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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Healthy Holiday Eating: The Practical Way

GettyImages-495329828The holidays are HERE! We all know what happens around the holidays. I see two extremes in my practice as a Registered Dietitian:

  • The vicious cycle of dieting all year to lose the “holiday weight” or to get bloodwork back to normal after all the holiday meals. People accomplish their goals just in time for the holidays to start again—and gain back the weight and drive our doctors nuts with outrageous bloodwork again.
  • The person who is terrified to “lose all their progress,” brings their own “healthy” meal to the gathering, and completely avoids the yummy meal—even at the cost of social, mental, and emotional health. Let’s be honest: that behavior distances people socially, and not having Grandma’s famous pie is just sad. 

Honestly, both are unhealthy approaches and they are, frankly, unnecessary. Let me be real clear: what we do consistently over time is what has the greatest impact on our health, not what we do on one day, two days, or a couple holidays. We can break these cycles! You don’t have to gain weight or ruin your bloodwork over the holidays. You also do not have to bring your own “healthy” meal, avoid Grandma’s cooking, and face a socially awkward and sad situation.

There is a way to enjoy the holiday food with family and friends all while pursuing your health goals. Here are the action steps.

Be Active

Get up and moving. This can be as simple as taking a walk with family, going on a morning stroll before the gathering, walking the dog, or playing a game that has you up and moving (such as Wii, tag, Twister, or Simon says). You can also get in a quick 20–30-minute workout before all the festivities start that day, or wake up early to get in a full lifting session. Don’t overthink this; a short 20–30-minute workout with high intensity is very effective! (Here are some workouts you can do when traveling.)

Follow Your Eating Routine

Forget the “don’t eat anything to save calories for all the food tonight” method. That leads to a very hungry person, which makes overeating at the gathering much easier. Go about your morning as you normally would. Eat breakfast (if you eat breakfast). Have your typical snack and lunch. Fill up on fiber-rich sources, such as fruit and veggies, along with lean proteins. All these options will help fill you up and nourish your body. You will walk into the gathering satisfied and ready to eat your Grandma’s holiday meal.

Hydrate 

Be sure to stay hydrated with plenty of non-caloric fluids (mainly water) the days before, the day of, and the days after holiday gatherings. Liquids take up room in your stomach, meaning staying hydrated contributes to proper regulation of hunger/satiety cues. Again, this helps reduce overeating. Additionally, holiday foods tend to be high in sodium. You will want plenty of water to offset the negative effects that a high sodium intake has on your hydration status. Trust me, you will feel much better if you stay hydrated.

Eat the Holiday Meal

For heaven’s sake, do not bring your own meal, measuring cups, or scales to the gathering! Eat the holiday meal. Fill up your first plate with all your favorites—the ones that grandma and momma only cook once or twice a year. Be mindful of portion sizes. Then, if you want, go back for a second plate. For that plate, pick two or three more things that you want some more of. Take a portion of each and enjoy it.

Enjoy the Meal

Sit down with each plate. Take a nice deep breath. Start eating. Chew each bite thoroughly. Slow down your eating. Be present at each bite, soaking in all the yummy goodness of that home cooking. Don’t be afraid to pause between bites and converse with family around the table. This not only helps you enjoy family around you and to be present in that moment, but it also gives your body time to send you satiety cues. When we eat super-fast, we do not allow our body enough time to signal “I AM FULL.” Be present and listen to what your body is telling you.

Have a Conversation

During the meal, talk with your family and friends, even if you are the one having to initiate conversation. DO IT! Think about one of the true reasons for the season. Hint: it is not food and gifts. Sure, food is a huge part of it. But we gather to be with family and friends to celebrate our blessings, our year, and our religion, and to give thanks. Conversing really embraces what holidays are all about and shifts your focus to more than just the heap of food in front of you.

Eat Dessert

Find your favorite deserts and eat a serving. I promise, eating dessert will not derail your health goals. I’d argue this action will actually help your health goals because Grandma’s famous pie sure does positively contribute to mental and emotional health.

