Where To Start With Health and Fitness As A Father: Journal
The beginning of this decade has seen our world go through unusual changes. Many of us forced into situations and lifestyles that kept us inside and doing our best to hold it together for our family without the balances of work and social life.
After all the stresses, adaptations, and trying to help our children understand why their day to day life has changed due to the worlds of politics, economics, virology, and media - we need to take pause and remember our own physical and mental health is just as important.
If you feel yourself taking more naps, drinking too much caffeine, giving into old vices like over eating and other substance abuse- your body and mind are giving you signals - it's time to change.
Let's talk about why starting a journal will help you to begin heading down a path of better health.
1. Take Inventory
We need to know where we're starting if we're going to improve upon anything. Start a journal. It's tough and it's worth it.
Many men, especially fathers, find it difficult to be open with others about their own pains, problems, stresses, and feelings of failure. Equally so, we find it hard to share our successes, wins, and achievements in the hope to not seem self-obsessed, overly bashful, or otherwise too inward focused.
A journal doesn't care.
A journal will not judge you.
A journal will free your mind to open the floodgates of intense thoughts, feelings, and vulnerability.
Here's how we'll take this first step.
- The best journal is the one you'll use. Do you love the feel and aroma of an expensive, leather-bound, thick paper, foiled paper journal? Go for it. It sounds incredible. Maybe you're more of a minimalist. The smallest form factor at the cheapest price will do just fine. Great. Are you a digital native and live on all of your devices and forget what it feels like to use a pen? Sounds like you'll love https://www.notion.so/.
What ever you choose, make sure it fits within your current lifestyle, not the one you want to be. When you lifestyle changes, consider changing your journaling habit then. Until then the most important part is starting.
- Establish a pattern. Pick a time and length commitment that you'll stick with, then consider halving it. For example, if you say you'll write 500 words once a day change that to every other day I'll write 250 words.
Starting with a journal is to show ourselves what if feels like to set and achieve habits and goals that give us a sense of success. Don't set the bar so high that you feel overwhelmed by the pressure of journaling and won't be derailed by the first time you miss your set expectations.
Start with success, not with obstacles.
- Loosely track mood, weight, activity, an achievement, a failure, and eating habits. Start each entry by going through these items. Importantly - be brutally honest and succint. These don't need to be exact (yet). The items are the beginning of our self-assessment and a spark for your entries.
After just a few weeks, you'll have a personal account of how your mind works, how your body feels, and a peak into the areas you're already doing well and areas that may be holding you back.
This list also provides a starting point for "what should I write about." Why were you so happy today? Why do you consider your failure a failure? What did you learn to avoid it in the future?
- Just start writing. The list above is your insurance to always have more than one topic to write about. The critical thing to do is immediately start writing when you're in journaling mode. No sitting and pondering about a topic or if you should or should not write about it. Create your list, then start your entry. If you have something to write or say that isn't part of the list- great.
- Don't bother finding a voice, just write in the one you have. Stop overthinking it. Just start writing. If you don't like what you wrote- that's even better. Write down what you hate about that, too.
- Don't tell anyone what you're doing. Okay, don't hide it from your partner, but don't go out of your way to tell anyone about your journal. This isn't for them. This is your undertaking, your practice, your growth.
After you've established journal as part of your habits and don't need to force it to make it happen- then is the time to stop hiding it. Until then, don't let anyone have any power, influence, or say in your journal. This is for you.
Give yourself at least a month of consistent journal before taking the next step.
2. Study and Target
With the pattern of writing now part of our consistent and foundational habits, we'll have the information to know which paths we need to take to improve in meaningful ways.
At the beginning of your journal, what were your initial impulses of what needed to be "fixed" for you to start your health and fitness journey? Maybe you were thinking of running more, maybe you thought you'd hop on to keto and start putting butter in your coffee.
