Sunday, January 4, 2015

Constructing Real Plans To Avoid Excuses - Contingency Plan Edition

Welcome to 2015, folks.

I think it's completely normal to start the year with idealistic statements about how you will do better. You could set specific goals about your new daily routine, even.

How many of us have been there?

"I'm totally eating a salad every day for lunch."

"I'm going to work out 5 days a week."

"I'm going to drink 100 ounces of water each day." cetera. I've definitely been in that planning zone many times over the years. Everything sounds so synergistic and awesome and foolproof. How hard can that daily workout and salad be? Some of us (me included, at least 7 times in the last 3 years) join our local gym's nutrition challenges in a bid for added accountability.

Where the hitch comes in: not having plan B. Sometimes, also for not having plan C, D, and E.

85 lb. thrusters at the Thanksgiving WOD.
So, while managing food choices
on days like these still takes effort,
thanks to CrossFit's "holiday workout"
culture, there's almost always a way to
break a sweat, even on holidays.

The last 6 weeks of the year are pretty easy for me to spot some chances for hiccups. We have TWO family birthdays during December, and with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, I have learned to compensate for these pretty well - sometimes "going for it" in certain rare "this is living" moments, and more often choosing alternatives or abstaining when the treats on offer are not quite so worthwhile. It's pretty easy to let roughly 4 weeks each with a single day of feasting opportunities bleed into 4 straight weeks of feasting.

Your resolution progress is less likely to die because of your salad habit or workout habit goals per se; your resolution progress is more likely to meet an untimely end because of not planning for habit-wrecking contingency moments.

Contingency moments. Those are the moments that manage to catch you in a whirlwind of hunger, fatigue, emotion, social niceties, and whatever else might pitch in to weaken your resolve.

This moment could look different for a lot of people. For me, it could be coming home after an emotionally intense Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting discussing my 5 year old daughter's needs at school. It could be getting 5 hours of bad sleep (many reasons why this might happen) instead of 8+ hours of quality sleep. It could be getting sidelined from a planned workout by a wonky shoulder that deserves to be rested.

For others, that contingency moment could come in the form of an adorable Girl Scout at one's doorstep selling cookies. (In my state, the cookie sales start in less than a month!) It could be a relative's birthday party. It could be school being cancelled because of weather - and a mom stuck home with kiddoes instead of making her midmorning gym run. It could be an unexpected day out or trip somewhere, and finding oneself confronted with delicious-looking local specialties.

There are contingency moments that you can  anticipate and plan - and contingency moments that will arise without warning.

The key to your success in making progress toward your eating and exercise goals is to be as prepared as possible for ALL contingencies.

I can hear the protests from the other side of the interwebz now.

"But how could I possibly be prepared for ALL contingencies? That's crazy talk! I'm not clairvoyant!"

The habit-wrecking moments will come whether you are prepared or not. Wouldn't you rather be somewhat ready for them when they do arrive? That way, if you find yourself with several weeks of contingency moments, you can face them confidently instead of losing ground on your new goals and habits.

First, talk yourself through the next 3 to 4 months of knowns. Once you've identified a "known contingency moment", you can develop workarounds and strategies to keep known contingencies from defeating your progress.

In my case, I know that the coming month will bring Girl Scouts through our neighborhoods and to the entryways of many local stores. Other sample "knowns":