Get Right Back to Your Typical Regimen the Next Day

Wake up the next day and get back to your typical routine. Exercise as you normally would. Eat your normal meals and snacks. Honor your physical health with nutritious options. Sleep. Do this on the days you are not at a holiday gathering. Back to the idea of consistency, there are more non-holiday days than there are holiday days and gatherings. Be on your game and remain consistent during those weeks and days, knowing that another gathering full of food and fun is right around the corner. Repeat steps 1–7 during the next gathering.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy eating snacks holidays breakfast hydration Thanksgiving christmas meals emotional blood sugar dinner

Bridging the Gap: Exercise for and Physical and Mental Health

GettyImages-1157981826A question I get asked frequently is, “Why are you interning for a fitness center when your major is social work?” The first thing people think of when they hear social work is working at the Department of Child Services, and being in a fitness center doesn’t seem to make sense. But social work is so much bigger than that, and it continues to expand into new places, such as fitness and sports.

Linking Physical and Mental Health

Exercise has many benefits for your physical health, but what about benefits to your mental health? In my own experience, I feel that exercising has an effect on my mood. The less I exercise throughout the week, the more sluggish and tired I become. However, the more I exercise throughout the week, the more energized and content I feel.

Now don’t get me wrong—I am not one of those people who loves to work out. I know that may come as a surprise, but I don’t look forward to working out. It’s something that I know I need to do in order to keep myself healthy, but I don’t particularly enjoy it. I literally count down the minutes until my workout is over. But as I said, I notice the difference in myself when I’m not working out vs. when I am working out. Exercising doesn’t have to look the same for everyone, either. Find something that you enjoy doing like hiking or swimming and incorporate that into what a “regular” workout might look like.

How It Works (Out)

Numerous studies back up the claims that exercising improves mental health. Aerobic exercises such as swimming, cycling, and jogging have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. The improvements in mood are, in part, due to the exercise-induced blood circulation to the brain. Exercise can offer other benefits that help improve your mental health, such as the opportunity to get more social interaction. A smile, a greeting, or a small conversation can help improve your mood or even change the outlook of your entire day. You might even meet a gym buddy who will keep you accountable when you don’t feel like working out.

Working out can also help you gain more confidence overall. When you meet your exercise goals and start to see changes in your appearance, chances are your confidence will build as well. Exercise also gives you a healthy coping mechanism when you are feeling down. Have you been dwelling on something stressful? Take it out on a few medicine ball slams!

Find the Balance

Mental health and physical health are more intertwined than most people realize. Finding a balance between the two can help your overall well-being. It also helps justify why I am interning here at NIFS (lol).

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This blog was written by Taylor Hayes. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: wellness exercise as medicine emotional mental health

10 Emotional Wellness Insights from the Pandemic

GettyImages-1247301039It’s safe to say that 2020 has been one a heck of a year (and it’s barely half over!)—the good, the bad, the ugly. At times, it’s felt as if an entire decade has passed. No matter how you slice it, the fact that we’ve experienced something as novel as a global pandemic still feels weird to say, think about, and sometimes fully appreciate. It has been a tumultuous time outside of COVID-19 as well, and every person has had a unique experience, a unique perception, and unique challenges along the way.

We’ve all probably learned a thing or two about ourselves. We’ve had time to reevaluate what is important to us, and maybe find a few things that aren’t. Here are just a few things I’ve left quarantine with, in no particular order:

