Episode 319 – How close are you to your highlight reel?

Written by Jonathan

Normally over the Christmas break I take it a little easier and I get a little bit lax on my health and wellness, I eat a little more chocolate, I tend to drink a little bit more beer and wine and I don’t exercise anywhere near as frequently or as intensely. I use the week between Christmas and New Years to recharge my batteries and let loose a little bit, which I did this year as I usually would, except as many of you know, if you listened to our last episode that this year was different, the week before Christmas until the week after New Years my mom was in the palliative care unit at our local hospital and during that time plus the full week after she passed away, I ran only 2 times and I did a very abbreviated strength training workout twice a week that was essentially just some variation of push-ups, pull-ups and handstands just enough for me to somewhat maintain my current strength upper body strength.
Now, this past week was my first full week back working, working out and running and it was really tough, I managed to keep my upper body strength close to the same, but I’m tiring much more quickly and my muscles are much more sore than they were in the month before Christmas, on top of this my leg strength feels like it’s shot, I’m scared to do any variation of squat with heavy weights because I’m afraid my ego won’t be able to handle this, and my first run back was abysmal, it took me 35 minutes to run almost 3 miles and I had to walk several times. This is more than 15 minutes slower than it would have taken me to cover the same distance 2 weeks before Christmas, I was demoralized by it and I strongly considered taking a break from running, because my attitude in that moment was – ‘what’s the point I don’t want to feel like garbage when I do this and it will take me months to get to the speed I was running before.’
I know there’s a lot of you listening right now that have felt this way about exercise at some point. Usually it comes in the form of something like this,
When I was in high school I could do 20 push-ups no problem and now I can’t even do 1 from my knees.
Or this
Before I had kids I could eat whatever I wanted and now I feel like I gain 5 lbs. if I have a bad weekend, I can never seem to get and keep my extra weight off.
Or maybe something like this
I used to play all kinds of sports and exercise was easy, now I feel out of control and I never have time to do the activities I used to really love doing.

Those are just some examples, but I know everyone plays some version of this somewhere in their mind, where you take some aspect of your current self that you’re upset about or unhappy with and you compare it to a time when you were stronger, faster, lighter and things were easier for you, or your perception is that they were easier for you and I say perception because here’s the thing that we’re all doing in this scenario, we’re comparing our current selves to the highlight reel of our past selves, let that sink in just for a second, we compare our current selves to the the highlight reel version of our past selves, you’re not thinking about the first time you laid down on the floor and tried to push-yourself back up and couldn’t or you could, but I can say with almost 100% certainty that it probably looked awful, you’re not thinking about the fact that before you had kids you had much more free time to prepare your food and be more active, not to mention you probably had a more favourable hormonal profile that helped you stay thinner and you’re not thinking about the fact that when you were younger sports were organized for you, where workouts and practices were scheduled, you were often held accountable by teammates and you had none of the responsibilities you have as an adult.
These are all details we often forget when it comes to our weight and our fitness levels not only do we constantly compare ourselves to the fittest or slimmest version of our past selves, but we also forget about the circumstances that lead to that fittest or slimmest version of ourselves and it brings me to the point I’m trying to make, my life, your life, our lives are constantly evolving and changing which means our outlook and our comparisons need to be constantly evolving and changing. You’re probably never going to be what you were in high school or your 20’s and that’s fine because your life is different now. You have different responsibilities and priorities, your body is going to respond differently to the exercises you do and the foods you eat, and you’re older too, which means you’re not going to recover as quickly, I know I don’t, I’m only 34 and I feel a big difference from when I was in my early 20’s.
I know it’s incredibly challenging to not compare yourself to the past version of yourself, it’s something I struggle with everyday, but here are some things that I do that help me:
Whenever I catch myself thinking in this destructive way, I reset my expectations, what should I expect to happen, if I’ve only run twice in the last month I should expect to be slower and if I’m slower than I expected maybe I should take into consideration the fact that I’m 12 years older than I was when I ran my fastest ever 5k and the first time I ever tried to run 3 miles I had to walk
Another thing I do and am doing right now is that I’ve reset my focus from my absolute strength and absolute speed to the consistency I’m able to exercise. Instead of trying to run 5k in under 23 minutes which is my usual focus I’m going to focus on staying consistent and doing what I need to do to get 4 runs in a week and if I stay focused on staying consistent and getting 4 runs in a week that counts as a win and eventually my time will come down again as long as I focus on the consistency of the runs.
As you embark on your changes and you try to improve your lifestyle and as you compare your current self to your previous self try to keep these strategies in mind and develop your own tricks so that you can avoid the pitfall of this comparison. When you hold yourself up to a previous standard that realistically is no longer attainable, when you can’t reach that standard not only will you be unmotivated to continue, you might even be depressed about it, which means not only will you give up on that standard, but you might resort back to doing nothing about it and that doesn’t help anyone.
As you march forward on your quest for better fitness and better health how can you reframe your expectations in a realistic way, what strategies can you use or new comparisons can you make that don’t point out your flaws, but rather focus on your strengths and improvements? When you focus on your strengths and improvements, in other words where you’re going, not where you’ve been, how much more motivating is that going to be for you?
I can’t say for sure, but my best guess is a lot.



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