This is a post for all the parents out there. I get it, believe me. Parenting is tough. Probably the toughest job on the planet, without a doubt. It's exhausting, time consuming, physically and emotionally draining, and can take you on the craziest roller-coaster ride of your life. With young kids, there are days it seems like you don't have time to pee, or eat a full meal for yourself (hey, kinda sounds like being a nurse!). Then as kids get a bit older, you are the taxi service, policeman of their social media and internet access, and much more. You are never done. It's NOT easy!!!
It seems like as parents we would clearly get a pass when we say we didn't have time for a workout. How can we possibly be expected to fit that stuff in when we are in charge of these little humans all day? There is too much to do. People are quick to use there busy kids as the first excuse for why they can't work out. Well I'm here to tell you that being a parent is even MORE reason why you should me making time for regular physical fitness in your life. Today I am sharing 3 very important reasons why that is, and 3 helpful tips to get it done.
Why it's important:
1) They are watching you. Kids learn from what they see. What are you showing them? How do you want them to grow and develop in their own lives? It's not a secret that kids (and even adults at times) learn from example. So not only are you in charge of your own health, you are modeling healthy living to your kids. Why should they care about taking proper care of themselves if we aren't even doing it? It's like having parents that smoke and telling their kids not to smoke. Or drinking in excess and then yelling at their teen for coming home drunk from a party. That whole "do as I say and not as I do" model of parenting is certain to fail. If your kids don't see you make something a priority in your own life, then they certainly won't see the need to do it for theirs. Albert Schweitzer said "Adults teach children in three important ways: The first is by example, the second is by example, and the third is by example". And don't worry if, at first, they act like they don't care or have no interest at all. I promise you, after a while it WILL have an impact on them. You just might be surprised, but you can't give up with the first sour face or attitude you get! Stick with it.
2) You will be a happier parent. Parenting can be maddening at times. Let's face it, kids can make your good mood go right down the drain some days. You can start off with the best of intentions, and then... BAM. No one is listening, the fighting and yelling breaks out, and chaos has ensued. Even with the greatest planning, any given day can make you a bit crazed. When you get exercise, you are releasing those pain-relieving and mood-enhancing endorphins that are such a wonderful treat! Not that exercise will get rid of all your parenting issues, but it certainly does wonders to help us cope a bit better. It won't magically change your child's behavior or ward off all disasters, but it can give you enough of a buffer to make it through tough days without losing it. And I bet your kids just might appreciate a happier parent as well. :-)
3) You will have more energy. Who can't use that? Kids or not, we could all use a bit more energy sometimes. It sounds strange to say you can get energy from expending energy, but it is true. Organized exercise or actual physical play with your kids is much more energizing than chaotic busy stress that does nothing but zap your energy. Especially if you have very active children, don't you want to be able to keep up with them? Of course. That certainly makes life a lot more fun for everyone involved. Parenting is busy and exhausting. Get energized the right way so you can get it done!
How to get it done:
1) During nap times or a short TV show: With very young kids, nap time is precious time that needs to be used VERY wisely! Don't get me wrong... there are some times when napping yourself is exactly what you need to do during that time. But if you can start a habit of getting in some quick exercise for yourself at nap time every day, this will be such a valuable thing in the long run. Or, if your kids are past napping age and are watching their allowed TV time for the day, that is your chance to sneak off somewhere else in the house and get it done. 20 minutes on a treadmill, a quick workout video, or your own routine you prefer. You will be so happy that you did if you can do this.
2) Early in the morning, while they are at school, or after their bedtime: There is always the option of getting up early before the kids get up (if you have kids that sleep late!). This takes dedication, but so does anything worth while. If you have school-age kids and you are home at all during the day, that is your chance with zero distraction. Yes, there are tons of other errands to do as well... I know. But if you don't make this a priority, it will not get done. Period. It needs to be just as important as cleaning, doing dishes and grocery shopping. This is your health. After the kids go to bed is also another possibility if they still go to bed early enough. It's never a great idea to workout too close to your own bedtime because it will make it difficult for you to wind down yourself (unless it's relaxing yoga!).
