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Manage slip-ups and get your activity plans back on track

It's common to have a 'slip-up', where you may not stick to your plans to be physically active. This can feel disappointing.

But there's usually something we can learn from it and plan for so it doesn't continue to happen.

Why do slip-ups happen?

Slip-ups usually happen when:

  • You have no time. We often lead busy lives and it can be difficult to find time in your day to be active.
  • You're in a situation out of your normal routine, such as away on holiday.
  • Your expectations of how much activity you can do is too strict.
  • Allow flexibility within your lifestyle so you don't feel overwhelmed or pressured.
  • You have unhelpful emotions or feelings, such as stress, sadness or tiredness.
  • You weigh up the pros and cons and make a conscious choice not to do any activity and do something else instead.

Managing difficult emotions if you go off track

Slip-ups happen to everyone. When they happen, don't beat yourself up about it and abandon your activity goals.

Missing a day doesn't undo all your efforts if you do your recommended levels of activity most of the time. Part of a healthy lifestyle is balance. This can include making less healthy choices sometimes.

Try to avoid 'all or nothing' thinking where you see things in black and white and use words such as 'always', or 'never'.

Don't say: "I've not met my step goal today, I'll never succeed at reaching my goal." It's important not to feel like you have fallen off the bandwagon completely.

Don't think: "I've ruined all my hard work, I feel guilty, I've let myself down". It's only a small diversion, and you'll get back on your road to a healthier lifestyle. You can still make a healthier choice the next time you plan to do some exercise.

Instead try to look at slip-ups in a more balanced way. Positive thinking is the key. To give two examples:

  • "Even though I missed my step goal yesterday, I've been doing my best and met my goal on all the other days this week"
  • "I accept I over overindulged this weekend. But I'll plan ahead and make sure I put in one extra session of activity this coming mid-week"

Moving forward after a slip-up

Learning from the experience is one of the most helpful things you can do after you've had a slip-up. Rather than focusing on what it was that meant you didn't exercise, think about:

  • How you'll move forward
  • What you'll learn from it
  • How you'll respond to it

One way to answer these questions is to come up with a plan to deal with a similar situation. This will help you stay on track to getting enough physical activity.

One such plan is an 'If-Then' plan. They're a good way of making new habits stick. For example:

  • "If I didn't go for my planned run today, then I'll make sure I have an extra run around with my kids at the playground"

Make your own If-Then plans.

Check if your goals are still achievable

One reason why you might be having slip-ups is because your goals are too difficult. They may not be achievable for you at the moment.

If you think it is the case, think about breaking your goal down into smaller achievable steps. You can tackle these in the short term to help you get back on track.

An example of an unrealistic goal may be that you have not run for over two years but you plan to run every day this month. Break this goal down into smaller steps instead.

You could follow a running plan you've found online and build up to this goal. This way you're more likely to avoid slip-ups or injuries and stay physically active.

Set your own small, achievable goals.

What's next

Get tips and ideas on how to maintain your new physical activity routine.

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