Living Healthier Sucks

You can't go wrong with X to the Z.  Yes, I'm ridiculous.

You can’t go wrong with X to the Z. Yes, I’m ridiculous.

As I continue to try and live healthier and smarter, I’ve started to notice just how much living healthier sucks. It does. It sucks time from your day every day. It’s really no wonder that so many people struggle to adopt healthier cleaner changes in their life, or to maintain those changes over the long haul. It’s hard work. It’s totally worth it, but it’s not easy.

I’m grateful that so many of my friends and family appreciate what I am trying to do for myself and how important it is to me that I succeed, because it would be easy for them to be less tolerant of my “pickier” eating habits or my extremely limited free time.

I’m still awful at being honest with myself about how long it will take me to get done with my run and/or workout. And because of that, I’m late for damn near everything. If I tell you I’ll be anywhere before 7 p.m. on a weekday, just laugh in my face. I’m dreaming. So far, seven o’clock is the absolute earliest I can manage to get my run/workout completed and then get myself cleaned up and ready to go anywhere. Sorry, but if it’s happening before seven, I’m probably not gonna make it.

Healthy living is a time-suck. But I think I’m slowly getting better at organizing and sequencing my life to stay ahead of it.

How is it a time-suck? Eating real food and exercising regularly takes way more time than just the 30 minutes on the treadmill or that hour it takes to bake a sweet potato. And it’s important to know that from the start, and figure out ways to streamline as much of those diet and exercise routines as possible, or they won’t be “routine” for very long.

Eating real food takes way longer than eating trash. I am somewhat darkly amused by how many businesses have drive-thrus. You can cash your paycheck at the bank; drive across the street to McDonalds for a quick and delicious fat laden, high calorie, and chemically flavored “milk” shake; and then run down to the corner Walgreens to pick up your diabetes medication and high blood pressure pills, all without getting out of the car. Hooray modern civilization. We’re nailing it!

Simply dedicating yourself to a diet of whole, raw, unprocessed foods means going to the market more often (unprocessed and raw foods don’t shelve well for very long), cooking more often, and more cleaning up after all of that cooking. It is little wonder why so many people opt for faster processed food. Life is busy and time is limited. I get it. Heat, eat, and throw a box in the trash. What’s on TV tonight? Is it bed time already?

I live alone and cook for one, and I still end up at the grocery store at least twice a week. Using almost half a gallon of almond milk every three days doesn’t help. But I’m lucky. The grocery store is across the street from the gym, so I’m going to drive by it every day anyway. That’s a huge bonus.

To help me keep that process as smooth as possible, I keep a grocery list in my pocket at all times. It’s the flip-side of my “To Do” list. When I run out of something at home, whether it is shampoo, envelopes, or eggs, it goes on the list immediately. If I’m at work and think of something I want for dinner, it goes on the list. And I shop to the list. If I don’t, I forget stuff. Then I have to go to the store again tomorrow. That’s more time sucked from my life because I was too stupid to use the list.

I’m also starting to look into pickling and canning vegetables. That could maybe provide some quicker food options in the future. We’ll see about that later.

Just finding the time to exercise can crush even the best intentions. We’ll all see evidence of this in the coming months as the resolution-rush of new members comes and then goes at our local gyms. Time constraints, perceived or genuine, are probably the biggest reason why so many people never start or don’t continue to exercise regularly.

I’m guessing that most gyms count on that low overall attendance too. If every paying member at any given gym actually went regularly, the place probably couldn’t function. They need the money from all of those absentee members in order to pay the bills. But they definitely don’t want EVERYBODY to show up. They don’t have the space. And the wear and tear on equipment would be insane. Thank you to all of the people that aren’t actually going to my gym. I truly appreciate it.

(And you’re welcome to all of the Bally members I supported for years without bothering to go.)

The time commitments of exercising that most easily get overlooked are the time traveling to and from the gym, the time spent making sure you’ve got everything you need (shoes, iPod, gym clothes, headphones, towel, iPod, water, iPod), the time spent actually changing clothes or showering, and the time spent washing those extra clothes being used every day.

If I’m actually at home, I’m probably doing laundry.

