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Balancing fitness with self-care

In American culture, “fitness” seems to equate to getting the physique of a movie star playing a superhero in this summer’s blockbuster. But that’s really not the point. Fitness is as much about your mental and emotional well-being as it is your clothing size or the number on the scale. That’s why the focus of whole body health should not be living up to society’s standards. It should be about finding activities that you enjoy, that make you feel good, and that keep you strong. From the miracle of childbirth to the disaster of a cancer diagnosis to dealing with everyday stress, a balanced fitness regimen will prepare your body – and mind – for whatever life throws your way.

Working Out Right

If going to the gym seems like a chore to you, you’re probably not going to last much longer. That’s why you should stick with exercises you enjoy. Walking your dog, skiing, kayaking, wakeboarding, and planting a garden can all give your body a workout. Not only are they good for you, they’re also fun. If you find that you’re working out but still gaining weight, it could be because you’re stressed out. So, don’t think of exercise as a way to carve out a beach body. Instead, relish all the health benefits it provides: making you sharper, boosting your mood, giving you natural energy, and rewarding you with restful sleep.

Set a Schedule

Counterintuitive as it may sound, exercising is only half of staying fit – the other half is sleeping. People have long known that sleep is restorative, but modern science has discovered that sleep is more integral to weight loss than was previously thought. Lack of sleep throws your metabolism out of whack, which makes the number on the scale shoot up, so find some sleep-inducing strategies that will help you get a good night’s rest. These might include falling asleep to your favorite podcast, switching on a noise machine, buying high-quality pillows, or putting on a face-mask.


Another great way to maintain self-care? Get a hobby. Having a hobby will sharpen your memory and build your confidence by tapping into your talents. Just as with exercising, what you do doesn’t matter so much as the fact that you enjoy it. Knitting, gardening, sewing, journaling your thoughts, drawing in adult coloring books – whatever you love, keep doing it. You know you have a good hobby when you get so focused on it that when you look up, hours have gone by without you realizing it.

Your Meditation Space

One cornerstone to cultivating self-care is to reserve part of your home as a meditation room. Put it wherever you want – an attic, the basement, a guest room, or an enclosed patio. Make it quiet, simple, and private. After all, a decluttered space makes you more comfortable and helps you focus. Setting aside even 5-10 minutes a day to sit still, empty your mind, and fall into the rhythm of your breathing will pacify your mind.

With all the pressure in the fitness industry to run a 10k, get shredded, or spend your paycheck on protein powder, it’s easy to get burned out. To stay healthy for the long-term, cultivate mental and emotional wholeness. Stick to an exercise regimen, but don’t overdo it, and dedicate time to the things you love outside of the gym. Read a good book. Play Frisbee with your dog. Light a fire on cold nights. Do whatever brings you joy. That’s true health.

For more from Sheila Olson, visit

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