13 Strategies to Stay Fit During Stressful Times
SUMMARY: When stressful times hit, fitness is usually the first thing to go. But it doesn't have to be that way. In this article I'll share some important strategies for staying on track when emergencies and other stressors threaten to derail you.
Maybe you've suddenly been injured. Or faced with a family disaster. Or a new set of demands at work.
With life conspiring to knock you off track, how in the world can you be expected to eat right, exercise, and maintain your fitness?
How's a person to stay on track when the poop hits the fan?
Susan Olding knows exactly what that's like.
While going through our year-long coaching program, Susan's dad got extremely sick and eventually passed away.
Since her parents lived several hundred miles from her home, during the time her dad was sick, she did a lot of traveling back and forth.
Typically, on those trips, she stayed with her brother, in his condo. Fortunately, the condo had a small gym. Unfortunately, it was really bad.
Beyond that, eating right was a struggle. Her brother's bachelor fridge was always barren with only a few beer cans and some expired milk.
During these visits, keeping a regular schedule was next to impossible for Susan.
She needed to be available to help her disabled mother, be available to take care of her dying father, and stay in touch with her husband and 10-year-old daughter back home. Plus, she still was working, juggling four contract jobs and a demanding volunteer position.
All it all, it was the perfect set-up for fitness failure.
Even if she'd wanted to, she couldn't do the prescribed workouts. And, understandably, most days, she didn't even want to. She was exhausted and her willpower was spent.
Sounds pretty depressing. But there is a silver lining to this dark cloud.
During the Lean Eating Coaching Program Susan got into the best shape of her life.
What!?! How's that even possible?
Well, according to Susan, she started on the road to real success when she stopped trying to be perfect.
You know how it goes. Life goes a little off track. And the pity party begins.
"Well, I can't do the prescribed workout today, so I might as well not exercise at all."
Or, "There's no healthy food in this stupid kitchen, so I'll just grab some drive-through."
This kind of all-or-nothing thinking enters all of our lives from time to time. But Susan didn't give in. Instead, she used each day to make the best possible choice given her limitations.
Every day she asked herself:
"If I can't do what was asked of me, what can I do? What can I manage (physically, emotionally, mentally) now?"
Then she went and did it.
"If I couldn't do the regular workout, I did a body weight workout in the hospital room, did intervals on the condo stairs, went for a run outside, or a swim at the local YMCA, or dropped in for a spin class at the local studio."
Because her workouts weren't always as intense as recommended in the coaching program, she also added some other activity.
"I paced the hospital halls, parked at a distance and walked to the hospital door. I went for evening walks. Anything to stay active."
And guess what? It worked.
This life-long couch potato kept dropping pounds, getting stronger, leaner, and more fit along the way. After a few months, she actually looked forward to her workouts as a way of helping handle all the stress!
ADVICE FROM COACH BRIAN – CHUNKING AND MINIMALISM
Lean Eating Coach Brian St. Pierre takes a slightly different approach. He uses two main strategies during stressful times: chunking and minimalist training.
By chunking, he means breaking up his training over the course of the day.
"Spend 5-10 minutes foam rolling and stretching in the morning, take a 15 minute brisk walk at lunch, and do 20 minutes of training anywhere else in the day - maybe an actual weight lifting session, maybe just some bodyweight work of pushups, pull-ups, plank variations, squat and lunge variations."
It's hard sometimes to find a whole hour. But anybody can manage 10 minutes.
Brian's other solution is to "cut the fluff."
He'll foam roll and warm up, hit a few big exercises with minimal rest and call it a day. Usually this takes 30 minutes, 45 at the absolute most.
"For example, I might do a bench press variation paired with a chin-up variation, followed by a pushup variation paired with a row variation and a core exercise. Three sets of the main movements, 2-3 sets of the accessory ones. Done."
That's Brian's minimalist approach, and it works.
ADVICE FROM COACH EILEEN – SUPER POWER WALKS
When working with clients who are on the road, Lean Eating Coach Eileen MacRae suggests power walks.
