How to be a Morning Person and Why You Should Embrace the Sunrise

For as long as I can remember I’ve been a morning person. I don’t really know how it happened. Was I born that way? Did something happen in my upbringing? Who knows? The fact remains I am at my best at the beginning of the day. They say the “early bird gets the worm,” and some of the most successful executives swear by their morning routines. I agree. I credit much of my success in life to embracing the sunrise. Here are some of my best tips to become a morning person and why they work so well.

  1. Don’t hit snooze. This is the biggest mistake of your morning. Once you hit snooze, it’s all over! You often can’t stop. What’s more, if you fall back asleep, you feel worse when that buzzer goes off again. When your alarm goes off, count to yourself, “3-2-1” and jump out of bed. Just do it! If you struggle with this, move your clock or phone far enough away that you have to physically get out of bed. By the way, if you have a bed partner, they will appreciate you not hitting snooze 10 times. Trust me on this!
  2. Have a morning routine. Identify something or more than one thing you accomplish every morning. Having a reason to get up in the morning and knowing the plan will help you engage with your new day. Make coffee, read the news, exercise, throw in a few loads of laundry…just pick something that you will do each and every day. You’ll be amazed how it jump-starts your productivity!
  3. Workout. I have been a morning workout person for years and one thing I’ve noticed is that the morning gym crowd is the most consistent. Personal trainers will tell you that, too. I think it’s because there is little that gets in the way of a morning workout. After work or school, things come up and you may get off track. But, what else is happening at 6 a.m.? My workout is the first thing I do every day, whether it’s resistance training, Peloton, or an outdoor walk. Getting moving helps wake me up and gets my digestive system going so I can eat a healthy breakfast. Having trouble getting into an exercise routine? Just go for a walk. Even better? Get a dog (or a human friend)!
  4. Plan your morning in the evening. This is probably my best tip. Fail to plan, plan to fail, I always say. The night before, I typically lay out my clothes, including my workout gear. I also prepare my workout supplements, pack my lunch, set my alarm, and review my calendar. This helps me get my head in the game so when I wake up, I can just go. The less I have to use my brain early in the morning and the more I can hardwire my routine, the more successful I am. When I first started getting up early to workout, I even slept in my workout clothes!
  5. Eat. It’s so important to eat something when you wake up. I hate breakfast. I’m often not hungry until I’ve been up a while. I do try to have something, though, whether it’s a cup of yogurt or a whey protein shake. Just something… and you can even grab and go, choosing a healthy Starbucks order or a protein bar from your pantry.

All these tips are from my own experience. After so many years, my routine is so set that if I try to change it, it’s difficult! In fact, I often wake before my alarm now. You CAN change your body clock and your approach to mornings. It just takes repetition and time. I think it’s well worth the effort to try.

How to Stay Motivated to Exercise (Hint: You don’t!)

Motivation. The Holy Grail. When you have it, you know it. Firing on all cylinders you are a machine, checking things off and taking names. When you don’t have it, you feel lazy, overwhelmed by not getting anything done and, at times, depressed and dejected. The truth is, we can’t be motivated all the time. Life just isn’t that way despite what you see on social media. Even fitness influencers lose their mojo once in a while. So, how in the world can you stay motivated to exercise? Well, you don’t. But, there is a way to make sure you stay connected and engaged even when you aren’t necessarily feeling it.