3) Involve your kids. This can be done in many ways! With very young kids, this can just be throwing a ball and running around the yard with them. Try doing tag sprints across the yard with your kids. Make up a simple but fun obstacle course to do together! Cheer them on, get them excited, and have fun with it! Show them that physical fitness is FUN and that feeling strong is amazing. Once they get a bit older, but all means, involve them in more mature workouts. Don't think they can't do it because their "just kids". You would be amazed what kids can and will do when they are given the challenge! I like to let my own kids make up the workout for the day. We do all kinds of fun stuff in our yard like squat jumps, running with high knees, push-ups against the fence, farmers' carries with some weights or light kettlebells, etc.
It's never too late to start either. I don't care if your kids are in high school or college. They are still being molded by things around them every day. They aren't done making all their lifetime habits at this point. And maybe, just MAYBE, they aren't done listening to mom and dad. :-) To make an impact on their own future health and help yours out in the meantime, this is just too important to push aside.
Not to mention, time spent exercising together is time bonding with your child. You are improving your health and spending quality time with them at the same time. That is priceless.
It's time to stop using your kids as your first excuse for not working out, and start making them the number one reason you do!
We say we want something, and then we do everything in our power to make sure it doesn't happen. Does this sound familiar? It is a reoccurring problem for many people, in many different circumstances in life. Have you ever had someone tell you to just get out of your own way? You are your own worst enemy? Or stop shooting yourself in the foot? Then chances are, you have been a victim of your own self-sabotage at some point in your own life.
But how does this make sense? Why would we purposely derail ourselves from our wanted goals and dreams? It seems to go against everything that we want, so why do we do it? Why do we knowingly destroy progress that could be helpful and beneficial for our own future happiness and well-being?
First off, let's recognize that there are many different ways to self-sabotage. It may be comfort eating while trying to lose weight; procrastinating with things we know need to get done; going on a shopping spree when trying to reel in the budget; going back again and again to unhealthy relationships we know we need to end... and the list goes on.
So why do we do it? There could be many reasons why:
-Feeling unworthy: If we don't feel like we "deserve" the good things we are trying to gain for ourselves, then it's easy to tell yourself that you shouldn't have it. In thinking that way, our mind will affect our actions, and we will ultimately do something to destroy and progress we have made.
-The need to be in control: Sometimes it may feel better to some to be in control our own failure, rather than take a risk to see what happens if we truly try. If we can cause the failure on our own, at least we were the ones in control of making that happen.
-Familiarity: For some, it may provide a strange sense of comfort to be in that familiar rut of self-sabotage. If we are not used to things changing for the better, then it actually can feel somewhat "comforting" to stay exactly where we are.
-Perfectionism: If it isn't perfect, then what's the point?
-Protection: Self-sabotage can be used as a safety mechanism to protect yourself from disappointment.
-Punishment: Some may use self-sabotage as a means of punishing one's self when they feel out of control. Ever have one cookie and then say "See? I'm such an idiot. I can't do anything right. So now I might as well just eat the whole box of cookies because I ruined the entire day".
Self-sabotage is coping mechanism that, unfortunately, does more harm than good. It's the "feel good now, worry about consequences later" method. Basically, short term gain = long term pain. It's not helpful in the long run.
But there is hope! Self-sabotage does not have to be your destiny. You actually CAN change that, and I will give you some tips on how.
First, identify the behavior for what it is. Recognize it and take responsibility for it. Pin point what triggers this behavior for you. Is it certain people? Objects? Specific times? Specific feelings that come up in your mind about yourself? Notice what triggers the behavior, and notice what behavior you are acting out. Be AWARE. That is number one. I am writing this entire post to make people more aware of their own behavior, because so much of it is automatic. We tend to have knee-jerk reactions to our emotions in life rather than stopping to think first and pay attention to what is actually happening.
