It’s always nice to feel as though you’re monitoring progress in one way or another. Journaling can be a good way to chart your thoughts, practice positive self-talk or just generally keep track of how you’re feeling. Additionally, if you’re a female (period or no period), I’d highly recommend using the FitrWoman App to monitor any physical or emotional changes that may indicate fluctuations in hormones. Blood test results, medical records and DEXA scan scores can be helpful measures if you have access to them too.
Keeping track of progress can help you decide what adjustments to make further down the line. For example, if weight restoration is your goal and nothing much has changed after adding in an extra X amount of calories every day for X amount of time, it can help you recognise the need to try something more substantial. Equally, if you start catastrophising about your lack of progress after only a few days or weeks of making changes, looking back over your journal can help you keep things in perspective. Progress comes from an accumulation of smaller efforts and accomplishments over a period of time and it can help to see them laid out on paper.
When you’re used to training at a certain time or on certain days, it can feel like a gaping hole is opening up where the activity once filled. While I’d never encourage rigidity or obsessing over routine, I personally found it helpful to set time aside for certain activities – otherwise I’d be prone to wallowing in self-pity while wondering whether my training group had finished their warm up…Whether it’s cancelling your alarm and giving yourself a lie-in or filling it with other meaningful activities, plan it in early to generate a sense of routine (and to help you avoid doing things you shouldn’t).
Focus on mastering new skills
Why not dedicate the extra time you now have to find fulfillment in other areas or work on skills you never had time for before. Gardening, yoga, baking, volunteering, developing your flexibility, reading, making music/learning an instrument, drawing, painting, photography, learning a language, spending time with friends and family etc, are all good alternatives to exercise that aren’t likely to sap your energy. Rather than automatically dismissing them as ‘not the same’, ‘dissatisfying’ or ‘too easy’, try looking at them through a positive lens: this is a chance to be a better version of yourself in a sphere outside of sport.
You could also dedicate some time to some psychological skills training e.g. resilience, mindfulness, anxiety or energy management, imagery or positive self-talk. Even if it seems more comforting to mindlessly scroll through your social media feed or binge-watch a TV series, stretching yourself to practice something that requires some effort can help provide the satisfaction previously brought to you through training. Granted, it might not feel exactly the same in the short-term, but you never know what new forms of fulfillment or satisfaction you might discover.
Build a support team
Accept support from those who care about you and want to you to succeed with your new health/lifestyle goals. Energies are contagious and while it may be comforting to spend time with other problemed parties, try to surround yourself with positive people who reflect who you want to be and how you want to feel. Take yourself off social media if it’s bringing you down – or at the very least un-follow those who don’t align with your current goals. Comparison is a toxic trap to fall into and something you could really do without right now…and always.
Learning how to rest is an essential tool for life, not just sport. Allowing time for our body's cells to recharge is something many of RED-S sufferers are guilty of neglecting, but rest isn't about being lazy or avoiding doing things. It’s about helping you re-charge your immune system, restore your energy, re-balance your hormones and be your best, healthiest self. Even if it’s just enjoying more time to do nothing – embrace the freedom of not travelling to and from training, or rushing from one activity to the next.
Success in sport (as in life) often involves an obvious form of reward: a race win, a personal best time, a qualification for another event or an immense sense of satisfaction in knowing you gave your all. Practicing a positive mindset, building psychological resilience or restoring an energy balance isn’t likely to be quite so obviously rewarded. Don’t let this mean you celebrate these successes any less – no matter how small or insignificant you think they sound. In a different way, you have worked hard, overcome adversity and achieved something that absolutely deserves to be celebrated. Doing so can boost your confidence, help keep you on task and fuel your continued success.