As we rapidly approach the end of this calendar year, it’s time to shift attention to the next. And what am I if not an obnoxious idealist who constantly seeks to improve? I’m also a bit lazy, but let’s not get off topic.
If you’ve been following along, you know that I was seeking to run a 5K every month this year. In 2 or 3 weeks, that goal will be met. While I would have liked the year to turn out better (re: multiple nagging injuries and the complete inability to run farther or faster), I was explicit that my goal was completing 5Ks, not completing them well. So I’m 3.1 miles from being done.
Except I’m never really done.
I’ve been thinking about my goals for next year for a few months (and getting asked what my goal would be almost as long). Originally, I was staying in the running realm. I was thinking either a 10K or trying to run a 25-minute 5K. Both are audacious enough that they would necessitate working hard. Both could also kill me.
Ultimately, neither felt like the right kind of goal. While worthwhile, they were too singular. The Super Awesome Year of the 5K forced me to run all year. These goals could be completed once and then be done with. That’s not a good goal for the year. I might still try the 10K (I’ve got all the nopes in the world for the 25-minute 5K after all the injuries started piling up in the fall), but it’s not the right goal.
And so I sat.
And then it hit.
A series of monthly health challenges.
The basic idea is to take on a new daily goal each month and try to achieve that goal. Some are fitness related (e.g., yoga and 10,000 steps) and others are more mental (e.g., meditating and reading for 30 minutes). But they have the common thread of being something that can be achieved on a daily basis and are things that are pretty well proven to be good for you. They’re also things I don’t do as often as I’m supposed to. I’ll track every day, but I definitely won’t post every day. The last thing y’all need is “I didn’t have a Coke today, and I’m not happy about it,” followed by “I didn’t have a Coke today, and I’m still not happy about it.”
This is the first draft:
I’ve mulled a similar idea before but only for a week when I wanted to see if I could go without drinking any of my calories.
It’s also similar to the Buzzfeed Life/Change Videos.
And I’ve also read a book on a similar idea as my upcoming goal. I’ve mentioned The Happiness Project before, but here’s a cliffnotes version:
The author, Gretchen Rubin, embarked on a yearlong happiness project. Every month, she went after a new facet of improving happiness (boosting energy, fostering friendships, focusing on family, etc.) with multiple goals each month. Each month, she tried to add the new goals to the ones she was already trying to accomplish.
A pretty audacious project to the say the least. The book is worth a read. It’s not perfect, but it’s interesting (she shifts to focusing on blog readers’ input more than I’d like as the book progressed instead of focusing on her story and the sources of her goals).
Where mine differs is that I’m not adding new goals to previous goals. Each month is its own beast. I’m not going to try to do it all. The fact is that time will make it difficult to do some of my goals on their own, much less adding new wrinkles every month. Ideally, a lot of these things would still be daily or almost daily, but I have to face the fact that I’m remarkably lazy.
Now it’s time to discuss each of the tentative goals, including the challenges they bring (including a couple of bad habits that I use as a crutch for good things).
This was the easiest one to add. In terms of pain management and just generally trying to feel ok, yoga is the winner. Unfortunately, I haven’t maintained a daily yoga habit in about 5 years. Even now that I’m taking classes, I only go once or twice a week. Honestly, because I take classes, I don’t practice at home like I should. At best, I’ll do a light session.
When this month comes up, I’ll ideally start my day with a decent yoga session. I’ll still be attending classes probably, but I want to have my own practice going steady. Worst case is sneaking in light sessions. That’s still more than I’m doing now.
I carry the fitbit for a reason. The whole idea is to track data and do something about it. And this is the chance to do something about it.
I know I don’t hit 10,000 steps even half the time. I’ve only averaged 10,000 daily on two different weeks (and one of those included a day that was about 20,000). The best I’ve consistently managed was 8,000, and I’ve really been about 6,000 recently.
The trick with this goal is my schedule. There are days where I don’t have much time to walk around because I’ve got to sit at a computer and get things done. There are also days where walking around isn’t convenient because on the weekends, I’m a homebody (see previous sentence on working hard at a computer for the reason why I tend to veg out on the weekends).
But it can be done and it should be done, so it will be done.
And this isn’t 10,000 on average. This is 10,000 daily. A crazy day of 15,000 doesn’t mean I get to rest. It means I get right back at it the next day.
I’ve been circling this goal for years. And I’ve achieved it a few times. And I’m going to do it again because this easily my worst habit.
This one isn’t complicated, really. It’s a matter of keeping my hands off of 12 ounces of canned deliciousness. The only time it gets tricky is when I don’t get enough sleep and need a pick-me-up. But I’ll figure something out.
I still haven’t figured this one out yet. The recommended value is 38 grams. I don’t even get close to 20 grams on most days, I’m pretty sure. I originally wrote down 20, but I may up that to 30 (I don’t see 38 happening realistically).
The tough part with this one is doing it consistently and tracking fiber intake. I’ll probably have to start using a whole grain cereal to supplement my egg concoctions. After that, it’s plants. Plants all the way down.
