Tonja Thigpen, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, CCNS, CCRN
A daily routine is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. Over time, what you do with it can make or break your health.
Tonja Thigpen, administrative director of nursing at Mary Washington Hospital, chose to make exercise the cornerstone of her routine. While she’s always been physically fit, she decided she wanted to add more structure and regularity.
“I found I was lacking in my goal of inspiring those around me,” said Tonja. “Over the last year, I joined Burn Boot Camp, which changed everything.”
Burn Boot Camp is a nationwide gym that offers a mix of challenging exercises without repeating the same workout twice. Each boot camp is 45 minutes long with an average burn of 700 calories per camp. The gym offers both co-ed and women-only camps, as well as complimentary childcare for certain time slots.
At the boot camp, Tonja found the community she needed to both inspire others and find inspiration for herself. Joining has certainly added structure and regularity to her exercise routine. She attends Burn Boot Camp six days a week.
“We always have excuses at the end of the day — we’re tired, or we had a long day at work,” said Tonja. “I decided to start my day at 5 a.m. with exercises to stay consistent and avoid excuses.”
A heart-pumping workout jumpstarts her day and impacts her life in more ways than one. Tonja is:
- More satisfied and confident with her work and home life
- More focused and clear in accomplishing tasks
- More disciplined
- Healthier — her cholesterol dropped 30 points, and her HDL cholesterol is 98 (a significant number for a 50-year-old woman)
“I feel a sense of consistency with fitness,” said Tonja. “I show up regardless of how I feel, and I hold myself accountable.”
This dedication has impacted her nutrition, too. Over the past year, Tonja changed the way she eats. She focuses on protein, more fruits and vegetables, less saturated fat, less dairy, and less sugar. Instead, she satisfies her cravings through healthy sources, like natural sugar in fruit.
And while she still treats herself — she hasn’t cut out all processed or sugary foods — she does so in moderation.
As a nurse, Tonja relates to the challenges of incorporating more exercise into an already exhausting day. She encourages nurses to:
- Schedule exercise on your calendar: Time is often the biggest challenge for nurses. Make your workout a non-negotiable part of your day. Let those around you know it’s a must-do. No excuses.
- Keep moving: While you may be getting your steps in each day, are you getting your heart rate up? Sometimes walking alone isn’t enough to burn excess calories and fat.
- Pick one habit instead of three or four: Focus on one aspect you can practice and improve. Try to become dedicated and successful with one healthy habit before pursuing others.
Tonja Thigpen, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, CCNS, CCRN, is an administrative director of nursing at Mary Washington Hospital.
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