Second, recreate the pattern with a healthy replacement strategy. Once you realize what is happening and how you are responding, it's time to pick a new response. Recreate a pattern that will promote a healthier result for yourself. When you notice yourself getting burning mad for eating just one cookie, stop. Before eating the entire box to punish yourself, instead try thinking of how much you enjoyed the cookie as a treat for the day. Then move along with an activity that will continue to make you feel good about yourself. Go for a walk! Call a friend! Be OKAY with the fact that you had a cookie and move on! No punishment necessary. And you can still go to bed happy with yourself! Stop the ugly pattern, and create a new one.
For people who procrastinate - sometimes we are overwhelmed by a large task that needs to be done, so we would rather do nothing. Try breaking up that giant task into smaller ones with dead lines for yourself to get each one done. That way it is not so overwhelming to think you need to do it all at once. And if exercise is one of those things you procrastinate with because it seems like too big of a task, again, break it up into small segments. Small workouts count too! And that little start could be the beginning of a whole new you.
And if you are someone who struggles with self-worth, feeling like you are not worthy of having life actually go well for you with positive changes, it is time to change this thought pattern. Where are you finding your worth? What makes you worthy of anything? Facebook likes? No. Followers on Instagram? No. Lies that people have told you over and over again that you believe? No. There is a blood stained cross where Jesus Christ gave His LIFE for you. If that doesn't show your worth, then I don't know what else does. And that's all the worth you need. Stop listening to lies and falling into traps of feeling unworthy from sources that don't matter. The cross says different. Believe it.
Once you have created new patterns for yourself, practice these until new habits are formed. Have patience with the process. When you start seeing small changes, be inspired!
Another way to help yourself out of the rut is to start being more grateful. Realize and appreciate the good things in your life. Start doing more for others instead of being immersed in the "me-me-me" way of thinking. This can help you to stop focusing on your own problems.
What else can you do? Be active! The state of your body has a direct effect the state of your mind. How you perceive things and react to things may change if you are more active than you are now. It gives a mental boost that just might spin you right out of your self-sabotage tail spin.
Now go after what you want, take charge of your plans and dreams, and don't ruin it for yourself!!! Become your own hero rather than your own worst enemy. Realize it is possible, you are worth it, and don't FEAR. Just DO. :-)
So I finally broke down and got a Fitbit. Why, exactly? I'm still not absolutely sure. One reason was definitely curiosity since everyone seems to be wearing one these days, but it certainly has not been something I ever felt that I NEEDED or even really wanted. Plus, my last watch broke, so I needed something to tell time... so I went for it.
I have to admit, I do kind of like it. It is actually pretty fun to see your activity on the app, and I especially found it interesting how it tracks my sleep patterns. I have never been one to own a heart rate monitor, so this was another added bonus for me to now pay closer attention to. Yes, I am a personal trainer, and I never have paid a huge amount of attention to my own heart rate with activity. But I have certainly been able to gauge my activity with breathing ability and perceived rate of exertion for any exercise I may be doing (and this is what I have done with clients as well, who do not own such gadgets).
So let's break it down as far as function. I know different models of fitness trackers may have some different capabilities, but the general function is still the same. Let's start with tracking your steps. It seems that the goal for just about everyone is getting those 10,000 steps a day. This adds up to about 5 miles per day, and if 30 minutes of that includes daily exercise, then that satisfies the CDC's recommendation of getting 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. It seems that you can go just about anywhere these days, and eventually you will here someone commenting on how many steps they have gotten that day or what they have left to accomplish in order to get their 10,000. People will all-out march in place towards the end of the hour to get their required steps so they can get some sort of congratulations or positive feedback from their fitness tracker. You know you've seen that, or maybe you've even done it!
