I have long held the belief and practice that keeping healthy during difficult times like deployment is the best way to manage stress. Exercise and fitness was one way I was able to manage stress while my son was deployed and my husband was away in training. That year, in particular, I learned the benefits of regular exercise and a focus on health and wellness. It gave me the upper hand in dealing with intense stress.
Below are a few pointers from what I learned during that time. These are life lessons that I carry with me to this day.
Going from couch potato to athlete is not impossible, but it is a lot of work. First thing you need to do is talk with your family doctor. Find out what areas of your health you need to focus on and work with your doctor to come up with a feasible exercise plan for you. The most balanced exercise program will have some cardio, stretching and muscle building/definition in it. A good cardio workout will not only help you lose weight by burning calories, but it can also help with your cholesterol levels, reduce your risk for diabetes, and increase your ability to deal with stress by expending nervous energy and releasing endorphins.
Take small steps to begin with. The key is balance. You don’t want to make such small changes that you don’t benefit from them, but you don’t want to be so radical that you set yourself up for failure. For example, if you go from being a total couch potato to trying to train for a marathon you will get discouraged. It takes time and practice to build up to such a goal. It is possible, with your doctor’s guidance and approval, to train for a small 3k or 5k. I used the “Couch to 5K” (LINK) program to train for my first 5k and it helped me immensely. I was a pretty active person already and was a runner in high school. This program helped me to regain my stamina. If I had only set a goal to walk around the block once a day I would have been discouraged in the other direction. Find out what you are ready for and push yourself toward a personal goal that you know you will find pride in!
When I reached my goal of losing 20-pounds and running my first 5k I treated myself to an outfit I had my eye on. With the weight loss I had to buy new jeans and shorts, but I waited to buy a certain dress I really wanted until I hit those goals. I treated sweet treats the same way. When I reached a goal I would get that piece of cheesecake I had been denying myself. It’s better to indulge a little, once in a while and in a controlled way than to deny yourself constantly and then splurge out of sense of desperation. On top of rewarding yourself also keep in mind that sometimes you may slip and mess up. It’s important to not punish yourself and to just pick up and move forward!
When I dedicated to getting myself into shape I also brought my youngest son and daughter along for the ride. It was great for our relationship with one another and great for long term health. My son began running also and when he turned 16 he began body building. Now he is in the reserves and is a strong runner and does great on his PT scores. I never met a fit person who regretted spending time on health and fitness. It doesn’t have to be an obsession, but it most certainly will impact your quality of life in a positive way.
Regardless of where you are starting in this challenge you can usually find something you can do right away to impact your health and wellness for the better. Get fit, stay fit and tackle that stress like a champ!
So, remember the following: