How to Get Your (Health) Groove Back

Maybe it comes in a heavily mirrored changing room as you wonder when you developed back fat. Perhaps you notice that you can’t keep up with your kids on a bike ride around town anymore. You might see it when you have a hard time moving or carrying things you used to. Maybe you wake up one day and realize you never thought you’d experience so many aches, pains and stiffness at such a young age. Perhaps you’ve just known for a long time that you don’t like how you feel anymore.

We get off track for various reasons – illness, parenthood, divorce, death, job change, moving. In probably every case, we didn’t anticipate losing sight of our health, but upheaval (good and bad) can often divert us in ways we don’t expect.

The question becomes, “What next?”

We certainly have the option of going back to sleep, so to speak, and then “waking up” to the fact again when some more dramatic detail shows itself. Alternatively, we can decide it’s time….

Specifically, we can decide it’s time to start feeling good again, time to get our strength and energy back, time to like how we look again, time to not feel limited in everyday life activities, time to reclaim our physical and maybe emotional resilience. It’s just time to get our groove back.

“Getting our groove back” – it’s a phrase that’s thrown around in lifestyle headlines, self-help columns and pep talks for anyone coming out of transition. From the angle of health, however, what does that process look like?

A few weeks ago, I took up the concept of inertia. Certainly, I believe that concept figures into this picture, but I think there’s more than the physical stasis to contend with when we’re talking about, well, groove. To feel like we need to get back in the groove suggests two things: 1) that we’ve been out of it for a considerable while and 2) that something about us has shifted on a deeper level than daily activity schedules or diet.

While we could probably have a pretty entertaining conversation about what constitutes groove even if just for health alone, I’m going to venture that it’s caught up in not just our circumstances (what we’re not doing anymore) but our self-concept (how we feel a disconnect between our health values and our daily lives). The result of this incongruity over time can shift how we feel about ourselves. It can erode our health integrity as well as the personal vision we have for our lives. We realize we’re not living in alignment with our values or that we’re forgoing the health related benefits that matter to us. Getting back in the groove, in that sense, means reclaiming our self-identity as well as vitality.

Are you looking to get back into the groove? Have you done so in the past – or are you in process? Let me offer some considerations – and invite everyone to add their experience, questions and perspective in the comment board.

Invest in your self-concept.

When you’ve taken an extended hiatus (however unintentional) from health investment, for most people it’s not enough to simply jump back into practical strategy. Yes, the action is where it’s at, but we’re for better or worse steering our minds as well as our bodies back into a new/renewed way of being.

In these cases, it’s not about returning to what was. It’s also not about emulating and doing what someone else is doing. More than just adopting a routine, getting back into the groove obliges us to move into a new relationship with our health. That means being honest about how we see ourselves these days. What’s happened to us since the last time we were living well, and how have the stories we tell ourselves changed in that time period? Do we have as much confidence in our self-discipline? Are we circumscribing our sense of physical potential in different ways because we’re older than last time we were on the horse?

Be cognizant of – and prepared to work around – the possibility that you may have fundamentally changed.

Depending on how long we’ve been away from our health commitments, our lives might look a fair amount different. Beyond the self-concept piece, this fact may impact strategy and logistics. In other words, trying the same old habits you used years ago to get/stay healthy may not do it anymore. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just information. Be prepared to come up with a new bag of tricks and routines to get you on track.

Do several small things rather than one big thing each day.

While everybody needs to decide what works for them, anytime you’re beginning or beginning again, I’d generally suggest keeping the new routine as doable as possible and front loading as many small wins as you can.

By all means, if you’re a cold turkey, all or nothing person who can totally commit to big changes, go for it. If you’re in any way reticent (or just really busy), break it up into more practical chunks throughout the day.

Engage with people who are living the life you want.

I don’t just mean read a book, listen to a podcast or watch someone at the gym (although these can be helpful, too). Surround yourself with support and modeling. It’s about learning, not comparison. Seek out opportunities to talk to other people who are doing what you know you want – even if they feel ahead of you. They will likely value the chance to help you. Reach out in the virtual world as well by joining an online forum. I think I know one that might be pretty awesome….

Pay tribute to the successes and have fun along the way.

It baffles me sometimes how people will put so much time and effort into long lists and explanations of goals and their respective steps but not consider it worth their time to take pictures or otherwise record what happens after that. Are they afraid of jinxing their own outcomes? Do they not feel they deserve to celebrate anything until they hit some socially identifiable benchmark?

Put aside the goal if you find yourself obsessing, and just revel in enjoying the process. Too often people focus so much on discipline that they forget to feel good about what they’re doing. Combine your commitment to exercise with something adventurous, and take pictures of each endeavor (e.g. album of the trails you hit). As you plan your next vacation, look for active pursuits you’ve always wanted to try. Take pictures of your Primal masterpieces to make your Facebook cadre marvel at your culinary genius. Relishing and celebrating your new choices will go a long way in owning the new direction you’re establishing for your future.

Embrace the mindset of self-actualization – and take time deciding how you want to live that right now.