Now this is the nice part of having a fitness tracker if you are one of those people who thrive on a little positive feedback. If this truly motivates you to move more, than you win! But what does that 10,000 steps actually do for you every day? Of course there are health benefits to moving more, that goes without saying. The more active we are every day, the better chance we have at lowering blood pressure, reduce risk of diabetes and improve overall cardiovascular health. Will it make you lose weight? It's possible, but that all depends on what's going in your mouth every day. Take one person who was very sedentary, and without increasing their daily caloric intake, they are now getting 10,000 steps per day which they were never even close to before. This person very well may lose some weight over time. But on the other hand, take someone who habitually over eats and has a poor diet. If they start tracking their 10,000 steps per day yet continue to overeat and make poor choices, then no... they will most likely not lose any weight. These are the people that get frustrated thinking that their Fitbit didn't help them lose weight. Well, the Fitbit isn't a magic genie once it goes on your arm. It will track what you're doing, but it will not automatically make you lose 10 pounds or better your health just by wearing it. Not to mention, the calories burned when walking greatly depend on the intensity and speed of your walk. You will have a greater calorie burn, and therefore a greater chance of weight loss, if you're steps taken are with higher speed and intensity throughout the day.
Of course there is the ability to track your food with most of these fitness trackers, but I find that most people don't bother doing that. It is a nice feature, but can be a bit tough to be extremely accurate with food and calorie intake... nonetheless, always a great idea to keep a food journal, especially if weight loss is your goal.
What I tend to see a lot is people who get these fitness trackers with all good intentions of having this new device make them healthy and slim. Well, it doesn't work that way without effort and determination on your part. Can it help motivate? Absolutely. Will it give you the results you want just by wearing it? No. If you're someone who is grabbing at straws trying to find something that will make you "fit", don't waste your money on a Fitbit if you have trouble putting in the effort yourself. At the end of the day, it starts with YOU. When you decide to make a commitment and put in the work, that's when results happen. And if you're doing this and just so happen to be wearing a Fitbit along the way? Good for you, and enjoy your fun little gadget! :-)
We're busy. We don't have time to be wasting time. Ask anyone how they are, and what do they usually say? Busy! So since we are all short on time, we certainly don't want to be doing unnecessary or useless things at the gym when we are trying to make progress. Every minute counts, when we don't have lots of minutes to give. So here are five tips to make sure you are not wasting those precious moments you're spending at the gym, or wherever it is you work out.
1) Stop doing crunches. First off, the crunch position mimics the hunched position that causes so many people to end up with low back pain. Not helpful. And not only do you need to do a ton of crunches to actually do anything to actually strengthen the rectus abdominis (the "6 pack"), crunches will do nothing to lessen the layer of fat that is covering those muscles and preventing them from being visible.
What to do instead: Try different plank variations, learn proper deadlifts, Turkish-get-ups, and over head carries, to name a few. And the other MAJOR thing to do: clean up your eating! Abs are made in the kitchen. ;-)
2) Stop doing prolonged, excessive cardio. I am not calling all endurance cardiovascular exercise a waste of time by any means. But if maximum results are the goal in less time, then spending daily hours on the treadmill or elliptical at the same intensity is not the best use of your time. If you are constantly going at the same speed for the same amount of time, the more time will be required to actually reap any benefits.
What to do instead: Add in some high intensity intervals. Short bursts with a higher heart rate will kick start your workout and you will get more done in less time. Either adding in some sprints, speed intervals, or short bursts of other high intensity cardio drills will get you much further along in less time. And please... add some resistance training to your routine as well!
3) Stop taking excessive rest periods between sets. I see this a lot. Taking long rest periods between sets of exercises can take up as much time (or more) as your actual minutes spent working out. People start playing on their phone, talking with friends, or just getting distracted during that "rest" time and end up taking much longer than necessary. I'm all for working out with a partner, but you want to be pushing each other, not dragging each other down by distractions and gabbing.
