October 11, 2011

Breaking the Routine

When I’m on the road, it can be hard to find healthy food. I end up finding one or two dishes at various local restaurants that are at last somewhat comparable to my home cooked meals, and then getting those all the time. The predictability is key – different restaurants do different preparations that can make a seemingly healthy dish terrible for you. Take, for example, my usual breakfast spot in Charlottesville – Cafe Cubano. My first time there, I made the mistake of ordering an egg white omelet with veggies but no cheese. Unfortunately, the plate that arrived to me was so slick with grease that it made me think they had poached the egg in oil instead of cooking it on a flat top! I’ve since learned that the way to get eggs there is over medium with extra napkins, and then I blot all the excess oil. Not as yummy as a veggie omelet, but I’ll make do – particularly when this is my daily breakfast instead of a once-in-a-while meal.

But I didn’t realize how into my routine I was until I went to pick up lunch today at the local cheap Chinese restaurant. I ordered online, waited about 15 minutes, and then headed over, only to be greeted by a worried hostess. “You no want shrimp today? You want chicken?” Oops. It seems I may have ordered steamed veggies and shrimp so many times that when today I ordered chicken, the restaurant panicked and thought I had entered my order wrong.

It got me thinking about the other routines in my life. I go back and forth between whether I’m someone who likes routine or variety. Sometimes I’m comforted by routines – I like the predictability of them, especially since I can be a bit of a control freak at times. But then I get bored with always doing the same thing over and over, and I end up booking flights to Europe to mix things up. I start being unpredictable for a while until I start craving some stability… and then I go back to my comfy routine (or perhaps a new one).

It’s similar with my workouts. When I explain how I got started running, one thing that always surprises people is that I didn’t follow a training plan. If you read back through my blog archives, you can see in real time how I ran when I felt like it. I wasn’t necessarily planning to do a marathon; I just kept trying to run further and further and see how far I could push myself. Honestly, I think that was the key for me in not getting injured – I didn’t have to push myself because I didn’t have a specific plan in mind. I ran when I felt like it, and when I didn’t feel like it, it’s probably because my body instinctively knew it wasn’t a good idea – and I took a rest day.

With the Insanity program that I tried this summer, there was a very specific schedule that I was supposed to follow – and honestly, it got annoying. What if I didn’t feel like doing a particular workout that day? What if I had a marathon the next day but was scheduled for a Fit Test? Being a perfectionist and a rule follower, I had trouble breaking the schedule. And when I did deviate, I found it that much harder to get back into the game.

I’m now going through kind of the same thing with the Rachel Cosgrove workouts. On the plus side, hers are only every other day – so it’s easier to suck it up and do it even when you don’t feel like it. The scheduling aspect makes it seem more like an appointment that you can’t skip, instead of something I can put off anytime I’m feeling lazy. Following a set plan is what helps me stick with it, and I like that – even if it’s not a daily routine.

But then I find myself kind of sabotaging my own fitness on the in between days. There are days in between her workouts that I really, really want to lift weights. I have the time, I have the energy, and I just want to do it – but I know that if I go all out with some rowing, for example, I’ll be sorry the next day when it’s time to do my scheduled workout and my muscles are too sore. What it comes down to is that your muscles only grow by tearing them down and then allowing them to build back up. If you don’t give them that rest day, they won’t rebuild, and you’ve basically wasted your workout. Not good! But I struggle with the idea of vegging out on my off days. Going to the gym every day makes it like brushing my teeth or showering; every other day breaks that routine. I’ve always loved that saying, “if I work out every other day, every day becomes the other day.” So true!

I guess, like everything else in my life, it’s a case of finding a balance. I do workout every day (even though Rachel Cosgrove tells me not to), but I try to find things on the in between days that won’t mess up the hard lifting I have planned as my regular workout. Above all, fitness needs to be fun for you to stick with it – so I just try to make sure that I’m doing what I want to and not letting some silly plan get in my way!


1 thought on “Breaking the Routine”

  1. I understand exactly what you mean! I tend to get stuck in little ruts, then get bored, do something to knock myself out of said rut, and wind up in one again a couple of months later. 😉

    At least you notice it and do something about it!

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