burned out

Balance in Life

I recently read an article that I wanted to share with you guys. Here is the link: I Stopped Exercising For One Year: Here’s What Happened. I read the article and found myself nodding and saying “yes!” to a lot of stuff in the article. It was well-written and I think a lot of people can relate to it. I know I could.

When I first started losing weight I had to be super diligent–like almost obsessive. I was counting my calories and I had to be strict. I had over 100 pounds to lose and I felt weak–I didn’t think it would work or “stick” and so I was diligent about staying within my calorie range each day. That meant denying myself a lot of stuff.

During my exercise mania days, I ate “clean” most of the time, which means, I stripped every bit of fun out of the experience of eating. Every day I ate grilled whatchamadingle with a side of steamed doojawockey. I removed sugar, alcohol and complex carbs out of my diet, along with the will to live.

Yes yes and yes. I stopped drinking all alcohol for the year and a half it took to lose the weight. I just didn’t need the calories. I stopped drinking all of my calories, which was a smart move on my part. But did that mean I stopped doing fun things like going out with friends to happy hour? Yep, it sure did. I didn’t trust myself in the beginning to make good choices — with food or alcohol. In those early days of trying to lose weight I didn’t think I could have just one drink and I knew I wouldn’t be able to order a salad or something and skip the happy hour treats like deep fried foods and fatty treats. You know how it goes…having fun out with friends, have a cocktail, someone orders some fatty food for the table and you vow to have just one bite but then…things get away from you and suddenly you’ve completely tanked your calories for the day. So I just didn’t go out. It sucked.

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Eventually I felt more confident and trusted myself and I started going out again. I found that I could make better choices and I COULD limit myself to one drink and one happy hour treat instead of completely derailing my weight loss goals.

Once I reached my goal weight I was able to loosen the reigns a little bit. I didn’t stop doing what worked but I did allow myself to have treats here and there. Doing things in MODERATION worked so much better for me. Instead of the early days of weight loss where I was afraid of the slippery slope one treat or one drink could do to my diet, I enjoyed more things and enjoyed life. Instead of feeling restricted, I ate whatever I wanted in moderation and it worked for a really long time–years in fact.

After all, life is supposed to be fun–good food enjoyed with people you love.

Something that disappointed me about the article was that the author quit the gym and then proceeded to just eat junk food. As she said–the dam burst. She gained weight and gave in to all the junk. On some level I can understand that but I was hoping that she’d say she quit the gym and quit being obsessed with food and … somehow found a balance.

The article went on to talk about exercising a lot:

I lifted weights. I trained with kettle bells. I climbed a zillion steps to nowhere on the stairmaster. I yoga’d and spun and kick boxed. I set impractical and ludicrous fitness goals, like being able to do 20 unassisted pull ups.

There were other downsides to being an exercise devotee. Going to the gym was time-consuming. Aside from exercising, there’s also getting changed, traveling to and from the gym, showering afterwards – it took up hours of my day. I put more energy into my relationship with exercise than I did with a living human being.

Again, I could relate 100%. Like with food, I went through phases of being obsessed with it. In the early days I did overexercise. I didn’t take rest days like I should and that lead to burnout, overuse injuries and exhaustion. I learned my lesson and incorporated mandatory 2 rest days a week. I’m glad I learned that lesson early on in my “career” as a gym rat because it’s necessary. Rest days are good. For the mind and the body.

Even with rest days incorporated in my schedule, working out 5 days a week would take it’s toll once in awhile. It made it hard to do fun things after work because I “had to go to the gym.” It really limited my schedule. I wish it didn’t. It was frustrating how much effort it took. Like the author of the article said, it wasn’t just the workout, it was the travel time, changing clothes, showering afterward. For me that was about 90 minutes total of my day and that meant less time for other things.

Things that helped alleviate that in my life? When I used to run during my lunch hour at work. I loved that. It gave me so much freedom. I was able to break up the work day, get out of the office, burn off stress, get my workout done and out of the way and then I had my evenings free! To do STUFF! To have fun! See friends! Go on dates with Michael. The other thing that helped was biking to work. Again, that freed up my evenings immensely.

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Then the author said she woke up from the fog of not working out, eating junk and gaining weight and she DID find a balance that worked. Instead of hardcore everything, she found moderation.

I’ve had to reframe my whole idea of myself. My identity was wrapped around being very skinny, and I’ve had to give that up.

Now that I’m a mom I’m reevaluating my life. I think that’s why this article spoke to me so strongly. Priorities have changed in my life, obviously.

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When I was pregnant, that last month or two I started reducing my workout schedule. Instead of five days a week I went down to four. Then it was three. I was just tired, my body was starting to hurt, and I needed a break. I thought it would be a slippery slope for me–that I’d just stop exercising, that I’d fall off the horse–but I didn’t. I just took a little bit of time for myself. The world DID NOT END. It was ok.

Now that I’m easing back into the fit life postpartum, I’m thinking about the future and what I want it to look like. I know once I go back to work full time and Logan is in daycare, the last thing I’m going to want to do is drop him off at home every night and then go to the gym for an hour. I don’t want to miss these moments with my son. I don’t want to waste what tiny time I have in the evenings with Logan by leaving. I just don’t.

At the same time, I know I want to keep active, stay fit and healthy and have some ME time, too. So it’s about finding balance.

I’m already thinking about what the future might look like.

Biking to work after dropping him off at daycare once or twice a week will be a good option when the weather is nice. It means I can get my workout done and then have the whole evening at home with my family.

Running at lunch is something I’ve missed a lot! I would love to get back to that.

The gym at work is also an option. Is it ideal? No, but it’s something I can do during my lunch hour in a pinch, especially if the weather is crappy.

