Balancing act: Master it before you fall down

Balancing is hard. (I’m talking metaphorical balance – and if you are disappointed I’m not talking about a physical balancing exercise, scroll down and, voila!, just for you, a balance exercise!)

Every so often I get myself way out of balance and then something happens to shake me up so that I get back on track. I just had a wake-up call and I thought maybe you could relate.

So, yes, I’ve been busy and despite the fact it’s high on my to-do list, I have ignored this blog. It’s not that I’ve been neck-deep in any particular project, it’s more that I have a lot of things going on: my gym’s bodybuilding team has two competitions this month; I’m almost finished an intensive certification and am about to tackle another; I’m running a “spring cleaning” fitness challenge; I’m writing fitness programs for online clients and have my one-on-one personal training clients. Plus, I’ve got to do final edits on the biggest magazine story I’ve written in years, and I’ve just started my own competition prep phase.

There’s more (boring stuff like taxes and taking my car in for a tune-up and mopping the floor and keeping the websites updated and blahblahblah) but whatever, my head is spinning.

And when your head is spinning, you can fall down, metaphorically and physically. You forget stuff. You ignore stuff. You prioritize and things fall by the wayside. And then you feel like you are falling short on most things, because your focus is so scattered. You lose sleep, and if you’re me, looking at your to-do list causes you to need an immediate nap. Worst case scenario, you can even get sick.

When your life is out of whack – whether it’s too little doing (been there, too!) or too much, or too little outer focus and not enough inner, or whatever your unique brand of imbalance is – well, you need to do something about it before you are forced to. (This isn’t my first too-busy rodeo – pneumonia got me a couple years ago and it wasn’t pretty.)

Some of us let our fitness go when we’re feeling out of whack. I know I’ve given my workouts a little less lately, just because I’ve had less (mentally and physically) to give. I’ve placed a few less-than-healthy dinner takeout orders. But it struck me the other day that the absolute worst part of all this is that I’ve been looking ahead at the calendar, wishing for the next month to be over so I could (theoretically) settle down.

Why is that the worst thing? It’s because I have no interest in wishing my life away. My parents both died too young – in fact, I’ve already outlived my dad. Several of my friends are helping to care for terminally ill parents. It’s a cliché, but our days are few. Once you’ve reached a certain age, when you’re pretty sure you’ve already lived more than half your life, you become even more aware of this fact. Why would we ever want to wish our days to fly by?

Instead of another bout of pneumonia (knock wood), I’m letting this feeling be my wake-up call. It’s time to find some balance – find some space. Can you relate?

I know this: Eating right and working out make me feel better. Exercising is proven to ease stress and can even trump anti-depressants for releasing the feel-good chemicals in the brain. So despite the fact I feel time-crunched, I’m amping up my efforts in that area. Other, less-important, matters can wait.

Importantly, I’m evaluating everything in my life and getting rid of those things that make me tune out (sorry, Bravo Network, I love you but you don’t love me back). And I’m vowing not to let the urgent get in the way of the important (as per the workouts mentioned above).

The hardest part of all this is fighting my Type A tendency to want to do everything at once, perfectly, the first time, right now.

So, enough about me … remember: fitness isn’t just about the gym. One of my Facebook workout buddies just wrote about how, after a series of crises and life stresses, she felt like she was back to square one, feeling tired, bloated and frustrated. She didn’t know where to start. I suggested she just start, anyway. For her, starting could be sitting outside and getting some fresh air, or drinking a little extra water, or having a piece of fruit instead of the cookie or cracker we think will comfort us (it never does, does it?). It might mean taking a walk. It doesn’t mean having to kill a set of deadlifts or run a 7-minute mile.

Those first few starting steps can seem paltry when we’re inundated with messages urging us for more-harder-faster-bigger-better-stronger. Trust me, some of those more-bigger-harder people likely are making a lot of physical noise to tune out some other unbalanced mental/emotional/spiritual din in their lives. Don’t listen to them. It’s your life and you know what you need to do better than anyone to get back into “whack.”

Starting is hard when you feel older, chunkier, less-fit than you used to. Starting is hard when everyone is pressing you to do things for them. Find a quiet space. Listen to yourself.

And then start, and gradually, you will find that equilibrium. (At least I’m telling myself that today, as the laundry churns downstairs, the hard copy of my magazine article sits next to me on the desk, and I have a training client awaiting me in less than 90 minutes.)

Here is your bonus balance exercise: Stand next to a wall or counter to use it as support if necessary. Stand on one foot. Close your eyes. Count to ten before you open your eyes. Hard, huh? Try it on the other foot. Practice till you can go for 10 seconds on each side. As I tell my senior clients, it’s important to do this so if you get up in the middle of the night to take trip, you don’t trip, if you know what I mean.

Wendy Watkins

About Wendy Watkins

Wendy Watkins is a Brewer-based personal trainer and author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Losing 20 Pounds in 2 Months. Visit her website at wendyfitness.com.