as possible!
My Story: How I went from lying on my deathbed to being able to run again.
Disclaimer: The story below is based on my personal experience and my opinion. This should be interpreted to treat or diagnose any form of disease or ailment.
At the end of 2019 we were all hearing whispers of an outbreak of some type of virus in China. Now I know most of us didn’t take it that seriously as we thought it was just another Ebola, Swine flu or Bird Flu situation. You know where the outbreak sparks global panic but ultimately the disease gets contained to a certain area or region in the world never really affecting us or anyone we know. But boy were we wrong, as I do not need to tell what happened the following 18 months. Now fast forward to the beginning of 2021, there are vaccines in circulation, lock-downs are being lifted, traveling resumes, sports and recreational activities are a thing again all in all life looks to be trending in the right direction.
For myself, I was at the height of my career, planning a wedding (and by planning I mean staring at my fiancé’s pinterest boards trying to figure out how many shades of purple exist) and to be honest life was just really really good. And then I caught the VID’. The big C word that for all intensive purposes we’re not going to mention by name. It’s kind of like Voldemort from the Harry Potter series - The disease that shall not be named! But jokes aside this what I am about to tell you guys is life threateningly serious. Yes, I can joke about it now but at the peak of my bout with the VID’ I found myself facing my own mortality.
Look, I am not trying to be overly dramatic here, I am simply telling it how it is… I was 12 hours away from dying. Yes, the doctors weren’t very optimistic and had to be realistic of my chances of survival. Now why is all of this relevant to this article. Well, during the time I was so sick I found myself trying to figure out why I had gotten sick to the extent where I am busy fighting for my life. I mean I was super active, training 6 times a week, playing amateur rugby and futsal weekly, had a decent high protein diet plus I am 28! I am supposed to be least at risk to this pandemic and yet there I was gravely ill wondering if I’d make it out alive… I did. Barely. I came out of the hospital not being able to walk, yes you heard me, I had to learn to walk again. I couldn’t hear or smell or taste properly. I needed to sleep on an oxygen machine for just over 30 days. I was at rock bottom.
Now 4 months later, after being diagnosed with long haul VID’, having a myriad of symptoms such as muscle wasting and atrophy, permanent lung damage, cognitive dysfunction, loss of perception and or spatial awareness, excess weight gain induced by prolonged use of corticosteroids and a significant loss of strength - I now have to start over. Not from scratch, I wish I was starting from scratch, I am starting below that, my mind and body has completely lost touch with what fitness is, was and what it felt like. It felt like I was trying to learn how to swim, in the ocean during a thunderstorm, wearing a lead apron and both my arms were tied behind my back. The task in front of me was daunting - beyond measure.
I found myself delaying my return to my fitness lifestyle as I was so frustrated. I mean, I was strong, fit and had decent aesthetics. All of that was gone, the anxiety this induced kept me from getting back at it for quite some time. And I am sure most of you reading this article have found yourself in this position before, maybe not to this extent or maybe even worse than I had it. But regardless of the situation the overall consensus remains the same - THIS SUCKS!
Starting over sucks. And I don’t blame you for wanting to quit, I almost did. Why would you want to put yourself through all of that again? But in the end I asked myself whether fitness was a key factor in my life? Could I realistically live a balanced and healthy lifestyle without being physically active? No, the answer is and will always be no.
And so I made the decision to try again. But I knew I needed a plan, because everything I knew relative to training and my current ability compared to my previous capabilities was and is null n void. I had no point of reference to pull from, so I needed a new approach.
I am really not trying to bum you out with this article, but what I am trying to do is show you that we all go through setbacks. We all find ourselves lost trying to figure a way out of the slump we find ourselves in… Whether it’s self induced due to a lack of internal motivation or externally forced upon you through injury or an unexpected life event. Regardless of your specific situation we hope, or at least I hope, to inspire you just enough to get going again.
Why decided to take a conservative approach: The risks of doing too much too soon.
Disclaimer: Always consult your physician regarding your specific circumstances. The below statements are of an opinionative nature and should not be used to diagnose any form of health condition.
Have you ever found yourself fed up with your situation? Ready to tackle the elephant in the room?
“I’m starting on Monday!” Yip, we’ve all been there and we all know that this concept is flawed.
Your motivation is through the roof and you are chomping at the bits to get going and smash some goals? And you do, you hit the gym, go for a 5km run and do 100 pushups and 100 sit ups every day! Now this is all good and well, it can be a successful strategy to light a fire under your donkey and get out there start working towards your goals. But for the average person this is far from ideal. Allow me to explain…
This strategy is like trying to drink water from a fire hose; it’s just too overwhelming and ultimately will get you hurt. Doing too much too soon after an extended break from fitness is the biggest risk factor of them all. Seriously, I need you guys to pay attention here, because the reasoning behind all of this could be the difference between you standing proud and strong after an initial 21 day cycle or finding yourself benched or on the sidelines again, because you went and got yourself injured.
Our bodies love homeostasis, they want to maintain a constant balance no matter what the circumstances. So if you took an extended break from fitness, your body has adapted to the lack of physical stimulation. In layman’s terms your body is now used to you not doing much, so if you go and throw your body in the deep end and over exert yourself, your body will have very little to no time to adjust - This is no bueno!
That is why I took it step by step, day by day and slowly got myself back into the swing of things. Was it annoying? Extremely! Was it frustrating? Bro, don’t even get me started. But was it worth it? Heck yes! Dude I couldn’t walk and now I am running again! So yes, in the end I am so happy that I paced myself allowing the natural adaptation to take place. Because once I got through the initial phase, my body was soaring again. I could run, jump, cycle, lift and sprint (all in moderation of course) and actually feel like my old self again.
So what are the risks of doing too much? Well if you were or are in the same boat as I am or was; your health is everything. And after a long bout with illness your body really takes a punch, from all the medication, inflammation and overall crappy stuff we have to go through, your body needs time to heal. Now if you don’t allow it to heal and add stress on a system that is already fragile, you are playing with fire. I can go into the conditions you could develop and their respective pathophysiology but it will become really grim really quickly. So instead I am just going to list them and let you do your own homework!
The risk factors of training too soon after illness include:
To summarize, if you’re in need of bouncing back from an unscheduled detour from your fit life or your fitness goals you will need to look at your own story and use that as the foundation for the next few weeks. You will need to develop a plan based off of your training and nutrition, after which you will need to turn that plan into a habit by enforcing the very specific but realistic goals you have set out for yourself. But remember, this journey you are on will require you to be a bit more patient, pace yourself as there is enough time to bounce back; And remember no matter how low and alone you might feel - You’re not alone.
The entire point of this article is to discuss a topic that really hasn’t been discussed before. The nuances, the challenges and just overall experience you have when you find yourself in this position. A position where you start to question many things. You might start to question your ability or abilities as an athlete. You may start to wonder whether living a fit life is still for you. And in some extreme, but still common, cases you might start to question your self-worth. If you currently find yourself in that position then this article is for you, a way for you to be able to relate to the crappy circumstances you find yourself in. But there is a way to make it out, there is a way to get back to the old you, the real you. Because when it’s all said and done, this version of you is just temporary, and the work you put in over the next 21 days will be everlastingly permanent!