What to do instead: Supersets! Supersets are exercises usually focusing on opposing muscle groups that are performed in succession with little to no rest in between. An example of this would be doing a set of pushups (for chest and shoulders), then going straight into a rowing exercise (for back and biceps), then going back to your pushups, etc. This gives the first group of muscles a rest while you're working on opposing muscle groups. I also like to alternate a lifting exercise with a cardio drill. The lifting set allows your heart rate to recover from the cardio, and the cardio gives the muscles time to refresh from the lifting.
4) Don't waste time on single joint exercises. Not to say that single joint exercises are always a waste of time, but there are better ways to get more out of your workout in less time. Some examples of single joint exercises are things like bicep curls, tricep extensions, leg raises, etc. If your goals include fat loss, muscle gain, or better overall performance, you're going to want to do more than this.
What to do instead: Multi-joint (or "compound") exercises. These are exercises such as squats, deadlifts, pushups, lunges, and pull-ups. These exercises use multiple joints and muscle groups to do each exercise, therefore giving you more of a benefit that just working one joint or muscle at a time. Furthermore, compound exercises tend to require stabilization of the entire body, thus giving the ability to provide a core workout at the same time. Win win!
5) Don't show up without a plan. This tip is basically aimed at those new to the gym or those who are just starting to think about working out. I will be honest, at this point in my life I am able to plan my workouts on the fly by listening to what my body needs for that day. But that comes with lots of time, knowledge and practice! For those who may not be sure what they need, it is extremely helpful to follow some kind of plan, routine, or general guidelines to keep you on track to progress. If not, it can be easy to show up and just do a few random exercises and call it a workout. Granted, moving in any capacity is usually always better than not moving at all, but having a plan and understanding the exercises you are doing will get you the results you want FAR quicker than just making it up as you go and hoping for success.
What to do instead: Hire a trainer, get involved in groups or classes, or follow a specific written out workout plan that is appropriate for your abilities (you may need a trainer to assess this for you). With a little guidance and basic understanding you will be sure that you are not wasting your time, and hopefully will be able to see results much faster than if you were just making it up on your own.
We're all busy, and most of us don't have hours to spend every day at the gym. Be smart and use your time wisely so you get the benefits you want in the time you have. Go get it!
Happy New Year! So here we go... new goals, new dreams, new plans. A clean slate for the next 365 days. Sounds great, right? Sure. Unless you're lacking the one necessary ingredient for that fine recipe. People have all kinds of calculations, complicated diagrams, expensive programs and plans of how they are going to execute their goals for this beautiful year ahead, but if they are missing that one vital piece to the puzzle... it's all a waste. You can forget all of it. A joke. Waste of time. A fancy looking package with a bow on top of an empty box. A big ZERO.
So what is this one fundamental element that we all need if we are ever going to be successful at reaching our goals? DISCIPLINE. Plain and simple. Sorry if this disappoints you, but it is truth. Everyone wants the quick fix, the magic pill, or that amazing life hack that will eliminate the need for you to actually work for something. That does not exist. You actually have to do the work. You have to put in the time. You have to make it happen.
Many people try to rely on motivation to reach their goals. Don't get me wrong, motivation can be great sometimes, but it's not what gets you into the end zone. It's a great start, push forward or a kick in the pants when we need it, but it's not the end of the story. Motivation doesn't last. It is fleeting, fickle, and temporary. If this is all you are counting on to accomplish your goals, you will be let down. You cannot count on motivation, but you CAN count on discipline.
You may think of discipline as your worst enemy. You couldn't be more far from the truth. In all reality, discipline is your greatest friend. It is the core principle that overcomes your excuses, talks back to your laziness, and makes you actually do the things you need to do even when you don't feel like doing them. That's powerful. And that is what we ALL need. People come up with all kinds of ridiculous reasons for why they cannot accomplish their goals. Every single one of them can most likely be answered with discipline. Some people want a long fancy sounding solution for how they can stop eating junk food every night. I'll tell you the answer right now. STOP EATING JUNK FOOD EVERY NIGHT. That is done with discipline. How do you get yourself to exercise 3-4 days per week? EXERCISE 3-4 DAYS PER WEEK. Simple, isn't it? I didn't say easy, but it is simple. Discipline is hard. It takes work, and it can be frustrating at times... but NEVER regretted. Even when you're just not "feeling" it... do it anyway. Going through the motions even when you don't feel like it, is what discipline is all about. And when you continue this, you create habits. Habits are life changing. DO IT.
