The devastating aftermath of one’s holiday as it pertains to:
a) getting back into one’s normal gym routine;
b) getting back to one’s normal physical expectations of self;
c) getting back to a place where your body doesn’t feel like sausage meat stuffed into your clothes;
d) all of the above.
*Depending on the origin, it may also be known as Post-Illness Syndrome, and/or Post-Disruption-In-Training-Routine Syndrome.
As we return from a glorious 2-week holiday in New Zealand, I find myself sitting with this concept. Again. (Although it happens multiple times a year, it always seems as though it’s such a massive event that has to be endured). I say “sitting” because I’m trying to observe it and decide where I want to go with it, rather than just being lazy and letting my emotions take over life for the next couple of weeks. Normally, I’d lose my shit at myself, go on about how much slower and weaker I was, and feel guilty and frustrated. Of course, Craig would hear about it multiple times a day (but he married this and it is his cross to bear, that poor bastard).
This time, though, I’m going with: Post-Holiday Not-Going-To-Lose-My-Shit-Drome. And, because I know some of you have returned from your summer holidays with symptoms of PHS, I’ll leave you with some of my ponderings; metaphorical PHS pills, a survival guide if you will.
1). In order for my fitness to decline, I must have some higher level of fitness in the first place! Ummmmm….isn’t that kind of cool?! Yeah it fucken is, actually. So instead of moaning about how unfit I’ve become, I’m going to high-five myself for how fit I was pre-holiday.
PHS pill: we always want to be better, but we don’t often stop to appreciate how far we have progressed already. It sucks to decline but, whenever you do, take the opportunity to recognise and admire pre-holiday you and how quickly you could recover between rounds, the weights you’d use, how fast you’d run, and anything else that you had to work hard to do.
2). In order for me to expect and accept that physically conditioning my body will make me fitter and stronger, and to lose body fat and build muscle, I must expect and accept that my body will do the opposite with physical deconditioning. It will never be just one form, or state, or size. It is not, and never will be static but, rather, adaptive and responsive. This is shit because, if I stop working for it, I will decline. On the other hand, this is cool because, if I work for it, I can get back to where I was*. So, although I cannot control the nature of the body in this sense – I must take the good with the bad, the ying with the yang – I can control the work I put in to influence it.
PHS pill: just get straight back to work, the sooner the better.
*I need to point out that, at some point, I won’t be able to get back to where I was (you know, a change of priorities and ageing and all that jazz) and when this happens, I’ll be working to maintain and/or prevent.
3). It’s an important lesson to observe the state of my body (can’t think of a better way to put that) as I go through different stages and behaviours. For example, Craig and I have a pretty good routine and lifestyle at home (for a majority of the time…we ain’t perfect): we enjoy mostly wholefoods that are simple and nutritious, our desserts and treats are normally quiet “healthy”, junk food is a very occasional occurrence, we sleep well and we move daily. While I am here, in this stage, my body responds by functioning well, and I feel great (mind and body). When I’m on holiday, on the other hand, I am not in this routine and am literally the opposite in all aspects. I eat all the foods I wouldn’t normally eat, I overindulge, and I normally do not move daily. While I am here, in this stage, my body responds differently: I do not feel great, my gut is often upset and so my digestion is affected, my training quality declines (because I’m not doing as much of it, but also because I’m not fueled correctly), and I do not feel good in my skin. I don’t know how to describe this properly so as not to make it just a weight issue, because it’s not just about putting on weight. It may just be a matter of self-esteem or body awareness telling me that I’ve dropped the ball but, weight-gain aside, my body responding to this behaviour (not looking after myself) is not a nice feeling (mind and body).
Now, in saying all of that, I know that one cannot live life worrying about being perfect 100% of the time (trust me, I am nowhere near perfect and this is not what I endorse); I am in full support of going on holiday, letting lose, and falling face-first off the bandwagon (so long as it’s temporary, of course)! But, for me, this always highlights the relationship between my body and my health, and the lifestyle choices I make; a rather delicate cause-and-effect relationship (I managed to put on 2kg in just under 2 weeks!) I do get worried for a stage in my life where I may not be able to control my routine or surroundings as well as we do now (my current success is based on controlling my surroundings, if that makes sense, not actually being able to demonstrate self-control), but this is the responsibility I need to accept and the lesson I need to learn as life marches on and stages come and go.
PHS pill: if you holiday hard, like I do, don’t get mad at yourself for “letting yourself go”. It is what it is. Instead, identify the decisions that did not serve you and learn from it. Be aware of the choices you make, and not just on holiday, but every day. Accept that you are in control (for the most part) of your lifestyle, whatever stage you are in, and understand that your body will be on that journey with you, responding to those decisions. If you decide to fall off the bandwagon, go nuts and enjoy yourself (!!!), but be clear that you are deciding to accept the consequences of it (and be ok with it). If you’re not ok with it and you don’t want to accept the consequences, then either make your decisions accordingly, or don’t come back and moan about it (like I’m trying not to) J
4). I have made it through PHS multiple times before; I do not need to flagellate myself over this. In 2 weeks, I will be back into the swing of things and won’t even remember that I wrote this ridiculous blog.
PHS pill: In the big scheme of things, it is a blip on the radar and is not a big deal (so don’t make it a big deal). Instead, focus your energy on getting back into routine and getting on with it.
Parting wisdom for all sufferers of PHS and any other remorse-based syndromes:
You are not alone. The symptoms and side effects suck and it’s a really shitty way to come back from a much-deserved holiday with family and friends, or any period of time-out or destress. However, holidays and out-of-routine stages are necessary and unavoidable, and it’s important that we either learn to manage the aftermath (psychologically or physically), OR we learn how to manage ourselves during those times so that we avoid PHS altogether. Don’t let it define you, it’s just a stage (that can be short if you just get your ass back into gear) and does not need to become a big deal.
PHS survival quick tips:
- Get straight back into your regular routine. Don’t mope around and avoid it. It’s going to suck but you need to face it head-on (because the longer you leave it the worse it’ll get).
- Lower your expectations and set yourself up to win during this time, not to fail (why would you make it worse? Why? WHY?). This means, lower intensity, weights, duration etc, and slowly ease back into it.
- Expect it to take as long as your period of absence to get your mojo back.
- Only look for empathy from other PHS sufferers because, trust me, no one else will give a shit.
I hope that my ramblings might give you another point of view while you manage your PHS, and that I might just spare your significant other of any PHS-related outbursts. If you need to chat about anything health and fitness-y, let me know, I’m always down to help J