All in the Same Boat
Many people, myself included, used some of the ups and downs of the last few years as a reason and an opportunity to focus on personal health goals. Whether your complaint was debilitating stress or feeling like the pants in your closet were conspiring against you, we all have goals for how we look and feel. Have you started a new exercise or diet plan recently? Do you ever feel like you start a routine only to feel defeated when you don’t see the changes you want? All of us, have times when we fall short. You’re definitely not alone there.
So What’s the Answer?
First and foremost, consistency is key. Long-term change is not achieved overnight. You must show up and put in the work, both in your workouts and in watching what goes into your mouth. It’s okay to take the occasional break from workout or nutrition plans, but remember, you have to keep consistently circling back to your plans. Know that deviating from them will postpone your arrival at your ultimate goal. Don't abandon them, just because you have a setback. Reset and keep moving forward.
And I’m Feelin’ Good!
Beyond fitting in pants that don't have stretchy waistband (a solid goal), how do we keep track of our progress? One of the best subjective findings associated with eating better and working out is how you feel mentally. It usually only takes two weeks of consistent (there’s that word again) change, to see some significant improvements to your mood, clarity, and
energy. No two people will have the same experience, but there are some physiological factors that we all share. Several neurotransmitters (chemicals that regulate brain function) get released during exercise. Endorphins provide a feeling of euphoria that helps us push through the pain of exercise. These endorphins work on pain opioid receptors in the brain. These are the same receptors that opiates like Morphine bind to for pain relief. Serotonin and Dopamine, the neurotransmitters that help balance out mood and pleasure, are also released during moderate-intensity exercise. These create little boosts to our system that trigger the feel-good centers in our brain, i.e. runner’s high. We are wired to repeatedly seek out these pleasurable actions. Marathon runners aren’t gluttons for punishment; they’re actually following their bliss!
If you continue to work out, you will find that your exercise tolerance will improve. As you train your body under a specific load, you should adapt by expending less energy to perform the same work. In running, you will be able to maintain the same pace for longer, allowing you to run for much longer distances. Increasing your pace will not exhaust you as quickly and will lead to improvements in your personal record times. In weight lifting, the number of reps you can perform with a specific load will increase. The maximum amount of weight you can move will also increase. All of these items are really easy to track. Good old pen and paper work. There are also several fitness apps that allow you to track all modalities of working out, such as Apple fitness. I currently use a Garmin 255s watch.
What You Weighing For?
I do not recommend doing this on a daily basis, but checking your weight every 3 to 4 days is a good tangible way to see improvement. It's best to check your weight at the same time of day before you eat or drink anything. After the first morning void is when I check mine. What we are looking for is an overall trend. Weight can fluctuate up to 5 pounds per day based on multiple factors like water intake, diet, sleep, and activity.
Know Your Value
Over time, blood pressure and blood sugar control will improve as you start consistently working out and eating better. The fastest way to improve both markers is to lose weight. Both can improve independent of weight loss, but that is a topic for another blog post. Check at the same time of day. I would recommend checking more often if you currently are on medication to treat Diabetes Mellitus or Hypertension. Certain medications will lower your blood glucose or blood pressure to dangerously low levels if not adjusted during periods of increased activity. Please consult your healthcare provider before starting a new program if you’re taking medication.
Pick up a blood pressure cuff and a glucose meter from your local drug store. There are some glucose monitors available over the counter without a prescription. Fasting (before breakfast) is the best time of day to check your blood sugar number. This will give you an idea of how your body handles glucose. Just like weight, I would not go overboard with checking these values. It is easy to get lost in the variance that you will see day-to-day and even minute-to-minute. Use it as a guide, not as a god.
We Get By With A Little Help
Remember, consistency is key, but sometimes it’s nice to have a little help getting on the right path. I offer personalized health consultations about plant-based nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management and social connection. If you have any concerns about your current health and how to get started on an exercise or nutrition routine, check out the Services page of my website. I also have compiled a list of helpful sites on the Resource page of my website.
Please comment below if you have any questions, comments, or if would like to see a particular topic in a future blog.