Be present-oriented but also spend a certain amount of strategic time envisioning the long view. Resist feeling like you have to make everything happen today. The only thing you’re responsible for today is showing up for the intentions you set for this 24-hour period.

That said, make the groove matter by asking what you want out of life in the coming years. What do you want to make of yourself – of your time, of your energy? Get back into the groove not by reinstating the past but by living your way into that future vision through the choices you make and adventures you pursue on a daily/short-term basis.

Thanks for reading, everyone. What are your thoughts and anecdotes about getting back in the groove? Have a great end to the week.

Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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31 thoughts on “How to Get Your (Health) Groove Back”

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  1. This is great! Actually according to most success books or “Change Management’ books its really important to focus on the small milestones rather than the big goals because with each small checkpoint you get to feel proud and accomplished. I personally have been struggling with engaging with people who are living the life you want because those people who were there during my unhealthy stages are pushing me to still be with them… it’s difficult for both sides, them and me, to accept that this is as far as we are going to go. A finally, I really agree with having a growth mindset, I can and I will do it, if not now eventually. I recently read Carol Dwecks book, “Mindset”, and it really focuses on how success is about a mindset, being able to accept failures as learning tools rather than rejection. I think that in fitness this is so important to keep you from getting discouraged.
    Great post!


    1. Great post. Definitely something I want to show to my parents. I appreciate the analysis of this issue; approaching the fact one’s self-identity and perhaps even self-respect is what has changed rather than simply one’s habits.


  2. How does one define ‘groove’? To me, a groove is a steep-sided channel of varying depth and width. Water and people run in grooves. So, to me, it’s more a case of making a new and better groove. This entails first clambering out of the old one and then systematically scraping out a new one. It takes time, patience, and hard work, to create an effortless new way of living.

    To others, ‘groove’ may mean ‘dance routine’. Learning a new routine also takes time and perseverance before it becomes muscle memory.

  3. Robb Wolf once said, “The difference between a groove, a rut, and the grave is depth and duration.” (He might have been quoting someone else, but I’m not sure.)

    Powerful stuff — especially because I am in probably a 4-5 year rut (deeper than a groove), but it’s emotional/psychological, rather than physical. Don’t know which is harder to pull one’s self out of. Probably equally difficult. :-/

      1. 😀 Thanks! Looks like you inspired a few people to check out my site today. Page views are up. So thanks for that, too!

        1. My Mom has dementia and is suffering due to all the meds she is on. I finally have made progress in pushing a high fat low carb diet instead of the “healthy” one that includes lots of carbs and virtually no fat.

          My dad thinks that she would do well on oatmeal for most meals, however, he hates that she’s getting too fat at the same time. I “mom sat” during the summer when her caretakers were gone and she lost weight on the high fat / low carb diet I fed her. That got some attention. SIgh, hard to change people’s minds when they are close to 90 and are pretty sure they know it all by now. She’s now getting most of her food with coconut oil in some way.

      2. The “reply” button seems to be missing from your other post, so I’ll have to reply here. That’s a bummer about the high carbs and meds. What a disaster. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. But if she’s almost 90, and if the dementia is longstanding and severe, there may be only so much you can do. Still, lots of coconut oil is better than nothing! What really gets me is that people in their 60s are being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s now. It’s bad enough when it happens to someone of very advanced age, but we almost “expect” that — at least, more so than in someone 30 years younger. (Not to say that it’s “normal” for the older folks, just more understandable.)

        1. I know people in their 40’s who’ve had early-onset diagnosis, and they’re correct diagnosis from what I’ve seen, not over-reactions. All avid consumers of low-fat and veg-oil based foods, and neither with any family history of dementia. It’s terrifying.

  4. About three years ago I dislocated my kneecap playing a game of basketball. I used my recovery period (and beyond) as an excuse to be lazy. Several months later, after I had fully healed I thought that I had “gotten back into the groove” and was exercising regularly. Unfortunately my diet was pretty awful, and I only made minimal progress.

    “Engaging with people who are living the life you want” is what has helped me the most since then. My girlfriend is a great cook, and is very mindful of eating healthy. With her help and my improved exercise habits, now I can say that I truly am in the process of getting my groove back. In fact, speaking of basketball, now I’m back down to my high school basketball weight, when I was in my best shape!

    Great post, thanks!

    1. In your case your “groove” was literally your intercondylar fossa of the femur. Thanks for sharing your complete recovery.

  5. I usually get back in the groove with a Whole30 or some kind of Paleo challenge. Once I’m focusing on my diet, I find that I’m inspired to take care of the other aspects of my health too. I get to the gym more. I go to sleep earlier. I drink more water. I get outside more. It all fits together so nicely 🙂

  6. I gave up alcohol for the current 21 day challenge and I must admit I’m feeling groovy!

  7. Engage with people who are living the life you want…

    “Hello? David Koch? Hey! Do you have a coupla minutes to chat?”

  8. Great post! It’s definitely important to stay motivated even when it seems things are going the opposite way you want. I’m definitely relating to a bit too much of this post – so it’s good to have a reminder that I can keep going!

