Benjamin Franklin once said “energy and persistence conquer all things.”
Franklin must’ve had more energy than most because he was an author, diplomat, inventor, physicist, politician and printer back in the 1700s, before energy drinks and vitamins were the norm. In 2011, how can we increase our personal energy to “conquer all things” in our lives?
Dr. David Rothwell of The Rothwell Group explains: “Energy comes from a proper balance of nutrition, exercise, and stress management, with attention to continued stimulation of the mind (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual).”
The doc said the patients he cares for who seem to experience the best energy on a day-to-day basis are those with a well-balanced lifestyle. He recommends finding a physician who will work to identify risk factors for chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, to review family history and to get a plan for lifestyle changes and set goals.
Donna Lawrence, a life coach and founder of Success Redesign, recommends maintaining physical energy and managing personal energy.
“The first step to increasing personal energy is to gain an awareness of those things that increase, versus those that drain your energy,” Lawrence said. “I encourage clients to take a gut check — a quick time-out when they feel very energized to think about what they are doing at that moment and with whom they are doing it.”
She said psychologists call it “flow”: those times when people are so wrapped up in something, they lose track of time.
“These are situations from which we gain energy,” she said. “It is also helpful to do the same gut check when energy is low. We all have situations and people who drain our energy. The identification of energy boosters versus energy zappers is critical.”
Brian Attebery, a personal trainer and owner of Results Fitness and Nutrition in Edmond, said people will naturally feel more energetic if they lose weight and stop lugging around extra pounds that make them have to work harder.
“Imagine a 25-pound dumbbell in your backpack. That extra weight makes you exhausted,” he said.
Attebery recommends making strength training a key component of fitness goals in 2011 because it makes everyday activities easier. How does being in good shape translate into energy?
“Our cardiovascular is our endurance system and carries oxygen to our body,” Attebery said, adding that stretching is important for circulation, too.
Rothwell concurs and said the endorphin-release of exercise will have an immediate positive impact on the proinflammatory response our bodies have with stress. “The benefits of yoga and Pilates are well documented,” he said.
Finally, Rothwell suggests honestly looking at why you might feel the way you do in order to get down to the foundation of your health, or else you’ll continue to chase fad diets. When these experts talk about diet, they mean the overall intake of fueling your body.
“It’s true that carbs are a source of energy, but what we do is we skip breakfast when we most need carbohydrates.
That’s a missed opportunity,” Attebery said. He reminds us to focus more on protein snacks to sustain energy throughout the day. Have you taken your vitamins today?
Rothwell is a big fan of omega-3 fatty acids as a supplement, commonly found in the form of fish oil.
“Also, vitamin D acts more like a hormone than a pure vitamin and has been shown to decrease risk of certain cancers (including breast) and heart disease,” he said. “B vitamin supplementation is something I will often recommend.”
What about those energy drinks and double-shot espressos? “I don’t believe in energy drinks that have lots of pure sugar and caffeine,” Attebery said. “Those will get you revved up for two hours, and then you’re gonna crash.”
However, he said if drinking that cup of coffee gets you up earlier and gives you the motivation to get the gym to workout, that’s great. “The residual effect is you’ll be in better shape overall and you won’t have to rely on stimulants all the time,” he said.
Lawrence recommended taking breaks. “Don’t forget to take time-outs to recharge,” she said. “Even a 15-minute break in the middle of a big project or a stressful day can rejuvenate you.”
And she said that means a real break; checking e-mail doesn’t count.
“A quick walk, deep breathing, or even letting the mind be still for just a few minutes can recharge your personal battery,” Lawrence said. “After work, try unplugging yourself from technology. Computers and cell phones have made our lives easier in so many respects, yet we have additional stress from the expectations of immediate communication.
Vacations are also important, yet many highly successful people do not take all of their vacation days. Everyone needs a real break of a few days to a week or more at least once a year to totally unplug, relax and renew their body and spirit.”
Finally, it’s not just you, but the people around you who impact your personal energy. Rothwell said positive relationships are a must: “Having encouraging and optimistic people around you will have long-lasting benefits.”