Sunday, January 3, 2016

New You in the New Year! Top Eight Ways to Nourish Your Work / Life Balance

A version article was most recently published in "Fitness Trainer," and I am sharing it below!  I hope it provides you with some value information as you journey into the New Year!

By Kim Schwabenbauer, RD, LDN, CSSD

The thought of creating all-encompassing New Year’s resolutions can be overwhelming.  We all want to continue to evolve into the best possible versions of ourselves by removing “not so good for us” habits and replacing them with ones to enhance our work, life and health.  Instead of just throwing out the old “I’m going to eat better in the New Year,” why not really take the time to make it personal to you and dial it down to specific steps that will set you up for success when the New Year arrives.  Below are my top eight ways to nourish your work-life balance! 

1.       Get a routine physical. Many of us neglect this important health checkup that impacts both our work and our personal lives.  Starting the new year knowing your blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as other key nutritional variables, are within normal ranges can help prevent a whole host of other issues down the road.  Make the appointment and resolve to keep it for your future health. 
2.       Master your scheduling practices.  Plenty of us live and die by the schedule.  Those that seem to master it have less stress and worry because of the ability prepare in advance.  Whether it’s a trusty written planner or new productivity app, ask yourself what areas you aren’t managing well, and put procedures in place to address them.  When your child’s soccer schedule is up and the annual business meeting is scheduled, put them in right away and put a reminder a week out to prepare for both.   You’ll have more time to do the things you want to do, if you manage the things you have to do, well.

3.       Set realistic goals.  Many of us would welcome losing 20 pounds, saving 20k this year and finally working out six days per week.  However, some of these goals may not be realistic considering our lifestyle and other responsibilities in the short term.  Make sure the goals you set are achievable and set you up for smaller successes along the way vs. pipe dreams that only lead to frustration.  Make your goals specific actionable steps that have a time line for completion.  Rank them in order of priority to you and your work and personal life.  Every month, review your goal sheet.  If it’s not important to you anymore, take it off the list.  This can help you stay on course to keep redefining what’s important on your schedule and what should be removed.

4.       Just say no.  It’s tempting to say yes to everything because we all want to please others and do our part.  However, protecting your “me time" both on a work and personal level is your way to refresh your mind and body so that you CAN perform in both areas.  If you’re having trouble, pull out the master planning schedule and put your “me” time on there.  It could be a workout, a facial, or a massage.  Whatever it is, don’t feel guilty about it if it’s helping you achieve your other goals of being productive in your everyday life.

5.       Commit to New Travel Routines to Help You Stay Healthy.  At home, it’s easier to be in our comfort zone and plan nutritious wholesome meals or include our daily workout.  When we travel, those habits often go by the wayside. Something as simple as a grocery store run to stock up on tuna packets, dried fruit, nuts, shelf stable chocolate milk, and other traveling staples could make the difference between eating out for three days straight vs. feeling you have control over your eating choices. 

6.       Learn something new.  Learning a new skill or delving into a new area will enhance what you’re currently doing and improve your future success.  Adding a new dimension to your life is a good way to enhance your work-life balance.  Have you been meaning to get that additional certification, go back to school, and learn how to coach your child’s team?  Think about what areas would really improve your current work or personal life and commit to learning a new skill. 

7.       Rethink your responsibilities.  There are responsibilities that we have to do, and there are those we don’t.   If cleaning your house and doing all the grocery shopping is just too much during certain times of the year, hire out or get a delivery service.  Time is money and time saved is sanity saved.  If you need help, don’t be afraid to get it.   You may just require outside assistance for a short stressful period that will allow you to focus on the work or life priorities that are truly important. 

8.       Get enough sleep.  This should actually be closer to the first thing on the list because so few people are doing it and yet it can be a game-changer in all areas of life.  Lack of sleep increases stress, feelings of helplessness, depression and undermines our immune system.  If you want to tackle the day feeling positive and ready to handle life’s challenges, get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night.  If you get 8 to 9, you’ll feel like you are simply indestructible, which carries over to both work life and personal life.  

Remember, creating better work-life balance is a work in progress.  It may seem tempting to take it all on at once with your New Year’s Resolutions, but by picking a few helpful strategies, you can continue to improve this process as your family, interests and work life change.  Keep examining your priorities and adjusting the targets as necessary to have a healthier, happier you in the New Year!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Season Wrap Up & Happy New Year!

