Sometimes in the eternal struggle to find a way to be healthy and get fit we find ourselves in a unique position, one that at the time seem’s like a godsend. You know what I’m talking about, you’re working out constantly, you’re feeling that burn in all the right places, you aren’t even complaining about it because hey, ‘No Pain, No Gain’ or how about ‘Pain is weakness leaving the body?’ You’re eating all the right things, the perfect blend of protein and vitamins, you’ve found some fancy named diet that makes you feel like you are on the very cutting edge of science and nothing is going to stop you! You wake up and eat, breathe, scream fitness! It’s during that phase that your instagram is flooded with workout selfies, sweat pouring down your face as you grin defiantly into to the iPhone, and your facebook is full of comments telling you how proud they are of you and how great you are looking! It’s addictive. Everyone around you hears what you are eating and why, you meticulously track every calorie on intake and when burned. You buy new pieces of exercise equipment and by god, you use them! This is the high point of fitness.
Some people call it the honeymoon phase, I call it…
Hyperfocus is a term I learned when I began to deal with my adult ADHD, simply put it is a period of deep and intense concentration. You find something you love and enjoy and the rest of the world becomes a big grey blur. In ADHD this can be anything, large chunks of time expressed in doing one activity on repeat. Art, video games, writing, cleaning, it can be anything and you aren’t satisfied until it is fully completed, and therein lies the problem with hyperfocus and fitness. You cannot complete fitness. There will never be a giant finish line to cross.
Hyperfocus in fitness isn’t necessarily a bad thing, at least not at first. Usually you find yourself making a lot of commitments and holding yourself accountable in ways that you might not otherwise. That is a positive thing! Commitments, friends, accountability, a community, those things will hold you through the inevitable fallout that you will have with your blooming storybook love with all things smoothie and barbell related comes to an end. I’m not here to discourage the intent laser-like focus we get on fitness right away, instead I would like to remind you, that it will slow down. You cannot maintain at 100% forever, it’s simply impossible. So while you feel passion, feel it, really feel it. Love it, soak it up. You get out there and join communities, you start those commitments and hold yourself accountable!
Once you hit the point where suddenly it’s not so exciting to eat another fruit bowl or make another protein shake for breakfast, when you want a waffle or a Pop-Tart instead, once you would rather go out instead of work out, or you just need a day to lay on the couch, once those things happen another thing usually happens. Guilt. You feel guilty for not working out, for not eating right, for not doing absolutely everything you could. I think we all know by now that guilt and fitness are not great friends, they are the kind of friends that keep hanging out, but just tell all their other friends the other ones dirt. We can’t be guilted into loving ourselves, into fighting for our better selves. We have to want it, really want it.
So enough of telling you what Hyperfocus is and where it inevitably leads, here is how I combat it.
How to fight it
I’ll be the first to admit that I have Borderline Personality Disorder so extremes are in my nature. I am all in or all out and I struggle with that with physical health more than anything else, so I have to be especially diligent in my all in phases. So instead of letting myself push for absolute perfection, I force moderation. Now, everyone will tell you how important moderation is, and when you are in the honeymoon smoochy phase of loving that runner’s high and convincing yourself that kale tastes great, the word moderation seems like a dirty word. “Why be moderate when I CAN be perfect?” You might ask yourself. Reasonable question, so here are some good ways to trick your brain.
- Metabolism is a fickle mistress and if you eat a specific caloric intake all the time you can make yourself plateau. The way I have burst through that plateau time and time again seems counter-intuitive. I cheat. One day a week, I don’t count a damn calorie. Usually it’s a day when I’m going to get drunk and the idea of counting empty alcohol calories makes me want to cry, so I just don’t. I eat what I want, I may or may not work out, but I simply let myself be for one day. I don’t preplan the day, it’s not the same day every week. It just happens. Organic is the key here. If you want to wake up and eat a waffle and six strips of greasy bacon. Do. it. You have six other days to eat right.
- Don’t restrict yourself to the detriment of a social life. If your friend makes her super special brownies once a year and she brings them to your house. Buddy please, eat the damn brownies. One day will not break you. Guilt over one day can!
I have to talk to myself. It’s nine pm, I already took a shower, it’s too late to work out, I had a heavy dinner. So what? Just do it. There isn’t a time at which you are not allowed to work out, showers can be taken again, next time hit the workout video before dinner. Just do it this time, you will feel better. That’s the real thing I have to tell myself every time. You will feel better for having done this. It has never been a lie. Even laying on my yoga mat, shirt soaked with the always attractive boob sweat, and gasping for air, I feel good.
Deep down we all like material stuff, and we are all still five years old. You might think, why bribe? I can just get what I want? I’m an adult. Absolutely, you sure can. Don’t though. Make goals, weight, fitness, food, inches any of those things you can make goals about. Make a list of goals and then assign a prize. For example, I could go get my nose pierced right now, nothing is stopping me. I have the money, I have the time, the gas is in the car, but if I get it when I hit my next milestone… it’ll mean something more to me. So here I am waiting for this thing I really want. You can do it, too.
Above all else remember this, love the hyperfocus while it exists, but be realistic with yourself. Don’t set yourself up for failure by pushing so hard you get injured or that if you miss a day you can’t get back on the horse. You will fail, you will fail a lot, and that is okay! You can always start fresh, and we are all waiting for you when you are ready to hop back on.
What do you do when you hit that wall at the end of hyperfocus? How do you keep yourself motivated? Do you even deal with that beginning hyperfocus? I would love to hear from you in the comments!