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How to bounce back from a fitness failure

How to bounce back from a fitness failure
Bouncing back is a skill, and you can learn it. (Getty Images)

If you're going to run, cycle, climb or otherwise strive for fitness, at some point you'll probably fall down, slow down or just feel down.

That's why we cling to our beloved motivational quotes, like this old favorite from Confucius:

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"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."

I don't know if Confucius was a marathoner, like me, or an athlete of any sort.

If he was, I don't know if his training routine ever suffered from a particularly busy period or a chronic injury or a tough time backing away from the Haagen-Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter, all of which have slowed me down at times.

And so I've had to become experienced in "rising," as Confucius put it.

I like to call it "bouncing back."

If you can consistently maintain a training program and stay in tiptop shape year after year with no letdowns, more power to you.

Most of us, though, do not share that experience.

We fall into a rut, get overwhelmed at work or with family, get injured or unmotivated, and pretty soon, we need to find our way back to healthful habits.

Actually, I'm bouncing back right now, having undergone foot surgery in June.

It's not easy going from a month of not running at all to working back into marathon shape. It takes discipline, hard work and willpower. Some other things help too.

Here are my favorite bounce-back tips:

1. Use reminders. Put your running shoes by the door. Put your stretching/yoga mat by the TV. Keep some Gatorade in the fridge, some healthful snacks in the pantry. The idea is that you keep stumbling across reminders to pursue your fitness goal.

2. Start slow. Nothing leads to injury more than "too much, too soon." Just because you were running 40 or 50 miles a week before the setback, don't expect to start anywhere near that level. A good place to start is three easy workouts a week, and by easy I mean slow and not more than 30 minutes. If you're wondering whether you're running too fast, slow down. If you're wondering whether to run or rest, rest. Walk breaks are OK too.

3. Remember the 10% rule. This is important. Don't increase your training by more than 10% from week to week. Don't go from a 20-mile week to a 40-mile week just because you're in a hurry to get back to your routine, or because you have a race coming up. If you're at 20, you should progress to 22, then 25, 28, 31, 34, etc. It takes some time, but you'll avoid an overuse injury.

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4. Stretch. Every day. If you're not stretching your quads, hamstrings, calves, Achilles tendons and lower back, you're asking for trouble. Find a routine that forces you to remember to stretch. Mine is walking to the neighborhood hot tub every night. Stretching my legs in the hot water feels good. Work your core too. It's easy. Just pull out the yoga mat, do a couple of planks or some crunches. You don't need much time for that.

5. Go for it. Sign up for a race or a ride or plan a hike. Even if you're not all the way back to top shape, a race is a good idea. It's fun, it's social and it's an accomplishment. When you've done one, sign up for another. Constantly having goals helps you stay motivated and accountable.

6. Remember. Why do you need to bounce back in the first place? If it's because you were working too hard, weren't getting enough sleep or weren't eating right, you can try to avoid those things.

7. Get a mantra, and use it. I know it sounds silly, but when you're trying to talk yourself into a workout, or coax yourself to keep going, or push yourself to a finish line, mantras really work. You can borrow mine if you want:

If It Were Easy, Anyone Could Do It.

Of course, it's not easy. Sometimes we fall.

But we can always bounce back.

David Leon Moore, 60, of Moorpark, is bouncing back after surgery with the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6.

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