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I’m going to be totally honest with you. I haven’t felt “normal” for the past month. First, I was sick with a cold that drained all my energy, then a family member was rushed to the hospital. My husband is still there at his bedside, hoping for good news. I’ve been across three different states, driving over 2,000 miles in 2 weeks. I’m still trying to adjust to our new home. Plus, we’re recovering from a weather-crazy winter. And, with all this going on the LAST thing that’s been on my mind is writing a tutorial about how to fix your squat, or whether it is better to walk 5 miles once a week or 1 mile five times a week, or any of the seemingly endless trivial questions that people are searching for answers for in my industry. None of that, in the grand scheme of things, matters.

Right now here’s what’s on my mind: what do you do when you feel like your life is turned upside down?

My snarky answer would be: do a handstand!

My real answer is not much more complicated than that.

Turn challenge into opportunity

Let’s face it, as much as you’d like to think you’ve got everything under control, things will happen unexpectedly. Your routine will be broken at some point, by something totally out of your control; it’s inevitable. So, it’s a good idea to have a sense of what your options are when you physically or mentally can’t stick to your normal routine.

First, be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to say, hey, I need a break right now. There are more important things to deal with. I can skip a workout, I can grab take-out on the road, I can lay in bed today because my body needs rest. It’s OKAY.

Taking a well-needed rest can easily turn into a downward spiral if you have a defeatist or perfectionist mindset. If you berate yourself for doing any of the above mentioned things, it is very difficult to pull yourself back to your previous routine. But if you treat yourself with kindness, allow yourself to handle life as best you can and adjust your plan accordingly, then it is much easier to reconnect with your previous version of normal.

These moments of challenge can also give you the space to reflect on how effective your normal routine is. If your behaviors totally get off the rails any time something stressful arises, then perhaps you don’t have a sustainable “normal.” It might be time to learn some skills that you can use even when life’s inevitable obstacles present themselves.

Easy ways to get moving, even when you’re down

The good news is that movement can be very therapeutic. It can help you reduce stress, ease aches and pains and give you something else to focus on. So if your normal self would spend 90 minutes at the gym, maybe your sick, time-crunched, distracted, or injured self can do something like this instead:

  1. Take a walk. You can do this almost anywhere. Walk the halls of the hospital. Walk your neighborhood. Walk to your nearest park. Walk laps up and down your stairs.
  2. 5-minute flow. This is a genius way to build consistency and develop a habit that can change your life. It’s very simple: just move your body continuously for 5 minutes. You don’t have to be as strong or mobile or creative as Max Shank to do this. It can be as simple as moving all your joints in circular patterns for five minutes. It can be 5 minutes of sun salutes. 5 minutes of crawling and rolling on the floor. 5 minutes of Tai Chi. 5 minutes of improvisation. Just move, and don’t stop, for 5 minutes.
  3. Get on the floor. Yeah, when was the last time you were down there. Now, practice some rolls (here’s my favorite). Work on sitting transitions. Do some stretching. You can do this anywhere, especially if you don’t mind a few sideways looks from people who aren’t minding their own business 🙂
  4. Juggle. That will shift your focus! Especially if you’re not a great juggler (like me). You’ll practice coordination, and you’ll probably do a lot of squatting and reaching as you pick up the balls you’ve dropped on the floor. No juggling balls? Try balloons, rings, apples, be creative!
  5. Find a tree. Trees and other natural objects invite playful movement. Practice climbing, balancing, jumping, rolling, ducking under, vaulting over, grabbing, and other movements that engage your whole body and mind. Fallen trees are fun to play on, too.
  6. Practice a skill. If you’ve been working on learning something in your workout classes, give yourself time for a short practice session at home. Even if you’re learning a complex skill, you can break it down into the fundamentals and practice those. Keep it simple and relevant to what you’re already interested in. Even if you’re not feeling well, you can do something on the movement spectrum that will keep you training that skill so that when you’re ready for prime time you can jump right back in to training hard.

These strategies require little equipment, space or time. You can choose what speaks to you and go with it. While I was sick and sleeping 16 hours a day, I could only do gentle stretching and short walks to get my daily movement in. Once I felt better, I could move on to 5-minute flows and short handstand practice sessions. When I was feeling healthy but trapped sitting in the hospital with worried family members I got out to take a long walk through the city to stretch my legs and discover local parks and businesses.

It’s okay to not have a perfect fitness regimen every day. But if you give yourself flexibility to practice habits that fit your life, you’ll find that it’s always possible to find a “good enough” solution to get moving.

More reading:

Why the “pause-button mentality” is ruining your health and fitness from Precision Nutrition

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Personal trainer, student of movement, and outdoor explorer in the Pacific Northwest

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