like any fitness regimen, walking for fitness comes with the potential for setbacks, how we respond to those setbacks, can be the difference between success and failure.

Like most people in 2020, I experienced a large culture change. I visited Mexico with my partner in February, then by March the world was upside down, and work was crazy. Before long, I was like a prisoner in my home, granted limited outside privileges to grab some essential items or exercise.

Thankfully London was blessed with an early and lengthy heatwave so I was heavily motivated to spend time outdoors, exercising, or tending to my garden. As the summer passed, the cold weather and dark nights drew in, despite my resolve; motivation to get outside is slowly starting to wane.

Then after a turbulent yet indulgent Christmas period, I was starting to notice an increase in belly fat, and a decrease in physical energy was starting to get me down. Thankfully, walking for fitness is a tool I know I can utilise to make it right.walking for fitness

Come rain or shine I will be out walking every day, until yesterday.

My First Setback of 2021

I started 2021 strong, with 10000 footsteps a day I am climbing the equivalent of 45 flights of stairs daily. My Cardio is improving and my energy is back. Then yesterday, I got ready to go for a walk, trainers, a warm jacket and a hat were my defense against the light drizzle I could see outside the front door.

Unfortunately, the rain I witnessed was not the full picture of the conditions I would experience after walking a little further along the path, beyond the houses that had previously been acting as a windshield. I found the combination of wind, rain, and cold unbearable. I immediately retreated and took up my post at the window inside the house and looked on at the weather.

My mind was jumping between thoughts of, “maybe it will calm down soon” and “maybe I can miss a day.” I decided to put Netflix on and march on the spot while I was thinking about it but before long my I wasn’t enjoying myself so I made excuses and I gave up.

One Day Won’t Hurt, Will It?

Many of you might be reading this and thinking, “big deal, you missed a day”. However, I am sure many of you who have struggled to find a fitness routine that you can stick to can relate to my pain. Any fitness workout should include rest days, and walking is no different. It is essential so your cells can regenerate and muscles can repair stronger. However, the impact of setbacks happen in the mind, we place value and meaning on lost sessions based on our thought patterns.

Some setbacks happen for reasons beyond our control, perhaps illness or injury, or a forced change of schedule can force us to miss sessions or hinder progress, our own thoughts about missed sessions are more detrimental than the physical impact. This is why we find some setbacks easier to overcome than others

yesterday was not a scheduled rest day, my conscious thoughts were telling me I needed to exercise but something popped up from my unconscious thoughts and I chose not to exercise. Thoughts that I felt like I had no control of, stopped me from doing something I wanted to do, I was physically capable of doing and would have moved me closer to my fitness goals.

Fighting The Setback

There are two main ways to take action against setbacks in your fitness routine. Mentally overcoming a setback is about affirming your mindset to come to terms with what has happened and ensuring you can kick on towards your fitness goals. Physically compensating for a setback is about covering the ground you have lost with your missed sessions.

Overcoming The Mental Setback

I already mentioned how important the mental aspect is when overcoming the setback. If we do not take care of the negative mental feelings that come with setbacks, we risk associating these feelings with the fitness routine itself, and then our conscious minds could start to think it resents fitness rather than failure. You may actually give up your fitness regime for all the wrong reasons if you allow one missed session to make you feel bad.

We have to understand, no matter what caused our setback, it is in the past, we cannot change or control it, we can only navigate. It might be easier not to regret something that was not our fault impacting our schedule but the truth is, feeling bad about our decisions doesn’t help anyone.

I didn’t feel good about walking yesterday, then I didn’t do it and felt worse about not walking. I felt bad about feeling bad…where will it end? You need to make peace with what has happened, the past can’t be changed but you can learn from it and grow.

Now you need to look forward, make a plan or look over the plan you have. Remind yourself why you set your goals in the first place, that you are completely capable of sticking to them and that the results you will achieve will feel even better. This different from just making excuses for why it went wrong

And then just do it – take action, continue your fitness routine even if you still feel a little down. Failure is optional, you can choose not to accept it.

Physically Compensating For Your Fitness Setback

Unless you are an elite level athlete or training for something specific and have limited time, physical compensation for missed sessions is probably optional. However, when reminding yourself that you will succeed, you may find that physically compensating really helps you to mentally overcome your negative feelings. Here are some of the ways you can physically do this

Spreading it out – Taking a measurable part of your missed session or sessions and spreading it evenly over your next few walks can make you feel like you have taken responsibility for what you have lost and replaced it. This could be walking for 80 minutes instead of 1 hour or 12000 steps a day instead of 10000.

Raise your effort – Increasing the intensity of each workout to get more out of it can close the gap on lost progress while helping you mentally overcome the lost sessions. You can add more incline or introduce more bouts of speed walking to accomplice this.

Combination – Ensuring you keep it enjoyable, you can raise your efforts and increase your workload across your next few sessions by trying to increase your steps/distance without increasing your time, or increase your steps and add more incline.

Remember, physically compensating for lost sessions a positive way to take charge of your feelings and progress towards your fitness goals, it is completely optional. You shouldn’t use it to punish yourself so if you don’t feel good about it, it is ok to stick to your original routine.

What Next

As I look outside the window, the weather is disgusting. The persistent snow and wind from Storm Cristoph are providing less than ideal walking conditions. I am determined that today I will complete my targetted amount of walking but if for some reason I am unable, I will come to terms with it, make a plan to get over it, and then continue on towards my goals tomorrow.

If you have faced setbacks to your walking for fitness goals or would like to share tips on overcoming setbacks, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.