Sunday, 15 February 2015

Other factors of health and fitness BESIDES diet and exercise

I am now officially into my prep for my second competition. As you can see in my last post, it was quite an experience the first time around.

My November show ended just in time for the holidays, and while I did eat and drink plenty, I also made a lot of strength improvements. I've been working hard to improve my main lifts, squats and deads. My coach has helped me make lots of progress, and I'm excited to see my look improve!

Looking back, I realized that even though I was eating my proper diet and following the exercise program, I still had weaker areas that were stubborn and not making the kind of gains I wanted to see. I got bloated often, felt very tired and didn't feel strong most of the time at the gym. I often thought this is just how I'm supposed to feel. I wasn't going to in my weights too much, and abs had a lot of trouble showing up...

I realized that I had shot my adrenal glands. I was working 7 days a week (yes... sometimes day and night straight), training 6 days, and school twice a week. I got sleep in when I could but it never felt like enough. My massage therapist, who is familiar with ayurveda, was telling me he sees my adrenals are very taxed. All that partying after my show certainly didn't help the situation either. I was feeling like a car out of gas. 

Recently I decided to lighten my load on my workdays, and then step back and try to bring my stress down. My poor adrenals were pretty beat up, so I got a supplement recommended to me by a holistic nutritionist at Noah's. It's called Rhoziva which contains stress-reducing rhodiola, energy giving B vitamins, among many other vitamins and herbs which you can read about right here. It not only supports stress, it helps combat fatigue, increased mental clarity, improve metabolism of macronutrients, and improves mood.

After a couple weeks, I can finally see how it feels to be alive and healthy. I've always had digestive issues, and I used to think I just needed probiotics, but it's so much more than that. I now realized constant physical and emotional stress were at the root of most of my issues. I am having much better digestion most days. Don't get me wrong, I do have stressful times. But I am learning to manage my stress through yoga at home, deep breathing, and reading. I am also trying to minimize using social media mindlessly in my free time or before I go to bed.

So, the point of this post - there are many other factors in fitness success and/or healthy living. Working out and eating well are two factors in the equation, but in fact it cannot even be simplified into an equation. You have to be emotionally and spiritually well for your physical body to respond to keeping itself in top shape. Here is a list of factors other than diet and exercise which contribute to good health:

1. Sleep and rest

Notice I didn't just say sleep. Resting, meaning staying home and being relaxed, is extremely important. I can schedule 8 hours a night to sleep, but if that doesn't leave time to unwind before bed or to enjoy a leisurely breakfast (hah, not all days), how good is that sleep quality? If I am thinking constantly about my obligations the next day, will I doze off right away and into a deep sleep where my cells are able to recover (aka build muscle)? Unlikely.

Speaking of sleep quality, check out the Sleep Cycle app. It tracks movement during sleep and helps wake you up when you are least likely to be in a deep phase of sleep (aka wake up groggy). I swear by it!

2. Evaluate your workload

I know, we can't all quit our job and move to Bora Bora... although that'd be fantastic. However, sometimes you have to ask yourself, "Is my job sucking the life out of me?" If the answer is even "kinda", then think about reducing your workload or hours. As a PT, I work longgg days... 15 hours plus school sometimes. It's very hard not only to be working that long but to pack my food, clean gym clothes, etc and carry it around with me all day. I get up before the sun and usually I just go straight to bed.

I am now taking an obligatory 2 days off. Those days are always spent sleeping and resting, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Yes, I still get chores done but I don't allow myself to feel obliged to fill my whole day organizing magazines or colour coding my closet before I "have free time".

3. Cut out negative people

When you are trying to better yourself, if people you think are friends are not supporting that, are they really your friends? If they are pressuring you to party or don't respect that you want to do healthier things, are they going to help you in your journey?

Friends should make you feel happy about being you. You don't have to share all interests, but having common values is important. You are a precious human being, don't let others dim your light.

4. Deep breathing, meditation and yoga

Yoga is not only amazing for joint mobility and flexibility, but it is very good for the spirit. I originally started it to help with my depression.

Deep breathing practiced in yoga helps circulation, calms the mind, and can greatly contribute to reducing stress. Meditation is a very powerful tool as well.

I am not in the best position to go to yoga or meditation classes because I'm already sweating so many times a day at the gym, and I don't have the schedule to allow it either. However setting up a yoga mat in my room and starting my day with a sun salutation has made a great difference.

5. Daily affirmations

I am trying to start every day with declaring a positive truth, which is my daily affirmation.

For example, today I said "I am in charge of my emotional and spiritual health, and I choose to have a positive and loving perspective". Breath deeply, and believe that truth with every fiber of your being.

It's easy to wake up and think "Ughhh another Monday" or "here goes another long day", but think about how that will set a negative tone for your day. I know I don't want to hop out of bed into a 15 hour day and train once or twice, but I also realize I can't change some things so I look at the positive. "I am training to accomplish a physical goal. I know I can go into each workout and become closer to that goal the more I work at it".

I swear your mindset makes all the difference in the gym! I hate doing cardio, but I just think it's getting me lean and keeping me healthy, so I sweat and sweat and I feel awesome.

There you have it, guys. Please see a holistic nutritionist or natropath if you are concerned about any aspects of your health. With some lifestyle tweaks, supplements, and a little patience, I know you can be the healthiest version of you.

Until next time!
xo Tij

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