Physical Health Resources

Fitness as the Vehicle

It took me years to fully appreciate the value of the lessons I have learned from the Iron. I used to think that it was my adversary, that I was trying to lift that which does not want to be lifted. I was wrong. When the Iron doesn’t want to come off the mat, it’s the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn’t teach you anything. That’s the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble.

— Henry Rollins

To me - health and fitness are a vehicle for personal transformation. It is not the end all be all to only focus on your physical transformation, which I'll describe more in a second. But it is an incredibly important metaphorical representation of mental transformation.  Initially, health & fitness give you confidence because of your pride in your newly revamped outward appearance (let's face it - it all starts with vanity). But, the power of health and fitness comes because you eventually come to see the trials and tribulations of improving your fitness as a representation of life. 

Fitness is cathartic. It's therapeutic. It's a healthy place to channel frustration and anxiety. More than that though, it's an avenue for developing focus, mental toughness, dedication, commitment, inner strength, etc. In fact, I'm just going to quote Henry Rollins again because he says it so well...

Muscle mass does not always equal strength. Strength is kindness and sensitivity. Strength is understanding that your power is both physical and emotional. That it comes from the body and the mind. And the heart.

— Henry Rollins

The tests we put ourselves through physically transcend the rest of our life. The confidence we feel about our physical appearance will transcend into how we feel about ourselves internally. The habits we develop in health & fitness will improve our day-to-day productivity and life. Not only that, but when you have a healthy body, you have the energy and the vitality to do more in your life with your family, in your work, etc. That's why health & fitness are so important to me.

I want you to take a moment and think of a time when you experienced a physical challenge, or multiple times. In what ways did that experience teach you a lesson about your own capability, physical and mental? 


The Airplane Mentality

You know when you get on an airplane and once everyone is seated, the first thing they do is give you the safety briefing. How to buckle your seatbelt. Where the lights are to guide you out in case of an emergency - the whole nine yards. Having done a LOT of flying in my lifetime, there's very little about that presentation that I still pay attention - with the exception of the part about the oxygen mask. Not because I don't know it, but because it's the only thing that I find to be applicable outside of airplanes. Why? Because in this part of the safety briefing the say...

 "Before assisting others, put your oxygen mask on first." 

This is what I am referring to when I say airplane mentality. The whole reason for this in an airplane is the notion that you can't properly assist someone if you're not on oxygen. You might make a mistake because your body isn't getting what it needs. But if you stop and take a moment, put yourself and your oxygen mask on first, then you're more readily able to assist others. This is what is meant by "airplane mentality" and it applies to self-care. 

We need to put our needs first. We need to put ourselves and our health first. Because if we don't, just like when we're on an airplane, we can't properly be there for others.

Take a moment and think about this. How does this apply to you? In what ways are you putting yourself first and in what ways are you not? Taking a moment to think about this and if you find that you're not putting yourself first very well, think about some ways in which you could be better about that. 


The 5 S’s of Health

When I was coaching for Beachbody, I came up with something that I call the 5 S’s of Health. To me, this list is ALL about the basics, and these are the BASIC things that will have a big impact on you and your health. Some of them are obvious and some of them are less so. Let’s get started!

Sleep

We are in a society that is massively sleep deprived and the more I look into this, the more I realize that there are some CRAZY physical and emotional side effects that come from that! It is of the upmost importance as you’re working toward living a healthier, more fulfilling life that you ask yourself—do you get enough sleep? If yes – GREAT! Seriously that’s awesome because you’re one of the few! If you don’t, then this is going to be EVEN MORE important for you. Sleep is the time when your body repairs itself. If you don’t prioritize sleep, your mind won’t be at its sharpest and your body won’t be at it’s most recovered. So it’s crucial that you commit to getting at enough sleep each night! Even if you’re nonchalantly telling yourself that you function fine on 4 or 5. No. Stop that! You need more sleep than that—whether you think you function fine on that amount or not. PRIORITIZE your sleep. We’ll talk more about why, what sleep does for you, and what is the appropriate amount of sleep to get in the following pages.

Sustenance

We’re going to talk a LOT about this later, but I want to mention it right now because how you fuel your body during any lifestyle change is probably the freaking MOST important thing for a change in your healthy lifestyle. People think that by slogging away at a gym they’re making all of the changes they need to make. But the old adage is true—”You can’t out-exercise a bad diet!” But, why didn’t I just say you’re going to have eat clean? Well, because sustenance is about more than just what you eat. It’s about eating right, yes, but it’s also about fueling your body with it’s most valuable resource—water! Water is perhaps the most under-utilized resource in healthy and fitness! I mean, more often then not, we mistake thirst signals for hunger signals! That in and of itself is crucial to understand!

Sweat

Sweat is a sort of complicated one of the 5 S’s because it really isn’t just one S. It’s 3! There are 3 S’s contained in this one component, because physicality isn’t one dimensional! To be at your fittest and at your healthiest, you need to have at least 3 dimensions—strength, stretch, stamina. Muscle is great because it is muscle that gives your body it’s shape and only by creating muscle in your body can you change the way it looks! But, if you just have strength, your inflexible muscles will hinder your mobility and cause all sorts of problems and injuries, and your lack of stamina will make everyday things difficult like climbing the stairs or going for a simple run! All 3 of the pieces must be there!

Smarts

You’ll learn very quickly that this is my personal favorite of the 3 S’s. For the most part, I will simply refer to it as personal development, which I find to be the crucial (and often neglected) component of most people’s journey. Don’t worry if you don’t know what it  is—we’ll get to it when we talk about Personal Growth.

Stress

The 5th and final S is for stress, which may not make sense for some people. Why would stress need to be it’s own category? Well, I believe that stress and learning to manage your stress is key for anyone to commit to their healthy lifestyle. What so often derails us are our daily stresses! So, when you learn to manage them, you’ll be so much better off! We’ll talk more about this in Emotional Health.


Your Soulmate Workout

Soulmate: a person ideally suited to another as a close friend or romantic partner.

We know we can have soulmate friends. We know we can have soulmate romantic partners. Why not soulmate workouts?

Here's the thing. I've been thinking a lot about this lately. This notion of fitness and what it means. What's good fitness and what's bad. And here's my opinion - There's no bad fitness. Whether you walk or run. Whether you love cardio or weights. Whether you swear by crossfit or Zumba. I personally don't believe there's any BAD fitness. Are there better options depending on what your goals are? Sure! But there's no such thing as bad fitness.

Why am I bringing this up here? Cuz I have laughed at those memes before that say "Zumba? Bitch I lift!" Hell I've shared them. And you know what...I wish now that I hadn't. Because I've screwed around for hours before playing a Zumba wii game! And I remember SWEATING MY ASS OFF. I looked like a fool doing it lol 😂 but it was freaking fun and I got crazy sweaty! And I love a good leg day throwin around my bowflex weights or my Empack.

The bottom line is that it doesn't effing matter friends! It doesn't matter how you sweat, it just matters that you do. It doesn't matter what your thing is, just that you find something that works for you and that you love. What works for me may not work for you. And vice versa.

What I meant by soulmate workout is I want you to stop thinking about what is trendy. I want you to stop worrying about what "everyone else" is doing or what some friend of yours said you "should" be doing. The most important thing is that you find something you love. Something that you legitimately enjoy doing. Something that is ideally suited to you and not to anyone else.

That's the point of the soulmate workout - find your thing and sweat your ass off doing it. And never ever ever feel like what you do and how you work out isn't right. Or isn't badass enough. I used to fall victim to that mindset. And it doesn't matter. It matters that you push play, go to the gym, actually do something active that gets your heart rate up and your body working. That's the important thing. At least that's my opinion on the matter!

