How to start again after falling off track

We’re all familiar with falling off track. We set our goals, take some steps in the right direction, have a good couple of weeks, but then something happens.  

Slowly but surely, we lose motivation. We get tired and stressed and struggle to keep up. Our willpower wavers and our determination declines. In short, life takes over.

And that often comes as a depressing surprise. When we’re pumped up to make changes, it’s easy to underestimate how hard it will be to make it last. So, when we hit a wall and fall off track, we get frustrated. We wonder what’s wrong with us, why we can’t do it, and how we’ll find the strength to start again.

This article is about finding that strength because we know, deep down, you have it. You just need some tips to ditch the negativity, develop the right mindset, and get back on track.

5 ways to get back on track as quickly as possible 

1. Avoid the Negativity

Stop beating yourself up! Falling off track doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or that you lack willpower, it means you’re human. A human that’s trying to make positive changes. That’s something to be proud of and feel good about. Never feel guilty or ashamed for trying.

Besides, all that negativity isn’t helpful for getting back at it. It’s hard to stay positive all the time, especially when you face challenges, but the alternative is worse. When you lose hope, finding the confidence and motivation to keep going is next to impossible. Hoping for better is what got you started in the first place and it’s what’s going to get you going again.

(For more on finding long-lasting motivation, ask yourself these five questions or put these seven tips to good use.)

2. Realize You’re Not Starting Back at Square One

One of the most demoralizing parts of getting back on track is thinking that you’ve lost all your progress and have to start back at square one.

Luckily, this isn’t true! Every time you start, you make progress that you can’t lose. You learn new training tips, how to set better goals, and why tracking your progress is important. Every time you try, you make permanent improvements. 

Even better, your body remembers your progress! When you miss a few workouts or a few runs, you will begin to lose some strength, muscle mass, and aerobic endurance. But when you start back up again, you’ll make progress faster because your body will be ready. When we move consistently, our body adapts and some of those adaptations can last a really long time.

3. See each slip-up as an opportunity to learn.

Framing your failures as learning opportunities is a great way to a) feel better and b) get better. Instead of dwelling on the fact that something went wrong, try to figure what exactly went wrong and why.

Sometimes it’s an obvious thing, like you got sick or injured and fell out of the habit. But sometimes it’s not so obvious and it’s worth thinking about to figure out if there’s something you could do differently next time.

Maybe that means readjusting your goals to make them more realistic. Perhaps it’s about finding ways to make getting active more convenient and take up less time. It will depend on your situation and what you’re trying to accomplish, but think about it, and develop strategies that work for you.

4. Set clear priorities.

We often fall off track when we try to do too many things at once. Unfortunately, we only have so much time and energy each day. Sometimes to achieve certain goals, other ones must be left behind.

When you first started, your health was likely at the top of your priority list (that’s why you decided to make a change in the first place). But what’s happened since? What other priorities took over? It could be your career, family, or just good entertainment—it’s easier to spend your evenings watching Netflix and having drinks with friends.

And that’s totally fine. Balance is something we all must find in life, and health and wellness certainly doesn’t have to be at the top of your list all the time. But it’s also important to take a good hard look at how you’re currently spending your time and whether your daily activities are in line with your goals and greater vision for your life.

It’s not easy to set priorities. But if we fail to, staying consistent is nearly impossible. 

5. Find ways to make it more sustainable. 

Though our specific goals vary, in general, we’re all hoping to make change last. Try to keep that in mind when you start again by using practical tips like:

  • Set a schedule you can stick to and that takes into consideration your competing demands
  • Enlist the help of a good friend or family member to regularly check in with you and hold you accountable
  • Start smaller than you did last time and focus on consistency over intensity
  • Remember that something is always better than nothing
  • Place a greater emphasis on selfcare (getting enough rest, drinking enough water, and finding ways to relieve stress)

A Helpful Way to Think About It

Often the worst part of getting back on track is feeling like we have to walk back to the starting line. It can end up feeling like we’re getting farther and farther away from our goals. Like we’re taking one step forward and two steps back.

A good way to avoid this trap is to picture yourself picking up the starting line and bringing it with you. There’s no doubt that at some point or another, you’re going to drop it or get tired and have to set it down—that’s part of trying, part of being human, part of the process.

But if you pick up the starting line, there’s no need to make the sad walk back to the beginning. When you build up the motivation to start again, you won’t be starting over, you’ll be starting right back where you left off, continuing on your path toward your goals.

Pick up the starting line and bring it with you, push the starting line closer and closer to your goal, and each time you start again you'll be that much closer to reaching the finish line.