  1. Try to establish a regular routine. If you can exercise at a regular interval, you will have much better success continuing to work out even when you are not motivated. Experts say you build a habit once you’ve done something for 21 days. More simply, if you can stick to a routine for a month (not necessarily a daily one), you typically can stick with it beyond that timeframe. It’s best to choose a day/time that you know you won’t have a conflict. Personal trainers who work in gyms will tell you that the people who show up first thing in the morning are the most consistent gym goers… and it’s easy to see why. There isn’t anything standing in their way (besides the alarm clock). If you can get up, you can work out. There isn’t likely to be anything that would usurp that time. Find that time for you. When are you always free? Start there. Then, when you aren’t motivated, you just go anyway. Just like going to work when you really just want to binge Netflix and eat chips all day.
  2. Track it. Keep track of your exercise and progress. It helps you see how far you’ve come and where you need to go next. I use the back of my planner to write out all my workouts and keep track of the weights I use. Having to mark it down keeps me accountable plus it’s a great way to see improvement and celebrate your success. If you like to bullet journal or are competitive, set goals for yourself and track them, too. For example, if you want to lift weights three days a week, mark that down and check it off. Give yourself a reward when you do it!
  3. Together we stand. Find a partner in crime who either goes to the gym with you or who you can call or FaceTime to hold you accountable for being there. Try to pair up with someone who you will be ashamed to let down. Someone you want to make proud! It helps, believe me! If you can’t find someone, consider posting on social media either in a like-minded group or just to your own followers. Checking in to a location on Facebook is a quick easy way to publicly hold yourself accountable for showing up, even when you don’t want to. Your followers just may call you out when they don’t see that check in pop into their feed and that may be all the motivation you need!

These three tips have been key to my success over the years. At this point, when I don’t exercise first thing, the whole day just feels “off” somehow. And you don’t have to wait until a major milestone to start doing any of this. Start tomorrow, next Monday, next month, or next year. Just start. And if you keep going, no matter what. You will stay the course, motivated or not. You got this!

 

How to Add Cardio to Your Resistance Training Program

Despite popular belief the best way to stay fit and maintain a healthy weight is NOT endless cardio. Resistance training is the end all be all for that. But, that being said, does cardio harm your muscle gains? Not exactly and it depends!

Here’s a basic explanation. When you do nothing but cardio, your body learns to adapt and it tries to make itself as lean as it can to make the cardio easier for your body to accomplish. This is the opposite of what resistance training does. With training, you send a strong signal to your body to build muscle. So, the two “can” be at odds with one another. Still, cardio is the best way to train your heart muscle, and it helps build overall endurance, so it should be an essential part of your routine.

As someone who struggles to pack on muscle (and keep it on), I tend to limit my cardio. There have been times where I haven’t done it at all. A half hour walk twice per day is all I’ve done for weeks on end. Recently, though, I purchased a Peloton for my home gym and I really enjoy riding! In fact, I have to force myself not to ride every day because it does impact my lifts, tiring my muscles. How am I fitting it into my routine? Below are a few options to consider:

  1. Ride on rest days. If you do this, keep in mind that not every ride should be a burner. Mix in some low impact, too, so you don’t overdo it and ruin your stamina for your heavy lift days.
  2. Ride at the end of your resistance training workout. Depending on the type of lift you could choose a HIIT ride as a finisher, or a cooldown or beginner ride if you need something less taxing.
  3. Ride at the opposite end of the day from when you train. If you lift in the morning, ride in the evening. Still, this could be too much for your body so listen to those aching muscles and if you get too sore and/or you can’t lift as much, cut back.

My sweet spot appears to be two to three rides per week, all on rest days. I am still doing beginner and low impact rides for the most part and not overly taxing my body. I’ve noticed that my legs are stronger and more shapely since I started the rides. They are so fun, too, and completely different from the solo training I usually do.

Bottom line? You can do cardio and resistance training. You just have to be smart about it and not let one overpower the other. Staying in tune with your body is key. Happy riding (and lifting)!

How to Have a Healthy Thanksgiving

It’s here–well, it’s been here for a while, if you pay attention to retail–the holiday season! It’s a time when all the goodies and treats are plentiful and the atmosphere is light. If you’re not careful, you overdo it, only to recommit to a crazy diet and dry January right afterwards! But, it doesn’t have to be this way.

