Are you match fit for nursing?

February 2016 Vol 16 (1)

LYNDA LOVATT – a nurse turned personal trainer – shares tips on being ‘match fit’ for the physical demands of nursing.

Lynda Lovatt iconNursing is very physical – it is like a sport in a way.

You can be lifting patients, bending and twisting, squatting, sitting, walking and standing throughout a long shift – particularly on day shift. This can be for days on end and with little recovery in between.

We need to be match fit to cope with the demands of nursing on our body. Here are some things you can do to look after yourself and feel great on a shift.

Improve your cardiovascular fitness

Quite simply, being fitter will help you get through your shift:

  • Do an activity that you enjoy that gets your heart rate up.
  • Aim to increase the intensity or duration a little EACH TIME you do this exercise. A good example is walking – you can add in stairs, do the walk faster or go for longer; doing this will get you fitter.
  • Take your radial pulse in the morning, make a comparison in a month after training in this way and see if it has taken your pulse rate down – a measure of improved fitness.

Well done. Let’s do this!

Gain core synergy

  • When you inhale the breath should be coming from the base of your lungs, and not so much from your chest. As you breathe out long and slowly, you should feel a connection with your pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles.
  • To engage your core, instead of drawing in your abdomen, think about lifting your pelvic floor (men have one too).
  • Before you go to lift something, think about engaging your pelvic floor a little before you do the task. As you go to lift the object, engage your pelvic floor more strongly and exhale all at the same time.
  • Lifting like this will help to protect your pelvic floor. It will also connect with the rest of your core muscles.
  • Follow carefully the safe lifting guidelines in your workplace to further protect your back. Or check out ACC’s Moving and Handling People: The New Zealand Guidelines (2012):

For more information about pelvic floor, read my Nursing Review article from 2014 on the topic:

Lynda nurseEat well and stay hydrated

  • Please make sure you have breakfast – this is a no-brainer. You are about to do an endurance event, an eight-hour shift of walking, bending, lifting and standing. You need to eat, and eat well, before you start the shift and frequently during it.
  • If you are starving after your shift, it is most probably because you have not eaten sufficiently during your shift.
  • Eat some protein and carbohydrate with every meal. Add in some veges or fruit.
  • Plan what you are going to eat for when you are working.
  • Make sure you drink water. As you are nurses, check your urine color and if this is clear, you are well hydrated. If it is yellow, top yourself up with more water. You guys know this stuff.

Rest and recover

  • Be in tune with your body after a shift. How are you feeling? It is good to bear in mind that exercise is a stress on the body; it can make you feel amazing or it can leave you feeling depleted.
  • On your days off, or after a shift, run a little experiment on yourself. Go for one of your fitness-boosting walks and note when you come home how you feel. If you are feeling energised and happy, that exercise has been good for you. If you are feeling shattered, that exercise was too much for you. It would be better to reformat the way you did that exercise next time or relax instead.
  • Schedule time for you. Have a massage or a pamper session booked. Organise a relaxing holiday. Always enjoy some chill time every day to unwind and recuperate.
  • Try to eat well most of the time and drink lots of water on your shift (see previous section). If you are tired after your shift, stop and ask yourself why and what you can do to feel better.

You are important and you do a wonderful job every day. Please take some time this year to work on your cardiovascular fitness, core synergy and eating well. You will really notice a difference in your energy levels and look and feel so much better at work. I wish you all a wonderful year ahead. I hope you can take some of this advice away to help you be match fit in 2016.

Author: Lynda Lovatt  is a personal trainer and the owner/operator of Puff Fitness. She specialises in women’s health and fitness and covers pregnancy, postnatal and menopausal exercise. She has a special interest in pelvic floor issues and core restore.

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