What changed over the month? Did you find points of stress that you weren't allowing yourself to be honest about? Maybe you're already pretty active, but your sleep is suffering? Maybe you didn't realize how often during the week you had alcohol, maybe you're a walking caffeine molecule?
Don't forget to add all of your answers and thoughts on this to your journal.
3. Make A Plan With FAST Goals
Everything we're doing from this point forward is about lifestyle change. We're not looking for a specific date to achive something by- we want consistent, long-term, healthy, and sustainable growth. Enter FAST goals. These are goals with frequent reminders, ambitious targets, specific outcomes, and transparency with people around you.
1. Frequent: Don't set and forget. Each day you should receive a small reminder or indicator of your goal. Incorporate into your daily routine a way to ensure that your goal is top of mind. That new journal habit will come in handy for this.
A tactic here is to start your day with our list from earlier, with the addition of rewriting your goal and what you'll do that day to achieve it. For example, is your goal to have better cardiac health? Write that down with the time you'll be taking a walk later that day.
2. Ambitious: If it were easy everyone would do it. There's no room to grow in comfort. No pain no gain (actually, I hate this one). Why be ordinary when you can be extraordinary- I think you see where I'm going with this.
With our above goal of better cardiac health: What could you achieve if you knew your heart was strong and your lungs could fill Madison Square Garden? Would you run a marathon? Would you join a soccer club? Would you play more intensly with your young kids?
Set a goal that makes you dream, and make sure it's something you have to stretch to reach. This is not the place to sand-bag your abilities. Make this a goal that you're already trying to talk yourself out of. A goal that you have to accept that you may fail, but go after it anyway. As a dad, show your kids the pride in achieving something that's difficult, even though it seemed impossible.
3. Specific: No matter how overly ambitious your goal is you need a plan with specifics for achieving it. So you want to run that marathon- how are you going to train to get there? What level of progression are you going to use? How will you change your diet? When will you fit training into your schedule?
Get on yourself for this one. You should have clear milestones and metrics to track to keep you moving towards your end goal.
4. Transparent: Asking for help comes in a lot of different languages. Talk openly to your kids, your spouse, and your friends about what you're doing. Show them that you're working towards something tough, but that you have a plan and you're proud for keeping on track.
You want to demonstrate to your kids what healthy habits and consistency can achieve. Show them that greatness in all forms comes from the consistent application of small steps, not from waking up lucky.
Keep track of each of these points in your journal. Maybe not every entry, but be aware of how your applying each of these motivators to continue to move towards your goal.
4. Understand The Benefits
Sometimes your goal, your plan, and your ambition are not going to be enough to help you hold the line.
Sidenote: To be frank- you don't always need to be stringent and overtly focused on your goal. A discussion for another time.
Knowing that your goal brings more than its completion is important. I've mentioned it before- but knowing your kids are watching is a huge point to keep in mind.
Your kids should see how your growth towards a target has more benefits. Sticking with the marathon goal: You're eating better, you're sleeping better, you have more energy, you have more pride, you have more drive, you have less pain, you have less mental fog, and you have a better connection with your partner.
These are all things your kids will, on one level or another, absolutely pick up on.
When you have those moments of realization, that you're enjoying a side-effect benefit from your focus on your goal- take note. Make sure to write these clearly in your journal. These will become kindling to the fire you'll need when your days get tougher and your motivation sways.
Welcome to 2021
This year will mark a change for so many. At the time of writing, Wall Street is being hounded by internet meme-lords who are living the namesake of the application that brought on the revolution of the retail investor. These people are seizing a rare opportunity to achieve something together - with the added side-effect that many of them will benefit wildly financially.
Imagine what a bunch of dads can do by setting an example for the next generation of what the same level of focused group efforts can do for us all individually with our physical and mental health.
There's going to be a lot of dads, parents, and role models who need help in the coming year. Rather than letting us one-by-one fall into dark places and hopeless despair, we need to come together, band together and hold one another up. The kids are watching, after all.