The beauty about having been at this healthy living thing for a long time is that it has become crystal clear to me that everything just ebbs and flows.
I should have taken that cue from Mama Earth a long time ago- the tides, the waves, the moon, the seasons, etc. but… What can I say? Your eyes open when they open, right?
I’ve lost the sense of urgency and panic and have replaced those with a sense of gratitude and openness. The desire and urgency of trying to be perfect and the panic that ensues when it doesn’t happen, has yielded to a sense of gratitude for what is (how lucky are we really?) and an openness to let life transpire at its time.
This new found wisdom has been years in the making, friends. I’m a slow learner, apparently. Ask the tides, the waves, and the moon. If they could text, they would have sent me the face palm emoji a looooooong time ago.
I’ve discovered that these ebbs and flows happen in my fitness life too. There are seasons when I’m purposefully trying to shave a few seconds off my triathlon time and there are seasons when I’m trying to savor my love of movement without any performance goals at all. Most of the time, I live somewhere in the in-between.
While summer was chill and glorious, the ebbs and flows of life now invite me (lovingly!) to get a little more structured, pull myself up the bootstraps “so to speak”, and focus on making some progress with the pillars of wellness that are important to me: social connectedness, spirituality, fitness, nutrition, sleep, and stress management. In essence, I’m feeling a yearning to get a move on.
I know I’m not alone. This time of year is historically busy for the wellness industry. More importantly, all of you confirm this every year. “I’m ready for more structure”, “I need to get back to my regular routine”, "I need to cut down on my alcohol consumption”, "I need to get my nutrition back on track”, "I’m ready for improved sleep”, and so on.
Same, friend. Same.
In honor of this generalized sentiment, the theme of the month is REBOOT. What are you planning on rebooting? Why is it important to you? How will you achieve it?
Research shows that people have more success with change and progress when tactics are approached in bite sized pieces. For example, instead of saying "I haven’t worked out once all summer, so now I’m going to work out 20 times this month” consider something a bit more manageable, realistic, and achievable, from which to draw momentum, success and confidence.
If you want my advice, follow the AG Rules of 8.
8 times a month of structured exercise (at the minimum)
8 positive thoughts, affirmations, or connections directed to yourself or loved ones weekly (twice on Saturday!)
8 "ish" glasses of water a day
8 hours of sleep a day
8 minutes of meditation or prayer a day
8 types of food daily (think “eat the rainbow”) that nurture your cells daily
Start with two of these to focus on the first week. Add in two more the 2nd week. Add in the final two the 3rd week, and HOLD STRONG the last week. By the end of the month, you will have rebooted your wellness to more optimal levels. Are you in?
I’m in it with you!
Here’s what this will look like for me:
8 times a month of structured exercise: Ok, so I’m a fitness professional. I work out 6 days a week. I can, however, add 8 sessions of foam rolling a month to better support my fitness endeavors and recovery. If you are working out more that 2x a week already and you're happy with how you feel and how you're performing, stick with it and consider other things in the fitness realm you can add in. More stretching, more intensity in your workouts, 8 sprints monthly, etc.
If you will be increasing to 2x a week of structured exercise, plan it out a month in advance and put it in your calendar. Research shows that 2x a week of strength training is the minimum required to avoid losing 3-5 pounds of muscle every decade after age 30. Also, if it’s vigorous exercise for at least 40 minutes each time, you will meet the minimum weekly recommendations of exercise by the American College of Sports Medicine.
8 positive thoughts, affirmations or connections directed to yourself or loved ones weekly: While this seems obvious, take a moment to assess your self-talk. Is is mostly negative? How about the way you connect with your family, loved ones, friends, and co-workers?
Having a positive mantra for yourself daily or a loving and encouraging word for someone else on your to-do list is a great way to keep this important habit “top of mind”. The longest running study on human wellness, happiness and longevity, ongoing at Harvard for almost a century, has shown that social connectedness is the #1 factor in this department. If you can't talk to yourself with gentleness and compassion, how will you offer that to others? #important
8 “ish” glasses of water a day: Research shows that this number is somewhat arbitrary, but for most Americans, it's more than what we're actually getting. If you are a stickler on this, consider drinking half of your body weight in ounces.
If aiming for 8 feels difficult already but you like the simplicity of the number, go for that. Baby steps. Pro-tip: Use a water bottle and determine how many times you need to fill it up to get your 8 glasses a day. Make it happen.
8 hours of sleep a day: Studies show that 7-9 hours is ideal and proper sleep is one of the most undervalued wellness pillars in America. Do you know that you can go about 3 weeks without food, 3-4 days without water but only 2-3 days without sleep before repercussions are absolutely critical?
8 minutes of meditation or prayer a day: The science behind meditation and prayer is abundant. It’s just plain good for our health. If you're a more spiritual type (like me!) you might agree that it's good for the soul too. Ahhhhh.
Approach meditation and prayer in any way that feels good to you. Use a book, an audio resource, an app such as Insight Timer, or repeat mantras or prayers that you know. Cortisol levels, blood pressure, and stress hormones reduce, while reports of contentment and feelings of well-being rise. For those of you who believe in something Greater, in addition to the documented physical benefits, it's a beautiful way to connect on a soul level. Personally, I find myself listening more than talking these days.
8 types of food that nourish your cells daily (“eat the rainbow”): We are what we eat. This is what a good day of eating looks like for me:
Breakfast 10:30-12 pm: 1 egg, 2 egg whites, 1 cup of spinach, basil pesto, and a dab of goat cheese with a 1/2 cup of quinoa (or whole wheat toast), and a small fruit or cup of berries.
Lunch 2-4 pm: Mixed green salad with tuna in a whole wheat tortilla, and a side of raw veggies (red pepper, orange carrots, and green cucumber) and hummus. Oatmeal-based high protein bar or granola with some berries.
Dinner: 6-7:30 pm: Brown rice, beans, chicken, and roasted vegetables of all colors. A square (or 2!) of dark chocolate dipped in peanut butter.
Now, it’s your turn! What’s your month going to look like?
Here’s to enjoying the ride and looking forward to a destination of improved wellness by October.