So, in this activity, I want you to ask yourself, brutally and honestly, are you doing a workout that you love? Do you genuinely look forward to doing it? And if your answer is no, that's fine. I want you to brainstorm some different options that you might like more. I don't care what it is, as long as it gets you up, off your butt, moving and sweating. That's the point of the soulmate workout. Because I'm sick and tired of people forcing themselves to do a certain kind of workout. Find YOUR JAM. Find YOUR SOULMATE WORKOUT. Whether it's dance cardio, zumba, lifting, Crossfit, Barre, Pilates, Hiking, Rock climbing, etc. I don't care. The important thing is that you find it and DO IT!


How much is enough?

Who ever said that your workout needs to take an hour? Who ever said that you need to exercise 5, 6, or 7 days a week? If they're telling you that you need to do X, Y, Z to get in shape, I think that's your automatic red flag to ignore them. Because there is no cookie-cutter mold for what works. Not for fitness and not for life.

Here is what I personally aim for. I spend no more than 30-45 minutes working out most of the time, and you can get a heck of a workout in that amount of time! And with some workout styles and programs - 15-25 minutes is sufficient! Check out workouts like Tabata, High Intensity Interval training (of HIIT), or workout programs that are 30 minutes or less like Focus T25Insanity Max 3021 Day Fix21 Day Fix Extreme, and P90X3

But even then, I think the biggest thing is incorporating movement into your day. I've done a workout program that was only 4 days a week and it whipped me into shape! But on the other days? I was going hiking, walking, doing yoga or stretching. I don't think the intensity of the movement matters, so long as you're moving. Walk to class instead of grabbing the bus! Take the stairs! Small changes compound over time to make a BIG difference.

Ultimately, what is enough is dictated by you and your goals! So I want you to ask yourself, what is enough for you? Set your daily minimums, your weekly minimums. Maybe your goal is 4 days a week of intense workouts and low impact recovery movement on the other days like walking or yoga. Whatevs! Set your goals now and use those as a benchmark for what is "enough" for you. Don't let anyone else set those standards for you. Only yourself. 


Creating a Routine - How to fit it in? 

It’s very make a big commitment, like working out X days a week and get overwhelmed. It’s even easier to commit to all-or-nothing effort. But it’s also very easy to fail or to get discouraged.  I’ve seen many people go into a lifestyle change (myself included!) and quit after weeks because they didn’t allow for missteps. They didn’t allow for or did not realize the kind of planning that has to go into changing your lifestyle! So, before you start doing ANYTHING, I want you to look at your schedule and ask yourself ONE QUESTION—how are you going to build these activities in?

There are 3 things primarily that I want you to focus on to start—your workouts, meal planning & nutrition. I would love to see not only you, but everyone, incorporate these things into a daily schedule so that they become seamless! And the way to do that is to first sit down with your schedule and ask: how are you going to incorporate these things into your life? Where do they fit?

It’s easy for me to say “do this,” but these are part of my routine now. So it’s not that difficult for me. But some of these may be new activities for you. “If we fail to plan, we plan to fail” is one of my favorite quotes, and it can be perfectly applied in this situation! You must PLAN how you’re going to fit these things into your day/week! To give you an idea of how this may work here is an example of my DAILY schedule (note: this also includes daily activities from the Healthy Life Handbook!):

  • 5:00AM - Wake up! Coffee, Journaling, Setting intentions for the day. Meditation.
  • 6:00AM - Workout (30-45 mins). Shower & make breakfast
  • 7:00AM  - Finish getting ready, packing lunch, listen to personal development/inspiration
  • :30 - Catch bus/Commute to work
  • 8-5-ish - Work
  • 6:00PM  -Evening activities – may include an evening workout if I slept in, or if I’m doing doubles
  • 9:00PM - Winding down for bed. Turn off electronics. Read personal development. Answer end of the day review questions.
  • 10/10:30PM - In Bed

This is generally how I spend my day! I have my daily activities of working out, drinking my shake, and doing my personal development! But where do I fit in my meal planning/prepping:

Meal Planning/Grocery Shopping - Saturday

Meal Prepping/Pre-portioning  - Sunday

Having even a general idea of where things are going to fit into your schedule is so helpful. But it’s important to realize that this schedule is tentative! You may accidentally oversleep and miss your morning workout, or you may find that meal planning and prepping at the time you chose just doesn’t work for you! That’s fine! Be flexible and patient with yourself, and as you’re starting off, use the schedule as a guide and adjust it as you go to what works best for you!

