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Blue Monday: Are YOUR Plans working?

The third Monday of the year is known as Blue Monday. It’s the day where most people have realized that they’ve already “failed,” or not even started, their resolutions. It’s when the post holiday season lethargy really sets in, realizing the next big holiday isn’t for quite some time.

How is your year going?

I try to encourage people to see this Blue Monday as a new starting point. You’ve generally had 2+ weeks to try something new, if you’re the resolution type, and figured that something just isn’t working. Or maybe you merely stated a goal but didn’t put any processes in place to reach that. Goal.

Also, noticed I asked about your PLANS, not your RESOLUTIONS or GOALS. Without a plan involving the specifics of timing, action, and process, goals are just day dreams.

Let’s call this week of Blue Monday “Process Week.” You’re back in your life, whatever that looks like, and NOW we can take a good look at where to hang new habits.

Do you want to work out more? Get to sleep earlier? Food prep on the weekend?

This starts with the Habits Audit we talked about earlier.

Then you have to have an honest talk with yourself:

Apply the scientific method to your habits and goals.

Apply the scientific method to your habits and goals.

  • So you think you should work out before work, but you’re actually a night owl and can’t seem to get to bed before midnight.

  • You want to cut out processed foods/ added sugar, but haven’t put foods in place that you can eat in their place, and now your cravings get out of control.

  • You want to get to bed earlier, but the only time you have to yourself is the precious time between the kids going to bed and you going to bed.

Start here for this week:

  1. Write down what your goal is, remember the SMART goals we discussed earlier.

  2. Write down the changes you tried to make, but didn’t work out.

  3. Speculate on WHY they didn’t work out. You cannot say “I didn’t try hard enough.” We don’t want something we have to white knuckle through.

  4. Create a new process taking those roadblocks into account.

You might have to reiterate this process several more times in the coming weeks. And that’s just fine! If you keep trying new, emphasis on NEW, plans of execution, you’re making progress. Don’t keep banging your head against a wall that just isn’t going to move.

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Wanting It vs. Wanting to Want It

Yeah, I bet that title sounds confusing, but let me paint a recent scene.

There is a coffee shop two blocks from where I live. They make excellent coffee and chai spiced latte. They also have a plethora of bakery items: croissants, cookies, savory and sweet danish things, muffins. You get the point.

Sometimes the husband and I will walk over there on the weekend for a pick-me-up beverage. I stare at that case of baked goods.

I STARE AT IT.

And I realize, I’m trying to will myself into wanting something.

I look at each item and imagine what it would be like to sink my teeth into it. What texture and flavors I would experience.

I realize that I don’t actually want anything. But I want to want something.


When I was younger, and at times when my diet was more restrictive, the want-to-want sensation would push me to get something that I didn’t actually want. And it wouldn’t make me any happier, wouldn’t make me feel better.

I only enjoyed the supposed delinquency of getting a thing that I “wasn’t supposed” to have.

There are so many messages around us saying either we should be eating healthier and taking care of ourselves through restrictive eating AND AT THE SAME TIME we should be treating ourselves and to be overly restrictive is borderline disordered, so we should probably just eat the thing.

Fucking confusing.

And I bet we all hold these idea in our heads at the same time. What is life if not constant cognitive dissonance?

So over the years I’ve gotten better at asking myself “Do I really want it?” Sometimes, like having an almond croissant in the morning, the answer is “yeah, fuck yeah!” But more often, that answer is “Naw, I want to want a thing, but really, I just want another coffee.”

Moral of the story: Just have another coffee. That shit is delicious.

But really. When you’re staring a bit too hard at that snack shelf or pastry case, ask yourself that. Do you want it, or do you want to want it?

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New Year, Same You... but with DIRECTION!

I’m personally not much of a New Years Resolution maker myself. I see it as an arbitrary date, and trying to pile a bunch of big changes into your life at once tends to set people up for overwhelm, burn out, and failure.

But I very much am about resolutions and goal setting. I just tend to scatter them about at times that make sense to my life and start them whenever.

I don’t care when you set your goals, all start dates are arbitrary. First of the year? Monday? First of the month? Birthday?

But I do care about HOW you set your goals.

Too often I just hear something general like “I want to read more,” “I want to learn a new skill,” “I want to get in shape.”

While all noble ideas, these are merely ideas. There is nothing concrete to hang actions on.

Make SMART Goals

SMART Goal.png

SMART stands for:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable

  • Relevant

  • Time-bound

“I want to get in shape” is the antithesis of a SMART goal. Instead, maybe say “For the next month, I want to do a 20 min run twice a week, then next month I will up it to 3 times a week.”


Visualize Your Goals

So now you have your SMART goal, we need to actually stick it into your current routine. This is where your “Habits Audit” from before comes into play. One way to create a new habit is to hang it on an existing habit. And if you don’t know what your automatic routines are, that’s going to be hard to do.

Let’s take that running goal from above. Okay, so 20 mins 2x a week. What does your day look like right now? Are you barely able to drag yourself out of bed and get to work on time? Probably not smart to plan to run in the AM. (No matter what you’ve read, there is nothing magical about working out in the morning, or about fasted training.) Is there a gym near work where you could do it on your lunch break? Are there trails on the way home you could stop at?

