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TnT Metabolic Igniters

Creating Your ‘New Normal’: Strategies to Prevent Relapse

by Crystal Watson, MA, BKin, CSCS

Regardless of if you’re a hard-core gym goer, just beginning your fitness journey, or somewhere in between, we are all likely to relapse on our healthy physical activity habits at some point. Relapse can occur for various reasons such as receiving a promotion, moving, injury, holidays…. or perhaps a pandemic spreads across the globe.

Over the past week, many of us feel like our worlds have been turned upside down. Perhaps you now have kids or grandkids at home all day. Many of us are working from home or have been temporarily laid-off. Fitness facilities have closed. Stores are sold out of toilet paper. These are uncertain, unsettling, stressful times. It may seem impossible to continue our routines, especially with something that may seem trivial, like exercise. However, exercise is essential for our physical and mental health!

Continuing our physical activity habits can create a sense of normalcy, provide an outlet to channel our built-up anxiety, and gives us something to look forward to. Our commitment to exercise is an area of our lives that we can control, which seems more important now than ever. Recognizing this important role of exercise, I’ve created this list of strategies that will aid you in preventing relapse and creating your ‘new normal’.

  • Set a Schedule– Humans are creatures of habit. We thrive off predictability and consistency. Regardless of what area of our lives we are talking about, we are more productive when we schedule said activity into our day. And as you guessed, exercise is no exception.
    • Recognizing that the demands on our time have shifted significantly over the past week, you now need to establish a new schedule for yourself. So, create a list of everything that you have (and want) to do. Items could include work, family time, cooking, cleaning, shopping, self-care, wake-up/bedtimes, AND EXERCISE. Then create a daily and weekly schedule outlining when you will complete each commitment.
    • When you make an appointment with a doctor, have a meeting with a co-worker, and/or schedule a coffee date with a friend, you make a conscious effort to honor that commitment. The same holds true for exercise. You have put in the effort to carve out time for exercise, so don’t back out. MAKE IT HAPPEN!
    • Remember any activity is better than none, and exercise can be spread throughout the day. So perhaps you have 20 minutes in the morning before the kids wake up, awesome take it! Watching TV? Why not foam roll and stretch. Need to go to the store, walk there. When it comes to family time, try creating an obstacle course or challenge each other to a wall sit competition. All forms of exercise are beneficial. The more you do the more benefits you glean, regardless of if it’s done in one bout or dispersed throughout the day. It is recommended that we shoot for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. 
  • Strategically Structure your Environment– Do you leave your toothbrush on the bathroom counter? Carry a water bottle around with you? Place the items you need to take with you at the front door? These are all subtle ways we structure our environments to prompt certain actions (like brushing our teeth or drinking more water). But, have you ever thought much about how you can structure your environment to prompt physically activity?
    • If you plan to workout first thing in the morning, put your exercise clothes out the night before. When you get up in the morning you are reminded of the commitment you made to yourself, have fewer choice, and thus fewer excuses.
    • Leave your exercise equipment out and visible. Have them in the living room or a room you visit frequently. These items (shoes, foam roller, yoga mat) will serve as reminders for you to engage in the activity, even if it is only for a few moments.
    • Create a playlist that gets you hyped and wanting to move. And yes, dancing around the kitchen is physical activity!
    • Write down your workout ahead of time, this eliminates wasted time trying think about what you will do, it will have already been decided.


  • Set Goals– Goals are often broken into two categories, product and process. “Product goals focus on the destination, while process goals focus on the journey” (Spencer, 2017, para. 3). For example, a product goal could be to lose 5 lbs, to complete 5 chin-ups, to be able to touch your toes. Once a product goal is identified, a process goal will help us stay accountable to the actions that will us get there. This could include working out 3 days/week, filling half your plate with vegetables, or stretching for 5 minutes prior to bed each night. Both types of goals are important, and they support each other. So, take time to reflect on your current habits. Then peer into the future and identify what actions you need to take today to create the future you want. Lastly, write your goal down and post them somewhere that is visible. This will serve as a daily reminder to keep your actions aligned with your goals. For more information about goal setting, check out our goal setting blog.


  • Track your Progress– Once you have established clearly defined goals, you should track your progress towards them. This could include having a workout journal where you record the exercises, sets, reps, load, duration and/or effort. Alternatively, it could be a weekly schedule you hang on the fridge and check off each day that you uphold your exercise commitment. Another way you can track your progress is by recording your weight (if you have a weight loss or weight gain goal) on a monthly basis. Perhaps your goal is to complete 30 push-ups consecutively, then at the start of each week test yourself and record your results.

  • Find Social Support– It is great to have someone to workout with, so invite your family and friends to join you. However, we also realize this is not always feasible. Nevertheless, your family and friends can still support you in other ways.
    • Social support can come in many forms. It may be a message from a friend asking if you completed your 40-minute workout, your eldest child watching the younger ones so you have time to workout, or your spouse cooking dinner so you can get your jog in. Even when we are practicing social distancing, the value of social support shouldn’t be overlooked.
    • Additionally, it’s important to let people know about the goals you are working towards. Even the seemingly simplistic act of vocalizing your goals will increase your self accountability.


  • Be Creative– Not having access to the gym or our regular fitness classes provides an opportunity for us to get creative and to switch-up our routines. Often times our routines become stagnant, our body stops responding to the stimulus, and then we hit a plateau…. So perhaps this pandemic is a blessing in disguise. Okay, that’s definitely a stretch, but let’s look on the bright side. We have the opportunity to switch it up and challenge our bodies in new ways.
    • Seasonal activities- Spring is now upon us, which means warming temperatures and clear sidewalks, coupled with the
      presence of snow. Therefore, we can comfortably get out to walk and run on the paths, or enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and tobogganing without bitter cold winter temperatures.
    • Include your family– “Those who sweat together, stay together”. You can do a traditional workout with your family, go for a bike ride, or play basement badminton. You could also get creative by using chalk to draw an agility ladder on the sidewalk, turn commercial breaks into ‘body breaks’, or play ‘Fit-tac-toe’ (check out our TnT Members Facebook page for the free printable game board).
    • Try out different ‘equipment’– Don’t have dumbbells? Use soup cans, laundry detergent containers, or fill old milk jugs with water. No weighted vest? Use a backpack filled with books. Instead of using a dowel, find a broomstick or towel. Stairs, a chair, or a couch could be used in place of plyoboxes. Don’t have access to a bosu ball, try balancing on a couch cushion, pillow, or foam roller  instead.


We hope these strategies help you continue to incorporate exercise as a key component within your ‘new normal’.





Rogers, T. (2014). Basics of behavioural change and health psychology. In C. X. Bryant, S. Jo, & D. J. Green (Eds.) American Council on Exercise: Personal trainer manual (pp. 66-85). San Diego, CA.

Spencer, J. (2017, Dec 31). A different way to set goals for the new year. Retrieved from




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