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What Causes Exercise Relapse?

by Angie Miller

Angie Miller

Have you ever started an exercise routine and were determined that exercise was going to be a lifelong friend, only to find yourself 6 months, or a year later, looking back at that time and wondering what happened?  I teach a workshop on exercise behavior and motivation and one of the most critical components we discuss is how to avoid relapse. This is important, because we have to understand the obstacles that get in our way in order to minimize their impact.

It’s similar to driver’s education where we’re taught to turn into a skid and go with the resistance rather than overcorrect and make the situation worse. Temptations act as resistance to exercise, but if we turn into them as we do a skid, we can manage them before they sabotage our best efforts. The key is to identify situations that put us at risk and develop a contingency plan for action. Contingency plans ensure that we’re prepared even when our situation changes, and they help us prevent relapse.

What’s the difference between a lapse and a relapse?

Before we talk about relapse and how to avoid it, it's important to note the difference between a lapse and a relapse.

Lapse= a temporary glitch in your routine. You went on vacation for a week and you lapsed, deciding that the treadmill didn’t sound nearly as fun as a lounge chair by the beach.  The key is that a lapse is temporary.

Relapse= a return to old habits, the life you lead before exercise. A relapse is when you fall off the wagon completely, when the week turns into a month, and before long exercise is a distant memory.

Typically a relapse happens over the course of time, due to a chain of events that’s similar to a domino effect. It looks something like the following:

Relapse Effect:

  1. Exercise Obstacle= Angie goes on vacation for a week.
  2. No Plan= Unfortunately, she doesn’t plan ahead or think about the effect this vacation will have on her regular exercise routine.
  3. Short Lapse= Rather than hit the fitness room in the hotel, she hates treadmills; she decides that a week off is just what she needs. However, on Sunday night when Angie returns home she heads straight for the scale and doesn’t like what she sees.
  4. Toxic Thoughts= Angie is so upset by her weight gain and alleged mushy muscles that all she feels is despair and disappointment. She questions her ability to “get back to where she was,” so much so that she begins to wonder if it’s worth it. Maybe she should just give up.
  5. Relapse Begins= It’s week two and Angie has lost her motivation. She continues to allow toxic thoughts to pollute her mind and fails to consider that vacation weight is as temporary as the vacation itself. Her thoughts deplete her energy and by the end of week two she still hasn’t returned to her regular routine.
  6. Full Relapse= Angie’s thoughts send her into a tailspin of negativity and mild depression. Her weight gain has affected her confidence and she doesn’t feel comfortable in her own body. She is even less motivated to exercise and she has decided that this is just how it is; she’s not going to stick with it so why bother.

The reality is that even with the best of intentions, it’s not uncommon to start an exercise routine and slip back into old habits- finding more comfort on the couch than in an exercise class. While it may be common, however, it’s not inevitable and history doesn’t have to repeat itself. Knowledge is power and the key is to identify obstacles that get in our way so that we can deal with them effectively. All of us have situations that put us at risk: vacations, work travel, out of town guests, and holiday craziness to name a few. Research supports that potential relapses have a lesser effect if the individual anticipates them, sees them as a temporary bump in the road, and develops the proper skills for prevention (Dishman and Buckworth, 1997).

Check back next week for Part II, Preventing Relapse, and learn how to recognize situations that put you personally at risk, how to develop a contingency plan, and Six Steps for Prevention.

- Angie

Angie Miller, M.S., is a fitness educator, university instructor, and Licensed Professional Counselor who blends her skills and expertise to empower individuals, mentally and physically, and provide them the tools they need to succeed. A veteran group exercise instructor and personal trainer, Angie is the star of acclaimed exercise DVD’s, including the Bedroom Body™ workout. Her passion for progressive education brought her to Northern Illinois University, where she teaches in the Dept. of Kinesiology & Physical Education. Outside of the university, she presents at fitness conventions worldwide and leads industry trainings as an AFAA Certification Specialist and Kettlebell Concepts Master Instructor. Angie writes for fitness journals and digital communities, and blogs for Collage Video. Connect with Angie at: http://www.angiemillerfitness.com