The key isn’t to envision an idealized version of yourself in some fuzzy dream life, it’s to be realistic about what you can actually stick to.

Plan for Setback

flat tire.jpg

You will “fall off the wagon.”

Thing is, there isn’t really a wagon. Nothing is leaving you behind. If you stumble you want to get right back to it at your next opportunity.

Easier said than done. I know how easy one missed workout can lead to two weeks of holding the couch down. Been there.

So create a For Emergencies Only on-ramp to get back on track.

For my workout routine, when I fall off and have a hard time getting back in the game, I have a few simple routines that I do just to gain momentum again. They are usually moves I don’t use in my normal training, so the variety makes it more fun and less mentally intense. (I do 5 rounds of 8 reps bench press and 30 reps heavy kettlebell swings.) I can get this done in 30 mins, it hits most of my muscles, gets a little cardio capacity work, and it sets the tone.

For food, if I get off track, usually I just pick back up where I left off on my next grocery trip.

For water consumption, I set a large bottle of water on my desk at home and my desk at work so that I’m reminded as soon as I’m standing there to get started drinking water early.

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Holiday Food Pressures

Look.
I’ll eat the food when
I want to eat the food.
Not when you want me to want the food.
When
I want the food.

….

I need you to stop putting your food insecurities on me.

Granted. Maybe I’m willing to be a little more forward that a lot of people are. But you can also use that script with various tones and inflections to drive your point home while sounding nice or joking, or sounding firm and standoffish.

Lots of health conscious people try their damnedest to reign in the eating frivolity between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Between family get togethers, big dinners, parties with companies and friends, and maybe some leftover Halloween candy in the cabinet, we are surrounded by treats.

And so many of us are also surrounded by people who want us to partake in the feasting simply because they are.

As I see it, if I’m in my resolve about doing a thing or not doing a thing, and someone tries to cajole me into breaking that resolve, they’re the ones being rude. They’re trying to put their insecurities on you, trying to get buy-in from you so they feel better about indulging.

It’s really selfish on their part.

So if I’ve already said “no” and “no, thank you” a few times, maybe even an “please stop bringing it up” and they still keep going, then that semi-rude, semi-standoffish script comes out. If they keep going, then the bigger guns, that last line, usually stops them.

If they are that pushy about eating fucking FOOD, they probably don’t know me that well to begin with.

THIS RANT COMPLIMENTS OF ALL MY FRIENDS AND GYM MEMBERS WHO ARE STRESSING OUT BECAUSE OF ASSHOLES IN THEIR LIFE TRYING TO MAKE THEM FEEL BAD FOR BEING HEALTHY.

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Habits Audit

Willpower is passe. Habits are the new hotness.

I see tons of articles shared on Facebook and posted to Medium about starting habits that promise all kinds of good fortune. 3

They’re not wrong. Good habits and change your trajectory for the better in lots of different ways. But starting a new habit requires you have a handle on your current routines, so you know what needs to change, where to fit new routines, and what habits might pair well with old habits you already have and want to keep.

That’s where a Habit Audit comes into play.

Our behavior is far more automatic than most of us realize. Even people that like to consider themselves impulsive and spontaneous will react to cues without making conscious decisions.

I see habits and routines in two main types: daily routines that you can write in a planner or on a schedule, and emotional reaction habits that occur when you’re in specific situations regardless of time of day or other things you’re doing.

Daily Routines Audit

This one is pretty straight forward. Sit down with some paper or your online calendar, and enter all the things you do, from getting up in the morning, making breakfast, scrolling social media, etc.

Be honest. Do you have a tendency to open Facebook while you’re still in bed, and suddenly it’s 30 mins later?

Once you have all your daily, time based routines down, go through and categorize them: positive, negative, neutral. These judgements should be based on YOUR priorities. Sitting for 30 mins and scrolling social media might be recourative for some (assuming it’s intentional), while it might be a stressful waste of time for another person.


Emotional Routines Audit

These are things that can’t be scheduled on a planner. The most common one I hear about, being in the fitness world, is stress or emotional eating. This requires a bit more in-the-moment regard.

I took this check in method from James Clear (aside: his new book, Atomic Habits, is really good). (https://jamesclear.com/atomic-habits)

Put a note card in your pocket or purse (OR FANNY PACK!). Have space for these five questions:

  • Who am I with?

  • What am I doing right now?

  • Where am I?

  • When is it?

  • What emotions am I feeling?

Each time you find yourself doing whatever action you are trying to curb, change, or modify, pull out the card and answer these questions. Over time, you’ll be have enough data that you should be able to see any trends.

So now you have the data

Now that you have a handle on what you’re doing, you can more easily make changes to how you move about your day. Without this, it’s like asking for directions without being able to tell Google Maps where you’re starting.

For more information on making the changes, I would highly recommend the books “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg and “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. James Clear also has a newsletter, one of the only ones I subscribe to, with all kinds of great tips and insights to sculpting your life, particularly around fitness and nutrition.


I’m starting my first Nutrition Habits and Awareness Course through Speed Power Strength. If you live nearby and can make the first group meeting, and would like to be a part of it, shoot me an email at kristin at spsgym dot com for more information about the course and how to sign up.

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