Does this sound familiar?
Life is good. You head to the office when the traffic is light. You make healthy choices when eating, and you feel fantastic when you hit the gym. Everything has its place and is in order. It’s smooth sailing.
Suddenly, your boat starts to rock. The kids get sick, your stocks tank, the AC breaks down, and you twist your ankle. Your head begins to spin. But does it have to? How can we stay afloat and on track when stress bombards us from all angles?
I hear so often, “I used to feel so good; why did I stop working out?” The answer usually comes down to this: Life got too busy. You’ll get back into it when the kids are older, when you have more time, when you make more money, when gas prices go down, etc., etc.
The problem is, we all know life won’t slow down. In fact, as we age, I think it just picks up its pace, whether we plan it that way or not. I, too, go through fitness ups and downs. A major surgery recently had me at my daughter’s bedside and I wasn’t going anywhere until she was better. Thank goodness for the hospital stairways, and for my husband pulling me out for the occasional walk in the sun.
In times of great stress, all of the little things count. Do what you can, and be kind to yourself when you aren’t able to work out at the level you’d like to be working. Exercise for your mind, your spirit and your waistline. Remember, when it comes to exercise, every movement counts. Park far away from the office, take the stairs, and go on a 15-minute walk whenever you can.
Get to the gym and do one exercise per body part. Use a repetition range of 15 to 20 reps. For example, pick a weight that allows you to do 15 to 20 biceps curls. It should be heavy enough that the repetitions are difficult, but doable. Again, if all you can get is 20 to 30 minutes of exercise, that’s a whole lot better than doing nothing. You will always feel better by working off some steam. The worst thing you can do is give in to the “I’m too busy” myth. No, you’re not! You are worth making the time for. Don’t let ‘em kick you when you’re down. Get up, brush it off, and make that body move!
Following the same attitude, make sure you are eating for your mind, spirit and energy level. What you put into your body will lift you up or it will push you into a deeper hole. When you find yourself injured, or overwhelmingly stressed, your nutrition must be kept in check. Your body is trying to heal and overcome. Adding on pounds is disastrous to your recovery and to your self esteem. Skipping breakfast, eating fast food for lunch, and drinking everything but water only hinders you. You know what to do, but you are letting excuses push you off your fitness boat.
Having said that, I do understand. Some excuses are real. Stress causes your fight-or-flight reactions to pump through your body. It can make you lose sleep, crave sugars and eventually start wasting away. The pounds will add up quickly with your mind and body in this state of overload. So, what’s a body to do?
First off, eat breakfast. Keep it simple. It takes only minutes to cook eggs and throw a piece of sprouted grain bread in the toaster. Or how about a quick shake with spinach, a scoop of protein and some berries? Blend it all together with about 10 ounces of water. It’s delicious.
I found pre-made green shakes, and grilled meats and veggies in the hospital cafeteria to give me the nutrients my body was begging for. You can find healthy foods; you just have to look for them. Keep almonds, string cheese, and store-bought chopped veggies handy as snacks. Create the habit of carrying a cooler or lunch sack with you at all times.
Lunch should be a home-created meal. How about a left-over lean burger and grilled veggies? If home-made is out of the question, ask yourself what will give you the most energy. You can buy a grilled chicken salad at almost any restaurant, and add some fruit and nuts for good carbs and fats. Avoid “white” foods, such as white rice, most breads and almost everything processed. These types of carbs cause your blood sugar to spike and fall. That can become an anger management issue very quickly. By eating proteins (lean meats, fish and protein powders) and sticking to whole grains and fruits, your blood sugar remains more stable, and gives you the nutrients you need to stay calm and focused.
I wish I could promise it’ll get easier. The only thing I’m sure of is you need to take care of yourself first. As the flight attendants say, “place your mask on before helping others.”
Stay strong, and as always “keep hope alive.” We’re all in this together.
Chani Overstreet is an NASM Certified Personal Trainer and co-owner of Strada Fitness & Wellness Center with her husband, Luke. Strada is a state-of-the-art fitness studio located at 3041 Churchill Drive, Suite 100, in Flower Mound, across from Lifetime Fitness. Call 972.330.4300 or visit www.StradaFitness.com for more information.