Kaleidoscope 23/40: Mastering the athletic recovery

Kaleidoscope 23/40: Mastering the athletic recovery
DALL-E & I wish we never needed athletic recoveries...

Back when I was a kid, I ski raced with this guy Andrew Weibrecht. He would make insane athletic recoveries and was incredibly fun to watch because you knew that something dramatic could happen.

I remember this one time he crashed, sliding down the icy slope on his hip. Every other racer would have been done, out of the race. But not Andrew, he somehow caught himself, skied uphill to go around the gate... and still won the race.

It was easy to be in awe of Andrew's skills. And he has gone on to win multiple olympic medals, clearly to prove my point:

Being able to make recoveries — to come back from mistakes and crashes — is an incredibly important skill to cultivate.

Yet its a skill I rarely see discussed. There is far more discussion of how not to crash in the first place (also a worthy ambition!).

How can I turn this fall into a stumble?

The inspiration for this question comes from Gretchen Rubin's proverb collection: A stumble may prevent a fall.

While Gretchen uses it to feel better about stumbles, for my purposes, I turn it on its head — asking how to recover from a fall — a failure — perceived or real.

So let's get real and talk about failure — big and small.

I personally find transitions incredibly difficult (I'm not alone in this). We'll talk more about that in later questions in the Kaleidoscope series.

The transition to the holidays every year results in GIANT stumbles for me. Sometimes full blown crashes.

For example, about a decade ago, Michael & I had seriously changed our eating habits for the better. I honestly wasn't craving sugar or sweets anymore and I was physically feeling better than I had in a long time.

Enter Christmas — cookies and pie and all things delicious — and the inability to keep our eating habits as they were. It was as if all of our learnings, efforts and new eating habits went completely out the window.

My sugar cravings came back, as strong as ever. And they didn't stop at the end of the holiday season.

Nope. Despite both wanting to transition back, we never made it back to consistently eating as well as we did for the previous 8 months.

This was a stumble that turned into a great big fall.

To be clear — this is not the fault of the person offering up the Christmas cookies (hi Mom!). I own what I can control — my actions & decisions.

Now, I strongly prefer to control my actions and decisions by controlling my environment (as we'll talk about later).

But that's irrelevant, I'm still responsible.

When it comes to transition stumbles like this, I've found I have a couple of options.

I can avoid the thing that makes me stumble in the first place. This is the easiest and most obvious strategy — although it often has challenging or undesirable side effects.

You can bet that on years that I don't travel back east I simply eat like usual and don't have Christmas cookies in my house. Problem solved!

But am I going to give up Christmas with my family to prevent this kind of challenge? For me, of course not!

I can anticipate the stumble and try to plan for it. This strategy works really well for many people, but not so great for me. For example, my husband, Michael, who is much more skilled at transitions than I am, often rebounds back to normal habits with much greater ease.

Planning for stumbles looks like putting a specific exception clause into my plan (I workout on Mondays unless I am traveling internationally). But I often really struggle with restarting, even with the planned exception.

And my go to strategy: lower the bar. Nope, make it even lower.

I do my best to make it as easy as possible to keep as much momentum as possible going.

This takes two forms — both trying to keep a minimal version of my habits going during the transition and seriously lowering my expectations on the transition back.

This year, that looked like going to the gym (once) while back east and begging / demanding / making vegetables available to supplement the two dozen cookies I ate. :)

And after massive struggles to convince myself to go to the gym upon my return, I settled for a hike that kickstarted the transition.

But even with these strategies, I took a big fall on this project.

I'm now aiming for an Andrew-like recovery. HA

I write Kaleidoscope 100% for myself. The fact that I'm sharing this with you is secondary for me.

So it was pretty easy to let one go by when I was playing with my niece all day and then playing cards late into the night with my family — it was the right choice that day.

But singular right choices (a stumble) can be deeply destructive if one isn't skilled at recoveries.

And I'm not that skilled at recoveries of this sort.

Despite attempting, repeatedly, to transition back, I kept failing. Until now. yay

It took me longer than I wanted, but I have managed to turn this fall into a stumble.

And I don't plan to stumble again.

Until tomorrow,

I want to address several hilarious-to-me replies I got yesterday. They ask basically the same question my Mom asks my brother and I — Why don't you just NOT eat the cookies? (duh!)

Great question and I feel a little silly for not addressing it.

First of all, my story wasn't really about cookies, it was about the impact of interrupting my norms and having far less control over my environment than usual.

I summed all that up as 'cookies' as they are an easy (and vaguely funny) way to talk about it. But this is true with coming back from vacation or an intense work trip or even just an week where I feel off – any major interruption.

And boy oh boy, do I wish I could just not eat the cookies.

I know that many of you can. And you probably are shaking your head, thinking you can too, Rebecca, you just have to do it.

I can do a lot of hard things. But one of the biggest differences between 25 year old Rebecca and almost 40 year old Rebecca is that I realize that it takes 100 units of effort for me not to 'eat the cookie'... and 2 units of effort for me not to 'bring the cookie into the house' — its just not even close.

Living in a house with cookies, I end up asking myself 50 times a day if right now is the right time to eat the cookie? Even if I say NO to myself 90% of the time, I'm still eating 5 cookies a day! I honestly think that might be an underestimate of the amount that I ask myself about it.

Living in a house without cookies, I think about cookies once a month. Maybe.

In other words, for whatever reason, I am FAR more impacted by my environment than many people. But I also find it easier than most to align my environment with what I want as I rarely think about things that aren't there.

You win some, you lose some. And another beautiful illustration of why we all need different advice.

So why don't I just not eat the cookies? I really wish I knew... but it takes a lot of energy that I struggle to find when my sleep schedule is off, I'm drinking more than I typically do and I'm not in my own space.

Keep the question / comments / suggestions coming!

Onwards to today's question!