Training for a marathon while working as a flight attendant is challenging to say the least. My training plan needs to be as flexible as I, especially on reserve months (like this one for me). I often joke with my friends saying my mental toughness portion of marathon training is flying. I ran just over 15 miles this past week, biked 20 miles, and flew over 13,000! You know how a triathlon race is Swim/Bike/Run? Well it’s more like Bike/Run/Fly for me.
Trying to get your workout in while crossing your fingers that you don’t get an assignment until after you have finished exercising, is as nerve racking as watching Bear Grylls getting inches away from an aggressive, man-eating salt water crocodile. How unsettling is it to finally get into the groove of your workout only to hear that oh-so-special Crew Schedule Ring Tone. Your whole world changes. You now have what feels like one milli-second to hop in the shower, put on your uniform, throw your hair into a semi-wet bun, do your makeup in your car, cross your fingers that you have your suitcase packed right, all while trying to remember where the voice on the other end said they were sending you. “Oh well, I’ll figure it out when I get on the plane.”
Trust me, I know first hand that the ‘struggle is real’ when it comes to keeping fit while flying. There are different obstacles for different levels of fitness. If you want to start exercising, and working out for the first time in your life, you have a completely different combination of challenges than someone who may have stayed moderately fit their whole life, but is new to flying. Flight crew, and travelers who would consider themselves very fit, but are looking for new fitness pursuits, will have even more unique challenges. It doesn’t matter what level of fitness you are currently at- the key is to focus on your goal, and know that changes in ones’ fitness level takes time, patience, and dedication. Here’s some advice to help you get started with your fitness, or kick it up a notch.
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If your fitness level is nonexistent, low, or inconsistent:
Obstacle 1: Finding motivation- Motivation can come from many sources. Maybe your doctor gave you a warning regarding your cholesterol or sugar levels, or you saw a photo of yourself from your cousins wedding and your muffin top didn’t look as unnoticeable as you hoped. Maybe you would like to have more energy to keep up with your children or grandchildren, or you just want to look, and feel strong. Whatever that motivation is, write it down in a notebook or journal. Next to your motivation, write clear, specific goals;
- Lose 15 pounds
- Get 30 minutes of activity 3x a week
- lower my LDL (bad cholesterol) by 10% and increase my HDL(good cholesterol) by 15%
- eat more fruits and veggies
In that same notebook, attach inspirational photos of activities you would love to accomplish, and words, or quotes that inspire you. Keep up with this journal daily or weekly. Write how you feel before your exercise, and how you feel after. Know that it gets easier with time. The free website buddyslim.com allows you to join a world-wide community to blog, share photos, goals, and more with others looking to lose weight and/or get in shape. You will quickly connect with very encouraging men and women. This site is a great place of support, and accountability for those who need it.
Obstacle 2: Figuring out where and how to start- Fitness does not have to be complicated. Just adding 15-30 minute power walks around your block, pool walking, light yoga, light weights, or body weight exercises such as sit-ups, push-ups, squats, and lunges during commercial breaks make a difference over time. Try one of the free apps that I recommend. Find a YouTube video. Buy a workout DVD. Start slow with something that you enjoy. Make a playlist of songs that you love to listen to during exercise. Your body will let you know when it is ready for a bigger challenge. Going out too hard, too fast could cause injury or muscle strain. These pains and injuries can take quite some time to go away, so start out slow, and steady.
Obstacle 3: Lack of confidence in your ability to reach your goals- Trying something new can be intimidating, and sometimes scary. Maybe you feel silly, or worry that people will judge you. This is what I always call the ‘Catch 22’ part of fitness. It’s hard to get going, and you are motivated purely by results– which take time. No, it is not easy at first, and setbacks will happen. We may have wings, but we are all still human. Results are not instantaneous. Do not become obsessed with a scale, and base your results on a number. Celebrate. Every. Small. Victory. You had a rough 14 hour day flying, and still got in your scheduled, 30 minute power walk around the hotel? BE PROUD! You were so jet-lagged that you didn’t get your walk in, but you did a 15 minute abdominal workout? YES! Those small victories add up, and DO make a difference. The more you keep it up, the easier it will become, and the faster you will see results. Keep in mind that others will notice changes before you will. The more your body becomes accustomed to your new lifestyle, the more it will accept it as a daily requirement. Keep it up, and don’t give up. You are so much stronger than you think you are.