You may try to have discipline imposed on you by an outside force... a trainer, a teacher, a coach, etc. That's great and all, but it will only last as long as that person is in your face. SELF-discipline is where it's at. Until we understand that our life is OUR responsibility, then we will never get it. It's up to you. You get it when you decide you want to be better, faster, stronger, smarter, or whatever your end goal is. Don't fear discipline.... fear being stagnant. That's scary. No more just thinking, dreaming, wishing, contemplating, or debating. Just DO. Happy New Year... now get after it!!!
What is the number one fear nurses usually have when it comes to injury at work? Hurting their back. It's pretty common to hear nurses say that they have back pain or have strained their back at one time or another while at work. Because of the physical demands on nurses, back injuries are a major concern. Today I want to share a few ways to help protect your back by showing a few strength, mobility and stretching techniques that can be very helpful in taking care of your back for the long haul.
This first one is called a cat/cow stretch. It is great for mobility of your entire spine and can feel really good if your back has been stiff for any reason. Get on your hands and knees, knees about hip width apart, and hands directly under shoulders. Inhale as you arch your back and look up, then exhale as you round your back and tuck your chin into your chest. Repeat several times.
Next we have child's pose. This is such a relaxing pose to rest in for a while. Start on hands and knees, and simply shift your hips all the way back and rest your head against the ground. You may feel more comfortable if you spread your knees out further apart here. This is a great stretch for your entire back. Rest here for 5-10 full breathes.
Next up is downward facing dog with heel pumps. I like to get into this pose from a plank position first. Push your hips up and back and press your hands firmly into the ground pressing your chest towards your thighs. Pumping your heels is a great way to stretch the calves and hamstrings, and you are stretching out your upper back with pressing your chest to your thighs. Rest in child's pose if desired when done with this stretch.
Supine twists are great for stretching, increasing rotation through the rib cage, and they just feel good! Start by lying on your back. Pull one knee into your chest and pull across your body with opposite hand. Stretch your other arm out to the side and breathe deep into the stretch. Repeat other side.
Bird dog is a great way to strengthen the stabilizing muscles in your back. This may not look like much, but this is a great exercise to do on a regular basis. Take note, it is important to keep your spine stable during this exercise... I am not flexing and rounding my back with this movement. The spine stays neutral as I move opposite arm and opposite leg.
And last, we can add in some forward folds. Stand tall with feet together. Take a deep breath in as you lift your hands up, then breathe out as you fold forward letting your hands hang. You can have a slight bend in the knee if it feels comfortable, or legs all the way straight. Take a breath in and come to a half lift (back straight and hands on shins), exhale again as you fold down. Slowly roll up one vertebrae at a time until standing tall. Repeat.
Try incorporating these stretches and exercises into your daily life, especially if you suffer from any tightness or weakness in your back. Warning: if you have lower back pain, forward fold may not feel good to you. Never force a stretch that does not feel good to your body. Start slow and work your way into deeper stretches as time goes on. Doing these regularly can make all the difference in the world when it comes to good back health. Give them a try!
Life isn't easy... at all. In fact, some parts of it are a very serious struggle. All the way back to being a kid, there were difficult things to overcome. Friendship drama, figuring out what path to take with our lives, relationship difficulties, career choices, marriage, kids, jobs... and the list goes on the older we get. None of that is easy! But have you ever noticed that the things you have worked the hardest at are usually the things that have been the most fulfilling parts of your life?
