“Self-care” has become a buzz term in the wellness world, but what it really means is taking the time to look after yourself holistically: body, mind and soul. Sure, exercise and healthy eating are forms of self-care, but any fitness or nutrition expert will tell you that leading a balanced lifestyle is about more than just getting to the gym and sticking to your calorie goal for the day.
Those two things are certainly important, but so is managing stress, getting enough sleep and setting aside time to do things you truly enjoy. In other words, making time for self care can enhance your life — and get you closer to the results you’re after.
Don’t just take our word for it. Here’s how trainers incorporate time for themselves into their routines, plus how it helps them meet their goals.
“I meditate every day for 10–15 minutes using Headspace,” says Meghan Kennihan, a NASM personal trainer and USA Track & Field coach. Of course, she puts her own spin on it. “As with most athletes, I’m not good at sitting still, so I foam roll or stretch during my meditation.”
The Benefit: “It really helps me stay in the present and remain calm in stressful situations, whether they are physical struggles or mental struggles in a race or during a workout,” Kennihan explains.
“‘How can you care for another if you do not care for yourself?’ is written on my bathroom mirror,” says Brian Nguyen, trainer and CEO of Elementally Strong. “So, I wake up and go to bed with routines to clear my troubles and remind myself of the miracle and joy this life is. Lately, my favorite flow for expression and creativity comes from the 4 minutes of ecstatic dancing that I do (post a.m. shower) while I apply lotion all over my body.”
The Benefits: “For one, reaching all the parts of your body to moisturize takes some serious work: flexibility, balance, stability, mobility,” Nguyen points out. “Two, surrendering my body’s movement to the rhythm and beat of the music allows my soul to be in flow, and I am able to ‘movement wash’ away tension. Third, the songs I choose are upbeat, uplifting and fill my heart with joy. I then go through the day sharing that joy!”
“Every day, I write about the same three categories: stress/anxiety, gratitude and excitement,” says Jess Glazer, a certified personal trainer and founder of FITtrips. “First, I jot down whatever things are stressing me out or giving me anxiety in that moment. Just with simple bullet points, the first few things that come to mind. Next, I write down a few things I’m grateful for. Some days it may be people or an incredible opportunity, while other days it may just be my warm coffee. Either is fine. The importance is shifting your mindset from the stress to gratitude and realizing how many things we have around us to truly be grateful for. Finally, I jot down the things I’m most excited about. It may be a vacation that is a few weeks away or maybe just seeing a friend later that day.”
The Benefits: “Getting those anxiety-producing thoughts out on paper helps clear the mind and makes you feel lighter (seriously, try it!),” Glazer says. “Focusing on things I’m excited about helps bring my energy level extra high before starting my day. After all, like so many of us, my job requires me to give. It’s hard to give when your own tank is nearly empty.”
“Trainers give and give and give,” notes Shana Verstegen, fitness director at Supreme Health and Fitness in Wisconsin. “We wake up before sunrise and return home after dark. We are always ‘on’ and aren’t really allowed to have a bad day. Sadly all of this giving to others can affect how we take care of ourselves.
“Personally, I make sleep a priority,” she says. “If I have an early morning, I ensure I am in bed in time to get 8–9 hours of sleep. I am also a fan of scheduling naps during my slow time of day! The other way I ensure recovery and health is a monthly massage.”
The Benefits: “Sleep is when our bodies and minds recover. It is essential for health, energy and mental accuracy,” Verstegen explains. “Massage therapy helps me relax, break up muscle adhesions and helps my tissue move well to prevent aches, pains and injury!”
“I have both a morning and evening skin care routine,” says Alix Turoff, a certified personal trainer and registered dietitian. “Taking care of your skin starts with nutrition, but it’s important to also have a routine that works for you.” She also makes sure to care for her skin in other ways, too. “Whenever you ask a dermatologist or aesthetician the most important thing you could do for your skin, they’ll tell you that sunscreen and proper hydration is key, so I always make sure that I’m doing both!”
The Benefits: “When you feel confident about how you look, you want to take care of your body by eating better foods and exercising,” Turoff says.
“As part of my daily self-care routine, I always make sure to make time to spend playing with my dog, Cashew,” says Mike Kneuer, a certified personal trainer, nutrition coach and retired professional physique athlete. “That is non-negotiable, and even on my busiest days, I will block off time to spend with him, even if it prevents me from fitting in another client and potentially causes me to lose some money.
“Another way that I take care of both my body and mind is my Epsom salt bath ritual. At least 2–3 times per week, I soak for 20 minutes in a hot Epsom salt bath while listening to guided meditations or inspirational audio tracks and podcasts.”
The Benefits: In terms of making time to spend with his dog, Kneuer says: “I can always train someone for an hour and make that money back, but time spent enjoying yourself or time spent with loved ones is priceless.”
On his bath ritual, he explains: “The hot water and magnesium from the Epsom salt soothes my body and allows me to fully relax my mind and be open to receive the messages from the audio I listen to.”