As I mentioned yesterday, I am not the biggest fan of New Year’s resolutions — I truly believe that putting off goals or healthy choices for January 1 (or next Monday, or until some other arbitrary date rolls around) encourages less healthy choices in the time leading up to your set start date. People eat more cookies at Christmas and drink more on New Year’s Eve with the plan to “work it all off” come January 1. The problem with this mentality is (1) it encourages excess consumption that leaves you sluggish and less able to meet your goals when you get back to healthy choices and (2) it creates a mentality of feeling deprived of everything that you’re giving up — which is especially hard if you’ve been indulging in those things for weeks (or months!). Feeling deprived makes it harder to stick to your goals, and before you know it, you have a lot of work to do to get back to your best self.
As cliche as it sounds, I approach the gym, fitness, sleep, nutrition, recovery, etc. more like a lifestyle. I may change my plan or have stricter or less strict moments depending on my goals, but the basic premise is the same: do what I can to feel the best that I can. I eat well to feel well and prevent disease, lift and run/cycle/swim/etc to energize and de-stress, and sleep/get massages/foam roll etc. to recover. My hope is always to avoid getting to a place where I need drastic new Year’s resolutions to get back on track — or, when I discover problems with my approach, that I change them immediately rather than letting my shortcomings spiral out of control. If I “cheat” by taking an extra day off from the gym or by eating something off my normal nutrition plan, I get right back to my same course of action as soon as possible.
So, for me, the new year is more a time for reflection (which should be done way more often than once a year!) — what did I do last year (eating wise, lifting wise, race wise, in my relationships with friends, family, co-workers, etc) that worked well, and how do I make it part of my routine? what injuries did I have and what I am doing to prevent similar issues in the future? what did I suck at (eating wise, lifting wise, race wise, in my relationships with friends, family, co-workers, etc) and how can I improve? what goals did I fail to meet, and are they worth continuing to pursue?
I also think about where I want to be in a year – this year, I focused on training myself to sleep 8 hours a night and to recover from overtraining better. Last year, I decided I wanted to be able to swim a mile after a lifelong inability to swim. The year before, I took up cycling and have worked to improve my speeds. (These are “big” examples, but I write down a mix of 5 large and small things I want to work on by birthday, which conveniently falls mid-way through the year, and another 5 things that will take the whole year. Some are recommitments to things that I generally do but could be more consistent at — like flossing twice a day [still working at making that a 365-day-a-year habit!] or doing my shoulder stretches from PT every night.)
I think the most important aspect of this type of “resolution” is to pick attainable AND tangible goals. So, instead of saying “I want to get in shape and lose weight,” focus on something like “I want to run a sub-6:30 mile, do 8 consecutive pull-ups, and lose 2% body fat.” (Those goals might sound a lot like me because they are mine. ;)) The latter set of goals are more reachable for a reason — they are specific. As my sister put it, “if you’re not planning for success, you’re planning for failure.” And the only way to be able to make a plan that you can stick with is to set a concrete goals that allow you to measure how close you’ve come to reaching them. While I focus on fitness and nutrition here, I think this is true for any aspect of life and try to apply these principles across the board.
This year, my biggest goal is the same as it was last year: to get my cortisol down to a normal level so that I can sleep well and perform better in the gym. As it turns out, this is a very slow process that tests the patience of the not-so-patient, like me. I am focusing on 3 new ideas to help me reach this goal:
- Tweaking my diet a little bit and completely eliminating all dairy and coffee and eliminating most fruit. (Super huge 😦 ). My new diet is a combination of the Whole 30 program — which focuses on eating whole, real foods with no processed additives, sugars, legumes, grains, or dairy, the 21 Day Sugar Detox — which is similar but eliminates all sweeteners, including fruits and stevia, and the Carb Nite Diet — which Gregg Cook just suggested and which cycles between ultra-low carbohydrate days with a single cheat meal every 10 (or less) days. I am basically using sweet potatoes/winter squash/fruit to up my carb intake for the “cheat meals” (yes, I know how insane it sounds to talk about using sweet potatoes, squash and fruit for cheats — but I know my body feels better when I avoid processed crap, so I am not comfortable throwing in a little crap into the engine once a week!). Other than that, I am following the Whole 30/21DSD rules for the month of January. The macro ratio with be something like 55% fats, 37% protein, 8% carbs (or about 30 g carbs). After a month, I’ll see how it feels and adjust accordingly.
As part of holding myself accountable, I’ll be posting my meals here everyday, even if they are simple and not “recipe-worthy.” Today was eggs with chilis (smashed and mixed with water) and all-natural uncured, nitrate free sausage (not pictured because I ate them while the eggs were cooking!) with Bulletproof Numi tea for breakfast, pork with tomatillo salsa and Ginger tea for lunch, and chicken breast with tomatos and onions for dinner (on the plane back to NYC – thanks Mom!).
- 6X6 Sprints – another part of decreasing my cortisol levels is decreasing the amount of my beloved cardio. I am a running addict — for years, my way of de-stressing and having time to myself to think has been running. But in order to reduce my cortisol and repair some damage from over-training, I am taking a step back from my 10-milers and focusing on shorter distances that keep the total work under 30 minutes. That’s why I was thrilled when Gregg Cook posted this 6X6 sprint program. I’ve already started it and it is brutal(ly awesome).
- Star Complex Lifts – in addition to decreasing my cardio time, I am also trying to be more effective with my lifts so I have enough time for yoga, Nalini, sleep, foam rolling, etc. This complex is quick — it takes about 30-45 min and can be manipulated for all body parts — and it is super challenging. I’m going to stick with it for the 4 weeks of January and will let you know how it goes. Look for quick posts on variations I am using daily!
So, there’s my intro into my Nutrition/Lifting Plans for (January) 2014. I hope you’ll continue reading and let me know how any of these plans work for you. 🙂