Mind you, these aren't just any power walks. These are power walks with a difference, incorporating squats, pushups, triceps dips, planks, and walking lunges.
There's a lot you can do with nothing more than a bench and some grass or a relatively smooth path.
"This gets all the muscle groups and helps you feel like you did something of value, not just a casual little walk. Done right, this can be a kick ass workout! This is my personal 'on vacation' workout."
For clients who are a bit more advanced, she suggests interval runs between telephone poles. It's an easy way for people to pace themselves, and each client can pick the number of poles for his or her personal work/rest ratio.
ADVICE FROM COACH COLTE – BARTER DAYS
It's one thing to address our need for exercise. But when we're under stress, it's even more important to acknowledge the mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of what we're undergoing.
Lean Eating Coach Colte Barnhill has an excellent strategy for that.
He implements what he calls "barter" days, and trades out some (but not all) of his workout time for mental health time.
For example, he might go to a 30-minute counseling session and then work out for half an hour, or he might meditate for ten minutes.
"I'll give myself that freedom, if I promise myself I'll bust my ass doing something, anything, for at least ten minutes afterward. Fun fact: it's hard to stop at ten minutes."
You've probably noticed that too. When you really don't feel like working out, if you just drag yourself there to do a little tiny bit, you usually end up doing the whole workout. And are glad you did.
"More important fun fact: I would rather myself or a client address the mental stuff and get in a short amount of exercise than not look at the mental stuff, plan an exercise, not do it, feel bad about not doing it, repeat the process multiple times and eventually give up."
Addressing the mental component is key to long-term success.
ADVICE FROM COACH VERONICA – CREATIVE RESISTANCE
And when you're stressed and stuck for time, creative problem solving (and a sense of humor) become key. No weights? No worries.
Press “play” to watch the video above to see what Lean Eating Coach Veronica Porterfield suggests for her Lean Eating newbies who can't get to the gym.
Sure, this might not be the world’s most intense workout. But, as you can see, there's always a way to improvise and stay active.
In the end, here's what I hope you'll learn from today's post:
Perfection never happens in real life. We always have to do the best we can with what we have. And that's okay.
So, when life gets really crazy, here are a 13 strategies to maintain your fitness:
1. Let go of perfection.
2. Exert yourself in whatever way you can manage.
3. Fulfill your weekly goal rather than stressing about a specific day.
4. Build in daily activity.
5. Try a power walk; walking with exercises built in.
6. Work out with body weight.
7. Use phone poles as markers for intervals.
8. Sign up for a quick class -- social interaction can help combat stress too.
9. Choose whole body movements.
10. Chunk your exercise into ten or twenty minute blocks.
11. Take care of your mental and emotional health.
12. Tell yourself you'll work out for ten minutes.
13. Work out at home with the equipment you have at hand.
In the end, think of fitness as your "anchor" rather than an obligation -- it might be the only thing keeping you sane during tough times.
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
If you’d like to learn more about losing fat, improving your health, and feeling better, here's something you need to see.
Dr. Berardi has created two free 5-day video courses that show you how to get control of your eating and your health. To get started, simply click one of the links below:
In these free courses you'll discover:
- The 5 things you need to know about nutrition.
- Exactly what foods to eat to lose fat — at every meal.
- The best way to exercise to lose fat.
- Exactly how much time you need to exercise.
- How to make delicious meals with a few simple ingredients.
- Why you don’t need supplements to lose fat.
- Which four supplements work the best, if you choose to use them.
- The one thing that separates those who lose fat and those who fail every time.
Until next time,
- John Berardi
Dr John Berardi is the director of the world’s largest body transformation project. In the last 5 years, his team has helped over 15,000 clients lose more than 250,000 pounds of body fat. (That’s more total weight loss than all 13 seasons of the Biggest Loser combined). For more on his one-of-a-kind program – Lean Eating Coaching – click here.