 

By Collage Video | | Angie Miller, fitness, goals, story, stress, Weekly Blog, Wellness | 0 comments | Read more

Family Getaways

by Angie Miller

Family Getaways After The Kids Have Gone Away

The Baths at Virgin Gorda- British VI

This year marked some pivotal changes in my life as a mom and in our family unit as a whole. My youngest daughter went away to college last August and my oldest as of last month became an official college graduate. After having a quiet, kid free home for a full nine months, both of my daughters are now home for the summer and my house is full again- as is my heart. Not knowing how long it will be before grad school, jobs, a significant other, or any number of possibilities takes them away for good, we knew a family vacation was a must. After a four-year lapse where study abroad opportunities and other expenses had taken precedence we were overdue.

A vacation, while it may be short lived is a full immersion experience. Now that its over- we just returned from St. Thomas last week- I can safely say it was just what we needed to reconnect. We gained a new level of respect for one another and what we share as a family, but we also learned a few things along the way. Here’s my takeaway on how and why to travel with kids who have flown the coop.

How and Why to Travel with Kids Who Have Flown the Coop:

  1. No Distractions. College life, travel, jobs, extracurricular activities, and other responsibilities have been tugging at us for years. St. Thomas wasn’t just a vacation; it was an opportunity to get away from friends, boyfriends, and other distractions, thereby connecting us only to one another. We not only shared space, we shared new experiences and those experiences are memories that will last a lifetime.
  1. Busy=Better. We learned from previous vacations that everything goes better when we’re busy and engaged. St. Thomas provided just enough beach, activity, and surrounding islands to keep us entertained. Our second day we took a ferry to St. John where we discovered some of the most amazing views and spectacular beaches we'd ever seen. Our third day we took a boating excursion and on our last day we shopped. This still allowed time to lounge at the resort and hang out at the pool, but not so much that boredom set in.

    The Baths at Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke- British VI

    1. Social Connection. My daughters, like many teens and older adults, love to be part of a crowd. Thus why I knew they would enjoy an all day boating excursion with lots of new faces and a witty crew that ensures everyone has a good time. It’s essentially a party boat run by a respectable company who has their agenda down to a science. Four stops to four unbelievably beautiful places in the British Virgin Islands, from Virgin Gorda to see the Baths, to Diamond Reef for snorkeling, then over to Marina Cay for lunch, and the last stop is Jost Van Dyke where you anchor off the shores of White Bay. Boating, snorkeling, interesting people, and a few Virgin Island “Pain Killers”-It’s no surprise that it was a trip favorite.

    Pusser’s Marina Kay- British VI

    1. Same Place Different Space. A place where everyone has some space is best. One hotel room might have been great when they were younger, but everyone needs to know they can escape and have time alone when needed. We booked at a resort where they had a bedroom, we had a bedroom, and they each had their own bed. Space to breathe, read a book, or even catch on social media makes the time together go a little smoother.

    St. Thomas- US VI

    1. Family Fitness. While a break from everyday life is great, a complete disconnect from routines that are important to each individual isn’t. For us, exercise first thing in the morning is a critical component of our wellbeing, thus most mornings we made a beeline for the fitness room. Though we don’t normally work out together, sharing this experience on vacation was a fun diversion from our regular routine. We each did our own thing, but we learned something new about each other, aka I had no idea my daughter kills it on a treadmill.

    Family time isn’t something you can take for granted when your kids are grown. Getting away where there’s no distractions or competition for anyone’s time is an opportunity to create a stronger family bond.