  • Annual cultural chocolatefests. You know that Valentine's Day (February 14) and Easter (Sunday, April 5) are coming, and that means being surrounded in stores and during social occasions by chocortunities (aka opportunities to snarf down loads of chocolate).
    • Holiday Strategy: Know Treats Are Always There. Read Dallas and Melissa Hartwig's classic post, "Halloween Candy is Not Special." Remind yourself that you are a grown adult, and that most of the chocolate sold and served for these holidays is available year round.
    • Holiday Strategy: Limited Mindful Indulgence. Decide for yourself if there is any single seasonally-limited treat that really makes life worth living for these holidays. Many people could go a lifetime without a marshmallow peep or creme egg, but for others, the idea of sitting down with a single creme egg in a quiet, appreciative moment, may be enough. Only you can decide whether you would be served by this moment of indulgence long term.
    • Holiday Strategy: Request Supportive Gifts. Be deliberate and directly ask your main squeeze for a Valentine's treat or gift that doesn't wreck your progress. Instead of a giant box of chocolates, it could be a trip to the movies, a new jump rope or abmat, some high quality jerky, or some ultra high cacao content dark chocolate.
  • The Birthday Celebration. You know that you have X birthdays that will be celebrated with friends and family in that time frame.
    • Birthday Celebration Strategy: Healthier Options with Possible Mindful Indulgence. If you are helming one of these celebrations (that is, you are the parent of a child having a birthday), you can do a pretty sweet job of setting up a birthday party featuring reasonable choices. Deli meats, grapes, cheeses, veggie trays, and hummus with gluten free chips are all readily gobbled up by kid and adult partygoers alike, in my experience. Plan for yourself ahead of time whether and how much you would indulge in your kiddo's birthday cake, doing it with your long term goals factored into the analysis. I have done it many ways over the years (abstaining altogether or having just one piece of cake). Have an "escape hatch" plan for your remaining cake so that you don't have it calling your name in your kitchen for days afterwards. I have often sent leftover treats with my husband to work, as one example.
    • Birthday Celebration Strategy: Moderation or Abstention. If it is a birthday of someone a little less close, in many cases you can probably politely abstain from treats with little trouble. You could plan to prepare yourself by eating some healthy fats, protein, and veggies before attending the celebration.
  • The Field Trip. You know that your child has a field trip coming up that you'd love to chaperone, and that doing so will mean that your workout and healthy eating routine could be interrupted.
    • Field Trip Strategy: Plan a short at-home mini workout to do early in the morning before you leave to join your child's trip at school.
    • Field Trip Strategy: Plan your workout for that day on another day when you'd typically rest instead.
    • Field Trip Strategy: Depending on what the field trip logistics allow, think about packing your own lunch or snacks with sensible eating options like jerky, baby carrots, macadamia nuts, etc.
Above you've seen how to strategize for some known contingency moments. Now to think about somewhat known contingency moments. What do I mean by these? I mean moments whose timing you can't know until they happen, but whose likelihood of occurrence is high.

  • You know that odds are good, based on the last couple of school years, that your child(ren) will miss at least a few days of school owing to weather conditions. If you do not plan for this inevitability, when you are snowed in with nothing but leftover Valentine's chocolate and several unwatched seasons of Gilmore Girls on Netflix, you could be setting yourself up for a setback.
    • Snow Day Strategy: Research Home Workouts. Search online for workouts that fit your home circumstances. Some people are equipped with complete home gyms, while at the other end of the spectrum others have their bodyweight only at their disposal. Workouts exist for all possibilities - for example, Dai Manuel's blog post featuring 92 bodyweight only workouts. The workouts do not have to be extreme or long - even if you are breaking a sweat for 10 or 15 minutes each day you are snowed in, that is a better way to stay on track than not working out at all!
    • Snow Day Strategy: Find a Friend. If you have fitness minded friends within a short distance (ideally walking distance if roads are impassible), invite them over on a snow day to do a workout with you. It's amazing how much more motivated you'll feel if someone else is "suffering" the same way...and you'll both feel way better afterwards, when the endorphins have kicked in. Alternatively, you and the same friend could both shovel each other's driveways for an all-too-practical "partner workout".
    • Snow Day Strategy: Keep your fridge and pantry well-stocked. Nonperishable options that will keep you from wrecking your food intake. Keep the fridge and freezer stocked with eggs, poultry, beef, and fish. In the pantry, emphasize high protein options like jerkies, packets of nut butters, and low-junk protein powders. Veggie-wise, canned vegetables and vegetable purees (think pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potato) will come in handy to help make appetizing soups you can stir on the stove while watching the flakes fly outside.
Finally, there is the example of the contingency moment you can't possibly anticipate. The "unknown unknowns", if I want to verge on meta. You can't plan specifically for these moments but you can do your best to stay equipped. I'm not exactly advocating building a giant back yard underground bunker of whole foods, but it can help to give yourself a little bit of backup in places you are most likely to run into "unknown contingency moments".

