It is that time of year again. Time to look back at 2009—a pretty tough year for most of us—and to look ahead at 2010 and see how we can make decisions now to improve our lives, our health, our emotions, our hearts. New Year's can be the perfect time to draw a line in the sand for things that are bogging down your life (stressful jobs, poor eating habits, partying too much, etc.) and make room for things that can bring your life to a new level.
Get a Baseline
To begin with, I want you to perform the same test I gave you last December—even if you did this then. So, before you start making changes, find out where you are now. Rate your current state of health and wellness using a scale of one to 10, where 1 means "horribly unhealthy" and 10 means "perfect health". In rating yourself, take the following factors into account (if you like, you can score yourself from one to 10 on each of these, and then divide by 10 to get your average):
- Food Choices: Are you still eating processed foods (cereal, protein powders and bars, crackers), or are you taking in real foods (all natural animal products, vegetables, fruits)? Do you eat a healthy balance of food types (protein, carbs and fats)? Are you cooking more at home or are you going out, where you risk the unknown of what restaurants are putting in their food to make it taste better? Are you eating inflammatory foods (gluten, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, soy)?
- Drink Choices: Think about your intake of caffeine, soda, artificial sweeteners and alcohol vs. good, old-fashioned water. Are you drinking pasteurized juices (simply sugar-water) or are you eating whole fruits instead? Do you have a water filter at home to remove toxins from your drinking water?
- Daily Caloric Intake: As opposed to your daily caloric output—are you operating at a deficit? For anyone with weight management issues, this one is important.
- Consistency of Above: Be honest with yourself about how consistent you are in making smart eating and drinking choices. Are you sticking with your goals? I recommend shooting for the 80/20 rule (perfect 80 percent of the time and close to perfect or doing your best for other 20 percent).
- Types of Workouts: Do you only body-build, or do you maintain a balanced program of weight-training, cardio, flexibility training, and corrective work for better posture? Do you know what areas you should stretch for your body (that is, only trying to lengthen the tight areas without over-stretching the weak areas and making them weaker)? Have you been doing the exact same workout for years? Are you focusing on cardio to lose weight instead of weight training and food corrections? Are you over-training (not taking at least one or two days off each week)? Are you getting out of the weight-room to live an active life (snowboarding, biking, swimming, etc.)?
- Workout Program Consistency: A good, balanced program is a great start—but have you been sticking with it through the year? A four to six-week cycle, followed by taking a full week's break and re-doing your program is ideal. Do you skip weeks at the gym, or overlook some muscle-groups? Again, be honest with yourself; this is the moment for a reality-check. Do you find yourself spending the week-days making up for blowing it out every weekend?
- Relaxation/Meditation Activities: Are you taking care of your mind's connection to your body through activities like yoga, outdoor walks/biking/hiking, massage work, or meditation? Especially if you are in a stressful job, rebuilding your energy is far more important than always breaking it down.
- Rest/Sleep Schedule: Getting eight hours per night? Does your sleep schedule follow your circadian rhythms (that is, sleep from 10pm to 6am)? Are you sleeping soundly through the night?
- Work Life: How many hours are you working per day? Is it stressful or rewarding? Do you enjoy going to work each day due to challenges and friends?
- Drinking/Partying Habits: We all like to have a good time, but are you drinking or partying every weekend or too often? Are you spending the whole week recovering? Are you missing out on healthy opportunities because you are hung-over all the time?
Now that you've reached a health rating score, make a list of changes you'd like to make in 2010 to improve this number within the categories listed above. These will be pretty specific and practical changes, since you want to eliminate the particular things that killed your score. For example: swearing off diet soda, or alcohol on the weekends (or at least for three months of the year); only eating as many calories as you burn each day; taking up a recreational sport instead of just gym workouts, or working with a trainer to develop a corrective program; or getting enough sleep, at least on the weekends.
These behavioral changes need to have a context in order to work. You don't just want to beat yourself up over eating and sleeping; rather, you want the specific changes to get you closer to who you want to be and where you want to go in life. That's why, once you have your health goals, I'd like you to think about your general life goals, and how you might achieve them. Take this opportunity to list five to 10 life goals to work toward in 2010. For example, these can be particular but life-changing—like paying off your credit cards, or completing a triathlon. Or, these can be more abstract, like becoming a more flexible person (and that, in turn, might require some of the changes listed above, like changing your insane work schedule). But try to link the specific behavioral change to a larger, more abstract goal, which thus itself becomes particular and attainable. For instance: your goal to lose weight can be an ambition to get into size 32 jeans. Once you have the goal, you just need the plan.
Get a Plan
So, now that you've got the life goals, let's give you some specific fitness goals for 2009. Try to find five to 10 goals that fit in with your life and health goals, and that can help get you where you want to be. For example:
- Pick a Part: Make specific areas of your body stronger and/or more powerful for specific functions or movements. For instance, strengthening your lower abs for better lower back support and improved posture; bench-pressing your own weight; doing 10 unassisted pull-ups; improving your cardio endurance; increasing your flexibility enough to be pain-free in daily life. You can invent your own specific goals, thinking about how they advance your general life goals.
- Make a First: One great way to advance life goals is to become accomplished at something new, that you never thought you could do. And, it will help your basic fitness as well. So, go learn to swim laps, or prepare for a half-marathon, or learn to double-jump rope. Set a goal, achieve that goal, feel awesome.
- Get an Education: You can broaden your horizons, and get new ideas, by learning new information. Learn more about proper form (try consulting a trainer), or perform checks to self-diagnose muscle pain and postural issues. This will get you feeling enlivened for your general life goals, and put you in a better position to succeed.
So can checking in. Put a reminder on your calendar on the first of April that you are to go through this entire questionnaire again and check up on how you're doing. Your plans may need tweaking at that point—and that's ok. Just be honest with yourself about where you are, so you can see where you'd like to go.
All the best of luck in 2010—and remember the challenge I gave you to make this the year you make a real difference in your life!
About Billy Polson: Billy Polson is co-founder of the award-winning Diakadi Body personal training gym and creators of RealJock's 12-week Workout Programs. Billy was recently named by Men's Journal Magazine as 1 of the top 100 Trainer's in America and is a certified Level 1 Practitioner and Holistic Lifestyle Coach through the Paul Chek Institute as well as a Certified Personal Trainer through The National Academy of Sports Medicine. Have burning questions about your fitness that you want Billy and Diakadi co-founder Mike Clausen to answer? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.