ARLINGTON, Va. -- You and I have more in common than you imagine. I am not a personal trainer or a certified aerobics instructor. And I am certainly not a professional athlete or a CrossFit coach. I am actually just like most of you: doing my best each day to live a healthy lifestyle, which includes being physically fit.
Master Sgt. Jennifer Loredo blogs for Operation Live Well.
I’ve had my fair share of challenges incorporating physical fitness into my life. I’ve given birth to two children. I have a very demanding profession. I’ve dealt with injuries. And I’ve sacrificed and lost loved ones. All of these challenges, both physical and emotional, have affected me throughout my adult life, personally, as a mother and as a leader, resulting in my getting off track in my exercise routine. So what do I do? For me, the three factors that consistently keep (or get) me on track are (1) routine, (2) proper amount of sleep, and (3) goal setting.
I’m pretty sure my first -- let’s call it “speed bump” -- showed up when I became pregnant with my now 16-year-old daughter. Everyone said, “You get to eat for two,” and I believed them. But I learned very quickly that was not a healthy way to eat during my pregnancy. In addition, I got hardly any exercise, and I ended up gaining 50 pounds of unwanted weight. Now I had an infant who didn’t sleep through the night for the first 11 months, and there you have it: a working, overweight, exhausted new mother who didn’t quite understand what had just happened.
I realized I needed some serious work; I just wasn’t sure how to reach my destination. Obviously I longed to be the fit woman I was nine months before, but that wasn’t going to happen overnight. It took me almost a year to get to this point, and I had to remind myself of that regularly. I needed to get back into my routine and quickly! I find that when I operate on a routine I am able to plan and accomplish more, including workouts. I eat healthier meals, and I get more sleep.
I realized I needed to listen to my body. If my body was telling me I needed sleep, and I had the opportunity, I should take it. Sleep affects performance. And if you don’t get enough sleep, your performance suffers at work and at home. Sleeping was a challenge those first few months with an infant. I had to make it a priority to ensure I was taking care of myself so that I could take care of my family.
I came up with the idea to start by setting a few mini-goals that would get me back on track. Although I hoped to ultimately get back to my pre-pregnancy weight and fitness level, these smaller goals seemed easier to achieve initially. For example, going to an aerobics class three days a week with a friend; doing 20 pushups or sit-ups every other hour; and allowing myself to eat out just once a week, were smaller and less intimidating goals. I also hung a picture of my pre-pregnancy self at home and in my office at work. This was a realistic and consistent reminder that I could do it.
Fast forward 10 years to my second pregnancy; this time I knew to do things differently. I kept a routine, prioritized sleep and set goals for myself early on during the pregnancy, which included eating healthy foods and exercising four to five times a week. This approach was beneficial in many ways. I didn’t gain a ton of weight and was much stronger, which helped during labor. I didn’t have to work nearly as hard or long to get back on track after the baby was born.
Keeping It Real
So what can you do? For those of you who are managing a juggling act just like I am, I want to start by saying: You can do it! Remember the three components to staying on track: (1) establish a routine, (2) ensure you get the proper amount of sleep, and (3) set realistic goals. To help you get started, here are some quick workouts – no equipment required!
Alternate between pushups, burpees and sit-ups continuously for five minutes. (For example, start with pushups and do as many as possible. When tired, immediately begin burpees and then sit-ups. Continue the cycle until five minutes has elapsed.)
Find the nearest staircase. Run up and down three to five flights of stairs, touching each step. Repeat one to two times.
In the evening while your children are brushing their teeth or completing some other task that takes a few minutes, get in the plank position. Hold for 30 seconds to two minutes. Take a 30-second break. Repeat.
Is the weather nice? Go for a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood.
I enjoy working out, playing sports and being active. Being physically active is a positive outlet for me, and it transfers very well to my profession as an Army leader and as a mother. But I know that being physically active isn’t always fun and doesn’t come easily to everyone.
I look at my children and want to set an example for them. I remind myself that I am running a marathon, not a sprint, and that I plan to make it to the finish line with a smile on my face.
Master Sgt. Jennifer Loredo, U.S. Army