International Self Care Day is coming up July 24, but regardless of the date self-care should be part of your regular routine. Regular physical activity is a pillar of self-care, but it’s not enough just to log the exercise time, you have to care for your body and mental state to make it worthwhile.
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Don’t skip the stretch. Self-care steps to maximize your fitness routine
Taking care of yourself is a complex thing. Most people understand the importance of eating well, sleeping enough and getting regular exercise, but many of us don’t think to take stock of our emotional and mental well-being or even make sure we use sunscreen and wear seatbelts.
International Self-Care Day is July 24 — a good time to evaluate your lifestyle and find ways to take better care of yourself. Abby Johnson, Team Training Specialist with GoodLife Fitness says when it comes to physical activity, many people skip vital components of self-care in order to fit in a few extra minutes of cardio or rush back to the office. Here are some ways to add more self-care to your exercise routine to reduce injuries, minimize stress, and maximize your performance and enjoyment of life.
A dynamic warm-up improves range of motion in your joints and fires up the muscles you’ll need for the workout. Start gradually with child’s pose and deep breathing, then add moves for different parts of your body (glute bridges, knee to chest, high kicks, a lunge with a twist). The cooldown should include stretching to reach the muscles you used in your workout and bring breathing and heart rate back down to normal in a gradual way.
Stretching increases blood flow to all parts of your body, which helps you feel more alert when you’re tired. It also helps with fine muscle coordination so you’re less likely to fall or injure yourself. Stretching can be done first thing in the morning, before and after physical activity and whenever muscles feel tight. We want to move well with improved mobility so that we can be pain-free.
Listen to your body
When you feel pain or fatigue, it’s important to listen and respond. Get some rest, take regular breaks, drink lots of water and see a health professional if needed. Research shows that taking rest time is essential and will improve your performance when you return to physical activity. Overlooking pain or fatigue can trigger injuries or other issues that can set you back over the longer term.
Strive for variety
For your own mental and physical well-being, try to mix up both the variety and the intensity of your physical activities. Try new things all the time – whether it’s a brisk walk with your dog, a bike ride, boot camp or group fitness, swimming or in-line skating.
After a tough workout, it’s a great idea to check in with a massage therapist to alleviate delayed onsite muscle soreness, improve muscle performance and lower blood pressure, heart rate and fatigue. Don’t have time? Try using a foam roller to slowly roll over various areas of your body before each workout, along with banded distractions. This will help break up adhesions and scar tissue and speed up the healing and recovery process after your workout.
Studies prove that practicing meditation or mindfulness on a regular basis can keep you focused, reduce stress and help you fight fatigue. Finding time to sit still and focus on your breathing while clearing your mind can help reduce blood pressure and improve how your body reacts to stress. It also contributes to better performance in your exercise routine and helps you sleep more soundly.
Eat and sleep well
Lack of sleep and poor diet can compromise your immune system, promote too much cortisol production and prompt the body to store fat. By focusing on healthy, nutrient-rich foods, drinking lots of water and getting enough sleep (7-8 hours), your body and mind will be refreshed and ready to perform.
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