Grab a piece of paper and sketch out a schedule for you, including your workouts, your grocery shopping, your meal planning and your meal prepping!


Debunking the “No Time” Myth

Here are some of the most common excuses I hear about having "no time" to workout...

"Studying/Parenting/Work takes up all my time and I just can't find the time for it!" Multi-task, multi-task, multi-task! Once in graduate school, I had a particularly frustrating day, really needed to study, but all I wanted to do was hit the pavement and go for a run. But I felt pulled in so many different directions! And then I remembered that I record my lectures for that class on my Notability app (best app ever! Check out my Grad School App Recommendations here!). So, I loaded up a lecture on my iphone, plugged in and ran and listened to the lecture all at the same time. When I was in undergrad, I used to bring textbooks or notes for me to read while I biked or used the elliptical. If you're really pressed for time and you need to study, then multi-task!

"I don't have time to spend an hour in a gym!" Who ever said that your workout needs to take an hour? I spend 30-40 minutes working out most of the time, and you can get a heck of a workout in that amount of time! And with some workout styles and programs - 15-25 minutes is sufficient! Check out workouts like Tabata, High Intensity Interval training (of HIIT), or workout programs that are 30 minutes or less like Focus T25Insanity Max 3021 Day Fix21 Day Fix Extreme, and P90X3! But if even that is tough, just incorporate some healthy habits. Walk to class instead of grabbing the bus! Take the stairs! Small changes compound over time to make a BIG difference. See the "How much is enough?" activity above. 

Are you telling yourself that you have "no time" for self-care and your physical health? I want you take a moment and look at your schedule and find a pocket of 15 minutes and schedule a workout, meal plan, etc. into that slot and then do that for every day of the week. If you can't find 15-30 minutes in your schedule every single day, well my friend, we have bigger problems. And this is something you should remember for when we get to the Take Back your Time section of the course.


BEFORE I WRAP THIS UP...A FEW MORE TIPS FOR SUCCESS. 

Note this was originally from a blog post written about staying healthy in college, but it still applies...

Before I leave you, here I have a few more tips for you to help you stay healthy. They may seem overly straightforward, but ultimately health & fitness really is! We all know what to do. It's just a matter of staying committed to the goals we've set, and following through with our commitments. So, here are some last minute tips for success, in ensuring that you stay committed and follow-through with your goals! These straightforward tips will hopefully fill the holes in what you're currently doing, and make it even that much easier to stay healthy while you're in school.

