When you’re busy, exercise is more important than ever

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Does your life ever feel like a chaotic mess? Photo Credit: ComputerHotline Flickr via Compfight cc

Whew!

I’m tired. This happens at the beginning of every semester. There’s always an adjustment period that comes with being in the office regularly, teaching classes, and meeting with students (at the beginning of the semester this usually means panicked students who haven’t yet registered for class or who are making changes to their schedules before the drop/add deadline passes).

My 5:15 a.m. alarm felt especially early this morning, especially since the craziness of the semester translates into middle-of-the-night wide-awake thoughts about to-do lists and such. But I got up because I have the 6 a.m. yoga class to teach.

I’m glad I have this reason to get to the gym, because I’m pretty sure I would have found it hard this morning to get up and out of bed otherwise. If I had a choice, today would have been a day to say “forget it” to the gym. I could have definitely used that hour or two to sleep, or I could have gotten up and worked on any number of tasks for my job.

If I didn’t have to teach yoga, I would have found many excuses to not go to the gym. “I’m too busy” is a really easy thing to say.

But there has never been a time when I have finished the yoga class or a workout and thought, “I shouldn’t have done that.” I am ALWAYS thankful that I did it and always feel better afterward.

When we’re the busiest is EXACTLY the time to make sure we don’t skip our workouts.

I understand that there are so many other things that can get done during gym or exercise time. But look at all the things that exercise accomplishes:

* Gives us energy.

* Gives us a break from work.

* Keeps us in touch with our physical selves.

* Reduces anxiety.

* Boosts metabolism.

When you’re busy, don’t you need those things more than ever? As you return to school or find yourself under water at work or take on new responsibilities, maybe you have to scale back your gym routine. Maybe you like to work out for an hour, but now maybe it has to be 30 minutes. Or 15 minutes. Or 5 really, really hard and intense minutes.

Point being, any minute is better than 0 minutes.

And when you can fit in a workout amid your busy day, you get an extra sense of accomplishment. You did something that at first didn’t seem feasible — you found the time to work out. Congratulate yourself!

Adding some veggies to the mix!

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Photo Credit: morroelsie Flickr via Compfight cc

I joined a Facebook group with a few friends in March for a “10-day veggie challenge.” I like vegetables, but I like fruit more. While I eat fruit every day, I might go a day or two each week without eating any vegetables.

In the 10-day challenge, we committed to eating four servings of vegetables a day. At the end of each day we’d check in. It also was a great way to share tips, ideas, and recipes.

I normally don’t join group efforts. Health and exercise have always been a fairly solitary venture for me. I’m not one to run with others. Occasionally I’ll cycle with others but most of my cycling also is solo. Exercise is a way for me to recharge and think through my day.

But I came to enjoy the veggie group! Each day I was thinking about my check-in and that helped me eat more servings of vegetables than I normally would. I didn’t want to be the one who every day said she was falling short. I did fall short on many days, but I was happy when I consumed my four servings.

Here’s what helped me:

  • Liquid vegetables. I like V-8 so I had plenty of that on hand. I also found a “healthy greens” V-8 which isn’t too bad.
  • Buying my favorite vegetables. Duh, I guess. But I had been getting lazy about this and hardly buying vegetables anymore, especially in the winter. Each week I stocked up on carrots, sweet potatoes, and green and red peppers.
  • Steam-in-the-bag vegetables. So easy and quick! I prefer to roast my veggies in the oven but that takes some planning. I like popping veggies in the microwave for 5 minutes and then they’re ready to eat.
  • Seasoning. I’ve discovered Trader Joe’s “Everyday Seasoning.” I prefer to butter my vegetables, but with the seasoning I don’t miss it.

The challenge has been over for a couple of weeks, but I have now formed a habit of incorporating more vegetables into my diet. This was my first experiencing of joining a healthy living “support group” and I would definitely do it again.

Now if I can get my other bad habits under control…

Early 40s, and my body freaked out

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Flickr photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/b10lm/

In early 2017, I went to the doctor because I had gained approximately 10 pounds in two months.

This had never happened to me before. I’ve always been able to maintain a steady weight with nothing more than a 2-3 pound fluctuation here and there. I was still running — not a ton, not in training for anything — but physically active nonetheless. I didn’t think I had changed my eating habits radically, though I had become a little more sloppy about portion sizes and not carefully watching my added-sugar intake. But still, that didn’t seem to explain 10 pounds in two months.

I requested a thyroid test and while my doctor thought certainly that could be a cause, she thought my age was more than likely the culprit. I was 42. She told me that bodies change, metabolism changes, and it’s all part of getting older.

I was supposed to accept that? It’s just part of getting older? She made it seem like I didn’t have any control over the situation. I wonder how many other women are told this? Could this explain in part our obesity problem in the U.S.? If your doctor tells you “that’s just how it is,” how many people are accepting that?

It’s been a little over a year and I’ve been on a journey to regain my fitness and get my body back to a place where I feel comfortable in it. I know my body and I know what it’s capable of, and that’s what I’m striving for.

It’s been a learning process. I have no doubt that my age has shifted my body and its processes. I used to be able to eat almost anything I wanted to and not gain any weight. In the past year, I’ve learned I have to really pay attention to portion sizes and added sugar.

Last summer was a struggle for me as I realized this was not going to be easy. In the past if I had gained 4-5 pounds over time, I could change my eating habits and get back to my ideal weight pretty quickly. That was not happening at all through the summer, and summer is my time to hit the physical activity hard with running, cycling, and swimming. I was exercising A LOT and paying attention to what I ate. I managed to lose about 8 pounds between February and September 2017 but I was still a few pounds away from my ideal weight.

Now a little more than a year has passed and I’ve lost 13 pounds. I’m still 4-5 pounds above what I consider my ideal “fighting” weight. This is the weight where I feel the best. Note that I said “feel,” not “look.” At an ideal weight I run better, I cycle better, I swim better, I do yoga better, etc.

I will be blogging occasionally about this journey and what I’ve done to turn things around. In short, I’ve put a lot of time into it and have had to change the way I eat. While I don’t feel I’m depriving myself of my favorite things, it is hard to change from being able to eat anything to having to carefully watch what I eat.

Also in short: If you are struggling with this very thing, know that you are in control. Don’t let anyone tell you “that’s just how it is.” If you are ready to make a commitment to feel better, you can do it.

Shhhh…should we talk about this? Yes!

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Original watercolor by Meagan Segal. Available at Etsy.com

“Hey, tell me about your pelvic health!”

Those are probably words you have never spoken or never have heard them spoken to you. But think about what all goes on “down there” — not only physically today, but emotionally and historically.

It’s not an area a lot of women pay attention to until something goes wrong. And when something goes wrong, whom can you talk to? Many of us were raised in a culture where we didn’t speak about pelvic health. If you see a doctor, was he/she trained in women’s health matters?

I attended a pelvic health workshop Saturday morning at Sun Moon Yoga Studios with about 20 other women. After hearing their stories, it struck me how often women’s concerns are dismissed by their loved ones or health practitioners. For example, Julie Dickhudt, the workshop teacher, said she saw her doctor after experiencing a prolapse and was told nothing was wrong.

“And I believed him,” she said with regret in her voice.

It was several more years before she finally was able to resolve the issue, with the help of a doctor experienced in women’s health.

Julie’s overall message: Take charge of your health, especially your pelvic health, because it’s an area that’s so vulnerable and tied up with many emotions. You know when something is wrong — don’t let a person who doesn’t know you tell you otherwise.

Further resources (thanks to Julie for pointing these out in Saturday’s workshop):