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A Journey Back to Wellness

By Amanda Long, Senior Account Director

If you’re like me, you know having an exercise routine is good for you.  However, we let the busyness of life, on more than one occasion, get in the way of our wellness goals. I’ve been really fit (and really not fit) off and on for years.  And while I like looking and feeling good, the one thing I realize the older I become is that having a wellness ritual is truly critical to not only a better quality of life, but for my career success.

We are culture that is more stressed out than ever before. And while it is well documented that stress is the cause of 80-85% of illness and disease, I kept putting it off because of my never-ending to-do list, which somehow I thought was more important than investing in myself.  You know how flight attendants tell you before takeoff in the event of an emergency, put your oxygen mask on first before helping someone else?  I clearly wasn’t listening.

This summer, Hughes Agency started working with the YMCA of Greenville.  At that time, I was in one of my “out of fitness” seasons. Part of learning a new client is experiencing the services it offers, so I had to try different classes. After observing the more intense classes at the Y, I was intimidated.  Where do I start?  What goals should I give myself?  What steps should I take? Can I even do this?

While, I’m certainly not a wellness expert by any means, the things I have seen change in myself since I jumpstarted this wellness journey, are worth sharing:

  • I wasn’t as tired at the end of the day. I also wasn’t slouching over my computer like before, which also meant I was breathing better. More oxygen to the brain means better thinking! I also slept better.  We all know a good night’s sleep helps you perform better.
  • Decision making comes faster. The CDC says that regular physical activity can help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age.  Exercising – even 30 minutes a few times a week, can help improve your cognition.
  • My state of mind also changed. As I worked my way up to taking some of the more challenging classes, my confidence increased, too.  When I first observed the Y’s Beast Mode class, I thought there was no way I could do it.  A couple months later, I participated in the class, and while it may have not been pretty, I survived…with a smile on my face because I accomplished something I never thought I was capable of.  That confidence bled over into my work life, pushing me to take more calculated risks for higher rewards.
  • I’m happier and I am not as quick to emotionally respond. A regular exercise program – whatever it looks like for you – is key to helping manage high-stress situations with a cool, clear head.  It also helps reduce depression rates overall in people. I can tell my overall outlook is more positive.

Dr. Stan Beecham, sports psychologist and author of Elite Minds says that “Goals that aren’t frightening are not worth having.”  That resonated with me – in two ways.

  • First – I initially saw the Beast Mode class as something that was insurmountable for me. It was something only uber athletes did.  However, I challenged myself to try different classes that may not fit my normal yoga/Pilates love, and increased the frequency of work outs, including cardio and lifting weights, to build up my strength and endurance.  I surprised myself with what I could do.  That confidence and pride kept pushing me to do more.
  • Second, I looked at it like this. I am a 44-year-old professional, wife and mother of two young kids.  What is scarier to me is what can happen if I don’t set some lofty wellness goals and stick to it.  I was at the point where my back was killing me all the time.  I had to lean on something to put pants on.  Walking up a flight of stairs winded me.  I was sick a lot. My clothes were tight.  If this what being inactive at 44 looked like, what would it look like at 54, 64 and 74?  I am happy to report that those problems have lessened significantly.

What I have learned is just do something.  Anything.  Start somewhere and set little goals along the way to your big one.  Celebrate your successes.  Try different things.  You don’t have to be a member of a gym or pay lots of money for a boutique workout experience, but you have to get moving.

Last New Year’s Eve when I was reflecting on what I wanted the next year of my life to be like, I came across two quotes that really struck me.

  • “Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods.”
  • “Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.”

For your life to change for the better, you have to do something different.  Starting and staying on a wellness journey, while challenging, is an investment in yourself. It will positively affect all aspects of your life.  You just have to take the first step.