Thursday, November 11, 2010

Balancing At The Edge

Recently I've been thinking about "the edge". Actually, that's not true. I'm ALWAYS thinking about the I can get to the next level, or obtain that certain something that's going to give me an advantage. It's a competitive trait of mine and yes, sometimes it's directly related to competition itself and wanting to win or be the best at something. But lately it's been more about how I can gain an edge in my overall health. See, it's not enough for me to be just "healthy". When I need to check the "how would you describe your health" box at the doctors office, I want to be able to check the box that says "GREAT health". When I turn 40, I want my doctors to look me in the eye and tell me that I'm going to live another 60 years because I'm in such great health. When I'm 60, I don't want my overnight bag to contain dozens of prescription bottles. I want to be illness free! When I'm 70, I want to be running the same trails I'm running on today at 36. I want to still be able to deadlift 200 lbs, do a pullup, and chase after my dog (who will be 350 years old by then). Certain that there MUST be some sort of secret food, secret workout, secret SOMETHING out there, I've been asking a lot of much older, very healthy adults about this. And you know what they all tell me? "You've got to take care of yourself when you're young". Bingo. What I do to and for my body NOW is going to affect my longevity, my ability to do the things I want to do at 40, 60, 70, 100 years old. What I do to my body can prevent degenerative disease and deterioration of brain function. The way I treat myself is CRUCIAL and of TOP PRIORITY.

My grandma and great aunt. Two of the most energetic, vibrant, sharp ladies I know...and yeah, can you believe it...they're in their 80's and 90's!

That's why the "I'll start TOMORROW", or the "one more slice of pizza won't kill me" or the "one more hour and then I'll go to sleep" or the "I'll go to the doctor NEXT week" or the "I've got my whole life ahead of me" excuses DO NOT FLY with me. And at the risk of sounding like a know-it-all or like I'm lecturing my audience, please understand---I am VERY guilty of throwing these excuses around at times. But the thing is, I am DESPERATE to get the most out of this life, however temporary it may be, and for me, that means I've got to take care of myself so that I can enjoy the things I want to do. I'm not too keen on the idea of regret and years from now, I'd really like to say I did it right and did it well.

I know A LOT of people...AMAZING, self-less, considerate, kind people who simply don't put their well being FIRST. They feel that taking care of others is the right thing to do. All the time. And it's admirable and I'm envious of their self-lessness. However, while these people do everything in their power to make sure others around them are happy, healthy and safe, these people are not taking care of themselves. Bottom line is, they are sacrificing their own health to help others. And sometimes, they are truly RISKING their own health. So I have to ask--in the long run (or the very near future in some cases) how are you going to be able to take care of anyone else if you can't take care of yourself? It's like the stuff we hear on the airplane before take-off: "secure your own oxygen mask before you secure any one else's". I know a LOT of mothers who would have a really hard time securing their own mask before their children's masks. I don't have kids. But I'll tell you, if I was sitting next to one of my nephews when the masks drop, I'd have a hard time too. However, it makes sense--who's going to take care of your kids if you aren't around to do it?

I also know a lot of people who take care of everything else in their life before their health. They are so wrapped up in work or projects or their house or whatever that they put their health on the back burner. Again, it's a matter of longevity and priority. How can you get your work done efficiently and well if you're trying to get it done on 2 hours of sleep, six cups of coffee, and some chips and salsa? And after days and days and weeks and weeks of this WILL catch up to you. Do this over and over again, it adds up to YEARS of life that you can't get back. And for what? At the cost of what? YOU? Sure, you might make more money NOW. You might feel really great about making those sacrifices now, but how will you enjoy the fruit of your sacrifices if you are sick. Or dead.

Oh yeah...I'm lecturing. (and being kind of dramatic) Sorry. But not really. Because I really just have too many people in my life, too many loved ones who aren't taking care of themselves!!!!!! And I can't stand to think of a world in the near future without them! I watch them negotiate with themselves and tell themselves that they'll take time for themselves "soon" or "later". They say to themselves, "let me just get through this. take care of THIS. and THEN I'll work on myself". NO!!!! NOW is the time people!

So, I've discovered that this is very much easier said than done, this taking care of yourself first. It's truly another balancing act in our lives, because we really DO have a lot to do and a lot to take care of. Work is important, our kids and our loved ones are EXTREMELY important. So putting ourselves first takes a lot of rearranging and creative planning. It might be, at first, about carving a very small window in our day to cook a healthy meal, take a short run, meditate, pray, write in a journal, take a nap...whatever it is we need to do for ourselves that we've put on the back burner too long. It's imperative, though, that we find a way to do this for ourselves. It's crucial to our health---our bodies, our emotional health, our day to day function.

I am not the expert on this topic. But I'm fortunate that my job and my life is centered on searching for ways to create a balance in life for optimal health. And then I get to tell YOU all about what I've learned and experienced on the topic. So, I'll be honest...for me, lately, I've discovered that I really haven't been taking enough time to truly take care of myself. Work has been extremely busy and I've put myself on the back burner in an effort to take care of my gymnasts who are in competition season. Their mental and physical well being have been my priority for weeks now and MINE has NOT. And as a result...I am not feeling my usual energetic, motivated, strong, efficient self. It's caught up to me and I'm not happy with the results. And because I'm not happy with myself and not feeling my best...guess what? I'm thinking it's probably going to rub off on my gymnasts--the very same girls I've been focused on all these weeks. How am I going to be efficient in my coaching and motivate my young athletes, if I'm falling apart? Hmmmm.

Time to take a step back and take a look at what I need to do to get that balance back.

How about you?

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