You don’t have to go off the rails to enjoy your holiday season. Let’s take Thanksgiving, for example. It’s one day but it’s a big day when it comes to all the calories. Still, it’s possible to indulge without blowing your whole nutrition plan. Here are a few tips that might help:

  1. Eat a very light breakfast. Knowing that you are going to have a huge meal later in the day, plan to eat a lighter breakfast. A high protein meal is best. Think protein shake or smoothie, bacon and eggs, or Greek yogurt parfait. You just need something to break the fast of the night and to get your metabolism going. The protein will help satiate you so you aren’t starving by the time dinner rolls around.
  2. Exercise. Today is a good day to burn some calories to make room for your big meal. A long walk, resistance training, or even a Turkey Trot are all great options. Get up and get going!
  3. Choose healthy appetizers. If your host is serving appetizers prior to the main meal, choose wisely. Typically you will find vegetable trays or olives. If there is cheese and crackers, limit yourself to a little bit. Don’t go overboard! Maybe fill one plate and call it quits. 
  4. Drink responsibly. If alcohol is being served, go easy. Try to limit yourself to only a drink or two. If there is seltzer, choose that. The bubbly not only will settle your stomach, but also will help you feel fuller, limiting the amount of food you eat. If you must drink, make sure you hydrate. A good rule of thumb is to have one glass of water for every alcoholic drink.
  5. Pay attention to your plate. During meal time, choose your food wisely. Typically you will see vegetables or even cranberry sauce on the menu. These are healthy (well the sauce might have sugar in it but mostly healthy)! And you don’t need to put piles of mashed potatoes on your plate. A fist-sized portion is plenty! Choose your serving sizes carefully. You should be able to fit your food on your plate without it looking like a mountain of food! You can always have leftovers later!
  6. Time for dessert. It would not be Thanksgiving without pies. Have a small slice and hold the whipped cream, if you’re worried about the calories. Or choose a lighter dessert, if one is available. Typically your most calorie dense pies are pumpkin or pecan, while apple pie is a little lighter on calories. All are heavy on sugar so keep that in mind!
  7. Go easy the next day. Given all that you ate during Thanksgiving, go easy on yourself the next day or weekend following. Eat lighter than you normally would. Go for a long walk or do what we do and put your holiday decorations up. That burns some serious calories!

Some or all of these tips can help you enjoy your Thanksgiving without feeling like it’s the beginning of the end when it comes to your health and fitness! Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

Health Tips You May Overlook

I was recently asked to provide health tips that people may not immediately think of. In “10 Tips to Improve Your Health Today,” I outlined a few key things to remember about sleep and eating right, and reminded readers to get an annual physical with complete bloodwork.

These tips are based on my own experiences, and that of others, as well as evidence-based practice. Read more about my advice, as well as the guidance from other regional healthcare experts in the November issue of In Good Health.

 

When Should You Change Your Workout Routine?

Have you ever found yourself getting bored with an exercise routine or program? Or are you one of those people that reverts to the same kind of routine or program? Either way, you will benefit immensely from changing up your normal workout.

Much like beginner’s luck, “newbie gains” are really a thing! People who have never resistance trained or who have taken a long break will typically see results very quickly. But, if you have been exercising for a long time, you know that it’s challenging to make improvements. You have to be more disciplined with your program and track carefully to make sure you are increasing volume and/or concentrating on the right lifts to meet your goals. Even, then, it’s a struggle.

The average person doesn’t track their workouts and typically follows the same exercise modality or program day after day, week after week. Not only can this get boring, but it can also stunt your growth. This is why personal trainers who understand good programming will “periodize” the training, meaning the program will move through different types of training to help maximize your muscle building potential.

Basic programs typically start with two to three sets of about 15 reps each, moving to 8 to 10 reps, 6 to 8, and even lower. Each phase causes different adaptations in your muscles. For example, 15 to 20 reps and higher typically give you a “pump” and are excellent at stabilizing and priming your body for heavier lifts and more complex movements. The 8 to 12 rep range is typical bodybuilding style, known as hypertrophy. This is where I personally like to live most of the time! We all gravitate to something! Anything lower than 8 reps is more of a strength building style, or even powerlifting depending on the type of movements selected for the program. With strength you often don’t see an immediate pump but it is a powerful way to send strong signals to your muscles to grow!

