Avoid the Back to School Fitness Slump

The old saying “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” holds especially true in the fall and winter when the urge to hibernate becomes powerful.

While it is relatively easy to stay active during the summer, it becomes challenging later in the year when the temperature drops and the days become shorter.

Add your children’s busy activity schedules, the new TV season and social reasons to overindulge (Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas) and it’s easy to see why many simply throw up their hands and choose to wait for New Year’s Eve to make a resolution.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be hopeless. With a bit of planning, you can stay in control of your body, your energy and the way that you feel.

The most important meeting a trainer can ever have with a client is the initial consultation when the plan is hatched. It should include specific goals or targets to help you avoid plateaus or slumps.

Rather than “just getting going,” it should identify certain things that you would like to “peak” for. Things like looking great at the holidays, running a race, fitting into your old jeans or starting hockey season. The idea is to have something that you are actually accountable for and working toward. Just “working out” becomes boring and, chances are, it will fall by the wayside when life gets hectic or it gets cold and dark outside.

Take a simple calendar and spend about 10 minutes creating your training year. Write in things like birthdays, weddings, sporting events, holidays. etc. Give some meaning to your movement. If you create and stick to a plan, you will never be off-track and never have to make another New Year’s resolution.

Once your plan is in place, consider exercising somewhere that is well lit, energetic and where there is music or “noise.” The idea is to extend the amount of time you spend in the light each day, even if it is artificial light.

As soon as it gets dark and you start hitting the couch with your blanket and your book or Dancing With The Stars, there’s less chance of you getting up again.

If your schedule allows you to exercise in the early evening, that would be even better. An added bonus is that you will be less likely to mindlessly munch the night away.

In the dark, cold days of autumn, it seems that we are constantly seeking comfort in terms of shelter and food. This may, in fact, be a reaction to erratic blood sugar levels and diminished light levels. Comfort foods tend to be high in simple carbohydrates that elevate mood, along with blood sugar, and lead to enhanced fat storage.

An effective way to combat this is to make sure that you are getting enough protein in your diet. Eat something that includes lean protein (low-fat cottage cheese, turkey breast, almonds, whey protein or tuna, for instance) every three to three and a half hours — and your blood sugar and metabolism will be stable, helping to offset cravings for less- supportive foods.

Finally, even the best plans can go off the rails so it is critical that you have a Plan A, a Plan B and even a Plan C when it comes to your exercise. You know that your life will be interrupted, so you need at least one backup plan in place for the times where you can’t get to your regular workout and have only 10 to 15 minutes to get your body in gear.

Here is a great Plan C workout that can be completed in 10 to 15 minutes and requires absolutely no equipment. Perform this routine as a circuit, according to your fitness level and experience. Beginners (challenging) can perform each movement for 30 seconds and rest for 30 seconds. Intermediate (hard) can perform each movement for 45 seconds and rest for 20 seconds. Advanced (killer) can perform each movement for 60 seconds and rest for 15 seconds.

Jumping Jacks or Rope Skipping… complete 100 repetitions


Bodyweight Squats

Abdominal Crunches

Modified Abdominal Plank–  Lower your forearms to the floor and balance on your toes and arms. Beginners start with the knees on the ground.

rabbit 2

“Chase the Rabbit”…  (from the pushup position pictured above, run in place by alternating bringing your feet forward and back)

Before you begin, DECIDE, how long you will work for and get to it.

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