Overcoming Obstacles and Setbacks on Your Fitness Journey
Updated: Feb 12
Life is complicated. Efforts to stay consistent with workouts and eating well can be compromised by numerous competing obligations. Work demands, kids’ schedules, social engagements, and unsupportive friends or family might make health goals seem impossible. Setbacks such as injuries, unexpected life events, or stalled progress can be challenging and discouraging. This article will review common obstacles and setbacks and offer tools to continue toward your goals in spite of difficulties.
Time is finite. With work, kids, and a social life, it may seem like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to fit in a workout. But health cannot be an afterthought. You only get one body and you must prioritize its care! While it is easy to make excuses and say there is not enough time, you can also choose to find a way to MAKE time for your health.
With a busy schedule, planning is key. Look ahead at obligations for the week and actually schedule workouts in a calendar. Consider the schedule for each day, making a commitment to block out time to train. This practice makes time excuses less valid and supports self-discipline. Strategically planning reasonable workout times also supports compliance. Planning 30 minutes to workout five to six days per week might work for some people, while others will find it easier to commit one hour, three times per week. Choose a structure that works for your schedule and preferences.
Combining activities can create a means to add movement to busy days. Spending time with friends? Suggest a physical activity to do together. Staying late to work extra hours? Set a timer to get up and take five-minute walks every 30 minutes. It will help clear your mind and ensure you aren’t sitting too long. With a packed schedule, sneak in extra movement whenever possible. Parking farther from entrances, taking the stairs, and walking while talking on the phone are all great ways to move more.
Sometimes friends and family are not all that supportive of new healthy habits. Negative peer pressure is often a huge obstacle to eating healthier or exercising. Ideally, cut these people out of your life—people who don’t support your health improvements probably aren’t great people to have around. But sometimes it isn’t possible to end relationships. If not, have a candid conversation with them. Say something along the lines of, “I am trying my best to make changes to be healthier, and it upsets me that you haven’t been supportive”. Even if they won’t outright support you, you can at least ask they say nothing instead of being negative. Look for new communities of people who are living a lifestyle you aspire to. Make new friends who will support your health.
If allowed, injuries can be a massive obstacle. Mindset is everything, no matter the scale of an injury. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture; the time it will take to heal from the injury is miniscule in the scheme of your entire fitness journey. Do what you can with your uninjured body parts. Broke your leg or experiencing knee pain? Do upper body lifts or cardio machines that only require your arms. Injured shoulder? Find lower body lifts to execute. Back pain? Get in daily walks, if that is the only tolerable movement. It is important to move in whatever way you can; this will keep you in a more positive mindset.
Stressful life events like death, messy breakups, or moving can be extremely challenging to overcome. Again, do what you can. Depression can take a huge toll on motivation. However, forcing yourself to do some stretching, take a short walk, or eat a healthy meal can help. Make small initial goals for yourself, such as a 10-minute walk. There are times in life when you can’t mentally manage much activity but start where you can and slowly build.
Lastly, a different type of problem can be stalled progress. Making no progress when it seems like you’re doing everything right is immensely frustrating. Identify the cause of stalled progress by examining each variable. How is your consistency with workouts? What have you really been eating? What is your sleep quantity and quality? Take the time to write down workouts for a week to examine overall volume. Track your food for a week to gain real understanding of your intake. Address each variable one at a time. Seek outside guidance from a trainer or nutritionist if you cannot identify the issue.
The key takeaway to remember is living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t always look the same. Creating healthy habits that you can stick to when you are busy, stressed, or injured are important. It is okay if your efforts are on a sliding scale—nobody is perfect all the time. Sometimes you make big leaps toward improvement, sometimes there are baby steps, and sometimes you trip and fall backward! As long as you get up and recommit to making choices which support a healthy lifestyle, progress will continue. Each meal is a chance to make a healthy choice. Every day offers time to move more. Celebrate successes and dust yourself off when you make a mistake and fall. Just keep going!
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