I’ve got a couple of meals that work well (red beans and rice, and a spaghetti and beans combo), but keeping all 3 meals on high is an iffy proposition, if for no other reason than I gravitate toward heavy protein meals.
Letter to Someone
This is one of the goals I’m iffiest on. The basic idea is that I need to send correspondence to someone every day of the month that is fairly in-depth.
It’s an admirable goal. It’s keeping in touch with people in an old-school way.
It’s also a special type of hell for an introvert. I don’t even know that there are 30 people I feel comfortable sending this type of thing to.
So that leaves me with two options. Do this and force myself to grow. Or pick something else. I’ll be honest, I’m leaning toward something else.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know how to meditate. I do yoga, which is at its root meditation. I do guided relaxation, which sounds a lot like meditation. But I’ve never meditated in earnest.
And now I’m going to try.
Well, once I figure out how, anyway. This one won’t be too terrible. I’m only looking at about 10-15 minutes a day. Scheduling won’t be an issue, so this one may be the most efficient in terms of effort and output, but we’ll check back in when I actually give this a go.
This is another pain management goal. This one’s especially important when I’m running.
The first time I foam rolled, I came close to crying manly tears when I hit my IT bands and a knot in the upper part of my back. And once I got in the habit of rolling, I was functioning the day after workouts better than I had in years.
And then I stopped doing it as often as I should.
So we’re going to do this ever day, not just after workouts.
I have no idea what will happen when I’m doing this daily. I’m just hoping it helps mitigate pain too.
I have made zero attempts to quantify this one. And I have no idea how I will. Ideally, I would have something green for every meal, but that means egg concoctions every day for a month, which is work.
The easy way out is a green veggie at least once a day (for those of you keeping score at home, yeah, I don’t have vegetables every day), but that seems like a cop out.
Even going after what I consider an audacious goal still isn’t generally considered healthy. The whole crowding out bad stuff with veggies and fruit doesn’t happen in my world, so I think I’ll have to settle for veggies at every meal.
Heaven help us all.
No Refined Grains
This one should go hand in hand with the fiber intake, but I’m not going to go crazy.
The fun part about this one is that I don’t use refined grains much. I buy whole grain bread. I eat brown rice.
At home, anyway.
Elsewhere in the world, refined grains are almost unavoidable. Honestly, I’ll barely be able to eat out (or at least I can’t eat all the food they serve).
I’m genuinely at a loss for where I can eat in this town without having something on the plate that isn’t refined (except sandwich shops).
This will be an interesting month. I don’t need enriched grains (I will have to avoid sushi unless I can use brown rice), but they’re damn near impossible to avoid.
No Drinking Calories
This one’s gonna suck.
This is the original goal I wanted to try. For a week, not a month.
But this one could interesting.
The wrinkle on this one is that it cuts out sodas, but it also cuts out juice. I drink orange juice every day. Have since I was little.
I’m allergic to milk, so once they started fortifying OJ with calcium and later vitamin D, a parental unit pretty much made this a mandatory breakfast item (if you’re paying attention, I have horrible eating habits and wasn’t getting calcium from anything else of substance).
So my now 25-year old OJ habit is coming under fire. I’ll have to be very careful that I’m getting vitamin C and calcium in my food. When I travel, I’m especially neurotic about getting OJ every day (and usually an extra bottle if I can manage).
But I know this isn’t the best option. I don’t believe the people who say it’s as bad as soda (yes, there’s sugar; no, there’s not as much; and there’s also actual nutrients in my OJ). But it would still be better to get my vitamin C from fruit. I’m not sure about my calcium. Cheese is my only other consistent source.
That reminds me.
I don’t think cheese is the worst thing in the world. I do think the manner I ingest it is not a good thing though. Cheese for me primarily sits on pizza and enchiladas.
And that’s not a healthy relationship with cheese.
This one really won’t be that difficult, but it messes with somethings. It means no pizza for a month. It also means the sort-of frittatas I like to make for breakfast either have to be altered or cut from the menu.
This might be the easiest goal to achieve. And it will have the easiest effect on my caloric intake.
But man, I’m going to miss pizza.
30 Minutes of Reading for Fun
I read every day. I just don’t always read for fun.
There are days that I’m so mentally exhausted from work that I don’t even want to think when I get home. I crawl on the couch and do nothing. Literally, nothing. I don’t watch TV. I don’t play on my phone. I just lay down in silence.
But now I’m going to force myself to keep reading. And reading is good for you.
So the long and the short of it is that the lifelong goal is the same: to improve every day. But the short-term goals are changing. Instead of focusing on running, I’m focusing on other aspects of wellness. I’ll still be running, but I won’t be forcing myself as much (though I’ve already earmarked two 5Ks, and there’s a third I’d like to do). None of the goals are set in stone yet, but they will be, and then I’ll hate humanity. Especially those jerks who eat healthy just because.
But what does this mean for our friendly neighborhood blog? Well, the focus is about to shift. I’ll keep the name the same (qhateseverything has a nice ring to it, but that might set the wrong tone), but I’ll be talking about these broader goals.
And if nothing else, you can see how miserable I am for each of these months I’m forcing myself to eat healthier.