Do you ever have trouble summoning up the energy for your workouts? While I initially and instinctively only looked at how I was fueling my body to change my energy levels, years of running and hours upon hours on the road gave me a more complete perspective on energy and working to shift things within the body. I have realized that, just like most other changes, having a mind-body-spirit approach to my energy levels provides a more complete, sustainable, and reliable approach to creating permanent change. Here are some tips using that approach to give you powerfully energized workouts each time you lace up your shoes or unroll your mat!
BODY:Eat at least 30 min before your workout: the size of your pre-workout meal is dependent on how much time you have until you begin and the type of activity you are engaging in. The goal is to have something in the bloodstream to utilize for fuel. The higher the impact, the less your body will be able to digest any “leftovers” in the stomach, so go for easily digested, simple foods in small amounts 30-90 minutes before high intensity activities that include sprinting, jumping, and running. Endurance cycling is a little easier on the system and can afford more complex foods such as sandwiches or mini-meals; walking, restorative yoga and qi gong are even less impactful and can often tolerate such foods as well. Each body is unique and may have different responses to timing duration and different foods; track your own results to know what is best for you.
Working out on an empty stomach is counterproductive to maintaining energy levels. No matter how much body fat you carry, it is not as easily accessible a fuel as carbohydrate. If your intensity is high enough, you will run out of available glycogen stores (carbohydrate fuel) before you can utilize enough fat to keep your energy stable. Fasted workouts are best only when short in duration (less than 30 minutes) or of very low intensity and are not appropriate for all individuals.
Your recovery meal allows you to restock depleted muscle stores and have the necessary ingredients to heal and bounce back. Underfeeding will make it harder for you to keep pushing and progressing in fitness, and eventually will lead to injury due to fatigue. To learn exactly how to refuel after a workout, click here to watch my video on refueling after a hard workout or race.
MIND: many years ago I had one of the worst runs in my life; I spent 17 miles ruminating over a really terrible break-up (do not try this at home!). As my mind chewed and chewed over what happened, my pace slowed, my motivation waned, and I started to doubt myself in many other areas of life that were completely unrelated to this relationship. If your workout allows your mind to wander, it is crucial that you be mindful of where your thoughts are going – an argument you had with a co-worker, how the other girl on the mat next to you is so much more flexible than you, the blister forming on your left pinky toe – these thoughts drain you of energy and slow you down. Redirect your thoughts to things you are excited about or recruit your spiritual side and emotions into the picture to get that boost. This supplies extra energy from the dopamine and other neurotransmitters associated with positive mood.
SPIRIT – Oxford Dictionary defines Spirit as “The nonphysical part of a person that is the seat of emotions and character; the soul.” For the purpose of this article, cultivating the spiritual side of your workout involves bringing positive, energizing emotions and experiences to your fitness. Using creative visualization, thinking about what you love, connect to your why: why are you training in the first place? What is the goal you are working toward? SEE that result and feel it in your body during your workout – studies indicate that visualizing our best selves in action leads to greater likelihood of achievement, and that cross body motions increase the connection between right and left brains, linking our literal and creative minds. Using exercise as the time to embody and integrate your exciting goals and aspirations for your future will energize and excite you and may lead to more complete integration and success outcomes of these goals, so spend your time moving envisioning your successful race, your increasing muscle mass and your strong, limber body!
Each of these tools can be integrated immediately, which allows us maximum results with minimum effort – a key piece to sustainable change. I encourage you to continue exploring the dynamic of addressing mind, body, and spirit to each challenge you come across and see how this more holistic approach, and share with me how it goes!