One of the hardest lessons I learned in becoming an adult is that I could not be consistently happy for the rest of my life.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not me saying “woe is me, I’m bound to die unhappy.” What I’m saying is that it took me awhile to learn that I could not live in pure elation until I died.
Although I surely tried.
With non-stop travel, outdoor adventure, and parties on the weekend, I was determined to make myself immune to unhappiness.
Manic or youthful? You decide.
Anyway, turns out that didn’t work.
I learned that the best we can only hope for is that the squiggly line of progress ultimately goes up over time.
Similarly, the life of an entrepreneur is riddled with highs and lows.
Some weeks we get 4 new members, some weeks we lose 6 because “work is really busy.”
Some days we wear pants, some days we don’t.
In a consistently inconsistent environment, self-care is especially important to recharge your batteries and keep you showing up to the gym to enjoy what it is you do.
Particularly as we ride out the rest of the holiday season, we’re bound to have some slower days. Whether it be the cold or temptations of pumpkin bread, the gym is the last thing on many people’s minds right now.
What can you do to navigate periods of uncertainty and phases where your energy is lower than usual? Here are a few ideas.
1. Go easy on yourself.
I say this up front because as a gym owner, I know other gym owners like to run themselves into the ground. It’s what we think being productive looks like.
As much as we recommend recovery to our athletes to balance out hard work outs, you need to do the same for yourself. You can’t always run on all cylinders, and when you’re feeling off, you need to take some time off.
That being said, don’t beat yourself up for slowing down and taking some time to yourself.
Yes, it feels strange. I know. But that doesn’t make it wrong.
Embrace the highs and lows life deals. Embrace the discomfort of not always being at your prime.
This isn’t just some kumbaya advice to love yourself, although that’s super important, too. The key here is that beating yourself up when you already feel like crap is counterproductive and will prolong these periods.
If one of your members had the flu, would you tell them to ramp it up in the gym? No, hopefully you’d tell them to rest, hydrate, and self-medicate (applicable with or without the flu, in my opinion).
Same goes here.
The easiest and quickest way to get through these periods of low energy is firstly, to acknowledge and accept it. You won’t go backward in progress. You won’t become a degenerate overnight.
Don’t take your foot completely off the pedal, but don’t beat yourself up if it feels like some days you’re barely inching forward in neutral. The key is consistency over time. Refer to the graph above for an illustration.
2. Get off social media.
You know how when you’re in a negative mindset, you just look for reasons to continue being negative?
This is where social media comes to the rescue.
Feel down about yourself? Check out what your friend Jessica, the Instagram influencer, is doing in Tahiti, after the 8 hour flight she just enjoyed in First Class.
Avoiding sensationalized news? Hear what Luis thinks about it instead in his latest status update. Then read all the comments from his friends and family members who vehemently disagree with him and have reverted to name-calling to really make their point.
The more important lesson here is to intentionally set boundaries.
Whether that’s online or in-person, you need to protect yourself. Just like having a lowered immune system, when you’re feeling mentally run down, you’re more susceptible to negative thoughts than usual.
Take a break from social media. You won’t miss it, and it won’t miss you.
3. Stick to your habits.
You know what habits I’m talking about when I say the ones that refuel you.
There’s a difference between relaxation and falling off the wagon completely, and speaking from personal experience, I feel worse, mentally and physically, when I stop following my habits completely.
Whether it’s eating a certain way, working out regularly, or something else, do those things. I definitely recommend an eye toward nutrition and staying active, because those are two things that can either improve your mood or significantly detract from it.
Pigging out and living on the couch may seem like a fun indulgence, but it may put you in a worse mood than you’re already in. That big of a divergence from your routine can make a bad mood worse, giving you more things to stew over.
Stick to your self-care habits during slow periods. This will also help you feel normal, which is all we can ask for on some days.
4. Have a hobby unrelated to the gym.
Up until recently, my hobby was reading business and self-development books. I love reading and learning, but I couldn’t figure out why reading these books would leave me feeling frantic more than anything.
You need space, mentally and physically, away from the gym.
Distance makes the heart grow fonder, and this is especially true with work.
When I took up wood-working, I noticed that I looked forward to my off-time more and that I didn’t keep myself needlessly busy for the sake of filling my time.
Instead of creating useless busy work or pestering Lee about the gym, having a hobby to look forward to allowed me to easily detach from the gym when the work day was done. This also allowed me to be more efficient with my time and focus my effort on work that was the most important.
5. Have a distraction unrelated to the gym.
One of the most memorable pieces of advice I have been given was to watch more television.
In a culture where many of us are too busy to watch TV, it has almost become an indulgence we secretly judge, as if someone who admits to watching TV is admitting to eating spoonfuls of lard for dinner.
Ever heard of the phrase “time well wasted”? It’s a real thing. Some might even call it productive; I surely would.
There’s a difference between a hobby and a distraction. A hobby engages your brain (puzzles), your body (hiking), or both (hiking while doing puzzles). Although having a hobby separate from the gym helps you strike that work/life balance, sometimes it’s helpful to disengage completely.
I’m generally cautious when people talk about shutting their brains off, because there’s a fine line between relaxing and escaping. However, giving your brain (and body) a break from being engaged is essential. It contributes to that distance I talked about, which allows you to enjoy the gym more and ultimately be more successful in the long run.
And that’s what this post is about, too. It’s not just about relaxation, bubbles, and facials. It’s about how to successfully weather low points and avoid burn out, so you can continue to fight another day.