4 ways to beat the fall backslide

Pay attention to the signs that your fitness routine may be getting derailed.

Now that the sun is set by the time you get home from work and you’ve replaced your shorts and tanks with fall running gear, it would be very easy to take a step back from your summer exercise routine. Let’s call it the fall backslide—that feeling you get when it starts dropping below fifty degrees at night, and you couldgo to the gym but staying inside and watching the latest buzzy Netflix documentary sounds so much more appealing. And if it doesn’t seem like a huge deal to miss a workout or two, you’re right: it’s not a huge deal. At least not at first.

The problem for most regular gym-goers is what can happen after the first few slip-ups, says Dina Hirsch, Ph.D., senior psychologist at the Center for Weight Management in Syosset, New York. In the fall, she says, people may give themselves “passes” for what they see as minor errors (a skipped fitness class or two, a Halloween candy binge), but when the holidays come around, the risk is letting those little slips become a complete avalanche. When we’re so focused on winter being the time that healthy habits fall by the wayside, we miss the signs that things are starting to drop off right now. And right now is the time to catch yourself and keep your summer momentum going through fall—and beyond. Here, four ways to do just that.

create a contract with yourself

Equinox Woodbury Tier 3+ trainer Scott Schratwieser says it’s important for athletes who feel themselves flagging when the temperature drops to face their dwindling motivation head-on. Schratwieser creates a pact between himself and a client that sets a goal (e.g. running an eight-minute mile by an agreed-upon date or getting seven hours of sleep every night for one week) and establishes a consequence if the client fails to meet it. “The consequence could be 100 burpees and 100 push-ups or it can be donating to a charity, or even a political organization my client dislikes,” he says. While you can create your own contracts with yourself, he suggests working with a trainer or signing up for group fitness classes to further increase accountability.

clean the slate daily

“The trick is to look at every day as a new day,” says Sharon Zarabi, a registered dietitian in New York City. “Each time you wake up, you start off with a healthy body. It’s your job to take care of it for the remainder of the day.” If you’re always thinking about what you did “wrong” yesterday, or what will keep you from getting where you want tomorrow, you’ll never focus on what you can do in the present.

reboot your meal plan

As it is year round, what you eat is at least equally important to the work you do in the gym. And while we associate summer with lighter foods like salad and fresh fruit, autumn offers just as many delicious ways to fuel your body well. Zarabi suggests thinking of the new season as an opportunity to refresh your refrigerator and meal plans. “Root vegetables like spaghetti squash, acorn squash, and beets are a great way to jazz up your meals,” she says. “Try replacing brown rice and pasta dishes with roasted vegetables.” She also suggests bringing out the crock pot: Throw in meat, veggies, and beans in the morning and your dinner will be waiting for you when you get home from your post-office workout.

rethink your “why”

During the summer, it’s easy to be motivated to upkeep the body you know will be frequently in bathing suits. As we move into fall, Zarabi encourages gym-goers to think of exercise as an opportunity to do something good for ourselves—not just physically, but mentally, too. “Use exercise for stress-relief, clarity, and time for yourself,” she says. Most of us don't realize that we become most creative when we are in the gym or during a long run. When we think of exercise as something we do to our bodies instead of for our bodies, we lose sight of all the things it can do for us.