My Quarantine Takeaways

  • I needed to uncouple productivity from self-worth. In working from home, I found that I accomplished most tasks in spurts. I’d work for 2 hours straight, then go for a walk, then jot down ideas for projects for 30 minutes, then get in a lift, then eat while watching a show, and on and on. Other days I just wouldn’t have it—no juice, no gas in the tank. Responding to emails felt like a win. And then the eventual guilt would sink in. Why didn’t I do more? How is this all that I got done today, this week? After a few weeks of this cycle, I finally told myself, “STOP.” It’s okay that there are things left on your to-do list. Its okay that you’re not motivated every second of every day. What we lived through, and are still living through, is something that we have literally never seen or experienced (at least I haven’t!). So give yourself some slack, be a little more forgiving, and start each day fresh.
  • My “best days” involved some semblance of structure. Don’t get me wrong, I love a little bit of spontaneity. But for much of quarantine, I found that my good days involved a level of consistency. When I woke up gradually with coffee and water, got a little bit of work done first thing, cleaned up the bedroom/loft, got in a workout, completed any errands like grocery shopping, blocked off time for reading, and got outside for some vitamin D, I felt energized. I felt accomplished. Obviously, there were variations. But blocking off time, working through chores and work intermittently, taking time for myself with activity and self-care—more often than not these days fell into the “good” category. On days where I had no schedule, stayed up too late and slept in too long, binged a TV show, or had little activity, I felt like garbage by the end. I can still hear my high school statistics teacher saying, “correlation does not imply causation,” but at least my chances for a good day skyrocketed with a little routine.
  • The importance of “idle time.” Full disclosure: I’m not sure that working from home always meshed with my personality or temperament. I would check my email every five seconds, even though I just cleared my queue seconds before. I would write down three sentences, hear the ping of a new email dropping into my inbox, and lose my complete train of thought. I would sometimes go for a walk and feel myself getting tempted to check in. Like many of us, I’m already addicted to my phone, feeling incomplete if I leave a room without it (unhealthy, I know; I’m working on it). But I found that literally scheduling in time to do nothing did wonders for my focus. I wasn’t scatterbrained when I returned to writing or working on a project. In fact, just sitting doing nothing, or having a casual conversation with my housemates, seemed to just calm my nerves and anxious thoughts in general. Just 5-minutes of unplugged silence was powerfully calming as well. Moral of the story? Sometimes doing nothing is more productive than trying to do 42 things at once.
  • The power of connection. I’m sure by this point, most of us have come to a conclusion similar to this, so I’ll keep it brief. You don’t need to be in close proximity to be close to those you love and appreciate. Some of my simplest joys came from FaceTimeing with family or having a quick phone call with a friend. It’s a quick recharge for the mental and emotional batteries.
  • It feels great to make your bed first thing. It’s simple. It’s quick. It sets your day in motion on the right foot. And at the very least, you have a tidy place to come home to when you’re ready to hit the sack for the night. It just feels good.
  • My mood is correlated to the amount of news and social media I consume. See #3 from above, and you’ll get the idea. A little news is okay. Knowing what is going on in the world around us is crucial in my mind. But the constant onslaught of “breaking news” hour after hour, minute to minute, is completely exhausting. When I limited my consumption to short periods, one stint in the morning (after coffee of course) and one in the evening, I found that my day’s trajectory was a lot more positive overall.
  • Whether good or bad, this too shall pass. No matter how large my to-do list was, no matter how much uncertainty and worry crept into my thoughts, and no matter how cathartic a workout I had, every day came to an end eventually. Sometimes I found myself muttering “this too shall pass” under my breath when I would be feeling a particular amount of anxiety or stress. And you know what? It actually did help put things in perspective. Take the good with the bad, because it’ll all be over eventually one way or another.
  • It's okay if you binged that show or played that video game. Hey, we’re all human. Don’t beat yourself up for indulging a little bit here and there! (Refer to #1 as well!)
  • Take advantage of the sunny days. Growing up in Michigan, the second most cloudy state in the US (for real!), I had a bit of a head start on this lesson. But the pandemic sure as heck hammered it home. When it was a beautiful, sunny day, I made sure to get outside for some amount of time, even if it was only 20 minutes on the back deck in between meetings. It boosted my mood, calmed me down, and made me take a second to just have a little gratitude for the simple things.
  • There is a feeling of zen I have when lifting. I know: this is an obvious one coming from a coach. But that’s also why I left it until the other insights had their time to shine. Everyone has their own interests, their own ways to unwind, and for me that is under a barbell or with a couple of dumbbells in hand. My brain shuts off, the music blares, and I can just get lost in it. If you haven’t found something, some activity that brings you a sense of calm, I highly encourage you to start exploring! Hobbies and interests shouldn’t be left by the wayside just because they’re not your main hustle.

