The challenge is about to end, and you’re facing a decision of what to do next. Some of you may be excited to continue your progress and keep moving forward, while others may be ready for it all to end. In either case, you have to answer the question of “what now?”. Maybe another good question to ask is what was the purpose of doing this challenge in the first place, and did I accomplish what I wanted? If you’re like me, these challenges provide some good basic keys to health that I can continue into the future and adopt as lifestyle changes. Drinking water, getting enough protein and veggies…. Are all great basic healthy habits to continue, so how does progress get thwarted? How can we avoid 6 months from now looking back and wandering why we’ve regressed? Let’s put a plan into place that looks at our path forward with realism and predicts some of the obstacles that would have caught us off guard.
This might seem like an odd task for a challenge like this. Having been in the business of health and fitness for a while now, I’ve seen more progress thwarted by lack of planning, last minute meetings, unforeseen schedule changes, or surprises. Follow these simple steps, and you’ll be on your way to mitigating interrupted progress.
What does it mean to plan ahead and why do we do it?
If you’ve set out with an objective goal such as losing weight, gaining muscle, lifting a certain amount of weight, or any other fitness/health goal, you have an end in mind. In your mind you no-doubt have a finish line that marks the completion of your goal. With that, you probably have a rough idea of the path you’re going to take to get there. It might include exercising a certain number of times per week or modifying your diet, sleep, or schedule in some way. That is planning. It’s putting the finish line in place and deciding which path is going to take you there. The planning ahead part requires a lot more detail. Let’s imagine you get sick, you call your trainer and let them know you can’t come in all week; then, let’s imagine that getting sick means you get behind at work and have to travel more for the next couple of weeks. It’s very possible that several weeks in a row end up being quite different than what you “planned” for and hinder your progress, so let’s anticipate those obstacles and plan ahead for them.
How to plan aheadDownload the Plan Ahead Example
To plan ahead, you want to have your finish line in place and decide which path to take. There are many and no one path works for everyone. Once you’ve decided that, start creating hypothetical situations that interrupt your path. I want you to draw a line on a piece of paper with a start and finish point (exhibit 1). The line between the start and finish points represents the path and time it will take you to get to your finish line. Once you have this drawn out on a piece of paper, I want you to start drawing short lines that cross through your original main line/path (exhibit 2). These lines that cross through your path will represent what you are planning ahead for. These lines represent getting sick, your gym closing down, having to travel for an entire week for work, unexpected dinner meetings with clients and a myriad of other interruptions that weren’t part of your plan.
Now I want you to choose the first perpendicular line and name it. It might be something I mentioned or something totally different, but it will be something that will interrupt and change your path slightly. Name all those interruptions (exhibit 3). Now erase the main line between each interruption (exhibit 4).
All we’ve done at this point is to acknowledge that there will be circumstances that will interrupt our path. By erasing the main line, your path to the finish line is no longer connected. This is exactly how so many people get derailed. Something occurs in their life, and it shakes them. They didn’t plan ahead for it, and they don’t know what to do. They might get so disappointed that they quit, or they might decide their goal wasn’t worth the effort. In any case, let’s plan ahead for these obstacles, so that when they occur, you have a plan in place to continue moving forward.
Now, draw lines connecting the top or bottom portions of the perpendicular lines so that they are connected. Alternate the lines on the top and bottom so it becomes a zig zag line (exhibit 5). Your path should look far different than what you originally had on your paper. It was straight, now it’s a zig zag line with a lot of interruptions. This will be more accurate to what your path will actually look like.
Now, I want you to write out how you are going to account for each of those interruptions. Use the lines that connect the interruptions to write your ideas (exhibit 6). These might include modifications you will make to your diet, routine, shopping, schedule, etc. Your path isn’t straight anymore, and that’s okay. You can still make progress; it’s just going to look a bit different now.
Keep this piece of paper and modify it as you go along. Look ahead and try to come up with as many potential interruptions that you can think of. The more you put on your paper, the better prepared you’ll be when they occur.