Shape Up: Make your own fitness a priority
Don't let work or family pressures stand in the way of your well-being
Published 26/04/2010 | 05:00
The quest to be fit will always come under pressure during different stages of your life. There are certain interruptions to one's routine that are unfortunate but they can be unavoidable in some cases.
For example, we may be forced to temporarily stop or reduce training due to the death of a close relative, divorce, or an injury, but there are other things, such as work pressures, that should not put a dent in your health and fitness goals.
I've witnessed many people willing to put in an extra shift at work and then be too tired to go to the gym. You have given every ounce of energy you have to your job and now there is nothing left in the tank.
Pretty soon, this extra shift has increased in frequency and more demands from your boss have seen you increase your reliance on stimulants such as caffeine and takeaways because you are "too busy" to make and bring your own lunch.
You have offered up your health as a sacrificial lamb in order to work the 15- to 16-hour days and live on five hours of sleep a night. Like any decision in life, we will have to accept the consequences of our actions and the reflection you see in the mirror is telling you the story.
One common theme I have been hearing is that it is hard for some clients and mothers to grasp the 'first things first' principle popularised by author Stephen Covey. Working life should not be given priority over your health.
My clients' goals are to either reduce weight, increase muscle or to generally feel better and more confident in themselves. It is the challenges like long hours, training frequency, young children, poor nutrition or lack of sleep that will place the roadblocks on your path to success.
Personally, my goal is to learn from the best coaches in training, nutrition and rehabilitation, which sees me clock up a lot of air miles every year. I am sure everyone reading this who has flown quite a bit will know that before the plane takes off there is an important safety talk. It always makes me think of the 'first things first' principle.
In the event of an emergency and the need for oxygen masks, it's important to put on your own mask first before attending to anyone else.
How often have you failed to put your oxygen mask on first and are desperately trying to put the oxygen mask on your kids, your husband, your friends, work and all the while you are slowly dying through lack of oxygen?
As you fumble, you lower your ability to help those you love. If only you would have taken the time to first put your own oxygen mask on before helping those around you. If you did that, you would be in the position to be there for everyone and give 100pc of yourself.
I hope that this can put your daily activities into perspective. In my line of work, I meet mothers who get up early to make their children's breakfast and yet eat nothing themselves; I meet businessmen who want to lead their companies through a crisis yet don't look after themselves.
Abraham Lincoln said that the best way to help the poor is to not become one of them. In health, you need to take a step back and analyse your current situation as anything that is not managed will deteriorate.
In your training, you need to book in your sessions as if they are an appointment with an important client. It is important to perform exercise at the same times and on the same days to maintain consistency.
If you are stuck for time you need to work on time management and make the most of it by using the Vilfredo Pareto 80:20 principle. A former economist, Pareto's belief is that 80pc of our business comes from 20pc of our clients.
We wear 20pc of our clothes 80pc of the time; 20pc of our activities will give us 80pc of our results. In our fitness training and goals, will you waste 80pc of your time on slow, continuous aerobic training like jogging or classes or will you be more effective with fat-loss circuits that can take 20pc of the time?
Aerobic training increases the release of our fight or flight or sympathetic nervous system, which makes your body feel like it is being chased. This lowers your immune system, shuts down digestion and releases adrenaline as your body prepares to fight or make flight.
Your body goes through a series of stages and releases the stress hormone cortisol. With elevated cortisol levels the body has a hard time activating the thyroid hormone. When we don't have enough active thyroid hormone and our metabolism slows down, we may gain weight.
So the key is to look after yourself before you tend to your children or your company. You will lead by example and have the energy and vitality to tackle whatever life has to throw at you in the future.