To successfully change the look of your body, you need to be working in each of these modalities. When I program, I typically spend about 4 weeks in each phase but I have gone as high as 8 weeks in the past, if I am still seeing results and feeling good about it. I also tend to play with frequency, too. Right now, for example, I am lifting three days a week in a strength phase. Other days I will do a Peloton ride with some stretching or foam rolling. In my heavy hypertrophy phases, I have worked out as many as 6 days a week in a split type of training where I focus on legs one day, arms another, etc. There are so many ways to change things up.

The key is to be intentional about it and not change up too often. If you don’t spend the time allowing your body to adapt to a particular training type, it won’t work. That being said, if something isn’t working for you, you experience pain, or you don’t have enough equipment, then stop. There’s no sense continuing just for the sake of getting a 4-week phase completed!

Should Anything Stay the Same?

Changing up the workout periodically is important but there are some protocols that should remain constant. For example, if you are trying to build muscle, it’s essential to keep compound, main lifts a part of your routine. For me, those exercises are: squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, chest press, bent over row, and military press. Sometimes I will also incorporate pull-ups depending on what else I have going on. Those exercises work multiple muscles at the same time, maximizing your growth potential. All the other exercises you pick should complement those main exercises and help you build strength and stability for them.

You also should keep your personal goals and condition in mind. For example, if you are looking to build your shoulders, incorporate shoulder exercises more often to emphasize them. Or, if your mobility prevents you from doing squats, work on it, and consider starting with a box squat or similar regression until you are able to do squats.

Exercise programming is a science and there is a lot to consider! While you can put together a decent program on your own, consider hiring a personal trainer who can fully assess you, your abilities, goals, and situation. Everyone is different! So, an off the shelf program is a good starting point, but everything can and should be customized for best results.

How Eating More Can Help You Lose Weight

When you decide you want to shed a few pounds, what is typically the first thing you do? Lower your calories. Eat less. Maybe you move more, too. But, what if I told you the secret might be the complete opposite of what you think you need to do? 

A recent study showed that despite popular belief, our metabolisms do not slow as we age. In some cases, perhaps a person’s metabolism may slow down but not to the extent we once thought. What does cause a person’s metabolism to slow? Well, drastically reducing the number of calories consumed will do it, as can lack of sleep, stress, and lack of movement to name a few. Slow metabolisms almost always lead to weight gain. But, what if you could reverse the trend by actually eating more?

The human body needs a certain number of calories just to exist. Just to sit on your couch all day you need calories. How many calories varies from person to person, based on height, weight, and typical energy expenditure each day. If you don’t consume that basic amount of calories, you are in danger of slowing your metabolism. Your body compensates for the fact that you are not eating enough to sustain it. 

The other mistake people often make is thinking that intermittent fasting is the answer to weight loss. It may work for some people some of the time but by and large it’s not sustainable and can lead to metabolic issues in the long run. 

When it comes to weight loss many people turn to cardio first to lose the stubborn pounds, but cardio is also problematic as your body will adapt. So, if 30 minutes a day worked at first, over time you would need to do 45 minutes, then one hour and so on. Who has time for that?

What if I told you that there is a way to eat more AND lose weight? Here is my blueprint for eating more to lean out.

  • Know your macros. Macronutrients are the building blocks of our diet. Everyone needs protein, carbohydrates, and fats, in addition to micronutrients to keep us healthy. It’s important for you to know just how much to eat each day. First, if you are trying to lose weight and you know you have a high BMI, figure out your body fat percentage. This will help you zero in on your lean body mass, which is a key number to use in order to determine the daily protein intake. If you don’t have access to a body fat analysis, you can purchase a scale that will measure this for you. It’s not totally accurate but it gives you a sense and really all you need is a ball park. You can then track your trend up or down from there. I use Renpho. Then, use a macronutrient calculator to determine total calories per day. A nutrition coach can also help figure this out for you.

