January 1 was the first day of what I’m calling my 2014 Self Care Challenge. I had a vision for myself in 2013 of looking healthy and fit before I saw my husband at a port call in Singapore during his deployment, and with lots of hard work, I made it happen and was comfortable enough in my own skin to lay poolside in a bikini for the first time IN MY LIFE. In the months leading up to the port call, I had the very good fortune of wonderful babysitting, an amazing trainer, the help of a nutritionist, the support of the women in my running club, and I kept busy with family and friends.
This year, things are different – less resources, an upcoming move, a pending reintegration of my husband into our daily lives – and I need to set myself up for success no matter what curve balls get thrown my way. My goal once again is to achieve a level of fitness I have never had that my trainer would refer to as “bikini fit”. Though I have no intention of becoming a figure competitor, that is the physique and the level of strength I want to achieve before I turn 40 in September 2015, and I am hell bent on finding a way to achieve it. Last year, I let the chaos of family, volunteering and missing my husband overwhelm me and as a result I often set my goals aside. If I had taken a “systems” approach to self care, however, I think I would have had a better mindset and fewer set backs.
What is a systems approach? My wonderful friend Michelle posted a link to a great article from Entrepreneur that discusses this in detail. It focuses on forgetting goals and instead building systems for accomplishing (and surpassing in many cases) your goals on a regular basis. Here is an excerpt from the article about the difference between goals and systems:
- If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day.
- If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week.
- If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month.
- If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million dollar business. Your system is your sales and marketing process.
THEORETICALLY (oh, and let me introduce you to your guinea pig – ME!), if we create systems for self care, the focus becomes learning how to substitute, adjust, and flex when we cannot execute individual actions exactly as planned (and feeling good when we complete explicit actions not hating ourselves because we couldn’t get it done because WE STILL GET IT DONE). Ideally, we will be less likely to abandon ship since the process, not the end result or goal, is the focus. With me so far?
So what does this Self Care Challenge look like? It is a combination of pre-existing fitness challenges I’ve been following plus some structure that I have added to my days/weeks that incorporates elements of self care like taking supplements, eating (because yes, I DO forget to eat), skin care, sleep, making time to write, and early rising. It involves writing things out using several calendars in my case but you can do this multiple ways. The important thing is to WRITE IT OUT and read it EVERY DAY. We are teaching ourselves to be agile in order to achieve an unending result (lifelong health and wellness) and we need to see it, even touch it, to commit to it and make habits.
Here is how a typical day looks (for example):
1. Wake up at 5am, no matter what.
2. Have a Spark, take my supplements, knock out half of the required push ups (50) and squats (50) from the centennial challenge and kick out a set of 40/40/40 abs (very isolated crunches for lower, mid and upper abs – I will do this abs routine 3 times a day – this is a modification from the sit-ups prescribed in the centennial challenge).
3. Have my breakfast and take the time to write if needed and follow my skin regimen for the morning.
4. 6am, get kids ready for the day and take my son to school.
5. Run (following the rules of I <3 to Run’s 100 Days of Miles Challenge), stretch, supplement and snack.
6. Outdoor play for the kids, errands, chores, the elusive shower 🙂
7. 12pm Supplement, Lunch time.
8. Nap time for the kids, business time for mom.
9. Afternoon play time with the kids and household chores.
10. 3pm Mid afternoon supplement, Spark, and snacks (optionally finish the centennial challenge requirements here), followed by late afternoon play time.
11. 6pm Dinner.
12. 6:30pm Kids bath time, bedtime; kitchen clean up.
13. 8pm Evening workout consisting of remaining Centennial Challenge exercises (I’ve been doing 2 sets of 25 sit-ups, 25 push ups, & 30/30/30 abs) , shower and skin care, business and or correspondence, last minute clean ups, recovery supplements. Bed by 11 (10 if I can swing it).
EACH AND EVERY THING must be done (not necessarily RUN, but EXERCISE for example), but many things are highly variable (nap time for one, also weather for running with a stroller, etc). This is not a checklist – I imagine it like a sliding puzzle board. All the pieces are in the board no matter what and making the puzzle look right isn’t the goal. It’s simply to shift things around so they make sense and are complete when the day is done. It makes sense in my head anyway…lol
Why a challenge to establish a system instead of “meet my goals”? Because I want a healthy happy LIFE, not a healthy happy “end result”. A systems approach makes us more action oriented and more present in our day to day activities and less obsessed with things like “Am I going to be able to run this marathon? Will my skin be clear? Will I lose 15 pounds in 6 weeks?” Having a vision is important. Goals are important. But achieving and sustaining them is the result of smaller actions over a period of time and shifting focus to the actions in a system will shift your mindset from success and failure to execution and agility…or so I hypothesize…
As I go through my self care challenge for the next 100 days and beyond, I will post updates to my blog and to my Facebook page detailing how I go about treating self care actions like sliding pieces and how I slide those pieces around, hopefully without stress. As usual, I do not want this to be a one way conversation, but in opening myself up to interaction, I ask that you be kind and thoughtful in your questions and comments. There’s no need for drama, negativity, body bashing, etc. If we can learn to respect ourselves, we can be more respectful of others and hopefully, that is part of your self care system on your life’s journey, too!
Here’s my very first video blog entry for my Centennial Challenge Day 10 / 2014 Self Care Challenge. More soon!