I wrote this blog shortly after Ironman Hawaii for a newsletter, but it was never published.  It still had some great messages so I wanted to share it now for those of you who are thinking about their year and all of the things that it brought, great and not so great.  I hope you'll enjoy it!

Kona. It’s the toughest nut to crack. There’s a reason Kona is the Ironman World Championship. It doesn’t hand over its secrets easily to even the fittest athlete on the starting line. It takes a special combination of experience, smarts, practice, attention to detail and pure grit to prevail. When you show up, you had better be 110% healthy, and in your mental groove, because it has a way of exposing your weaknesses and leaving you walking along the Queen K asking yourself “What just happened?”

In 2014, it was my second year on the Kona starting line as a professional. I had a few niggles leading up to the race, but I thought I had them pretty well undercontrol. “Arriving over two weeks early, should take care of checking the heat acclimation and drinking my own weight in PowerBar Perform surely will prepare my gut for the carnage about to ensue on race day,” I thought. I was fit, and I felt ready. Yet on race day, I crumbled. It isn’t just one thing in Kona that does you in; it’s the combination of things that eventually gets you. For me, it was feeling my hip issue rearing its ugly head on the bike, which sent me spiraling into a negative mental place. The hip and mental state combined with an unhappy gut from trying to keep up with my insane sweat rate was my eventual demise. In the end, I spent a very intimate half hour hugging a cone on the Queen K watching
my day go up in smoke. Walking to the finish wasn’t in my plans, but on that day, it was the only way to finish. I sucked it up and got it done. The good news was I learned more about myself and who I was during that eleven plus hours than I did during every flawless race of my career. That may have been more important than running through the finish chute with a new Kona PR.

Part of me wanted to pack it in after falling apart during the pinnacle race of our sport. The other part knew that I became twice the athlete that day, reflected in the official results. When it was time to decide if I should put away the trainer and run shoes for good or jump back on the bike, I knew what I had to do. On November 20, 2014, I started the rebuild and eased my way in through the Holidays to see how I felt about another season and all that it would entail. By January, I was in a great place enjoying the progress in my aerobic zones and feeling like anything was possible again. One of the best things about being a triathlete is our resiliency. While at the time a bad race can feel like the end of the world, we are pretty good at picking ourselves up, dusting off, and looking toward the future. My injuries had healed and been strengthened. My mind had also been healed and felt ready to take on another journey.

This season brought a trip to Taiwan where I faced the heat and humidity again and this time prevailed, as a stronger, smarter version of myself. 

When Ironman Coeur d’Alene’s forecast started predicting record high temps for the race I laughed and decided it was another great test of my new ability to nail the variables and perform in the heat. At 105° degrees, it was a race of attrition, and yet somehow I still pulled it together and raced my way into third in a deep field. “Maybe I was getting this heat thing down,” I thought.

 Finally, Ironman Chattanooga was the final push for the season, so I shifted into overdrive on mastering the heat. I trained with our pro camp in Texas, in August (insert Tim and I saying a few choice words about the weather). I came back and got on my trainer with a heater and humidifier while testing my nutrition plan in the worst conditions imaginable. When the forecast for Chattanooga showed a balmy 70° degrees, I knew I was in for a treat. Preparing for the worst is what we have to do to achieve our potential on race day regardless of the cards we are dealt. Through the year, I’ve faced my demons and even though no one can ever
say they can guarantee things will go well in Kona, I know if I ever get my chance again, I’ll be a different, more confident athlete.  Three Ironmans, three podiums, no one can say I haven't put all my cards on the table in some of the toughest field around and given it a shot. 

Regardless of if you’re pleased with your Kona experience, or more like me, a bit down in the dumps from not achieving your potential; know that this can be a
stepping stone to your next evolution as an athlete. Knowing you’re surrounded by coaches and teammates that care and support you regardless while equipping you with the tools to be successful is key. I could not have attempted this journey without my QT2 family, and specifically, my coach, Jesse. I may have supplied the wings, but he helped me learn to fly. In the interim, enjoy your off season. Learn from your mistakes and take advantage of the tools and resources available to you. And don’t worry Kona, should I ever get my shot again, I’m coming for you. This time, I just might come out on top.

Thank you to my #1 Supporter and the love of my life, Kyle for always being there, regardless of what the journey brings

Wishing everyone a safe and happy New Year!  May 2016 be our best year yet!!