It might not sound like a hell of a lot. But I bet if you tallied everything up, it probably takes closer to an hour to fit in that 30 minute elliptical workout than people really realize. Especially if the gym isn’t just 10 minutes down the street.

An extra hour on top of all of our other work and family obligations can be hard to find.

Even the simple act of running can take way more time than it may seem at first glance. And you can essentially do that anywhere. Finding the time in everyday business to run at all is time-hurdle number one. Then you’ve got all of the above mentioned clothing/accessory issues, maybe even more sense dressing for unpredictable, non-climate-controlled, outdoor weather could require a higher and more cumbersome level of layering. So yeah, the time required to change clothes, stretch properly, warm up, complete whatever run you’re aiming for, cool down, stretch again, take a shower and dress again can end up making that quick 20 minute “run to a beach body” you were reading about in that fitness magazine suck about an hour out of your life. Not a problem as long as you know that going in.

time flies

It takes a while to get accustomed to all of these seemingly invisible time expenses and how they will affect your overall living budget. But like any budget, it only works if you stick to it. Life is busy. Time is limited. I get it. But if you can find a budget that works for you, and you can stick with it, you will be rewarded by feeling better and having more energy in the hours that you have remaining each day. And in theory, you may just end up with a little extra time tacked on to the end of the long game we all cling to so tightly.

I’m consistently busier than I have ever been in my life with way less “free time” than I’ve probably ever had in my life. But that makes total sense. I work five or six days a week, I run three days a week, I go to the gym at least five times a week, and I cook almost every single meal I eat each week. I am consistently doing more than I have ever done. Does it get hectic sometimes? Sure. Have I considered slowing down? Not yet. And I hope that I don’t. I’ve wasted too much time already; much of it claiming with foolish pride to be a NBU: Natural Born Underachiever.

I’m done with that noise. I’m charging into the rest of my life. And it better be ready.

Here are a couple of small things that I do to help me stay on track with my diet and exercise routines. Maybe you can adjust them to their own needs. And I would love any suggestions that might help me streamline even better.

1. I prep daily food needs in bulk. There are certain things that are ALWAYS in my refrigerator: A large garden salad, some kind of cooked beans (lima, black, garbanzo, kidney), a container of cooked chopped spinach, and frozen bananas and berries in the freezer.

Coworkers have wondered in the past if I get up and assemble my lunch salad every morning. Nope. Every four or five days I make one large salad and then just portion a lunch-sized salad from that every morning. Then I add a few spoonfuls of some beans, and a cut up slice of tomato. It takes me less than a minute to “make” my lunch every morning.

I make a multivitamin shake every morning. I’m not always up as early as I’d like or maybe with the pep that I’d like. So I make that shake as easy to execute as possible by peeling, halfing, and freezing several bananas at a time. Each morning, I mix almond milk with vitamin powder, and then blend it with half of a frozen banana and some frozen berries (blue, black, straw, and/or rasp). Takes less than two minutes, and I swear it’s better than coffee…for me anyway. I don’t like coffee.

I have cooked myself breakfast at home every day since Labor Day, and I like my spinach omelet, so I make sure that I always have spinach in the fridge.

When I run out of any of these things, I take the time that evening to make a bunch more of whatever I’m lacking, so that I get that time back each and every morning before work when my time is even more limited.

2. I keep things I use every day conveniently located for use.
I mentioned my morning shakes. But I also drink protein shakes after longer runs and all workouts. So to keep it convenient, I never take my blender off of the counter. Why? Because it’s ugly? So what. I’m always going to use it again in a matter of hours. It stays on the counter so that I never make excuses to skip a shake. It stays on the counter so that I don’t waste valuable time digging it out of a cabinet every morning, or piling it back in there every evening. Life is short. Time is limited.

A place for everything...

A place for everything…

I have kept my running shoes in the same place since the day I bought them back in September—right in the middle of my bedroom floor. Not against the wall with all of my other shoes. Right in the middle. I have not yet been tempted to skip a run, but I won’t move those shoes. I want them there to remind me that I need to run. The back of a closet is like a lazy man’s attic. It’s where you put things that you have no intention of using again.

If you don’t see my running shoes in the middle of my bedroom floor, it’s because I’m out running. So get out of my room. Or at least clean up in there or something. That bed isn’t going to make itself.

Happy living. Good luck.