Working out on the weekends is still ok because Michael can be with Logan and honestly if we can find things to do together as a family that would be even better — like hiking as a family! That’s something I am really looking forward to.

Running with Logan once he’s old enough will be great.

The Warrior Room is another option, too, because they have childcare options if I need it. We also have kettlebells at home, so I can always do that if I can’t make it to the gym (or if there are childcare issues).

And maybe it’s ok to drop my schedule down to 3 or 4 days a week instead of going back to 5.

Basically what I’m saying is that my workout routine/schedule will look different in the future, but I think it is still doable. I don’t think I have to sacrifice me time, fitness and time with family as much as I thought. I just think it will take more planning and will definitely take ME to learn how to be more flexible and let somethings go if necessary. Maybe it’s doing quick sprints in the neighborhood instead of long runs on the weekend, for example.

Finding balance in life is hard, even without kids. You want to be able to enjoy the things you love to do (even if that includes sleeping in on a Saturday morning instead of getting up early for a run!) but still be fit, right? There’s GOT to be a way!

So what about you? Especially if you have small kids/babies, how did you find that balance and what worked for you? What did you think of this article?

 

Exercising While Sick

It’s a common question that people have. When you’ve found your groove and your workout schedule has become second nature, coming down with an illness throws a wrench in all that–especially if you are in the middle of training for something. But what should you do? Rest? Exercise through it?

It all depends. The simple answer is: listen to your body and see how you feel.

I’m stubborn and I hate it when my routine gets messed up. When I was overweight I got sick a lot. I think part of that was being unhealthy all around. After losing the weight, I noticed that my immune system improved tremendously. Now I get sick about twice a year tops–I get a nasty cold in the fall or winter and then it never fails, I get a cold in February and am home sick for a few days.

Sometimes when I get sick it’s because I’ve been doing too much and not taking enough down time. I have two rest days a week but if the other 5 days are intense exercise, maybe more than usual, I can get worn down. There are two signs that I am getting sick. The first, my heart rate is elevated when I’m not working out as hard and the recovery time is very slow. The second sign is fatigue. I am not a napper and if I suddenly want to nap or feel run down, I know a cold is on it’s way.

Stress definitely plays a factor in sickness. I think a cold is nature’s way of telling us to slow down, rest, recuperate. Like I said above, my history of getting a nasty cold is like clockwork. February or March and October or November is when it happens. Getting a cold twice a year isn’t as bad as it could be and it’s definitely not as bad as I used to be when I was unhealthy!

This past year has been one of the most stressful I’ve had in a long time. There have been a lot of factors contributing to that. Injury has been a big one. Have you ever heard of the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale? It was a study done in the 60’s trying to determine a correlation between stress and sickness. Follow that link and take the test to see where you rate.  I took the test and scored a 303. See the chart below:

Score Comment
300+ You have a high or very high risk of becoming ill in the near future.
150-299 You have a moderate to high chance of becoming ill in the near future.
<150 You have only a low to moderate chance of becoming ill in the near future.

Scary, huh? I’ve been definitely trying to find alternative outlets to relieve stress so that I can hopefully avoid getting sick as a result. So I am totally shocked that I haven’t gotten the annual cold this year. (Of course, now I’ve jinxed myself!!) I think one of the factors that has contributed to my good health this year has been taking Fish or Krill oil once a day.

This is a new addition to my diet. I eat a lot of seafood already, but Michael and I have started taking Krill Oil once a day–probably around January or so. That’s the only thing that has changed my from diet and I think that’s what is keeping me healthy! Crossing my fingers this healthy streak continues.

So when do you need to stay home? When can you power through it?

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When To Rest? When To Exercise?

Do you have a fever? Stay home. You’re probably too sick to exercise and you’re probably contagious. This is a good rule to go by.

Vomiting? Diarrhea? Common sense says rest! How embarrassing would it be to  lose it at the gym? Yikes. Oh, and if you’ve had diarrhea in the last 48 hours do not swim.

Chest congestion? Stay home! Especially with cardio. I cannot imagine how miserable and difficult it would be to run with a chest cold.

Sneezing, coughing, mild cold symptoms? It’s usually okay to get in a mild workout and I in fact do workout if I feel physically fine. Sometimes it’s just allergies or maybe it’s a cold that hasn’t taken over.

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What’s Your Rule?

My general rule for exercising while sick is to listen to my body. If I’m feverish or lethargic I stay home. If I feel crappy but not ill enough to stop most activities, I suck it up and go. Sometimes that workout actually makes me feel better!

The bottom line for me is that sometimes it’s not worth it to power through. I see a lot of people on Twitter continuing their routine while sick. To be honest, they are almost always runners. Is it because us runners are stubborn? Or obsessed with training schedules? Who knows! All I know is that junk miles that make you miserable because you’re ill aren’t worth it to me!

“The controversy is that many medical professionals suggest that working out while sick is actually detrimental to the recovery process because the body is stressed when it should otherwise be resting and healing itself. Some have suggested that all the studies performed by Ball State University show that working out releases endorphins in the body as a result of the extra physical activity, therefore allowing a patient to feel better due to the endorphins and not necessarily because of any improvement in cold symptoms.” (source)

I would be amiss if I didn’t mention this. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine in the gym world. Remember gym etiquette–always wipe down machines you use. I carry a travel size hand sanitizer in my gym bag, as well as wet wipes to clean machines before and after I use them.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Listen to your body. Know your limits. Don’t beat yourself up for taking a few days off to rest. This current injury has taught me that it really is okay to take some extra rest days once in awhile!

QUESTION: Where do you draw the line for exercising while sick?