..but we’ll just go ahead and jump right in to something I’ve been thinking about long and hard this weekend:
I need to slow it down.
My work stress (and to a certain degree personal stress, but slightly less-so) is high right now. Like, so high my blood pressure is over 90-something over 60-something for the first time in a really long time. So high that panic attacks are becoming a fairly regular thing. So high that I find myself stress bingeing while simultaneously hyper-focused on “starting a diet” and calorie counting. Nutshell? I’m desperate for control. I can’t control work, I can’t control these few personal stressors, but I can control my body, right?!
Negative, Ghost Rider.
I can’t control my body any more than I can control whether or not Donald Trump takes to Twitter with yet another imbecile and childish rant.
One of the things that I’ve found solace in this year has been hiking. I’ve been hiking almost every weekend despite heat, cold, rain or shine. Lately 7-10 miles at a time has become normal.
Yesterday I hiked around 8 miles on a group hike. Half was blazed trail, half was undefined trail – essentially, just cutting through the woods in a general direction. I came home pretty exhausted, but didn’t think much of it since I hadn’t slept as much as I should have the night before and had just started my period. Fatigue didn’t seem surprising. I passed out on the couch for about an hour… and woke up sick. Hacking a lung, running low fever, achy, grumpy.
What’s somewhat ironic about this is that throughout this entire hike I was thinking to myself, “I need to chill out with these long hikes. They eat up 5-6 hours of my Saturday and/or Sunday every week between driving to and from the trail-head and then the hike itself, not only taking time away from the kids, but wiping me out to the point where grocery shopping doesn’t get done and Mike is left to do almost all the weekend chores. Plus the additional physical stress on top of the emotional and mental stress while not being able to compensate with extra rest and relaxation – this is an injury or sickness waiting to happen. Not cool, Jess.”
I’m crazy lucky to have a super supportive husband who doesn’t bat an eye at my wanting to spend this large chunks of time trudging through the woods every weekend in pursuit of mental and physical health. But what I started ruminating on was, is it really “healthy” if I’m putting myself in a position to be unable to spend quality time with my family and friends outside of the hiking? Not really. And it’s certainly not healthy when doing these long hikes is just adding stress to my existing stress. My body doesn’t know the difference between physical and emotional stressors. It’s all stress to the body and the immune system. As someone who works full-time, the weekends are my only time to really chill out; to sleep a little extra, to spend bulk time reading or writing, to see friends, to get some extra things done around the house to avoid feeling overwhelmed during the work week… but I haven’t really been doing any of those things. And I’ve almost completely stopped socializing on weekends because, after spending the whole day on the trail, I just want to sit around and do nothing and spend time with my husband who’s been left alone with our kids all day long.
TL;DR: It’s time to find my Minimum Effective Dose when it comes to weekend exercise.
I strength train 3 times each week, I try to walk 3-5 miles every day, and then try to get at least one hike in each weekend. If that hike is 8 or 10 miles, that’s a LOT. A lot a lot. And it’s become too much. It’s time to reel it in and limit the miles and hours I’m putting into these hikes. Maybe give myself 3 hours total for commuting and then the actual hiking. See how I feel with this. Say I get 5 miles in, but I still feel too wiped out to do anything else for the rest of the day – then maybe 5 miles is too much for now. I want to hike and feel energized when I’m done, not completely depleted.
Being in the midst of a special project at work along with my normal “busy season” workload, I won’t be able to get my daily walks in and I may not even be able to hit all my strength training sessions over the next 2-3 weeks – but that doesn’t mean I need “make it up” on the weekend with long, exhausting hikes. It means I need to focus on getting lots of sleep, eating nutritious meals, and managing my stress with downtime. When things calm down a bit, I can return to my normal routine. And that’s some thing I can and do look forward to.