If your fitness level is medium, or inconsistent:
Obstacle 1: It never seems like I have enough time- Maybe you were once very active but then you started flying, or had children. These two time suckers make you feel like you can never get in enough of a workout to make a difference. First off, every little bit counts. Keep a fitness log, or journal to manage your workouts before you can change your mind. Write down all home, and work obligations first that cannot be disregarded;
- 3 day trip,
- Son’s soccer game
- Doctor’s appointment
- School play
- Bridal shower.
Then, look at every bit of time between those obligations, and find out where to slip in your workouts. Are your kids in school during the day? Maybe you can take a class at your local gym. Home with the baby without a sitter? Do parent/baby yoga, peek-a-boo push-ups, jog with the stroller, or go for a walk, and do lunges or squats every few minutes. Even if you encourage yourself to do mini workouts scattered throughout the day (10 minutes of yoga in the morning, 10 minutes of jump rope after lunch, 5 minutes of lunges and squats mid-afternoon, etc…) it all adds up! Be creative, and make it fun!
Obstacle 2: I used to have motivation, but I lost it- Get it back! What did you love best about being active? Was it how you looked, felt, the way it made you feel? Maybe it was all of the above and more. Find a new goal. A goal that will spark some excitement back in you. Sign up for a race, or competition and tell all of your friends and family so that you will have accountability. Join an adult softball league, as a fill in player, so when you are in town, you can join in for a pick-up game. Find a class that you can take a few times a week, that is offered several times a day, so that no matter what your flying schedule may be, it’s always available (yoga, boxing, CrossFit, Zumba, spinning). Find a reliable workout partner to join you- possibly another flight attendant, or travel buddy to story swap, and laugh over your crazy week while breaking a sweat. Keep track of your progress, because seeing progress, and results is always a confidence booster. Once that spark is back, and you have been bitten by the fitness bug again, there will be no turning back!
If your fitness level is high:
Obstacle 1: I am bored with my routine- Just like the fit fly guys, and gals in the above category, you need to re-ignite that spark! Keep with the fitness hobbies you enjoy, but spice it up a bit. Try something new. Have you ever been rock climbing? Find an indoor, or outdoor rock climbing wall. Live by the water? Master the stand-up paddle board, surfboard, or find a swim coach, and become one with the water. Live in a mountainous area? Buy a pack, and start hiking with weight to add intensity. Learn to kayak, buy a road bike, or sign up for a running race, and train your cute little flight attendant butt off. Do whatever you can to switch things up once in a while. When you find that “new thing” that pumps you up, show it who’s boss!
Obstacle 2: I am too scared to try something new- Once you become comfortable in a routine, it may be intimidating to try something new. The first time I took a spinning class, I didn’t understand any of the lingo, didn’t know how to set up my bike properly, and could barely keep up. When I thought for sure I was going to drown in my own sweat, I took a peek at the clock: “It’s only been 15 minutes? That was just the warm up?!” I felt like getting up right then and there, bolting out of the gym, never to be seen again. Instead, I turned down all resistance and faked the intensity for the rest of the class. When the other people grunted in pain while climbing a hill, I grunted. When they grabbed a swig of water, I swigged along. The end of the class finally arrived, and I swore I would never return. I came back a week later for my second beating. I arrived 15 minutes early, and chatted with the instructor. He taught me how to properly set up my bike, gave me a tutorial on the lingo, tips on posture, and a high five for coming back. This time I felt less intimidated, more included, and more confident. I still felt like I was going to die after 15 minutes, but after coming back a few more times, my body became more and more accustomed, and the class became much easier. So, when things get tough, or scary, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It just means you may need a little help, and a little time to become good at it. Nothing that’s worth it is ever easy in the beginning.
Next week, I will introduce you to my very eclectic workout playlist, as well as recommend some interesting websites that help you find your appropriate heart rate beats per minute (BPM), and why it’s important.
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