  • Prepare yourself for unforeseen hanger and cravings. We are talking about that unpredictable moment you realize you would shake down strangers in the street if you thought they had brownies on their persons. Moments when your breakfast caught on fire or got accidentally eaten by your spouse and you're getting ready to go volunteer at your child's school for the entire morning.
    • Travel and Traffic Strategy: Stock Your Car. This is a pretty great time of year for car stockage because the cold weather means much lower chances of anything going badly in your glove compartment. Jerky, nuts, and other higher-protein options are great to include. If you think there's too much of a chance of you casually eating your emergency stash in non-emergency moments by keeping it near the driver's seat, you can always pack the snacks in a bag and throw the bag in your trunk.
    • Daily Life Cravings Management Strategy: Stock Your Purse or Laptop Bag. A Tanka bar or other whole food option in your purse or work bag might be the one thing that stands between you and that delicious-smelling fast food option on the way home, especially if you're trying to break old habits. The purse/computer bag standby is also great for meeting breaks at work, especially if you work in an office whose break room is always replete with doughnuts, candy, and/or pizza. Even a simple stash of something such as a can of tuna (with a pop-open tab) and an apple can work. When, for example, you've been unexpectedly trapped in an epic meeting for the last 3 hours, don't have time to hit your usual salad-selling locale, and will be stuck at your desk for the rest of the day, you'll thank yourself for carrying satisfying, whole-food-oriented options in your bag. Refueling with a mix of protein, carbs, and fat instead of simple carbohydrates will result in you feeling fuller and is likely to help you make it to lunchtime or dinnertime.
    • Sudden Travel Strategy: Pre-Scouting Menus and Stores. Your job could suddenly send you on travel, or you may find yourself suddenly traveling to see an ill relative, or sadly, for a funeral. As soon as you know your route and destination, it can be very helpful to have at least 2 nationwide chain restaurants in mind whose menus you know how to exploit for healthy eating - an example of one of these for me would be Chipotle. Track down locations along your route and near your destination. You can also investigate local grocery shopping options that may suit your needs, depending on how close they are to your accommodations and how many days you'll be away from home. Having these eating out and grocery shopping strategies in place can go a long way to keeping you from making poor, spontaneous food decisions that will wreck your digestion and your progress.
  • Prepare yourself for unforeseen workout interruptions. It could be an injury that keeps your main mode of working out off limits (such as the case of foot/ankle injuries and running), or that your location (gym, pool, etc.) closes for unforeseen reasons.
    • Injury Strategy: Learn About Workarounds. If you can't run, maybe you can swim. If you can't deadlift, maybe you can squat. Letting an injury rehab (and please, consult a professional about your injury concerns and proposed workarounds) does not mean you need to do absolutely nothing in the meantime. If you work out at CrossFit gym or under the eye of another kind of trainer, be sure to describe your movement issues and ask for help substituting movements in your workouts.
    • Workout Venue Closure Strategy: Learn Home Workouts. As discussed above in the "Snow Day" suggestions, home workouts can be tackled even with just bodyweight.
    • Workout Venue Closure Strategy: Seek Other Venues. Have some "plan B" venues in your head that you know you could try out. It might be the pool, or an inexpensive gym (think Planet Fitness) that helps you fill in the gap.
    • Sudden Travel Strategy: Travel Workouts. If you are gone for several days, you can make sure that your body still gets movement even while on the road. Your workouts can be the same as home workouts (including bodyweight workouts), or you might be lucky enough to take advantage of hotel gyms or other opportunities, such as visiting other CrossFit boxes as a drop-in. If you are dropping in at a box, be sure to make an effort to contact the box ahead of time, if at all possible, so that they know to expect you.
How are you planning ahead to manage those moments with habit-wrecking potential in 2015?


1 comment:

  1. Excellent post. One of the biggest hurdles I face while eating Paleo is that I travel often. I will take your advice and hit Chipotle's more often.


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