When I was a Division I athlete, I rarely did anything in moderation: lift, eat, train, have fun, and go go go! Between practice, lifting, and rehab with my team, I was training hard for up to four hours per day—every day. At the end of the day I was exhausted, and eating well-balanced meals (especially in college) was not one of my priorities. I ate whatever was quick and easy: pasta, sandwiches, sushi and burritos. Not only that, we went out most weekends, and excessive drinking was just part of our routine to blow off steam because of how much we gave to our athletic endeavors. We pushed ourselves mentally, emotionally, and physically both on and off the field.. While I excelled on the lacrosse field, I knew that I wasn’t fully reaching my athletic potential. Not only was I feeding my body poorly, I was not allowing it the proper rest and recovery necessary to compete at so high a level.
After college, I moved to New York City, and my poor lifestyle choices followed me there. I was working in the food and beverage industry as a sales representative for an Italian wine and liquor company. I was great at sales, and I loved traveling around the city on a day to day basis meeting new clients at restaurants, bars, and wine shops. However, you can imagine what a day in this life looked like: I was tasting wines as early as 10am during the week and hanging out at restaurants that didn’t hesitate to offer a free appetizer or lunch during our meetings (after all, most of my clients were Italian and you know how much we like to eat and drink!). I tried to get up for the gym in the mornings, but after late nights at work, the last thing I wanted to do was get up early. Going after work was also difficult because by the time 5pm hit I was certain to have already had a glass of wine (or two).
After five years of this lifestyle, I felt unhappy, tired, and in need of a change. I felt that New York was draining me and hindering me from pursuing a healthy life, so I decided to get back in control of my life. I knew my environment was adversely affecting me and that I needed to be in a healthier and more balanced city. I moved to Los Angeles to live close to the beach and to pursue a career in health and wellness.
Today I am a trainer, coach, and entrepreneur, and I have finally found the balance that my body and mind was longing for. I call this the StrongFit life; a place of mental, emotional, and physical strength sprinkled with fun, sun, and good times.
So how did I get here? What did I do? I would be lying if I said it was easy to learn what my body needed. I believe that a major part of finding that healthy life is that there is a unique process and formula for each of us, and what we need can change over time. Listening to your body, adapting to what it needs, and taking note of the response is what has helped me learn my unique formula. While we all have individual needs, after coaching numerous clients I have seen that there are a few constants that we all need to implement in order to achieve a more strong and fit lifestyle. Whether you are an athlete in training, a new mom trying to get back into shape after baby, or simply someone aiming to have a healthier attitude and outlook on life, make sure these five factors are a regular part of your routine to help you get grounded and on track to a happier, healthier you.
Sleep. You’ve heard it before, but sleep is the number one thing you need. Without sleep, not only does your body not function properly, but your mental focus takes a dip. During sleep, your body healsfrom both physical training and all the mental strain you endure during the day. A benefit of adequate sleep include increased brain function, which leads to better memory and increased creativity and alertness. If you’re looking to adopt better sleep habits, check out Sleep Smarter, by Shawn Stevenson. He offers 21 strategies to help you achieve better rest and, in turn, improve your body, mind, and life.
Take a Break! Yes, take a break from work, fitness, and social events. Allow yourself one to two days to detach completely from work and social obligations. Schedule a night or two during the week to pass on social outings and instead focus on creative endeavors or personal interests and hobbies. Additinoally, try to take a few days off from strenuous physical activity to let your body heal and rest. Good alternatives to intense training are a long walk, a bike ride, or a relaxing yoga class. I have found that when you continue to give, give, give and say yes to everything, you burn yourself out. It’s vital to allow yourself time to recharge so you can go back to work, family, and fitness full and ready to give again.
Love Your Body and Mind. Spend time loving your body. Yes, I know that sounds weird, but we put ourselves through stress every minute of every day. Allow the body to disconnect. Self-massage and bodywork help to alleviate tired and sore muscles. Stretching helps to keep your fascia at its optimal length for activities of daily living. Mentally disengage from negative thinking and emotions. Fill your mind with knowledge positivity through reading and meditative practices. We tend to be so self-critical, telling ourselves “I’m not good enough to do that” , “I’m not skinny enough” “Why don’t I look like her or him?”, “Why haven’t I accomplished as much as X,Y,Z?”. We need to accept that where we are right now is exactly where we are supposed to be.
Cheat Days. I know what you’re thinking… “Laura, you just gave me all these awesomely healthy things to incorporate into my life, and now you’re telling me to go out and cheat?” Yes! Eat a meal that may not be on your program, have an extra glass of wine, say yes to a something you’ve been wanting to do (even if it’s on your “take a break” day) because you only live once! Find that balance between yes and no. When you’ve worked your way up to achieving the StrongFit life, you’ll start to notice when the balance is off, and you’ll learn to appreciate, enjoy, and even come to miss the healthy life that you have created for yourself.
#SquadUP. Creating a space of balanced wellness takes work and effort. Your environment and the people with whom you surround yourself will affect your perspectives and choices. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” So take a look at those around you. What values do they hold? What do they talk about most often? Do you find that they are positive and uplifting people? Surround yourself with positive people who share your goals and values and who want to improve their own physical and mental health as well. Sharing your goals with others helps you stay accountable and increases your motivation and effort!
These are just some examples of how you can start to create a more grounded lifestyle for yourself. Life happens, and some things are out of our control, but we always have control over ourselves. Take charge of what you want out of life, and decide to make the change. Remember, it will be a process, so be patient with yourself as you work toward crafting the unique formula that is just right for you.