    Everyone’s Happy When There’s Sun and Fun 

    Best in Health and Many Happy Vacations~

    - Angie

    Angie Miller, M.S., is a fitness educator, university instructor, and Licensed Professional Counselor who blends her skills and expertise to empower individuals, mentally and physically, and provide them the tools they need to succeed. A veteran group exercise instructor and personal trainer, Angie is the star of acclaimed exercise DVD’s, including the Bedroom Body™ workout. Her passion for progressive education brought her to Northern Illinois University, where she teaches in the Dept. of Kinesiology & Physical Education. Outside of the university, she presents at fitness conventions worldwide and leads industry trainings as an AFAA Certification Specialist and Kettlebell Concepts Master Instructor. Angie writes for fitness journals and digital communities, and blogs for Collage Video. Connect with Angie at: http://www.angiemillerfitness.com

     

    By Collage Video | | Angie Miller, exercise, goals, practice, story, Weekly Blog, Wellness | 0 comments | Read more

    My Mom, Her Journey Through Dementia & the Lessons I Learned

    by Angie Miller

    Angie Miller

    We learn a lot from our moms, much of which we don’t come to appreciate until we’re older, and often until we have children of our own. While I learned a lot from my mom growing up, her lessons were even more powerful when she became sick.  A strong pillar of pride, and a petite person full of sheer strength and determination, my mom raised five girls on her own. Six years ago she was diagnosed with dementia, a disease that ravishes the mind of the affected and the hearts of all who love them, and in July of 2013 she passed away. Unlike the movies, my mom wasn’t able to understand or accept her diagnosis. It came long after we knew that something was wrong, and far past the point of her being able to cognitively process the ramifications. Just as I would expect, the more the disease threatened her independence and ability to care for her family, the harder she fought. While our personalities are a unique expression of who we are, when a disease robs us of our cognitive processes our behaviors are highly affected. My mom was no different. I soon learned that the best way to live with the heartbreak of watching someone you love slip further away each day, was to appreciate the moments of joy and go where they go; experience the journey with them.

    My experiences in caring for my mom taught me many lessons and reinforced some of life’s greatest virtues. Even when she lost the ability to adequately express her thoughts and desires, her voice was just as powerful. It is my hope that our stories will reflect that we can still learn from those with cognitive decline, and we can appreciate even more the impact they have on our lives and in our hearts.

    My mom taught me Patience- My mom hated the cold, and I realized just how much when we would drive to appointment in the wintertime. Upon arrival I would open the door to help her out, and thanks to the assault of cold air she would immediately scold me to close the door, while at the same time insisting emphatically that she was getting out of the car. We would replay this scenario several times. I learned what it’s like when cognitive decline severs the connection between a person’s cognitive processes and their physical response. Patience was the least I could offer.

    My mom taught me to be Flexible- Though never a fan before she became sick, my mom became oddly obsessed with McDonalds iced beverages. No matter where we were heading or how late we were running, when she spotted the golden arches we stopped at McDonalds. She may have had one earlier in the day, but reminding her of that lead to agitation, which was generally driven by anxiety. Who wouldn’t feel anxious if someone was suggesting that you couldn’t remember something that happened an hour before? In the end, I learned that the moment of joy that came from the experience was far more valuable than the cost of the extra frappe.  

    My mom taught me Compassion- It was another doctor visit and a cold day, so I made a decision to pull up the curb and walk my mom inside, then ask her to sit on the couch while I ran and parked the car. While it only took a matter of minutes that’s all it took for my mom to disappear. As I stood there that day looking at all the hallways and directions she may have gone, the elevator doors opened and there was my mom with another woman holding her arm. My mom called out my name and the emotional response from both of us was as if we hadn’t seen one another in years. I realized that day how frightening it must be when you’re at the mercy of others to guide you along the right path and always keep you safe. Compassion is at the heart of all we do to walk in another person’s shoes and appreciate the difficulty of their journey.  

    The lessons we learn from our mothers take on even more meaning with age and experience. After their loss we appreciate more than ever the impact they had on our lives and in our hearts. May today remind you of your mother’s love and inspire you to share it with her in person or through the power of memory.

    My Mom~
    My sisters and I with my mom~

     

    - Angie

    Angie Miller is the star and creator of the Bedroom Body™ Workout and other top selling exercise DVD’s. Passionate about fitness and education, Angie teaches at Northern Illinois University and is a Certification Specialist for the Aerobic and Fitness Association of America (AFAA). She is a freelance writer, group fitness instructor, personal trainer, and proud mom. Learn more about Angie at: http://www.angiemillerfitness.com

     

    By Collage Video | | Angie Miller, story, Weekly Blog | 0 comments | Read more

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