When it comes to staying fit, you’re dialed into the lifestyle: you show up for your workout at five p.m., train like hell, and follow it up with a nutritious meal. But you know it takes more than consistent workouts and healthy eating to perform at your best. And if you find yourself in a rut—struggling through workouts you would normally rock, recovering at a snail’s pace, or no longer seeing results—the cause isn’t always in front of your face. If your fitness is suffering, perhaps one of these five health concerns is the root cause of your workout woes:
Is this you? Signs of dehydration include headaches, dizziness, sluggishness, stress, and of course, thirst. Another telltale sign is the color of your urine. Dark yellow indicates you need to drink up—the clearer, the better.
What to do: Don’t get thirsty. If you’re feeling even a bit parched, you’re up to two percent dehydrated, and may already start to experience the cognitive effects of dehydration. Break the day into four blocks of time (wake up to mid-morning, mid-morning to lunch, lunch time to mid-afternoon, and mid-afternoon to evening) and drink 16 ounces (two cups) of water during each block. Set an alarm or download the Daily Water app to remind yourself to sip regularly.
A five percent loss of total body weight in H20 decreases optimal work capacity by up to 30 percent.
Is this you? Stomach cramps or pains, nausea, bloating and other signs of digestive distress after noshing a protein bar, energy gel, juice bar concoction or other packaged health food could indicate you’re overdoing them, or that you’re sensitive to a particular ingredient.
What to do: Read labels carefully. Look for ingredients such as whole grains, nuts, fruit, and natural sweeteners (such as organic honey or pure maple syrup). Avoid products containing partially hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial coloring and flavors. If it has at least five grams of fiber (this is a good sign that the bar has complex carbohydrates), less than eight grams of sugar (eight grams equals two teaspoons), and zero grams of trans fats, it’s probably a good choice. Better yet, plan ahead and prepare a snack—even the best bars can’t beat a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts in terms of nutrition.
Is this you? Recurring injuries arise even when you’ve modified your fitness regime or taken time off to allow an injury to heal, and then returned to your normal routine. If you try to achieve a previous level of performance too quickly after returning from an injury, the pain is more likely to come back with a vengeance.
What to do: It’s easy to get stuck in injury cycles when you don’t change up your fitness program to accommodate the problem, notes Greenfield. “It can be psychologically uncomfortable to step outside of the comfort zone of our routine, ” he says. “We have to break the cycle somehow and find other things that satisfy our movement craving.” Returning from a running injury? Greenfield suggests trying a few weeks of aqua jogging, mobility exercises, and yoga instead of pounding the pavement right away.
Is this you? Signs of sleep deprivation include waking up after a typical night’s sleep not feeling restored and refreshed, feeling tired or sluggish throughout the day, memory problems, or trouble concentrating.
What to do: “Sleeping eight hours a night will improve overall well-being,” says family physician Mike Hart. “It also decreases the chances of acquiring serious medical illnesses like breast cancer and heart disease.” Try to finish workouts before 6pm, he suggests. “Late night workouts stimulate the adrenals and wreck havoc on the body’s ability to sleep.”
Did you know? Just one week of abnormal sleeping habits can dramatically affect the activity of genes associated with stress response, immunity and inflammation.
Is this you? Stress manifests in different forms and in a variety of cognitive, emotional, physical, or behavioural ways. Negative effects of chronic stress could be anxiety, nervous habits such as nail biting or pacing, fatigue, irritability, frequent illness, digestive issues, and even loss of sex drive.
What to do: Find an outlet. Journaling, taking walks in nature, creating realistic to-do lists, talking with a friend or therapist, yoga, and meditation can combat chronic stress. In fact, expert yogi and healer Julie Piatt, believes that “meditation is the single most powerful practice for balancing and aligning one’s life.” Julie suggests a simple yet powerful technique called “follow your breath.” Sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position (for 5-30 minutes) with the spine aligned with the lower back, heart, and crown of the head. Follow this breathing cycle: close the eyes and inhale the breath slowly and deeply, at the top of the inhale, pause, exhale slowly and completely, and then at the bottom of the exhale pause again.