  • Meal Plan at the beginning of the week. I cannot stress enough how important meal prepping will be to your success! It's hard to be healthy when you're at the mercy of what's available at the cafeteria, or what snacks are in the vending machine. Lack of preparation is typically why people aren't successful in having healthy nutrition. So - do what you can so that you are prepared! Check out The Importance of Meal Prep for ideas.
    • Note for students who are living in a dorm...If you're living in a dorm, you're likely on a meal plan and don't have a place where you can actually cook dinner! The good part of that is that you don't have to actually prep because the meals are actually made for you, but you don't always have control on the what you're eating or the when. Stick with good options...grilled instead of fried, salad bars, steamed or cooked veggies, hard-boiled eggs (great for snacks by the way!), omelettes for breakfast, scrambled eggs without cheese, etc. And don't forget that you can still plan ahead! If you're going to have a long day with little time to go get snacks, grab apples, bananas, hard-boiled eggs, granola bars, greek yogurt, or other similar healthy staples so that you have snacks on hand all day! But, regardless, most dorms have a community kitchen that you can utilize! All you really need is a stove and a sink, and you can buy some kitchen utensils to stash in your dorm! Or if you're really in a bind, mooch off of some friends' kitchens! Maybe even offer to cook for them when you do!
  • Schedule your workouts and treat them like meetings with yourself! The biggest reason why people skip workouts is that they see them as optional! Don't. Change your mindset about your workouts! Those are non-negotiable meetings you've set with yourself, so don't cancel them!
  • Don't skip meals!  I feel like we are all guilty of this at some point and time. Either it's due to lack of time, or in re-payment for that cheat that we know we shouldn't have had. But what we don't realize is how unwise doing so is. I cannot tell you how many students skip meals - lunch, dinner, don't eat breakfast! Especially grad students!  I know a lot of people say that skipping breakfast makes them less hungry throughout the morning, so they do it to avoid over-eating. I understand that. I've felt that difference too. Eating like that is essentially intermittent fasting, which I've seen conflicting information on in terms of it's efficacy. The problem with this kind of eating occurs when you don't make up that calorie deficit at some point throughout your day. Eating too few calories is just as detrimental to your health as eating too many, and then you're setting yourself up for failure because you're more likely to binge later. When we skip meals, it also throws off our metabolism, as well as changes your sleep patterns.
  • Get sweatin' 3-4 times a week. I know - this sounds so obvious. But STILL, people don't find the time to get this done. I can't tell you how many students, especially graduate and professional students I know, live in the mindset that there is "no time" for exercise, but we've already debunked that myth above! You can make time for it. And if you really want it, you will! 
  • Develop a routine and stick to it. When I eventually nail down my morning and evening routines, we're going to talk more about them in more detail. But, until then, just find a time of day that works for you to get your sweat on! My personal recommendation is to get in the habit of morning workouts! There's nothing that can come up in the morning to distract you and you get your workout done so you can move on with the rest of your day! But for some people that just doesn't work well, so instead, I would suggest getting your workout in immediately after work! If you're going to a gym, bring your workout clothes with you. If you're going for a run, run right after work! Play with your routine, and once you find something that works STICK WITH IT! 
  • Find an accountability partner (or partners). Whether you're taking a class at a gym, have a running buddy, or are participating in a challenge group, there are going to be days when you're not going to want to hold yourself accountable! Especially when you start! A friend, family member, significant other, or group of like-minded people will help hold you accountable and keep you going when you're struggling to stay committed to yourself!
  • Don't tempt yourself! There are a LOT of times when there are goodies and treats that I know will be around at certain events! The medical school and graduate school host ice cream socials, product shows for vendors have barbecue and what not, and we have cookies/bagels and various other snacks and candy at departmental and lab events. I don't know about you, but my biggest problem is saying no when the temptation is staring me in the face! So, I just don't put myself in it's vicinity! I just don't go to the ice cream social, walk away from the cookies, don't sit near the snacks, etc. I don't go out much anymore either because I know myself and I'll be tempted to order an appetizer I either shouldn't eat or can't afford. Basically, I've found that if you don't tempt yourself, you won't be in a place to give into those treats!
  • Adopt an 80/20 mindset. I've also seen this called a good-enough mindset...but essentially the gist is this. We have a finite amount of will-power, and when we put ourselves in the way of temptation too often we're going to succumb. But that doesn't mean that when we do it's the end of the world. I'm all about advocating balance and will never tell anyone to never have that piece of pizza, glass of wine, scoop of ice cream, etc.! We deserve to live a little! But the key word there is "a little"! I suggest adopting an 80/20 mindset. Eat healthy and stay on top of your good nutrition 80% of the time, and allow for those indulgences the other 20%. That way you can still make the progress you want to make without completely cutting yourself off from living, having a social life, and enjoying the occasional treat.

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Ellyn SchinkeComment