Staying Fit and Flexible with a demanding work/daily schedule
Many of us stay busy from the moment we rise in the morning to the time our head hits the pillow at night. Then we wake up and do it all over again the next day. No wonder it’s extremely difficult to find time to stay fit, much less have the energy to even think about exercise some days. Working long hours can take a toll on us mentally and physically. That’s why it’s so important to strike a balance within our lives and take care of the little things.
After graduating college in April, the struggle of transitioning to the real world of working a full time 8-5 job from being a full time student-athlete has been challenging to say the least. I’m currently a competitive distance runner and train every day while working full time, for now.
Upon this new life change, there are many helpful tools I’ve embodied in the past 6 months that have kept me healthy, strong, and fit.
Though I am new to the workforce, I understand the difficulty of balancing your fitness and health with daily demands completely.
But being busy doesn’t have to be an excuse for neglecting fitness and well being. Making the time for fitness as a part of your day is just a matter of consistency and keeping goals in sight.
- Sleep and Hydration
Before we get into any of that, planning is at the root of staying fit and flexible throughout your week!
Start by determining what goals you have for your own fitness. Then, stick with habits that encourage that behavior in everything you do. Success doesn’t happen overnight, even in little things. Habitually doing these healthy tips will overtime form you into a fitter, happier you.
For Planning: I start my week with a meal prep on Sundays. I plan out my meals for Monday-Thursday and go grocery shopping with my list in check. Then, I make my breakfast meals, lunches, and dinners for the week. That doesn’t you have to micro manage literally EVERY meal. I normally leave my Fridays-Sundays open in case I have lunch dates or want to go out. Balance is important. I also pack snacks for the work day and label them. This keeps you organized and less stressed when the work week comes and you don’t have time to worry about meals. I eat small meals and snacks throughout the day. Having accessible snacks to power you through the work day helps you stay energized, happy and not HANGRY! No one likes a Hangry co-worker trust me.
The last thing I’ll say about planning is making sure you pack your workout bag the night before. If you know you’re going to the gym or for a run after work, you’re more likely to stick with it if you’re prepared. Watch the weather and lay out your workout clothes, shoes, watch the night before if your heading out the door for a run before work. Preparedness leads to accomplishing goals.
Besides, I always feel like I’m putting on my super woman uniform when it’s time for me to change up and lace up at the end of the day. Organization is going to take stress off the table and help you get excited about how healthy you are being.
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day for many reasons. It kick starts your metabolism and stops you from craving the salty sweets later in the day. It also wakes you up and keeps you alert, instead of famished and drowsy in the morning. Cut up fruit on Sunday, throw it in zippies and place them in the freezer for the week. Boom, you have a perfect, energizing and delicious breakfast on the go.
All you have to do is pop it in the blinder and head out the door in the morning. Easy.
EAT SMALL SNACKS
I have several small snacks throughout the day. My nutrition needs require me to fuel my aggressive, high mileage workouts. So, I eat certain foods at specific times during the day.
My general rule though- LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. It will let you know when it needs food. I like to eat my breakfast after my run in the morning or if I don’t run in the morning, when I wake up.
I like to eat a mid-morning snack at about 9:00-10:00am.
I take my lunch break anywhere between 12:00PM-1:00PM I make sure to get protein, fiber, and fruit and grains in my lunch. You need a solid, balanced lunch to get you over the hump of the day.
This is essential in killing that nasty afternoon blah feeling. Just a little pick me up can go a long way in creating a positive mental state for the rest of the day. I’ll eat some sweet potato chips or cheese and crackers, or crackers and peanut butter around 3:00PM. I like to call these snacks-“hunger killers”. I’ll even write that on my zip-locks at times and my co-workers make fun of me. But I get the last laugh when I’m buzzing around the office on a natural energy high and everyone else is on a sugar spiral.
Pre run/workout snack
Okay, if you are running or working out after work and you get off around 5:00PM, I suggest apple sauce or a banana or a granola/cliff bar of some sort. Something small with energy to help you get started for your workout.
I know that seems like a lot. Eating throughout the day can seem impossible or annoying but not if you PLAN. You can label zip lock baggies for times to eat your snacks like I do. OR even set alarms on your phone when it’s snack time.
DON’T GRAB THE SUGAR
My biggest tip for nutrition, if I can chose just one is- don’t be fooled by grabbing the candy bar, soda or sugar filled snacks!! It may seem like a quick fix that will give you energy but you will CRASH.
Also, added sugars are so bad for your overall health. Instead, grab fruits. They have all the natural sugar you need and always leave you feeling better for longer. Eating small snacks throughout the day will help improve your digestion and keep your metabolism running efficiently. Snacking won’t leave you constantly hungry either like when you eat a huge meal and get hungry a few hours later.
I cannot stress enough the importance of WATER. If you are tired, drink a glass of water. It will wake you up and you will function more efficiently on water rather than soda or sugary drinks.
Also, dehydration causes headaches which are no fun at the office. Water facilitates proper digestion and fuels the muscles for workouts. Try to drink a full glass before bed and when you wake up too. Think about when you sleep-the body is depleted for 8 hours more or less. So replenishing fluids is a must!! When you get fatigued and space out, drink! drink! drink! We are 70% water so it makes sense to keep the oxygen flowing with H20.
Now that we’ve covered nutrition and hydration, I’d like to stress the importance of SLEEP. Most professional athletes get 8-10 hours of sleep a night. I know the idea of getting 10 hours of sleep seems like a far away dream in itself. But you wouldn’t show up to work drunk right? Well, lack of sleep causes the body to be “physiologically drunk” in a sense. It’s the same type of stress and you won’t be at your best.
Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep and see the difference it makes. Plan out your sleep schedule. I realize that with a busy schedule, several other demands after work can hinder sleep. But making the time to sleep will make the biggest improvements because that is when the body heals and recovers. Your muscles don’t reap the benefits of a workout during a session but when you sleep!!
The last item I want to touch on is being active!! If you work in an office job or have a daily schedule that requires you to be in one place for a while, this will help.
Don’t sit for more than 45 minutes at a time.
- standing quad stretch
- toe touches
- standing or sitting russian twists
- calf pumps
- arm pulls
- back arches and hamstring stretch
Also, sitting decreases hip flexibility. So it’s super important to keep the hips flexible and moving throughout the day to battle stiffness. Do hip circles when you can and rotate the hips forward. Do calf pumps at your desk too.
On Lunch Breaks, GET OUT OF THE OFFICE!
One of my co-workers goes for a walk every day on her lunch breaks. I think that’s just perfect. Don’t be a sad panda and stay cooped up, overworking yourself, scarfing down a microwavable meal at your desk. If it’s a beautiful day, eat lunch outside. Call a friend or plan a lunch date at your favorite cafe. Do anything to get out and remind yourself that you are more than the work you do everyday!
It starts with a positive mindset. Don’t get discouraged, just take it a day at a time and BREATH. 🙂
We may not always be able to control our circumstances 100% but as one of my coaches always told me- “You can control your attitude and your effort”.