Workouts relieve stress. We all know that. Although a tough session at the gym or a good HIIT routine works away tension, it cannot replace some solid down time, where you do nothing but recharge.
Several approaches to self-care as part of your fit lifestyle will enhance all the benefits of your hard work. Your workouts will actually be more effective because you are taking a full mind, body, spirit approach to fitness.
We all cheat at times and skip that stretch. When we finish a workout, we just want to be done! This is a perfect chance to optimize how warm the muscles are and relax those fibers after pushing so hard.
Stretching not only helps muscles heal but also calms the nervous system and improves brain activity through oxygenation.
Increasing circulation to the entire body by stretching is an easy step toward self-care. If stretching is difficult or frustrating, start by asking a trainer to help or look online for stretching videos for beginners.
No time to workout today? Consider a brief session of stretching to relieve stress from your body and clear your mind for a moment.
Go easy, breathe along with your stretch and you will feel the benefits.
Take a break: A day off is vital to self-care.
We can burn-out quickly and overwork our bodies when we go fast and strong toward a fitness goal. One day off will not prevent you from losing those pounds or benching more weight.
Rest will actually invigorate your spirit and make you ready to go back and push harder. If a day off from exercise sounds like a waste of time, don’t think of it this way. You can relax your body, but still be active. Spend the afternoon strolling around an art festival, walk the dog around the neighborhood while listening to an audiobook or podcast. Allow your body to rest and your mind to not think about fitness for just a while.
This day off from workouts is also a perfect day to add yoga. Reducing the cortisol level (stress hormone) in your body is proven to help you lose weight (especially belly fat) and achieve better fitness results. Yoga also helps you fight disease, control back pain, improve immune function and so many other benefits.
As you continually break your body down with exercise, remember to give it tools to rebuild and replenish.
Set goals. Be real.
Set personal fitness goals that are achievable yet still challenging. Being unrealistic with goals can lead to a sense of failure, then quitting and even depression.
Unfair self-talk to yourself will derail your positive outcomes. Don’t do that to yourself.
Here is an example: Instead of thinking you will defy all the advice you have read and decide to lose 10 pounds this month, take a deep breath and remember that being healthy is the most important. Convince yourself that the 1-2 pounds per week guideline is the best thing for you and an achievable goal which will keep you feeling accomplished and inspired to keep going.
Don’t stress over getting your workout in, simply rework your schedule or look for a double task.
When you are focusing on yourself, time management is a gift you give yourself. How many times have you spent the entire day feeling anxious about when you are going to squeeze in that workout? We’ve all been there. There will be days when this is unavoidable. We all have days when we are booked solid from sun up ’til sun down. Perhaps these are the days we opt for a brisk evening walk with music in lieu of rushing to the gym. This allows you to actually relax the body and get the cardiovascular activity you need.
Making time to workout is a very common stressor for those trying to live a fit lifestyle. This is also why so many people get that workout done in the morning; it is done and off your mind. Plus, you are more resilient to stress throughout the day.
However if you are someone who cannot (or just don’t want to) work out in the morning because your day already starts so early, look for opportunities throughout the day to make fitness a double tasking moment. Take a brisk walk on your lunch break before you eat. Consider starting your day with a 15 minute walk around the parking lot, then another 15 minute walk at lunch, and maybe even another after work. BAM! 45 minutes of walking for your day. Spreading the workout into intervals like this is actually proven to be more effective for weight loss and cardiovascular health than one long session. Good for you!
Taking the kids to volleyball or soccer practice today? Don’t just sit on the bleachers looking at your phone or reading in your car. Take this opportunity to pull-up your favorite playlist, audiobook, or podcast and walk brisk laps around the field or parking lot. Now your kids’ activities are not taking up your time, they are providing the opportunity to care for yourself. Consider it “me time”.
Hydration, hydration, hydration!
Too obvious? Not necessarily. Many people do not realize they are still falling short with their consumption of water as part of a fit lifestyle.
Clearly, when we perspire we lose fluid which needs to be replenished. The body also needs adequate hydration to lose fat. What many people do not realize about dehydration (not enough water) is the negative effects it can have on your mood and overall mental health.
Not drinking enough water will lead to many unhealthy stressors on your body such as fatigue, headache, bad mood and feelings of depression.
Most experts suggest drinking half of your body weight in ounces throughout the day. For example if you weigh 150 pounds, you should be drinking 75 ounces of water per day. To tell if you are hydrated enough, let your urine tell the story. The lighter urine is, the more hydrated you are. If it is a dark yellow color, you need more water. A guide to this information plus a formula to calculate your specific hydration needs can be found here.
Don’t think of your water needs as, “I need to drink 75 ounces of water today”. That sounds like a chore.
Instead, find your favorite style of re-useable water bottle and calculate how many full water bottles you should drink to hit your goal.
Keep filling it, and keep sipping. Suddenly you will be saying, “If I drink 3 of these today, I’m good.” It becomes an easier task.
Smell the energy! Inhale the calm.
Aroma may be the farthest thing from your mind, but aromas during your workout can energize your efforts. Then calming aromas such as during the day will encourage relaxation and recovery.
A drop of lemongrass oil rubbed on your wrist pre-workout will energize you and push you through, even on those days you are fatigued, advises former trainer, Caitlin Weeks of GrassFedGirl. Also, just sniffing peppermint oil before your workout will perk you up and help you persevere. This is especially helpful for the early morning workout! There are numerous guides available online to help you select the perfect aroma to energize or relax you.
Many suppliers of essential oils have taken out the guesswork for you by creating special blends for fitness. Some now offer a handy roll-on bottle which makes application quick and easy. A small bottle will last you quite a while.
Keep your favorite essential oil in your gym bag, or in your workout area at home. Put a few drops on your wrist before workouts. You can take a quick sniff throughout your routine for an extra bolt of energy.
Use essential oils to fight through afternoon groggy times, and consider relaxing aromas such as lavender or vetiver for after your shower.
Stretch. Relax. Plan. Hydrate. Breathe.
Take time to not think about your workout. Take time to heal your body and mind.
These simple approaches to self-care will actually improve results from your fitness efforts, and improve your overall well-being.