I’ve heard it more this year than ever before, “We don’t have a free weekend until after Labor Day!”
Summer breaks serve a purpose: Time to refresh, relax and prepare our minds and bodies for what lies ahead. Between kids’ sports, weddings, family vacations and summer camps we are left with little time to sit back, put our feet up, and enjoy a cold beverage “on the rocks” (preferably water but we will save that article for later). Are we defeating the purpose? Can we have so much “fun” on our plates that we are increase our stress rather than reducing it? And how, with little to no free time, are we expected to fit in workouts and meal preparation?
First, don’t be afraid to say no. I realize this is a case where it is “easier said than done” but keep in mind, you will be a better (wife, father, daughter, friend, etc.) if you take time for yourself and do not stretch your time too thin. You do not have to attend every barbeque. If your kids don’t go to five summer camps, it is okay. On vacation, don’t fill each day with activities; instead, leave some “lounge time.” Children experience burnout just like adults. Limit their activities to the two or three they really enjoy and ensure there is some off-time in their schedules. All of this should be fun, not stressful.
When it comes to workouts, think short and intense vs. long and slow. Instead of running for an hour, do sprints for twenty minutes. When weight training, work in supersets or circuits by moving quickly between exercises with minimal rest periods. Do some “double duty” by working in plyometrics (think jump squats, burpees, and jumping jacks) while at the park with your kids or watching their sport practices. Make exercising a family activity by letting your kids bike beside you while you run, or ride on your back while hiking. Older children will love joining in your fitness routine as well. It’s never too early to teach them all the benefits exercise has to offer.
Nutrition is both tougher and easier during summer. Vacations, travel and outings with family and friends may be nutritionally challenging, but warmer weather also means lighter fare and busy schedules mean less boredom eating. This however is only true if you make sure to prep your food ahead of time. Have some free time on the weekend? Cook your proteins and carbohydrates, chop your vegetables, and portion your servings of healthy fats. This might include cooking chicken breasts, browning lean ground turkey breast, preparing brown rice and yams, chopping salad greens and celery sticks, bagging up almonds and measuring out your peanut butter. This way there are no excuses. When you leave the house, always pack one more meal than you think you will need, and on long car trips, take along items that do not need refrigeration (e.g., tuna cups, nuts, plain rice cakes, fruit, protein powders).
Will you have an ice cream cone? Probably! Will there be pizza nights or smores over the fire? I hope so! Just make sure these are “sometimes” events and not “all the time” events. Perfection is no fun, and it’s not worth having the body of your dreams if you cannot live in it. Just be mindful, enjoy in moderation, be active, and focus more on the company than the food.
I want you to live a little this summer, sit back and take time to breathe. Don’t let the summer go by and then ask yourself “where did that go?” You don’t need to spend hours in the gym, overload
your planner, or enroll your children in every activity under the sun. Sometimes the best summer days are spent together, with no plans, just enjoying each other and Mother Nature.
Lindsey Woodkey of Ellensburg is a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor with
bachelors’ degrees in exercise science and nutrition from Central Washington University.