Lessons We Will Take with Us

I’m sure that everyone will leave quarantine changed in some way, shape, or form. And the lessons you’ll leave with will be completely unique to your experience. Whether positive or negative, try to carry these into your life post-pandemic. Because more often than not, they’ll help you in the long run moving forward.

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Internship Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: attitude outdoors wellness vitamin D emotional self-care quarantine covid-19

Self-Care for Women: Six Elements of Well-Being

GettyImages-1159495308There seems to be an expectation that women are supposed to do it all and not complain. That women are supposed to be wives and mothers, work full time, juggle friendships, have a social life, have time for themselves, so on. Society is ever changing, and we are supposed to keep up with it. Let’s rewind some years ago where most women stayed at home with their children, and taking care of their household was their only responsibility.

I will be the first to tell you that I have lived through both scenarios. I have been a stay-at-home mom and I have been a working-full-time mom. Neither comes without difficulties, but both come with such reward.

As women, the biggest and most important healthy relationship we can have is with ourselves. If we are not taking care of ourselves, it becomes incredibly difficult for us to take care of others. Can we do it? Of course! But at some point, we have to stop and ask ourselves, “At what price is it worth sacrificing our mental and physical health?”

The goal of this blog isn’t to sit here and say that you shouldn’t be a stay-at-home mom, you shouldn’t be a full-time working mom, or you shouldn’t be the only one to do everything. I understand that every woman’s situation and life is different and there is no one-size-fits-all. The goal of this blog is to encourage, uplift, and provide some new tools for you.

The Six Elements of Well-Being

While studying my recent certification with Girls Gone Strong, I came across the Six Elements of Well-Being, which inspired me to write this blog. I am a firm believer that taking care of your mental health serves a higher purpose than anything else.

Let’s dive into these elements as well as a call to action!

Positive Emotions

Emotions are “action blueprints” that tell us how to react and behave in situations. It’s important to understand that although our emotions might be good and bad, all emotions we feel are essential. As women we tend to focus more on what is “wrong” with our lives and even our bodies instead of focusing on what is right. Positive emotions don’t stick around as long as negative emotions. It’s important for us to fill our bank with positive affirmations by practicing them often.

Action: Record one thing you are grateful for each day.

Engagement (Flow)

Being “in the zone” is a term that a lot of us can relate to. You become fully engaged in the task at hand. Time slows down or comes to a stop, and nothing can pull you away from the flow of what you’re doing. Staying engaged is what keeps us going. Think about what you are naturally good at; what you do to build a routine around that is going to be fulfilling. “Health is about abundance—seeking out things that make us feel ‘fuller’ as human beings.”

Action: Find your favorite hobby or hobbies and carve out time to do them.

Relationships

Remember earlier when I stated that the most important healthy relationship we can be in is the one with ourselves? Well, let’s dive into that a little more.

As humans we are social beings and we rely on relationships. As women we give care or reach out to others as a way of lowering our stress levels. By being in strong, safe, and secure relationships, we allow ourselves to be healthier in all ways, which provides us the confidence we need to meet life challenges.

Action: Write a positive letter to yourself.

Meaning and Purpose

I’m sorry to tell you, but I don’t have the answer to the meaning of life. But I can say that having meaning in life means being connected to something greater than ourselves. Meaning and purpose can come from anywhere, and having meaning is crucial for our health and well-being.

Action: Write a list of what makes you happy and fulfilled.

Achievement

We need goals!

Let me say that louder.

WE NEED GOALS!!

Having long and short-term goals helps us stay connected to what we are pursuing in our lives. Having goals is an important aspect for our well-being and what helps bring satisfaction to our lives.

Action: Write a self-care goal and do it!

