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The All-or-Nothing Exercise Trap



by Steven N. Blair, Andrea L. Dunn, Bess H. Marcus, Ruth Ann Carpenter and Peter Jaret

One of the first mistakes people make when they fall short of their goal is to think, "That's it, I've blown it. I'll never make this work. Maybe I'm just destined to be a couch potato."

Don't believe it. A one-time slip doesn't mean you're a failure. It doesn't mean you're fated to be sedentary. That's the all-or-nothing trap, and plenty of people with the best intentions have fallen into it. People mistakenly think, "Either I stick to my plan and meet my goal, or I'm a failure."

The fact is, all-or-nothing thinking is taking the easy way out. It's a fancy way of quitting. Maybe you've missed a day or two of activity. Maybe you've blown a whole week. Maybe you've been sick, injured yourself, or run into some family trouble, and you've been out of commission for a month or more. The important point is to understand it for what it is: a lapse . Sure you've fallen a step behind, but your hard work is not lost. Remind yourself of all you've learned and how far you've come since you started. Look back through this book if you need proof that you've made progress. With a little effort you can take two steps forward and keep up the progress you've been making. One thing you don't want to do is give up.

The key to recovering from a lapse is to act fast and get active immediately. Here's what to do:

Be honest. Admit to yourself that you've hit a snag. Figure out exactly how long you've lapsed and think about what knocked you off track.

Turn to your support troops. If you've gotten support and encouragement from friends or loved ones, now is the time to turn to them for another pep talk. Again, be honest. No one likes to admit that they've faltered, but by telling someone, you may be able to enlist help to get out of the rut and back on track.

Start self-monitoring immediately. If your schedule has changed significantly since you last filled it in, you may want to update your Personal Time Study. Either way, the point is to identify opportunities to fit in activity. Write them down on your calendar.

Set new goals. This is a good time to look back at your current plan and goals. Think about ways you might revise them to make them work better for you. To renew your motivation, look for ways to incorporate activities you enjoy. If you've been sick or injured, don't let it be an excuse to stop permanently. Set a date when you will start again. You may need to work up slowly to the level you were at before. That's fine. The important thing is to commit yourself to a goal of getting back into an active lifestyle. Give yourself a little time, and you'll regain all the lost ground.

Avoid negative messages. Remember those discouraging voices that sometimes speak up when things go wrong-the voices that say things such as "failure," "can't," or "never"? Now is the time to counter those negative messages with positive ones. Instead of saying, "I can't stick to my plan," remind yourself that you did fine for the first month, and come up with a plan for what you can do from now on.

Focus on your strengths. This is another way to accentuate the positive. Look back over the period when you were doing well. Think about the personal strengths you discovered. Maybe you learned that you like doing activities with other people. Perhaps you found that you achieve more if you have a specific plan and a schedule for meeting your goal. You may have been surprised to discover that you enjoy certain activities, such as dancing or roller-blading. Enjoying activities is an important strength you can leverage. Once you've identified your personal strengths, think about ways to use them now to get yourself back in the game.


Excerpted from Active Living Every Day: 20 Steps to Lifelong Vitality by Steven N. Blair, Andrea L. Dunn, Bess H. Marcus, Ruth Ann Carpenter and Peter Jaret. Copyright © 2001 by Steven N. Blair, Andrea L. Dunn, Bess H. Marcus, Ruth Ann Carpenter and Peter Jaret . All rights reserved. Excerpted by arrangement with Human Kinetics, Champaign , IL . $24.95. Available in local bookstores or call 800.747.4457 or click here.

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