04/24/2012 07:24 am ET Updated Jun 24, 2012

Focus Is Great, But Not Without Zoom

Have you ever felt off, but not know why? Stuck not knowing what to do to get back on your path to being efficient, fit, more relaxed or just plain well? That has been my mode for the past few months, hence my hiatus from posting a new article. Things just were not clicking. In hindsight, it could have been because I was constantly pushing the wrong button.

For two years, I have been clicking pictures with my small handheld digital camera received as a gift. I would pose and re-pose my victims hoping one day that basic camera would record our memories with the glow and color of a professional camera. Well, it never cut the mustard and I kept getting half-decent shots with blurred pictures and dark settings.

To my surprise, Mother's Day came a little early and my husband came home with the camera of all cameras, the one with the potential to capture the memories of a lifetime -- or so I thought. Nervous about all the parts, I questioned whether I was doing this correctly. Can I handle all these buttons and attachments? I skimmed the manual, which confirmed that it was not as simple as my old camera.

The next day was a spring break adventure and I was determined to get professional shots of my son and his friends at the farm. We arrived and I clicked away, leaving the extra-large lens at home in the box. I figured I would conquer that after I mastered the small lens. Then it occurred to me: This camera had the clear, crisp focus that I wanted... but where was the zoom? I could get close, but not the freckle-on-the-face kind of close. I wanted these farm shots to be Outside Magazine status, but I was just getting good "mom shots." Although we had fun, I felt my camera-shooting was a flop.

That evening as I waited for the pictures to download, I pulled out a fitness journal that had come in the mail. As I read and picked apart each article, I started thinking about all the useful information I'd been missing in these journals that have been coming in the mail for the past six months. Each time the journal would come, I would put it on the shelf, thinking that night I would get to it -- and I never did. With my writing taking a backseat to a crazy family schedule, it dawned on me I had lost my focus by not taking advantage of my own zoom. I had been thinking that I was too tired to read the articles, when actually not reading the articles had blurred my creativity, passion and motivation.

Then I realized, "This is what others face when they say 'I just have no energy, time or motivation to exercise or be fit.'" Maybe you are suffering from the same issue: looking at your personal fitness like that journal on the shelf instead of just opening it and benefiting from the content. My advice is to start by just opening the cover instead of aiming to read the entire contents in one night. Take the first step to clean up the inside of your body by knocking out extra sugars, preservatives and junk a little each day as you make your food choices. A cleaner inside body prevents internal fat cushions from enticing your organs to take a seat, and in turn you will feel less tired and more motivated.

Next, focus on your nutrition at each meal. Be consciously aware that you will get to eat again in a couple of hours. As humans, because our minds often wonder, we have a tendency to fantasize that each meal is our last, but do not eat that way. If you need to see what and when you are going to eat, then write it down or follow a step-by-step eating plan. There are simple eating plans available to download on your phone in seconds. I love sites like Gabrielle Reece's. For some alternative diet plans, check out gluten-free sites, vegetarian sites, or (the opposite for my meat lovers) some forms of the Paleo plans. Most importantly, have fun with whatever path entices you.

Once you start cleaning up your diet, exercise will seem more appealing. Think of exercise as something used to enhance your life, not to increase stress. Set out to follow an exercise pattern, rather than a regimen or strict routine. The following guidelines may allow you to perceive exercise as a pliable piece of clay that molds to fit your lifestyle, day by day. No matter how hard you try, if you are overly fatigued, the wrong type of exercise is going to be like taking a picture in the dark without a flash. So, try to follow this pattern instead:

Let's say it is a high-stress day...

On days of high stress, typically we need to hit the treadmill, take a walk, run, bike or do some other form of rhythmic aerobic exercise. To combat high levels of cortisol (aka, the "stress hormone"), the cadence of a nice smooth run or walk is most helpful. Stress seems to melt away even faster if this run or walk is partnered with some music or, even better, a friend.

Today you finally have that energy...

Take advantage of days when you feel you have good energy and mental clarity and get in a power-filled strength training session. You don't belong to a gym? Then try the following exercises even if you have just a little space: 10-20 push-ups (no sagging in your belly!), 25-50 crunchers and one minute of jumping jacks in between. Repeat this three to seven times, depending on your fitness level. This will give you a great mini strength, heart-pumping workout.

On a day that you would rather be sleeping...

Lastly, on the days when you are just fatigued, don't shut down completely. Instead, ease up on your mind and body and opt for a peaceful form of yoga, some introductory Pilates moves or even tai-chi.

By following this pattern of exercising according to your energy levels, you will find that exercise can be a healing component to stress, or an energizer to combat fatigue, or even a life enhancer when you are up to a challenge. The recommended daily 60 minutes of physical activity will actually be enjoyable. You may even want to take a picture of the new and fit you... and you can even enlist my help now that I have finally figured out my camera, lenses and all. Most importantly, I figured out the zoom, enabling me to zero in and feel good about shooting those colorful, glowing moments.

For more by Traci L. Stanard, CPT-NSCA, CWC, click here.

For more on personal health, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.