  9. This post is so on time for me. I have been trying to figure out just how to get back on track. Thanks so much.

  10. I disagree with the advice to focus on small changes and not try to get your “health groove” back all at once. I think that mentality lends itself to putting your health on the back burner: when you backside 50%, you are completely off track and back at square one. Instead, when you go “all in” and back slide 50%, you’re still 50% on track to taking care of your health – backsliding then becomes a bump in the road before you get back on track. It’s time to put on your big boy pants, America: Big transformations require big changes.

    1. Amy, I think that your approach may work for some, but a ‘big boy pants’ approach may not work for all.

      I am slowly recovering from a major surgery last fall, and it has only been through small steps that I’ve been able to progress. Lying in a hospital bed, I would have been overwhelmed if I had felt I had to “go all in”. Knowing I just had to add two more steps today was about all I could manage. (And I’m lacked the ability to wear “big boy pants” when needed.)

      Actually, as I think about it, a lot of “big transformations” are in fact the sum of many small ones.

      That said – I’m sure your approach is right for some people and some circumstances.

      1. Well said John – I’ll concede that going all in may not be for everyone. Perhaps the best thing is “To thine own self be true” and know which method works better for you.

        I congratulate you on your recovery! And for calling me out! It’s good to have my assumptions challenged!

  11. This is such a timely post for me. I got divorced last year from the man I spent 13 years with, then moved to another state, then had to put down my cat I had 17 years, then moved again (within the same city, but two moves within 4 months isn’t easy!). Add to that a ton of other life dramas like flat tires, a flooded kitchen, some hit and run parking lot drivers, work crap, and an eye stye from all the stress, and I’ve gained almost 30 pounds since last summer. I’m still working out 6 days per week like I always have (I’d be seriously cranky if I didn’t!) and eating 100% Paleo, but I can’t seem to get my portions under control. I’ll be at Paleo f(x) this weekend and I hope it’s the shot in the arm I need.

  12. It took me about 2 years to get it all together. I wasted the first year worrying that I’d never get it right. My motto- Never give up! It will come. Be patient with yourself. I read nothing but kindness from Mark’s blog posts- so why did I choose to beat myself up? Now I get it! I’m a work in progress, just like with anything else I do! :o) Now everything comes second nature as if I had always lived like this!

  13. I absolutely love the point about celebrating our victories more –
    this was so well said:

    “people will put so much time and effort into long lists and explanations of goals and their respective steps but not consider it worth their time to take pictures or otherwise record what happens after that.”

  14. Such a great post! Best part for me was focusing on the person I am now, rather than who I used to be. Once an avid and competitive runner two years ago, I had to stop due to digestive issues. A couple procedures later doctors say ‘All is normal, but you can’t run anymore.’ I’m hoping a complete switch to Paleo will allow me to run. I’ll do absolutely whatever it takes! While I may not be the competitive runner I once was, perhaps Paleo will allow me to be a runner again.

  15. Good post. This was me – after my last pregnancy it took a while to realise that I need not be consigned to the new slower, larger me. I’d become one of the mums at baby/toddler gym who didn’t really have the energy to join in on the trampolines. The change into a person I didn’t recognise as me had been really gradual, the fat so evenly dispersed. I assumed this was inevitable in my early 40s. A combination of ‘tiny steps’ and ‘all or nothing’ did it for me. E.g., change just one thing as a first step – cut out sugar – but make it complete abstinence.

  16. I’ve definitely become the gatherer I used to be again this year! Wild foods are delicious, free, nutrient-dense and about as primal as you can get. (I wrote a cookbook on wild foods back in the 80s, took me long enough to get back to it!)

  17. Well, of the things you mentioned I have gone through divorce, moving, a new job and becoming the sole parent to a toddler. While I’m not excersing as much as I would like to be (which is my answer to “what’s next?”), I have not gained weight from these stressors by maintaining primal eating. I know I will get back on my feet and into a routine but in the meantime, I’m so thankful I can keep myself healthy despite being in a difficult period in my life.

  18. Really inspiring post Mark, thank you again. Reminded me to be gentle with myself and if something isn’t working anymore, change.

  19. Two quotes sit on my desk to help me along for this kind of thing (and will hopefully help with my First Week Primal For Real this week):

    Abraham Lincoln said

    “Let no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end you are sure to succeed.”

    And some lyrics from a lesser known figure but entertaining Youtube video song from Natasha Bedingfield:

    Drench yourself in words unspoken,
    Live your life with arms wide open.
    Today is where your book begins,
    The rest is still unwritten.

  20. This comes at a perfect time for me as I want and need to change and get my groove back. I’ve lost it and have been struggling with getting back into healthy habits, exercise and more since a few years now. I think I’ve been wanting too much every single time I started a new approach.
    I should focus more on making small lifestyle changes and keep repeating those every day. Thanks for he inspiration!

  21. Mark The idea of making walking fun well I problably walk in the grocery store about a mile and I make salads for lunch Jen