Many of you are nurses like myself. Nursing school certainly was not a breeze, am I right? It was hard work. But we did it. Just think of the accomplishment you felt when you graduated and got that degree! All that hard work suddenly felt so worth it now that you were done. No matter what you studied in school... that hard work was a struggle at times... but it WAS worth it after all.
How about marriage? Wow, now that's tough. Ask any married couple who has survived married life for 50 plus years. I guarantee you that every single one of them would agree that it was HARD work to make it where they are. It's not all roses and candle light dinners. It's tough, exhausting, frustrating, and even painful at times! But is it worth it? Absolutely. The relationships we work the hardest at and invest our whole being into are the most rewarding relationships we can have. If there is no effort, it will not last. It takes WORK. It takes COMMITMENT. It takes DISCIPLINE.
Any parents out there? Need I say more. Parenting is the toughest job on earth. But is it worth it to see your child grow into an amazing human being right before you eyes? No doubt. There is no greater feeling than being part of that kind of miracle. It changes us so deeply from within. The love a parent has for their child is so unique and beautiful. But it's HARD work, for sure.
Putting in the effort to take the very best care of ourselves is hard too. Yet so many of us don't want to bother with that. Getting to the gym? That takes effort and discipline to get there. Making healthy meals rather than takeout, meal planning and thinking about what I put in my mouth? That takes too much time and a lot of effort! Taking the necessary steps to take care of your emotional health and decrease your stress level? That takes commitment to do what is necessary and get it done. Self care is hard. It takes effort, discipline, commitment and a whole lot of work. But guess what? Yes, just like all those amazing rewarding life situations listed above, it is so WORTH IT! :-)
So I'm seeing a pattern here. If it's hard, it's probably really worth it in life. Look back on your own life. What have been the most rewarding parts? Certainly not the things that came easy to you. Where is the reward in that? I can bet it was all those times that caused the blood sweat and tears that gave you the greatest satisfaction.... the times that really showed you what you are made of.... the times that helped you become more of who you were meant to be in this life.
We put aside exercise because it's hard. We don't want to make homemade food because that takes too much time. Yes, it is work. It is hard to commit to doing something that takes effort on our part. But that is where the gold is!!! Don't back down and lose out on what was meant for you because it's hard. Hard work paves the road to beautiful satisfaction and great reward. And the benefits that come from taking the best care of ourselves are amazing! There is no easy way out for success. Your marriage, your kids, your career, self-care.... all hard work. And all great rewards. Put in the work... commit... be disciplined.... it will be worth it!
Planks are an awesome body weight exercise that will always and forever prove to be beneficial. They will never go out of style, do not require any equipment, do not take long to do, and are one of the most effective exercises you can do.
Why are planks so great? They are one of the best exercises for strengthening your core. And why is that so important? Because your core is the foundation of all movement. When your core is strong, you move better... in ALL things. You will lift weights more safely, you will balance better, you will throw a ball with more accuracy, you will protect your back in everyday activities, improve chronic back pain, you will tone your belly, and you will have better posture.
For nurses, having a strong core is essential. Think of all the physical movement necessary in one shift. If we can improve core strength by doing plank exercises, this can be so beneficial in the life of a nurse for work safety and protecting yourself in everyday life. The most common injury feared by nurses at work is usually hurting their back. Strengthen your core! Planks can play a vital role in preventing injury.
Planks engage your rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques and glutes. Not to mention, you will certainly gain upper body strength from holding these positions longer and longer each time.
So how do we do planks? Here are several variations to try:
Go down onto both forearms, keeping elbows directly under shoulders. stretch legs out behind you and go up onto the balls of your feet. Keep your body in a straight line from your head to your heels. Hold your core muscles tight, and think of pulling your navel up into your spine. Hold this position for 30 seconds to start, and try to increase how long you can hold each time you do this.
Straight Arm Plank:
Same as above, but place hands on the ground instead of forearms, keeping arms straight and directly below shoulders.
