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Balancing the “Bad” and the “Good”

Fitness is equal parts exercise and nutrition. I’m pretty good at one thing. I’m not so great at the other.

Nothing can hold me back at the gym. You’ll find me spinning, stair mastering, or slamming giant ropes 5-6 days a week. If I feel a workout is too easy, I’ll usually find a way to amp it up. I don’t like finishing a class feeling like I could have tried harder. I enjoy challenging myself and the satisfied exhaustion after a tough workout.

And the reason my workouts are so exhausting at times is because I ate garbage the whole day before.

Take this past week for example. At Monday’s boot camp, our trainer Jenna gave us a particularly sweat-inducing workout:

  • Sprint ¼ mile
  • 50 push-ups (chest completely to ground)
  • 50 mountain climbers
  • 50 squats
  • 50 situps

Then we repeated the set, but did 40 of each exercise, then 30, 20, and 10. In total, it was 1.25 miles of sprinting and 150 reps of each exercise. Days later, my shoulders are still sore and I am still wincing to wash my hair.

If I had “fed” my muscles with vegetables, coconut water, and egg whites the day before, I might have felt a lot stronger throughout that challenging workout. Instead, I had brunched with a group of friends and indulged on fried chicken, waffles, and bloody marys. And later, I had met a friend for dinner at Little Goat, where we chowed down on nachos, crab dip, tostadas, and cheesecake.

I don’t eat like this all the time, and I don’t have such hard workouts all the time, so this is a pretty extreme example. But this juxtaposition does represent something I struggle with a lot. I do enjoy indulgent foods, especially in social situations. It’s part of the experience of eating with friends. I don’t regret those meals, even if they make my workouts harder the next day. Even so, I understand that I’m sacrificing the quality and effectiveness of my workouts when the only vegetables I eat all day are the jalapeno slices on my cheese-smothered barbecue pork nachos.

What I try to remember is that every day is a new day. My self control will waver from day to day and even hour to hour throughout the day. Today may have been a “bad” day for eating the right stuff, but tomorrow is a new one. Likewise, if today was a “good” day for eating well, I might struggle more tomorrow. “Not so good” days are just part of the game. I can’t eat perfectly all the time. But getting discouraged and letting my eating snowball because one or two unhealthy meals set me off track will send me in the wrong direction.

So that’s why the day after a couple bad-for-you meals, I was at the gym working hard. It’s not tough for me to move put a “bad” nutrition day behind me… which is probably why I have more of them than I should.

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Betsy Mikel | betsymikel.com

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