Resilience

Psychological resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, or other sources of stress. Some people are naturally resilient, and others are not and that’s okay. Positivity and resilience are skills that you can learn over time by cultivating them.

Action: Write what you feel grateful/hopeful for.

Set Yourself Up for Success

These six elements aren’t the answer to the world’s problems. But they are tools that can help you concentrate on your own well-being so that you can set yourself up for success in all areas of your life.

Take care and appreciate yourself, ladies!

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, CPT, Weight Loss Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: goals women emotional mental health well-being self-care relationships resilience physical health

Speaks to the Soul: Music for Better Emotional and Physical Health

GettyImages-1146590025Picture this: You’re sitting in the car, in stop-and-go traffic. Your mood is just shot and all you want to do is get home. Now try this: Turn up the volume on your radio and let the music take over your soul!

According to Harvard Health, music is a fundamental attribute of the human species. All cultures, from the most primitive to the most advanced, make music. And thank goodness they do! As humans we sing, hum, make music with our hands by clapping; we sway our bodies or bob our heads back and forth when a catchy beat comes on; and we even dance to celebrate. Music is essentially wired into us by the sound of our heartbeats.

Music for Happiness

As obvious as it sounds, if you are ever in need of an emotional boost, let it be known that it only takes 15 minutes of listening to your favorite tunes to get a natural high. Your brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that leads to increased feelings of happiness, excitement, and joy.

Improved Performance

Scientists have found that when people listen to motivational music, they run faster than those who do not listen to music. The key to enhancing your performance lies in the choice of music that motivates and inspires you to move forward and faster.

Decrease Stress; Increase Health

Sixty percent of illnesses and diseases are caused by stress. To lower your levels of stress means increasing your uptake in music (and other things, but we’re focusing on music right now). Listening to music decreases the levels of cortisol in your body, which counteracts the effects of chronic stress.

During those much-needed breaks from work or even while you are working, play some inspiring, motivating music to help boost your mood and your health.

Sounds of Sleep

Hearing or singing lullabies is known to help children go to sleep. Over 30% of Americans suffer from insomnia. A study showed that listening to classical or relaxing music within an hour of going to bed significantly improves sleep, compared to listening to an audiobook or doing something else before bed.

Motivation Playlist

See how music motivates your fitness professionals at NIFS. We asked Tony, Thomas, Ashley, Lauren, and Tinisi to each name songs that help change their moods, motivate, and help them relax and enjoy the sounds:

Can you guess the songs chosen by each fitness pro?

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To Learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: stress motivation sleep music happiness emotional performance

Cheat Meal Is a Garbage Term—Strive for a Healthy Balance

GettyImages-492321666Can we just cut out the term “cheat meal” already? This fuels the idea that foods are “good” or “bad,” and, in turn, our food choices then become this reflection of us, as humans, being “good” or “bad.” News flash, you are not “bad” for eating a specific food.

Balancing Physical, Mental, and Social Health

Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, “is the state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” When we pursue our health goals, we need to consider all three aspects. Often we only think of the physical, such as disease state, body composition, and weight. While we are consumed in fixing the physical, we neglect the mental and social aspects, or the very methods to “fix” the physical start to interfere with our social and mental health.

For example, have you met the person who won’t enjoy an occasional outing with friends because they are on a diet? Goodbye social health. Or have you met the person who is restricting the foods they love, such as bread or chocolate, because they hope to meet some type of health goal? Goodbye mental health (let’s be real, chocolate is good for the soul). Nine times out of ten, what ends up happening? People quit. They binge and give in to whatever they have been restricting. Well, goodbye physical health. Repeat cycle.

Let’s break the cycle. Let’s throw away that “cheat meal” mentally and explore ways to shift your mindset.

Indulge Your Cravings

Denying your body the foods you crave leads to obsessing over that food and/or constantly eating other foods to fill the never-ending void. If you have a craving, give yourself permission to eat and plan it into your regimen. Let’s say you have a caloric goal of 2,000 calories per day, and you have been craving chips. Incorporate 1–2 servings of chips into your daily snack or a meal. Read the nutrition label, account for the calories in the serving(s), and apply them to your daily calorie goal. Then, ensure that the rest of your meals include high-quality, nutritious foods that fuel your body’s needs. This is called balance.

