Sunday, March 3, 2013

Lifechanges - Health and Wellbeing.

I posted yesterday about changes I have been implementing in my life this year, and a blog post that inspired the focussed action. Today I'd like to share some of the specific health and wellbeing actions that I have taken, and will take, in a revitalised venture on personal renewal.

I have mentioned that I ended the year unhappy with a few things about myself. One of those was diet and exercise. I have never really cared how I look, but how I feel has always been important. At the end of 2012 I felt unhealthy, and not in control of my health. Almost three months later I feel like a new person. So what were the negatives;

  1. Poor sleep ability and sleep patterns. I have for quite a few years had trouble sleeping effectively. Regardless of physical activity level and pre-sleep routines I suffered from waking too easily and then not being able to return to sleep. I tried a range of natural supplements that claimed to correct this to no effect. I was adamant I did not want medication to solve this problem.
  2. Infrequent exercise. My family routine does not enable an exercise routine. But this is not the excuse. A combination of being too tired, not motivated or over-working resulted in infrequent exercise sessions and an erratic rating of intensity across sessions. My fitness levels were decreasing.
  3. Work-life balance. I was spending too much time working. I was unhappy in my workplace for a reason I won't reveal in public, but this reduced enjoyment of working. I am sure this impacted on my teaching as I don't feel like I was teaching effectively throughout 2012.
  4. Lack of focus. My mind was in a million places at once. I wanted to do a lot of things, help a lot of people but managed to achieve very little of that.
So I took time to reflect and think about the things in my life that are truly important. I have often re-read Stephen Covey's work when I need to do this type of reflection as the concept of True North Principles speaks to me. What I came up with, as a list of what is truly important, was surprising concise;
  1. Being a good husband.
  2. Being a good father.
  3. Giving to the community.
I could not do these feeling like I did - unhealthy, overworked, overtired.

So the plan began. I chose to focus on two things at a time. The first targeted were caffeine and alcohol. I didn't (and still don't) believe I was an overuser or abuser of either of these but I knew they had control over me, instead of me having control over them. I needed to start the day with coffee, and generally needed to finish it with a beer. I wanted to break this control cycle, so announced on New Year's Eve to my wife and 2 close friends that I was off alcohol and beer for two months.

Why two months? I enjoy both of them, and had every intention of partaking in them again, but felt two  months was enough to break the "need."

Did I achieve it? Yes. And you know what? I can sleep! This was not the intended outcome but this is the best sleeping I have done in years. So I have decided that coffee, and caffeine  is out for good. As much as I enjoy the taste of a good coffee, having decent sleep is so much more important. The alcohol is back but in a much more controlled manner.

The current focus is exercise and eating times. I'm purposely not focussing on what I eat, but trying to build nutrition routines into my life. Routines about what types of food I eat when, and realising when extras are being included. For example, if I decide to have a packet of chips as an afternoon snack then I follow it with a large drink of water and then reduce my dinner serve size.

Exercise should be an easy one. Our family has invested in a lot of exercise equipment over the years. Its time to put it to purposeful use. The best investment has been the treadmill. We all now use it and watch our desired TV while we do. This time around I have really enjoyed my running. Running has always been difficult for me, but this year I have seen some real gains. I believe this has a lot to do with my improved sleep, enabling recovery from exercise.

Over the next month I will determine the next 2 aspects to focus on. I am leaning towards the quantification of my health as one of them, providing me with real and trackable data. Equipment such as data scales (I don't think the body fat measurements will be accurate, but they will be trackable) and wearable logging equipment to measure activity and sleep. The two specific items I am researching are the Omron Full Body Composition Scale and Fitbit flex. I have some interest in the Garmin 910XT but it could be a bit of an overkill considering I am not an endurance competitor or athlete.

Why quantify, and collect this data if I am not an athlete? For me its real data about lifestyle change. If I trial getting up early to do an hours work before I exercise, I can see clearly whether this is better or worse for me than my current patterns.

In the end this focus on health and wellbeing combined with the items in my previous post has me feeling younger, stronger and more vitalised.

Bring on the rest of 2013!

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