    To build muscle and create a satiating effect, it’s best to aim for .8 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass, NOT per pound. This is a mistake many people make. If they weigh 225 pounds, they think they need 225g of protein a day, which is insane! Likely their lean body mass or “muscle weight” is lower. The other way to go, if you don’t have a way to determine your body fat percentage, is to base it on the weight you would like to be. So, if you’re aiming to be 150 pounds, consume 140 to 150g of protein a day. Protein is the first macro to set, then set carbohydrates at 40 to 50 percent of total calories and the rest should be healthy fats.

  • Eliminate or reduce gluten, refined sugar, dairy and alcohol. Gluten and dairy often cause gut issues, which can make it difficult for your body to absorb the healthy macros you are giving it. Start by avoiding or reducing them to see if you feel better. Instead, eat more vegetables! Fruit is OK, too. It’s not evil! As for alcohol, you will find that if you eliminate or reduce the number of drinks you have, that alone will help you lose weight because you will not consuming too many calories from the drinks or the snacks you’ll inevitably have with those drinks! Sugar is an issue for many people. It causes so many problems and we all consume too much of it. Reduce it and you will find that your skin looks better, you sleep better, and you will start to look better, too.
  • Drink more water. A good rule of thumb is half your body weight per day, more if you are active. Try to space out your meals so you are done eating approximately four hours before you go to bed. Our bodies work very hard to digest our food and if we eat right before bed, they spend more time digesting than sleeping well. If you quit eating with plenty of time before bed, you will find that you sleep much more soundly.

  • Speaking of sleep, make sure you get enough! Seven to nine hours is ideal, especially if you are looking to build muscle. Studies show that obesity can be caused by a lack of sleep. And, let’s face it. How many times have you make a poor food choice simply because you were exhausted?
  • To build muscle, you must lift weights. Resistance training two or three days a week is enough to build. Find a quality personal trainer who can tailor a routine to meet your personal goals. Cardio is OK but you don’t want to do too much of it. Our bodies are smart. For them to be good at cardio they need to lean out and be as thin as possible. Think about distance runners! This is the opposite of building muscle. We want to prioritize muscle over cardio. Do just enough cardio to keep your heart healthy or better yet make sure you move.
  • Move. Walk at least 7,000 steps per day and you will be moving enough. That’s about two 15-20 minute walks per day. It’s doable! Get up and move!

If you do all these things, I promise you will lose weight. The more muscle you build, the faster your metabolism will be, allowing you to consume more calories in the future! The more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you can burn simply by existing! I am 96 pounds and I eat 2,200 calories a day. This is because my lean body mass is extremely high from lifting weights for so long. Muscle is so helpful to your body – you can look good, lose weight and feel great!

Have questions about this post or want my assistance with a workout routine or nutrition coaching? Contact me today for more information!

How to Eat Healthy When You’re Busy

Think about the times of the year when you are the most healthy. When do you tend to eat a healthy and balanced diet versus one comprised of fast food on the run or too many calories? For me the answer is easy. Summertime! With the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables and the extra time without all the crazy extracurricular kids’ activities, I have way more time to think about what I’m eating and when. Work is less busy, too, since college students are not on campus in the summertime. But, what about the rest of the year?

The kids have been back to school now for several weeks and likely you’ve moved into a fall routine, if you’re anything like my family. For us, that means trying to find time to eat dinner let alone make it. And, at work, I often have meetings scheduled right through lunchtime! I’m so tired at night from the long work day and running the kids to practices that I am not as good about preparing my lunch. Breakfast becomes an afterthought as I rush to get to work to start it all over again. What does a busy working mom do?

You must pause and you must plan. If you find that you can carve out time on Sundays to meal prep, even if it’s just lunches and breakfasts, do it! Make yourself. You will be so happy you did when you pull the breakfast off the refrigerator shelf and the meal prep container for your lunch. I always feel better when I eat healthy. I know this. It makes me so angry when I don’t have the healthy food at my fingertips. At the same time I try not to dwell on it. We have the gift of a new day, a new week, a new month, and a new year. Every day is a day to start over. This week, I will begin anew to better plan my meals. Here’s how I do it.

