As nurses we are really good at taking care of others and educating patients on healthy lifestyles, but sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves. Exercise and nutrition go hand and hand when focusing on a healthy lifestyle. Let's talk about what exercise is... Exercise is any physical activity that works your body harder than your daily activities. Exercise does not require going to a gym and varies from person to person. Some examples of exercise are going for a walk, doing yoga, lifting weights, high-intensity interval training, running, biking, swimming and more! What's important is to figure out what works best for you! Do you have more energy in the morning, afternoon or night? Would you rather exercise in a group/class setting, with a personal trainer or on your own? Don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone often great things happen then! Also, don't forget that there are endless ways to modify exercises and movements to all skill levels.
Nutrition is key!
What you eat matters; it is the fuel for your body during training and work. It is important to learn portion sizes for your nutrition! Pack your meals for your shifts... if you can't pack food, decide what you are going to get before going to the cafeteria and tell someone! By saying things out loud and to someone you are more likely to follow through with them. If you are worried about the crazy, inconsistent work schedule associated with nursing, make time to prep meals, especially before a stretch of multiple shifts. You can even meal prep for the entire week, which ends up saving you time in the long run! A couple of my favorite meal prep foods include chicken, fish, ground turkey, eggs, sweet potatoes, veggies (raw, steamed or grilled) and yogurt.
Pack healthy, nutritious snacks for work.
Snacks that are healthy and packed with protein will give you energy throughout your busy day and keep you full! Healthy snacks will also help you avoid that oo so tempting break room filled with treats! A couple of my favorite snacks are hard boiled eggs, sweet potatoes, veggies, protein bars, fruit, protein shakes, rice cakes and raw nuts. Protein shakes have saved me many times during long, busy shifts.
Find a nursing buddy or just a buddy to hold each other accountable.
Find someone you can workout with. This will help with accountability! You are more likely to workout when you schedule it with a friend and are less likely to cancel your workout. A friend or buddy can provide extra motivation on those tough days. When you workout with a buddy you are more likely to push harder and increase your intensity. Plus it makes things fun! You can also find a nursing buddy to avoid the breakroom with and remind each other to drink water.
Water, water, water.
Drinking water is one of the simplest ways to improve your health. Staying hydrated will help you feel full, and keep you going during your workouts and long days at work. Water helps with your performance during training and helps with blood flow to your organs. Make sure to drink water before, during and after workouts! Sick of plain water? Try infusing your water with fresh fruit! To give you an idea of how much water you should be consuming a day try this... drink half your body weight in ounces plus an additional 8 ounces for each 30 minutes of exercise. If you drink coffee or caffeine then drink an additional 8 ounces of water.
Get into a routine.
Develop a routine that works best for you and your schedule. With the constantly changing schedules, nurses have this can be hard. My schedule is always fluctuating, therefore, varying my workout times. However, I do prefer to workout in mornings, either early or mid-morning. I have found that working out in the morning increases my energy for the day and gets me mentally prepared for work. Also with exercising in the morning, it gets your metabolism going right away and keeps it burning all day! Getting started is the toughest part, but once you make exercising a habit, it's hard to miss a workout!
It's okay to not workout every day.
We are all human and have our days, just don't let that one day turn into multiple days or weeks. Plus your body needs recovery time, especially when starting out. Rest between training days is crucial and without adequate rest, the risk of injury increases significantly. Also don't be afraid to do some active recovery/stretching/ foam rolling on your rest days! What is key to nursing schedules is making exercise a priority on your days off of work!
Set obtainable goals, such as weekly goals.
Set smaller goals that lead you to your ultimate goal, making things more realistic and achievable! Make a plan and stick to it the best you can! I like to plan out my workout days and routines for the entire week, it helps me hold myself accountable. Don't forget to celebrate your achievements along the way!
What you put into exercising is what you will get out of it.
I have to remind myself of this frequently. I ultimately have control over my health and workout routine. I have no one else to blame but myself if I miss a morning at the gym or give in to the temptation of unhealthy foods. However, if I do slip up I do not allow myself to dwell on it and try to refocus on my goals. I also do not allow myself to overindulge if I have a good work out. The reward for a good hard workout should not be unhealthy food. You have to be in the right mindset and be willing to make a change in your lifestyle to experience all the benefits of fitness and healthy eating. Consistency is the key to that success. You have to commit to your training and nutrition just like you have committed yourself to nursing.
Allow yourself to have a cheat meal once a week!
It's important to give yourself a break from your normal disciplined eating. What's crucial is to keep yourself on track with your nutrition plan during all other meals. After all, everyone needs to treat themselves, whether it's sweet or salty! My weakness has always been chocolate. However, I have found healthy alternatives to some of the crappy foods I love to eat. These alternatives include Halo Top ice cream and Lenny and Larry's cookies. Again the key is portion control and moderation!
Keep track of your progress!
This is helpful in many ways! It allows you to keep track of your journey and see how far you have come. I especially like to look at my progress after a very trying day at the gym. It helps remind me that I'm on the right path and that I just have to grind through it! You will always have obstacles to overcome, focus on keeping a positive mindset. Keeping track of your growth also helps with accountability. By writing it down you are more likely to follow through with it! This could be meals, snacks, water intake, workouts, or all the above!
I am by no means an expert in fitness and nutrition, I'm just a nurse who is passionate about healthy lifestyles and helping others.