Come onto your right hand or forearm with elbow directly under your shoulder and stack your feet (or you may place one foot in front of the other if stacking is too difficult). Other hand may be placed on your hip, or raise your arm up straight, in line with other arm. Keep your hip lifted so you create a straight line from your head to your feet. Keep core muscles engaged the entire time. Try to hold for 30 seconds each side.
To increase difficulty if desired, you can always try lifting one foot or one hand while holding your plank. This will create much more of a challenge if that's what you're looking for!
So let's see. Planks require no equipment, can be done just about anywhere, do not require much time at all, yet provide huge benefits with little effort. I'd say that's a win-win! If you're not doing planks, you may want to think about starting!
We all have goals and things we would like to see happen, right? But what is our driving force behind those goals we want to achieve? Chances are when you ask most people what their major goal is, the answer is most often weight loss. We want to be thinner. To lose that extra ten pounds would just be great. I want to look good. Sound familiar? So then we cut calories, try some new crazy workout routines and beat ourselves up when we stray off the path on any given day.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight. But what if we shift the focus from weight loss to better health? What if instead of focusing on the weight loss as number one, we focused on becoming a healthier human being so we can improve our quality of life? What if we chose to eat better to avoid disease? What if we started exercising to improve our mood, decrease stress and move better at work and in our daily activities? What if all major decisions we made about our body were decided based on if it's going to help me live better, or ultimately harm me in some way? The focus changes. The pressure of feeling that need to lose weight is now on the back burner. Instead, now the focus is on living a better life. And guess what? This is the best part. Losing weight is usually a side effect from doing all that. Awesome stuff, right? Change your focus! Chose to live healthier for a better quality of life. That's ultimately where the gold is. And most likely, you will become more fit in the process, rather than beating fitness over your head to the point that it exhausts you and feels like a chore.
Treat your body right. It doesn't need to be punished, scolded, talked down to and put through the ringer in the name of weight loss. Focus on health, and let the rest follow. Take in all the awesome benefits of living a healthier lifestyle and know that you are doing something good for yourself. You're improving your quality of life. That sounds so much better than only talking about how many more pounds to go so we look good. Before you know it, you have more energy, you're happier, you can do activities you weren't able to do a while ago. Maybe you even come off some medication that you now no longer need. That's the good stuff. Let the weight loss happen without you even realizing it. Now go live your life in the name of HEALTH!
Hey, did you get to the gym today? How about yesterday? No? So what. It doesn't matter that you didn't get there today, or even yesterday. And maybe you can't even go tomorrow because of your schedule this week. You know what matters much more than that? If you're still going to the gym five years from now. Long term consistency is so far more important than what you're doing just this week, or even this month. Don't get caught up in trying to be perfect with your workout routines every week to the point where you feel like a complete failure if you couldn't do everything you had planned on. That can often times lead people to just plain giving up. It opens up the door for all the negative self talk we are so good at so often. "I suck. I can never do anything right. I don't know why I bother trying. I'll never get in shape now".
Life gets busy, crazy, and throws a few curve balls at us from time to time. I am not trying to provide excuses here for not working out, but rather just being realistic. We may feel different from one week to the next. Emergencies come up. Or maybe you had to work a lot extra this week for whatever reason. All this to say, allow yourself a little grace from time to time. Just don't throw in the towel! By all means, try your best to achieve your fitness goals, but also realize that it's "okay" if things don't always go just as perfectly as planned. As long as you get right back up on the horse and keep going! Long term commitment means so much more than the day to day. I would rather see someone workout only 2-3 times per week, yet do this consistently for many years, than someone trying to workout 6-7 days per week and watch them give up completely after one month. Your health and fitness journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Keep your head in the game, and go for the long haul!
Terri Wentzell is a registered nurse with more than 20 years of experience. She is also a certified personal trainer, wellness coach, fitness nutrition coach, and sport yoga instructor.