When I did a call-out recently asking people what questions they had for me, the answers were all damn-near identical: how to “get back on the wagon.” As much as I wanted to say, “For starters, remember that there is no wagon,” I knew that wouldn’t be helpful. Besides, I’m pretty sure I’ve said that before.
Instead, I’m going to share my own story on this.
When I was pregnant, I just knew I was going to have a joyful pregnancy. I was going to be working out consistently, I was going to practice yoga with dedication and zeal, and I was going to keep cooking like a bawse the entire time. And, when Baby Sprout came, I was going to continue everything I had been doing during pregnancy, except this time, with a little bundle of joy to go along with it. I just knew it was going to be the pregnancy of my dreams.
Except… literally none of that happened. Pregnancy was so exhausting that I struggled to do even the most mundane tasks. Grocery shopping—and the subsequent carrying of the groceries up to my fourth-floor walk-up apartment—was so difficult that I had to stop doing it altogether. I could barely walk all the stairs in and out of the subway (which, combined with my four flights to my apartment, totals 7 flights of stairs in one go.) I wasn’t quite as sedentary as I was before I started losing weight—I was a hermit back then—but that’s only because walking Mini-me to and from school forced me to get out of the house.
Except, once I gave birth, even that stopped, because my Mother-in-Law—the greatest ever, by the way—started doing that.
I had officially, as you say, fallen off the wagon.
Not to mention, the post-partum depression had all but separated me from my almost 7-year yoga practice, and made my mat damn-near radioactive. I could sit at one side of the room, stare at my mat on the other side, and no matter how much I wanted to reach out to unravel it and get started, I simply could not. And that only made me feel worse.
So, trust me, I get it. And, if I didn’t truly get it before, I for damn sure get it now.
The entire process of “falling off the wagon,” and the way we characterize it, is demoralizing. Every single person who did it expressed remorse and regret, frustration and sadness, almost as if they were repenting for their sins. They feel bad, ashamed, like they’ve let someone down. Like they should be angry with themselves, instead of empathetic to themselves. The only person you’ve truly let down is yourself*, and “yourself” is the main person who should be showing you empathy.
Life happens, and it happens in ways we don’t often expect. I didn’t expect my pregnancy to be so difficult. Hell, I had every intention of it being incredible and meaningful and having Mini-me and I paint each other’s toes since I wouldn’t be able to reach mine and still doing weight-free squats and 15-minute miles and very interesting renditions of tree pose since I wouldn’t be able to truly balance. I didn’t expect my post-partum depression to be… really, to be, at all. I for damn sure didn’t expect it to leave me feeling trapped in my own home.
Life. Happens. And sometimes, it happens in ways that take us out of the game. But, just like in football, when it’s time to get back in the game, you just stand up from the bench, and walk on the field. Granted, you don’t have a coach to push you forward and tell you they believe you’re ready, but think about it like this: you are your own coach. You can look at your life, what has happened to separate you from the fitness routine you created for yourself, and determine whether or not you’re ready. You can determine what it’s going to take to get yourself ready. You can determine how to predict, plan, and prepare for potential saboteurs that will interfere with you getting back in the game. And, when everything’s said and done, you can determine when it’s time to get back out there and put your heart into it.
A few months ago, Eddy told me I should get out there and try something. Anything. Something that could excite me and make me feel like getting back out there. Something that wasn’t free, because he knows I’m cheap and I’d hate spending money. I needed something that was low-impact and low-commitment, just in case I did skip out on it, so I chose a spin class at SoulCycle. I chose an instructor at random, during a random time of day, and decided that I’d just give it a shot.
There, I met an incredible instructor whose class was empowering, inspiring, and uplifting. Some people don’t like instructors who lay it on thick, but I was in a place where I truly needed. And, in the middle of class, in the dark (they cut out the lights when it gets difficult), I burst into tears. I needed something I enjoyed, something that allowed me to grind out to my heart’s content, something that made me feel like the me I’ve always been inside. I needed to be inspired by the activity I was committing myself to. I needed to feel as good as I felt in the middle of that class.
And, since then, I’ve never missed a class. That once-a-week class has helped me get out of the house more, feel inspired to go on walks more, and feel better about myself. Getting out of the house more, and seeing all the little things in the world around me that I’d long forgotten about, has helped me to truly identify what has haunted me by name, and understand how good I should feel about myself and my prospects for both my fitness and my well-being.
Therein lies my second bit of advice for you—find something that intrigues you, and then follows that intrigue up with excitement. Find something that delivers. Something that leaves you eager to come back for more. That way, when life gets in the way, you have incentive to be a problem solver—handle the drama and distractions, and then get back to this thing you enjoy.
Fitness classes instead of isolated individual exercise also tends to make a huge difference here because of the social component. Finding a way to mingle with other like-minded people and make friends often gives people a break from the work-eat-sleep-repeat cycle. Finding inspiring people who are kind and encouraging can compel you to be the same and do the same to the next newbie who needs a leg up. This is a good cycle to be a part of—good for you and the fitness community. And goodness knows, we need more people like that.
My advice is to take stock of what problems interfere with your ability to be more active. Find ways to either accept them or solve them, or at least negotiate a space for you to commit to an activity you live while you solve them. Accept what you cannot change, but grab a hammer and nails to fix what you can. And, when you’re done hammerin’, put on your cross-trainers and meet me outside. It’s a beautiful day.