Balancing Your Fitness Routine with Self Care
Keeping active is one of the cornerstones of physical and mental wellness. Working out can relieve depression, sharpen your memory, and build your self-esteem—accomplishments that are more important than looking like you belong on a fitness magazine cover. Moreover, many aspects of your health are complex, and exercise may not improve or address them. How can you learn to balance your fitness routine with self-care, to make sure you're always firing on all shots?
First off, what is self-care? Perhaps the easiest way to think of self-care is that it’s TLC provided “for you, by you.” Many of us do so much for others – raising children, helping parents, assisting coworkers – that we discover if we don’t treat ourselves just as well, we burn out. Taking time out of your busy schedule to relax, tend to your needs, and simply be calm is vital to good health. Self-care activities can include gardening, practicing yoga, journaling, or sitting outside listening to the birds and the wind chimes. In other words, whatever helps you relax.
The unfortunate truth is that most people are gung-ho when they decide to start working out, but quickly lose interest. The reason you don’t stick to a workout routine might be because you don’t like it, or you have trouble adding exercise to your everyday life. The worst thing you can do is turn fitness into a chore. Instead, find exercises you love. That might mean going to aerobics classes or trying out yoga, hiking, swimming, or dance lessons. Each of these provides different benefits – strength, muscle tone, breathing – so choose the one you truly enjoy.
The importance of a balanced diet can’t be overstated. Just a few upsides to eating the right foods include having more energy, a sharper attention span, and a stronger immune system. You can also reduce the risk of developing cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Although it can be tough, try cutting out out sugar, avoid processed foods, and do away with soda (which is basically sugar in a bottle). Instead, opt for healthier choices like eggs, lentils, yogurt, fruits and berries, salmon and tuna, oats and brown rice, and vegetables of any kind.
Sleep & Relaxation
The United States is the most overworked country on the planet. On average, we put in 137 more hours than Japanese workers, 260 hours more than the British, and 499 more hours than the French. Workaholism may seem admirable for its go-get-’em spirit, but whether it equates to maximum productivity is questionable, and it can even bring on severe health risks.
Be sure to relax. Turn a room in your home into a stress-free zone where you can light candles, listen to your favorite music, maybe drink a little wine, and give yourself a staycation. Dedicate time to being around people you love and who make you laugh. (Laughter leads to huge health benefits.) Lastly, make sure you get enough sleep. Clinicians recommend adults aged 18-64 catch seven to nine hours a night – and for good reason. Sleep sharpens our focus, regulates our metabolism, and soothes pain and illnesses.
Being “fit” isn’t just about looking good or the number you see on the scale. Participating in sports and activities you love, or sticking to a reglar gym schedule, are important when it comes to staying active and healthy. But cultivating mental wellbeing is equally important. If you have anxiety, depression, or any other mental health diagnosis, be sure to seek the expertise of a therapist or other trusted professional. Discovering the source of your anxiety or depression could take years, but it should ultimately help you feel more centered and whole, like you belong to yourself. That’s true health.
about the writer
Justin is an author and the creator of HealthyFit.info, a site dedicated to collecting valuable fitness resources from across the web.