Enjoy Special Occasions

If you are going out for a date night or meal with your friends or family, ENJOY THE OCCASION. On the day of the event, try to eat lighter meals before and after, filling up on protein-rich sources. During the event, be sure to eat, laugh, and soak in the moment. Feed your social health. Then, move on with your life. Do not stay hung up on that one night, because one night will not derail your physical health progress. It’s the foods we eat consistently over time that matter.

Find Nutritious Swaps

Food swaps usually come in handy when preparing recipes. Identify the foods you love the most, such as pizza, brownies, tacos, dips, etc. Replace ingredients with choices that are lower-calorie or better for your specific health goals. For example, instead of high-fat red meat for tacos, try lean turkey. Instead of a pizza crust made with refined flour, try a crust made with whole grains. Swap the high-fat cheese for cheese made with skim or 1% milk. Like ice cream? Consider making ice cream out of frozen fruit or trying a frozen yogurt bar. Give Greek yogurt a try for the base of your dips. The possibilities are endless. This won’t work on everything, but it can for some food choices. Pinterest will come in handy here.

Honor Your Health

I will leave you with this final thought, because it is the most important concept: Honor your health. Registered Dietitian Evelyn Tribole says it best: “Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel good. Remember that you don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or become unhealthy, from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters. Progress, not perfection, is what counts.”

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This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating calories mindset cheat days emotional

Stress Relief with Physical Activity: Sweat Therapy

GettyImages-896274520Throughout your life, you will come across times and situations that are tough, making you feel as though getting through it all is inconceivable and hopeless. There are more traditional ways to deal with these ups and downs of life, such as therapy, but there are other ways to overcome stress in life that can be as easy as taking a walk, shooting some basketball, or even lifting weights.

Forget Your Worries: Emotional Benefits of Exercise

There seems to be something about exercise that allows us to forget our worries and deal with our stresses while also improving our lives through wellness and fitness. With as much stress as we see in people's lives today, it would seem as though fitness would stand out as a blessing to anyone who wants to make their life better. Because this isn’t always the case, you can start as slow and as basic as needed to make sure you are getting the right exercise at the right amount at the right time.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has determined that exercise is essential for good mental well-being and that the benefits go beyond just reducing stress. Improved mood, increased energy, better sleep, reduced anxiety, and improved self-esteem all are payoffs too.

Get Your Endorphins Going

You might have heard of endorphins. They are the hormones that are released from the brain and nervous system and into your body. We feel good when endorphins are released into our bodies. This can happen as a result of almost anything that stimulates your brain, ranging from riding a rollercoaster to seeing your favorite band perform. With fitness, the same endorphins can be released through exercise, giving you similar feelings. We call this the “runner’s high.” You don’t have to be a runner to achieve this feeling, but exercise is the key ingredient, however you decide to score those endorphins.

Thomas’ Tips for Getting More Active

  • Start small, start smart. Take a walk around the neighborhood or with friends after work at the mall. Walking is definitely exercise and has many benefits. .
  • Do activities you like to do. If you are trying to keep this fitness and wellness going for a long time, you’d better like what you are doing (at least some of the time).
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Not only are there fitness professionals who can help you, there are other individuals who are in the same boat as you. Make time to commiserate and help each other overcome obstacles together.

Getting started in fitness can be a daunting task. Even knowing the benefits associated with exercise might not be enough to light your spark. NIFS has certified and degreed individuals ready, willing, and able to assist with every aspect of wellness and fitness, ranging from fitness programming to nutrition and wellness. Let us know how we can help you reach your goals and hopefully reduce stress along the way. Make a choice to be a better you today!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS Thomas' Corner stress relief fitness and wellness endorphins emotional physical activity

Overcoming Life Challenges with Fitness: You Don’t Forget the Hills

IMG_2506Fitness is a great tool to use to train the mind. Yes, often people work out for physical health, but exercise is also getting a lot of hype from psychologists. Many studies are proving that exercise and movement increase brain function, memory, and thinking skills. Not just that; the motivation, positivity, and strength learned and gained from an exercise session can all be used in daily life situations. 

