I live in Kalispell, Montana, where we are blessed with amazing outdoor recreation opportunities. In summer months, I spend a lot of time hiking in Glacier National Park in the most breathtaking areas where frequent run-ins with wildlife run the gamut: marmots and mountain goats, and yes, even bears. Once we ran into three grizzlies as we were traversing across a very steep and craggy mountainside. When my husband recounts the story, he talks of how they were so close he could see the whites of their “fingernails.” It was scary, empowering, and humbling all at once.
In winter, I get to snowboard and snowmobile in wintertime playgrounds where trees covered in white snow known as “snow ghosts” make you feel like you are in some kind of spectacular Dr. Seuss wonderland. Afternoon runs down Whitefish Mountain’s “Russ’s Street” viewed through the amber lens of my snow goggles are stunning sights to behold.
I work hard during the week to stay on top of my health-and-fitness-game so that I can charge into the weekend ready for these outdoor activities that I love so much. I strive to fit in exercise, get to bed at a decent hour, and eat healthy food. But, if I am not mindful, I know it’s possible to get all the boxes checked without any real adherence to the quality of each component.
Even as a fitness trainer that knows better, I have occasionally been guilty of surfing Instagram while I ride the exercise bike. I indulge, too often, in less-than-healthy treats from the diner near my work. I make time for at least eight hours of shut-eye, but unless I shut my cat out of the bedroom, I have a furry visitor interrupting my REM cycles several times a night.
To top matters off, it’s summertime in Montana, which means squeezing in as much fun as possible into a few months that go by in the blink of an eye (rest when you are dead, right?). Well, that is not exactly a good health strategy. That’s what makes this an uber-important time of year for a wellness check-in and tune-up! Don’t worry, I won’t ask you to do a massive overhaul to your lifestyle. Let’s just check into the quality of what you are already doing.
Quality Food – Making sure your diet is comprised of real food is a no-brainer, but in this day and age, with processed foods everywhere we turn, it can take a little attentiveness to ensure we are putting quality food into our bodies. A great place to start is by stocking up on fruits and vegetables, organic if possible. It’s a great time of year to peruse the farmer’s market for affordable organic produce or consider investing in a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture).
Also, be wary of alcohol intake over the summer. I know from personal experience that nothing can derail a plan for a healthy weekend like overindulging in booze. Not only do you have all the calories from the alcohol, but once the effects of the alcohol take hold and inhibitions fall by the wayside, it is easy to ingest an entire bag of potato chips without even noticing.
Quality Workouts – It’s hard enough to carve time out for exercise, so you can make sure every minute counts by staying mindful through your workouts. For example, use music to drive intensity in your cardio activities. During strength building, lift weights that are heavy enough to challenge you and focus on engaging the muscle doing the work. Vary your exercise routine to help you stay physically challenged and keep you from plateauing.
Quality Sleep – As anyone with insomnia knows, spending time in bed and getting quality sleep are not necessarily synonymous. The blue light from televisions and cell phones can interfere with melatonin production, so I recommend installing an app that will automatically reduce the blue light on your device at sunset. There are obviously many other factors that can affect sleep. If you feel you are struggling, definitely have a conversation with your doctor to get to the bottom of it.
Quality Relationships – Interacting with your friends on Facebook is not the same as spending quality time together. You have likely already heard about the studies indicating that social media is making us feel more alone than ever. The solution is obvious: make sure you are spending real time with real people. You don’t have to give up social media altogether, but do a periodic check-in with yourself to determine if your time spent on social media is bringing you enjoyment. If not, don’t waste time cutting it back.
Stress Reduction – The coronavirus threat has made this year a difficult one to keep stress in check. Augment the challenge of keeping stress in check with the desire to squeeze in all the summer activities, and it can be really easy to overtax your parasympathetic nervous system, which needs rest in order to do its reset duties. Pay special attention this time of year that you are taking adequate time for yourself to rest and recover each week.
Summers in Montana are fast and furious, and too precious to waste. You can get the maximum enjoyment out of your summer activities by staying on top of your wellness game. Use this list to get you started brainstorming where you can make other enhancements to what you are already doing for health and fitness. Lots of little changes can really add up to big gains for a memorable, healthy summer!
Authored by Mindy Cochran. Mindy is the founder of Kalispell’s Levitation Nation Aerial Studio, where the catchphrase “fitness is fun” is embodied alongside a culture of movement & women empowerment. Mindy believes that “The Real Levitation Experience” lies within elevating your health & wellness. Mindy loves to share the expertise she has acquired through her certifications as a personal trainer, nutrition coach, and life coach. For more about Mindy, please visit www.levitationnation.org/mindy.