As a personal trainer, I am often asked about tricks of the trade in terms of keeping fit, staying sane and maintaining a balanced, healthful lifestyle, especially during a hectic season like the holidays.
There are no tricks, however.
Intellectually, we know that we need to take care of ourselves, physically and emotionally. We’ve all heard the statement, “You can’t take care of anybody else until you take care of yourself.” We resolve to do better once things settle down, once our holiday guests leave town, once we meet that deadline – the list goes on. In the meantime, we strive to meet our commitments while often sacrificing the Big 3 – sleep, proper nutrition and exercise.
If I could recommend one lifestyle change that I believe would have the greatest impact on the largest number of clients and friends, it would be sleep. What would it take to go to bed an hour or even 30 minutes earlier? Close behind would be the quality of food choices, followed by physical activity.
Like most endeavors, taking care of ourselves may sound selfish or like a lot of work. When people hear about Serena, the FIT office manager, participating in Ironman competitions, the typical response, and rightly so, is usually awestruck: “Wow, I could never do that!”
But Serena had never done a triathlon prior to three years ago, had never swum competitively and was only a recreational runner. She had to set her mind to achieve, take one small step on the path to physical and emotional balance. I’m certainly not suggesting that everyone should begin training for a marathon, but I am pointing out that with commitment, anything is possible.
The first step? Prioritize. Many things demand our attention daily – careers, household chores, children, homework, bills – so how and where do we start to find one simple way to take care of ourselves?
For some, the ideal starting point is to make a single adjustment that will register the greatest impact. For others, the first step will start in an area least disruptive to the current routine.
It may sound silly, but my first step was to get rid of my instant espresso machine, which required little more than a push of a button first thing in the morning. I switched to a French press coffee-brewing device that makes freshly ground delicious coffee. Seriously, my first step toward taking care of myself when I made the commitment was to spend four minutes in the morning doing something for myself.
That small act in and of itself made a big difference in my mindset during the early-morning chaos that is my life. For those old enough to remember, I refer to it as my “Calgon, take me away” moment of the day.
While a major life overhaul may not be possible on any given day, savoring the little steps – like making and enjoying a cup of freshly pressed coffee – can give us the determination to pursue other steps on the journey to a better-balanced life.