I began doing yoga and running in 2009 as a way to de-stress when my mother was ill with cancer. At the time, I never knew that the real-world challenges I was going through would turn into my passion and lead me to my full-time career. I can honestly say that the motivational lesson of learning through sweat sessions helped me overcome daily life challenges and inspired to me share that with others.

From Yoga to Real Life

Yoga taught me to breathe. Breathing is a necessary human function, but one of the hardest things to do in a challenging situation. Learning breathing and mindfulness on my yoga mat taught me how to take it into my daily life. If I’m facing a challenge, it probably means I need to slow down, breathe, and evaluate what needs to be done.

Running taught me that there are days you are tired, sore, and don’t want to do something, but showing up and doing it will always feel better. My mom’s motivation to wake up every day on her weakest, saddest, and scariest days helped inspire me along my fitness journey to be fearless and “Just Do It™.”

As I began doing yoga and running, I fell so in love and developed such a deep passion for these things that I wanted to continue to learn about them. I got my 200 Hour yoga certification in 2014. I never knew that it would turn into a full-time career in NYC where I was inspiring packed rooms and training celebrities. That sounds great and glamorous, and honestly it was, but again yoga really just taught me to breathe and open my mind. I realized that going to New York was running away from dealing with my past. I was ready to face it again. New York is a stressful environment. I was keeping up just fine, but was pushing out family because I was “too busy training Victoria’s Secret models,” although I knew the real reason was fear and not fully living out what I was learning.

Letting go of ego is another lesson I learned on my yoga mat, and I knew that I could find balance between family and doing what I loved if I took some deep breaths, tuned in, and followed my head and heart at the same time. After three years in the Big Apple, I decided to live out my fitness and move back home to build my family bond and let go of anything from my past that challenged me, just as I had been doing for years in the gym.

From Running Away to Running Home

Along with my personal training success came my “glory days” of running. I was a runner because I loved how it felt. I had no clue I would one weekend wake up and call a friend asking whether I could run a marathon in her city the following weekend, and then show up and actually complete it. Well I did. And I don’t remember much about that race except a few things—the times I was challenged the most. My first challenge came at mile 6, my first hill. I remember that thing looking like a mountain. The second thing I remember was turning to my family in my time of need. At mile 13.1, I called my dad, crying:

“What am I doing? Should I just run a half marathon today?”

He responded with, “Just take a deep breath.” Well, at that moment my heart might have felt like it was going to burst out of my chest, and my mind was in a negative state underestimating my strength, but that connection and reminder to take a deep breath and tune in to my ultimate goal helped me complete 26.2 miles that day, and with the biggest smile on my face. I now coach others in running, and in the challenging times I bring out some of the lessons I learned to teach and inspire them, letting them know that I get it and understand because I’ve been in that headspace too. But I also remind them that this is no challenge you can’t overcome if you just take a deep breath and tune in. I also like reminding people that if 30-second fitness challenges or hills are the hardest struggles in their day, week, or life, they are pretty lucky!

At-Home Exercise Your Mind

So, here’s your chance to exercise your mind:

  • What has challenged you in the gym?
  • What did you do about it?
  • What words of encouragement helped you overcome it?
  • What was the feeling of overcoming challenge?

Now take that into your daily life. What is challenging you, and can you breathe and stay positive through that situation?

“JUST DO IT ™” —Gary Gilmore

Just Do It is a trademark of shoe company Nike.

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This blog was written by Brittany Ignas, BS in Kinesiology, 200 Hour Yoga Alliance Certified, Stott Pilates Certified, and Fitness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: fitness stress yoga running attitude marathon emotional