  1. Make a grocery list, taking into account food you have at home so you can maximize your budget.
  2. Plan dinner for the week, including nights you will eat leftovers. Think about the weather (so you know if you can grill or not), as well as the schedule. For the busiest evenings, plan a crock pot or leftover meal. If you will have more time, add an Instant Pot meal or anything you know you will be able to handle. Add to your grocery list after you’ve decided on the meals.
  3. I grocery shop on Saturday so if I forget anything I still have Sunday. Plus that leaves Sunday for meal prep. I prep my breakfasts and lunches on Sunday plus I usually make cookies for the kids’ lunches. All told it takes me 90 minutes to a couple hours depending on what I’m making. Some of my “go tos” include hard boiled eggs, chia pudding, overnight oats, and stir fry meals. You can basically have a meat, grain (rice or pasta), and vegetables and put any sauce or condiment with it to make a perfect meal. If you can work in healthy fats, like avocado, even better. Scroll through Pinterest for the best meal prep recipes. There are also meal prep cookbooks you can buy, as well. Once you see how the recipes work, you can create your own. The crock pot and Instant Pot are your friends…use them!
  4. Each night prep anything you can for the next night’s dinner. And if you only meal prepped for a few days, pick the least busy evening during the week to prep a few more.
  5. Pick a “cheat day” for breakfast and lunch at work and it doesn’t have to be the same day for both meals. I like to grab breakfast out on Fridays as a reward for myself and something to look forward to. And I pick a day for lunch out that works with my schedule. Sometimes my meetings dictate that, if food will be served.
  6. Enlist the help your spouse and/or children to help prepare dinner each night and lunches for the next day.
  7. Consider bringing leftover dinner for your lunch the next day. Easy peasy.
  8. That brings me to the kids’ lunches. I keep it super simple: sandwich, chips, fruit, cookie, snack and healthy drink. I just buy for the week and the formula works. They like deli meet, clementines and Capri Sun the best. Snacks are everything from cheese and crackers to nuts to raisins. I don’t go crazy making sure lunches are completely and totally healthy. They are growing kids and I want them to eat during the day. I have more control over breakfast and dinner and that’s enough for me. Don’t be so laser focused that you paralyze yourself.
  9. Make sure you have healthy snacks on hand for evening/nighttime. You don’t want to ruin an entire day of healthy eating by eating M&Ms with your wine!
  10. If you have macro goals, make sure your meals line up with those goals. I shoot for at least four solid days a week where I nail my macros. If I get more, even better, but I try to be realistic and not too hard on myself.

The saying is true, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” I know it even if I can’t always follow it. I hope these tips have been helpful for you. If you have other ideas on how to eat healthy when you’re crazy busy, please leave a comment below!

Can You Workout Every Day? Yes!

One of the biggest hurdles to a regular exercise program is consistency. It’s hard to stick to a program, especially since rest days sometimes throw a wrench into the routine. It is said that it takes 21 days for something to become a habit. But, how can you develop a habit when you have days off routinely, as well? For me, that’s always been a challenge. It’s easier for me to have something I do each and every day like brushing my teeth! But, how can you exercise every day and make sure your body gets the rest it needs to recover and build?

Enter Mind Pump’s new seven-day workout routine. It’s insanely close to one I’ve run from time to time on my own but its structure makes sure you have everything you need to stay in shape and build muscle. I was so excited to hear the guys talk about it this morning on my way to work. In fact, I’ve already developed my own version of their workout, which I can’t wait to start. Good thing I’m finishing up my own summer six-week program this week and am ready to move to something new!

(By the way, it’s important to adjust through phases of workouts rather than do the same thing for weeks and weeks. I typically move through phases anywhere from four to eight weeks, depending on the time of year and my current schedule and goals. I never do the same thing for longer than eight weeks, though.)

The way this program is structured, you get the best of everything. Two days of heavy resistance training, two days of lighter resistance training, a functional movement routine, mobility day, and a steady state cardio day in the form of an outdoor walk or hike. I have adapted the original program to add a bit more lower body resistance training, as well as my weekly Peloton ride. This is the beauty of training–everyone has their own goals, interests, and needs. Every routine is adaptable to those needs. I’ll leave you with my seven-day program below. Happy late summer training everyone!

