A Lifestylye Blog

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

10 Steps to Recovering My Fitness Lifestyle- After Big Life Changes

College graduation, marriage, new jobs, moving to new cities, pregnancy and childbirth. A list of my major life changes that have really challenged my drive, motivation and ability to establish healthy fitness routines for myself. As organized as I desire to be, I've learned that my personality struggles with establishing routine schedules and structure for myself. I'm not sure if this is because I lived by structure all my life for 18 years of schooling and higher education and just burned myself out. Or if it is because of my highly-sensitive personality that gets easily stimulated and overwhelmed when I feel trapped by rigid rules and schedules without cushion and room for flexibility. So over time I've learned how to gently push myself because ultimately, it does take some planning and scheduling and goal setting in order to be confident in how I feel about my life and what I'm doing to take care of myself well. Below are some steps I've embraced to help get me going- without guilt, pressure or setting myself up for burning out.

1) Starting with Kindness and Body Positive Affirmations- When I start a new goal out of negativity toward myself, my drive is built on my feelings which sometimes lie to me and go up and down depending on the day or time of month. But when I remind myself how strong and competent and deserving I am, my drive is built on a commitment to doing what's best for me and surpasses my feelings which can change by the hour. 
2) Setting Short Term (next 2-3 months) and Long Term Goals- My goals have really taught me patience. It helps me temper my expectations and gives me something to work toward. My process for my fitness goals went a little something like this: This time next year I would like to be able to do 5 pull-ups. In order to do this, I need to work on x,y,z muscle groups 3 times per week.... Keep it S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound). 

3) Establishing My "Why"This includes why I set the goals I set. I have had to make sure my "why" aligns with my goals. Sometimes I'll find that my "why" and my "goals" are going in two different directions and this means I need to sit down an re-evaluate what I'm doing. It also includes writing down why the goals are important to me, what happened before my big life change vs what is different now and how my "why" will fit in to this new place of life that I'm in now, etc.

Okay- now some more action oriented steps. 

4) Choosing My Gear- This includes workout clothes and a good pair of cross-training shoes. I have about 4-5 sets of simple workout clothes that are comfortable, well-fitting, conducive to movement and easy to put on, store and clean. Some may prefer to focus on style, which is okay and can help you feel good! Just make sure you are not sacrificing style for injury risk if your shoes are not properly supportive. And also for us ladies, if our bra is not well fitted, good posture and form can be sacrificed!

5) Choosing the Most Optimal Time of Day-  Although I prefer exercising in the mornings, when I was in school, after class later in the day worked best for me because certain required classes were only offered in the morning. When I started my first job out of grad school, my clock-in time was 8AM! This challenged me to my core and I had to be in bed by 9:30pm/10pm to be up by 5am to get a decent workout. Most of the time I was not successful in this. Now that I am not staying up late writing papers or studying for exams, being able to exercise in the mornings relies mainly on my discipline with getting myself and my daughter to sleep. It also includes picking the number of days per week that are most realistic. For me, it's four days per week. And that is okay! I don't need to be at the gym every day to be healthy. I've learned that optimal doesn’t always mean easiest, but the best time that will set you up for success. And with a realistic number of days comes some flexibility to move things around if some thing comes up and throws off our day.

6) Choosing the Type of Exercise- I've had to predetermine what exercise activities I am most interested in engaging in. The types of activities I choose need to be aligned with goals determined in Step 2. Depending on goals in Step 2, activities can vary from walking (if just starting off after surgery or having a baby, or needing mental relaxation, etc) to weight lifting and high intensity interval training (weight loss, fat loss, muscle gain, etc). Do you need music? I've found creating a playlist the night before to be helpful in building some excitement and giving me something to look forward to.

7) Knowing My Sleep Needs-  Do you need 7hrs of sleep or 9hrs of sleep? If I lived in a world all by myself, I feel 100% with 9 hrs of sleep. But I am a mom of a toddler and I have life and work commitments. So on a good day, I get 7 hrs per night. It's always helpful if we can arrange our sleep schedule to support our energy needs. For new moms, this can be really hard. Perhaps this step will need to look more like arranging our sleep in chunks vs expecting long stretches of sleep. And plan our activity around the bit of energy we get after a sleep chunk. It’s not the best or ideal sleep, but it’s the most optimal. And a little physical activity even on little sleep many times feels better than no activity at all on little sleep. This step for sleep may be the most important and can make or break our long-term goals.

8) Stretching and Foam Roll- I didn't realize how many places in my body were tight, imbalanced and sore until I dedicated some time to getting acquainted with my body. My hips are a major area to be exact. Foam rolling and stretching will really help us get back in touch with our bodies and feel out all our spots so that we know what areas are tight, loose, sore, still in pain, etc. and need extra attention or care.

9) Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition- So much can be said on this topic alone. But at the same time it really doesn’t have to be too complex. Starting out, I rein myself back in with sticking to whole foods. I ask myself how much processing and packaging the meal I am about to eat went through before I eat it. I try to aim to make sure half of every single one of my meals consists of vegetables. The rest I fill in with lean protein and complex carbs. For those looking to achieve a certain look, more focused attention is needed and an understanding of personal macronutrient (i.e. macros) needs could be very beneficial. There are many free macro calculators out on the web nowadays, or feel free to reach out to me for a free consultation if you are interested in learning more about your individualized needs. But just remember: more veggies, lean proteins and complex carbs. Plan your meals and snacks around your chosen workout time. Try to eat within 30-60 minutes before and 60-90 min after. 

10) Keeping Track- I have loved using apps like My Fitness Pal to get me started and give me a birds eye view of where I am starting out- my baseline. I had some specific muscle growth and fat loss goals, so I was particularly focused on tracking my macros (fats, carbs and protein intake). Tracking also helped me keep track of my habits, cravings, moods and hunger/fullness based on whether I got enough protein, fiber, water, etc during the day. It can be so helpful to look back and see the trends over time so we can celebrate our wins and/ or troubleshoot our challenges.

We should be so proud of ourselves and our body for the journey it has taken us on this far in life. Every step our body has led us on to today whether through addictions, child birth, stress, competitive injuries, etc has made us that much stronger. We need to thank our bodies for bringing us this far and know that everything that’s happened has perfectly primed us for this journey we’re looking to begin in pursuing even better health. 


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