In my profession, the number one reason why clients don’t get results in the gym is they don’t train consistently, either in volume, intensity, or just getting into the gym at all. Others train too damn hard all the time.
The thing is, the root of the problem is usually the same: we have way too much stress in our lives that we are not adequately recovering from.
We all have stress, especially in the Roarin’ 2020s. How we cope with it varies greatly. We comfort ourselves with food, Netflix, alcohol, shopping, and yes, pushing ourselves too hard, be it at work or in the gym.
And even though society claps us on the back for starving and overworking our poor bodies, the reality is that excess is excess. There is a time and place to push yourself, don’t get me wrong. And I think a lot of people would benefit greatly from challenging themselves physically (in a sensible way). But for me, on the opposite end, would benefit greatly from giving myself a fucking break.
Now I am a hell of a lot smarter in the way I train and eat now than I ever was. When I was a distance runner, I was as straight-up masochist. I think a lot of people who have really gotten into running can relate. What I like about heavy weight training is that I have learned to respect it. I know I have to work with and pay attention to my body or I will pay for it. That being said, I am a chronic over-doer and I have a hard time ever TRULY resting.
Anyhoo! So what’s my point?
We need to take care of ourselves better. We need to prioritize recovery in our lives so that those of us who need to move more and eat better can do so, and those of us who need are perma-amped can take it down a notch.
You see, fitness isn’t really all that great for you if you’re constantly in a heightened, stressed state. Is it better than sitting on your ass eating cookie dough? It depends on what the rest of that person’s lifestyle looks like. Does that “healthy” person overly restrict calories? Take harmful performance-enhancing drugs? Binge drink? I can tell you firsthand that this industry is chock-full of that whole package and it ain’t healthy.
So let’s get real. And by “us” I mean me, too. I am horrible at not working. I am horrible at taking time off. And it’s not healthy either.
Here are the ways I’m going to work on being nicer to Charis. The payoff will mean better performance in the gym and at work, since those are my priorities. And this probably will make me infinitely more pleasant to be around. I mean, relatively.
Sitting still is not my strong suit. Thinking about my breath actually gives me anxiety (not even kidding). The inside of my head is like a bag of cats and they do not ever chill the fuck out. But 2-5 minutes, I can do that. I always start to big and fall off the wagon (that overly competitive, perfectionist energy is a dick), but I can do 2 minutes. Every day.
- Drink Some Goddamn Water
I don’t know if it’s because of how dry Denver is, but most people here seem to drink water regularly. If you don’t, it’s time to get your shit together. I used to be a lot better, but being in a mask all day makes it easier to skip. By the end of the day I look and feel like the Cryptkeeper, which is not great for biz.
- Limit the Electronics on Nights and Weekends
This one is hard. I often get home for the day at 7:30pm and at that point all I want to do is tune out on my phone before I hurry off to bed (so I can wake up at 3:30 and do it again). Not only does the bluelight fuck over my sleep, but working for myself means there are always emails, texts, and DMs that always demand my attention. This carries over into any time off I have on weekends. I basically ALWAYS work, which is how the cats like it. I get off on being busy, which has proven many times over to result in burnout.
This is the tough one for all of us, but like meditation, I do best with small, attainable goals (but actually we all do). So instead of no electronics 1 hour before bed, maybe try 10 minutes before to start. Then 20. Weekends are way harder for me because I am usually so tired all I want to do is sit on my ass and fry my brain. I have failed limiting phone time on weekends so many times. This time I’m going to try limiting it to 10 minutes per hour. But remember that failing just means that particular idea didn’t work, so instead of quitting, I just need to keep trying to find the right solution.
- Eat! For Fuck’s Sake
Some people are so terrible about eating during the day that I would honestly rather they ate a candy bar than starve all day (talk about Cryptkeeper) and then go hog wild in the evenings. Not only do you physically feel like shit, but you emotionally feel gross too, which only makes the vicious cycle continue.
When my anxiety really gets going, my appetite goes right out the window. The effects on my mental health, performance, mood, and attitude are significant. The sickest part is how easy it is to morph into purposeful restriction— WANTING to stay anxious or depressed to continue to undereat. Instagram loves hungry bitches. This disordered eating is a real problem, guys, and it’s not funny at all. Believe me when I say that most people in the fitness industry are dishonest about the lengths they go to to look the way they do.
Still, I force feed myself so that I am getting adequate protein and calories to maintain my muscle mass and not get injured. I have more time on the weekends, so I usually enjoy my favorite foods like pizza and ice cream. And this month I’m paying for a meal prep service so that I can eat whole, balanced meals without needing to cook.
This is the hardest one for me as soon as the cats (I’m really going to town on this metaphor, but stay with me here) get riled up. I have a full-blown arsenal of sleep strategies, most of which I employ every single night. They include melatonin, magnesium, CBD, a fan for white noise and keeping me cool, an open window to keep me cool and not make me obsess about the window being closed. I also regularly eat casein protein before bed to avoid getting woken up by hunger. When things are really rough, I smoke or have an edible with THC. This puts me in a welcome coma, but it just never really feels restful, plus I’ll still wake up as soon as it wears off.
Of all the things I’ve tried, my now indispensable weighted blanket has been the most effective for me. If you tried one without luck, I would recommend you keep looking because I can tell you they are not all created equal. The one I slept with first sucked. It was expensive, bulky, and the beads moved around way too much. Make sure you get one that specifically is cooling (it will say so in the description and the fabric is usually bamboo like mine, by Aricove). And don’t go too heavy! That’s the biggest mistake people make. Follow the weight suggestions by the manufacturer.
My goal this month is to read and meditate before bed every night to help.
- Incorporate Low Stress Movement
This is my BIGGEST hurdle. Even when I hiked last summer I turned it into a cliff-hanging marathon every time. I am good about taking full rest days; I usually train 4 days a week and take Sundays completely off.
Years ago I started my days with Max Shank’s Five Minute Flow, when you literally just move around however feels good for you and your body for 5 minutes. That is such an easy way to start the day.
So there we have it! Meditating 2 minutes, off electronics 10 minutes, read for 10 minutes before bed, 5 Minute Flow, meal prep service, water. Piece of cake, I can do this!
Let’s start taking care of ourselves, friends! Who’s with me?!