Monday – Heavy work out

* All for 3 sets, 6-12 reps

Barbell squats

Hip thrusts

Barbell bench press

Barbell rows

Barbell overhead press

Barbell or dumbbell curls

Skull crushers

Slow sit-ups

Calf raises

 

Tuesday – Pump work out

* All for 3 sets, 15-20 reps

Curtsy lunges

Cable kickback

Cable abductor

Dumbbell flys

Dumbbell pull overs

Lateral raises

Band curls

Band press downs

Planks

 

Wednesday– Functional strength workout

* All for 3 sets, 5-10 reps

Turkish get ups

Windmills

Cossack squat

Overhead carries (25-35 steps)

 

Thursday – Heavy work out

*All for 3 sets, 6-12 reps

Deadlifts

Incline press

Pull-ups

Arnold press

Hammer curls

Dips

Reverse crunch

Seated calf raises

 

Friday – Pump work out

*All for 3 sets, 15-20 reps

Band hip thrusts

Single-leg RDL

Cable flys

Band rows

Band shoulder press

Band curls

Band press downs

Band side chops

 

Saturday – Mobility workout

MAPS Prime Pro Webinar

 

Sunday – Peloton – 30 minutes; Walk – 30 minutes

 

Going Back to the Office

This time we have ample time to prepare. Unlike March 16, 2020, when everything suddenly shut down, this time is different. We’re going back to the office. I remember lockdown like it was yesterday. The kids came home from school excited that they were going to learn from home for a “few weeks.” I was just beginning to plan out our family’s relocation for the new job I had accepted just days before. Toilet paper was scarce but spirits were still high. We had no idea what was ahead and it seemed like an extended snow day. Wow, were we ever surprised.

Lockdown lasted months. Working, and workout out, at home transitioned from a novelty to a reality. Personally, I started to enjoy my home office. I was saving money and time. I was sleeping more and eating more healthfully. I didn’t need to spend money on new clothes, jewelry, makeup or shoes. I missed interacting with people and Zoom got old quickly, but those were small prices to pay for how stress-free being at home was for me. In a few short days, that honeymoon is over.

I work for New York State and all state employees are returning to their workplaces effective July 6. Today is my last at home day with my dog at my slippered feet and my full breakfast in my belly. Today is the last day I can have lunch with my family. And, it’s the last day my car doesn’t leave the driveway. I am feeling bittersweet.

I started my job nearly one year ago, July 9, during the pandemic. I have never gone to the office more than one day at a time and have never been together with my whole team. It’s been 15 months since I commuted every single day to the office. It’s been 15 months since I had to get up as early as 5 a.m. to get my workout in, as well as have time to shower, get dressed, do my hair and makeup, and get all my things together for work. It’s been 15 months since I crashed on my couch at 8:30, unable to do anything because I was exhausted. These things contribute to my stress and anxiety in ways I never really understood until they were absent. But, they were taken away suddenly. I didn’t have to wonder what it would be like or plan for lockdown. It just came. This time is different.

I have been thinking about the return for weeks now. It’s not that I have anxiety about the actual going back to work part. It’s more that I have anxiety about missing my more relaxed life at home. I am worried about the increased spending of time and money with my one hour round trip commute. I’m not looking forward to the increased effort to meal prep and plan both for my own breakfast and lunch, as well as for the family dinners. I’m wondering what it will be like to be so far away from my family every day, and how challenging it will be to keep up with the family activities come fall when school and everything starts once again.

These are first world problems for sure. I am fortunate to have a wonderful job and healthy family. I know this. But, I also know that my world is going to change. Again. And this time not only do I have time to prepare, I also have time to be anxious. Here’s hoping this three-day holiday weekend will serve as a positive transition and break between two separate lives for me, and that the days, weeks and months ahead will go as smoothly as they possibly can. It’s not like we haven’t all done this before, right?