Why Over-Planning Is Ruining Your Healthy Lifestyle (And How to Fix It)

As creatures of habit, we like to have a plan for how we’ll get and stay healthy; a plan that we can repeat, each day and week until we reach our final goal or it simply becomes routine.

Planning is great idea—it helps us get our thoughts in order and ensures we’re focusing on all the important things, but often comes with a regimented schedule to keep us on track. (Don’t miss my 10 Steps for Successful Fitness Goal Setting)

However, I recently realized that I was over-planning, leading to stress and anxiety when something wasn’t exactly as I had set out for it to be. I was ignoring all other important aspects of my health, such as sleeping or eating a variety of foods, to make sure I stayed on track and within the parameters of my plan.

This confinement, however, didn’t help me become healthier; it was in fact one of the many reasons I’m now dealing with SIBO (learn more about my SIBO journey here). It also lead me to extreme burnout and made being healthy a chore.

Instead of caring about making choices that felt right for my body, I stuck to the plan. If I didn’t want to do upper body training that day—too bad, I would push through anyway.

This type of thinking and planning is both common and destructive. When you’re living life on a tight rope, which is what happens when you use a strict plan as your crutch, one missed workout can send your world tumbling down.

As I began working through body image troubles in therapy, I discovered that listening to my body and focusing on what feels right was the missing link. Suddenly, I felt less stressed. I was happy working out. And most importantly, I felt my anxiety melt away almost immediately.

If you’re an over-planner, use these tips to loosen the reigns while keeping health a priority in your life. They’ve changed my attitude towards health and may do the same for you.

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Do What Feels Good

If you wake up in the morning and feel weak, it’s probably not a good day to lift heavy weights. Unfortunately, if that’s what you had lined up for the day, and are sticking to a strict schedule, it’s what you end up doing.

The important piece is that if you’re not feeling strong, there’s a reason for it. Your body may be recovering from another workout or just not ready for a challenging session that day. In this case, instead of weight lifting, you might want to choose speed walking, taking a jog, or doing yoga instead.

By honoring what your body needs, you don’t overextend yourself, and working out becomes more enjoyable. I bounce between at-home workouts, strength training at the gym and classes like boxing and yoga. If I don’t want to be at the gym, I’ll write a workout for myself or do one from Fitness Blender. If I need centering, I’ll choose a yoga class instead of strength training.

This goes for eating as well—while it’s important to maintain a healthy diet, forcing yourself to eat all vegetables all the time will only lead to burnout. If you don’t feel like having a salad one day, consider another healthy option that does sound great. Perhaps a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread sounds tastier—and it’s still healthy.

This thinking allows us to live a more holistically healthy life. It makes working out and eating nourishing foods more sustainable and enjoyable, while still helping us reach the goals we’ve set for ourselves.

Create a Loose Schedule

If you’re a planner, and the idea of not having one is scary, create a loose plan or schedule based on your goals. For example, instead of saying:

  • Mon: Upper body
  • Tuesday: Lower body
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Full body
  • Friday: Cardio

Plan more like this:

  • Strength training: 2 days
  • Cardio: 1 day
  • Group workout: 1 day
  • Rest: 1-3 days

If you’re not sure what you’re in the mood for that day, consider what’s still left to complete from your list. If you deviate and do two cardio days one week, for example, add an extra strength day the following week. Allow for flexibility, and focus on small habits that can make you healthier, to avoid the anxiety that comes with a rigid plan.

Focus on Something New Each Week

Instead of making a lot of changes at once, which is often what we do when we create a healthy plan for ourselves, sprinkle them throughout the month or year. One week, you can focus on eating more vegetables, with the plan to eat at least three servings each day. The next week you can plan to run at least three times that week; so on, and so forth.

If weekly is too granular, and hard to keep track of, create healthy themes for each month:

  • March: Eat one serving of greens, three days a week.
  • April: Run four days a week.
  • May: Try one new group class each week.
  • June: Get to five full pushups by the end of the month.

This style of planning can lead to greater adherence because when you focus on just one goal each month, it becomes routine and therefore sticks. It also makes it easier to figure out what’s right for you, rather than just guessing and basing your whole plan around that. Maybe you try running one month and don’t love it, but try yoga the next and realize it’s what you need.

Over-planning is easy to do and always done with good intentions—we want to set ourselves up for success by having everything on order. However, it also leads to stress, anxiety and ultimately a lack of follow through. In many cases, our plans are over ambitious and force us to make too many changes at once, which are not the markers of a healthy lifestyle.

Use these tips to loosen the reigns on your planning. You may just find that you’re happier and healthier for it.

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Why Over-Planning Is Ruining Your Healthy Lifestyle (And How to Fix It)

Jessica Thiefels

Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years. She's the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Honest Body Fitness, where women are warriors who love their bodies. She's also a a full-time writer, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition specialist. She’s written for Shape, Reader’s Digest, AARP, Snap Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness and more. Follow Jessica and Honest Body Fitness on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for health articles, workouts tips and more.

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