Friday, June 11, 2010

Exercise Through the Hard Times

I usually enjoy exercise. I love pushing myself through a hard workout. I love getting sweaty and having a reason to shower. I love knowing that my muscles are strong and I can keep up with my wild boys.

At my current state, I consider vacuuming a challenging cardiovascular exercise. How did I regress from running marathons to absolute slothfulness? I decided I needed another angel in my life and am expecting my fourth baby in August.

There are times in all of our lives that fitness has to take a backseat – sickness of a child, taking care of an elderly parent, overload at work, a new baby. I’m sure you all have a list of your own. The ironic thing is at these times we need exercise more than ever. Why?

  • Exercise decreases stress by increasing your health and overall sense of well-being.
  • Exercise is meditation in motion – you can forget some stresses as you exercise and often be able to focus better on the problem later. I also find that solutions come to me as I’m out on a run or bike ride.
  • Exercise increases the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Anything that gets you moving quickly can give you that “runner’s-high.” I often get sluggish and tired in the afternoon, but if I go on a short walk or dance with my kids I feel much better and can usually avoid crashing on the couch. (I said usually, sometimes the nap is a necessity!)
  • Exercise improves your mood – Regular exercise can increase self-confidence and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety.
  • Exercise helps you to sleep better – people who exercise have lower cases of insomnia and sleep is improved because you experience smoother transitions between sleep cycles and you stay in the stage four (deepest sleep) cycle longer.

But what do you do when life is on overload and you barely have energy to get dressed each day? I suggest you employ the normal tricks to help you fit in fitness:

  • Make a workout date with yourself on your calendar.
  • Lay your exercise clothes out the night before. (I always feel so guilty when I have to put them away clean.)
  • Place the alarm clock across the room so you have to get up.
  • Find an exercise buddy who motivates you.
  • If possible ride a bike or walk instead of driving.
  • Chores count too – yard work, housework, cleaning the car, anything that gets you moving will burn calories and help you feel better (guess I shouldn’t joke about vacuuming being exercise).
  • Park at the end of the parking lot and take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Sign up for an exercise class or a triathlon to get yourself motivated (If I pay for something I’m guaranteed to do it because I hate to waste money).
  • Do little spurts of exercise – dancing with your children, lifting weights while you watch television, walking or doing calf raises while you talk on the phone. Every little bit counts and a few minutes here and there can add up to great results.

Use all of these tricks and any others that work for you, but also realize that you are going through a hard or busy time and give yourself a break. If you don’t get to the gym on a morning you promised yourself to go, remind yourself that you probably needed sleep or some snuggle time with your child. Don’t beat yourself up. Focus on the positive and recommit to getting out of bed tomorrow.

Yes, I can barely waddle around the block, but soon I’ll have a gorgeous baby. The prize is well worth the pain. Every one of us is going to go through trials (many worse than the discomforts of pregnancy). If we focus on the positive, try to take care of our health, and rely on the Lord we can use these hard times to make ourselves a better person, we can come out smiling on the other side.

(i) Exercise: Rev up your routine to reduce stress by Mayo Clinic Staff

(ii) How does exercise improve sleep by Scott White

(iii) How to fit exercise into your busy schedule by Ehow Staff Writer