In January of this year, I hosted a Vision Board workshop in my home town. We started the workshop off with some guided yoga and meditation, then jumped into action making a vision board for the year.
If you’ve never made a vision board, you should consider it!
There is an enormous amount of research that shows that the body will follow the mind. If you tell yourself that you are terrible at something, the likelihood of getting really good at that activity is much lower.
It’s the same with your eyes. If you constantly see negative statements or images (hello news!), your mind will perceive things in a much more negative way.
Fortunately, the opposite is also true. If you get into the habit of telling yourself that you are good at something, or surround yourself with positive images, you increase your likelihood of those positive things happening.
This is where the vision board can become very helpful.
There is no right or wrong way to create a vision board, but the idea behind them is to create a visual cue.. Something that you can see often that will spark motivation, inspiration, and positivity!
This can be something as simple as a bulletin board with images pinned to it that inspire you, or as complicated as a 3 dimensional object that you create using paper mache!
The main point is that your vision board is full of uplifting images and is placed in an area of your house or office that you see regularly (ideally, multiple times per day). When you get into the habit of looking at this vision on a regular basis, your mind will start to drive you in that direction.
Since I already wrote an entire blog post on vision boards before (which you can check out here if you’d like!), I’m not going into the ins and outs of vision board creation. Instead, I want to use the concept we used in the workshop to help you RIGHT NOW with finding more balance in your life. Because I think given our current circumstances, we can all use a little more of that, right?
When I lead clients through creating a vision, we use the concept of the Wheel of Life. The Wheel of Life is a visual representation of all areas of your life.
Usually this is represented by a circle that has been cut into slices, each of which represents a different area of your life. For example, work is one slice, hobbies are another, and relationships are yet another.
You then take a look at each slice, or area of life, and give them a score based on how satisfied you are currently with each one as well as where you’d like each one to be. This allows you to understand what areas of your life are in need of some attention and what the gaps are between where you are and where you want to be.
This exercise may seem silly but once you have a visual display of the current realities of your life, it’s like something clicks! And you are now better equipped to create a plan to achieve it!
The entire goal of this, and the vision board in general, is to create a life of balance. It’s very easy for many of us to become ultra focused on one area of our life while neglecting others, despite wanting those other areas to be fulfilled.
This type of behavior can lead to unhappiness and frustration, especially in times like these when certain parts of our lives have been changed (or taken away) against our desire.
For example, instead of getting mad that our gym is closed and we can’t take our favorite spin class right now, we can look at other areas of our Wheel of Life that could use a little more attention right now.
Eventually, the gym will reopen and you can recommit to your spin class. But for now, what other areas can you give some attention to that can help you achieve your overall vision and obtain more life balance? Because, the reality is, life will always throw us curve balls! It’s okay, and necessary, to pivot and adjust as necessary. THAT is what the Wheel of Life can help us do!
Common Life Categories to Consider
Personal Development- which includes things like your life's purpose, learning, spirituality, health and fitness. Have you ever wanted to learn a new language? Maybe now is the time!
Career- which includes areas like your business life, work environment and finances. Does your current career path provide fulfillment? Do you wake up and love to go to work? Does your career provide you with the financial freedom to live the life you want to live? If not, now is a great time to explore ways you can make some changes.
Relationships- which includes things like your marriage, love, friendship, family, and can also include spiritual relationships. These things take work! If you find that you are less satisfied than you would like to be with any of your relationships, how can you change that to make them more fulfilling?
Social Life- We are social creatures and we were made to interact with one another. So this area can include things like volunteering, community, environment, mentoring, having fun and possibly your hobbies if they involve a group.
The important thing when you sit down to create your own personal Wheel of Life is to create a wheel that includes categories that are most important to YOU. Be sure to include all aspects of your life, including your strengths and the areas that you already know could use a little focus.
As humans, we oftentimes tend to focus on our strengths, and neglect areas that we know we aren’t as great at. This can be fine with some things in life (aka- working with a team where all members are focused on their strengths but other team members are strong in areas we are not), but this can leave your basic human needs unbalanced.
For example, you may be a family woman/man! You prioritize the needs of your friends and family and make sure they are happy, healthy and thriving (all part of the relationships category). However, you will drop any plans you have for yourself to work out, or sit down to eat a nutritious meal, or take time to read or do your favorite craft (all part of the personal development category), all to make sure your families needs are being met first.
Creating your own personal Wheel of Life and honestly answering each category independent of the others can really help shine some light on imbalances in your life's basic human needs. Once you can visually see this, these areas can be brought into the conscious mind and a plan can be created on making some changes. Take the time to create 2-3 action items that you can do for each category to find better balance. If you are ready to take this to the next level, find images in magazines, online, or in catalogs that depict these action items and put them onto a vision board.
It is VERY COMMON to have certain areas of our life be more dominant at certain times, so don’t get discouraged if your Wheel of Life is not currently balanced. I personally had a major shift when the gyms closed and the shelter in place was put into effect. My primary focus on health and fitness shifted. This allowed me the opportunity to revisit my Wheel of Life and see what areas had been pushed to the background and spend a little more time on those. You can do the same thing!
The Wheel of Life can and should be revisited regularly. By doing so, you give yourself a chance to explore whether or not you are living in alignment with your values and beliefs. It also gives you the opportunity to be kind to yourself when different seasons of life cause you to shift focus unexpectedly!
So what are some areas of your life that could use a little TLC right now? Or, what areas of your life do you want to give more attention to that you have been neglecting?
If you don’t already have a Wheel of Life to work off of, you can download one HERE for free. Once you complete it, if you feel stuck with your action items on how to spend your time to be most effective in each area, reach out to me! Many times creative ideas can be developed in a short, free discovery call!
This week, I want to tell you a story about my client Ryan. It's certainly an inspirational one that shows you just how important our habits can be for our goals.
In mid November 2019, I was contacted by a fellow Nutritionist about a friend of his who was interested in running a 50 mile ultra run. His friend was a law enforcement officer who, up to that point, had been mostly focused on keeping fit by building strength in the gym. However, something inside of him had changed and he wanted a new challenge. For him, that was running. My colleague is an AMAZING gym owner and nutritionist who can help anyone get leaner and stronger, but ultra running wasn’t his specialty. So he reached out to me and got his client and I connected.
Ryan and I met for the first time on November 11, 2019 for a quick discovery call. I wanted to get to know him a little better and learn more about what his goals were. In our first call, I learned that Ryan is engaged to be married, has 4 kids at home ages 7-17 years old, and works 45 hours per week in law enforcement. I also learned that he has a military background, loves to push himself and has an honest fear of failure. He had already signed up for his first running challenge, the American River 50 mile Ultra Run in April 2020 and had a training plan he was excited to follow. However, he knew in order to finish his race feeling good, he needed some guidance with nutrition. After a short time learning more about Ryan and his goals, I knew working together could help get him the results he was looking for, so we lined up 3 months of coaching to lead him into his event.
On December 3rd, Ryan and I met for the first time face-to-face via Skype. This was a much longer consultation where Ryan got to tell me so much more about him and what he really wanted. His main goals were to lose 15 pounds of body fat and learn more about how to fuel his body to be able to perform at an optimal level. When I asked about his current diet: “I am keto, kind of” he said with a laugh. Typically, he skipped breakfast. For lunch, he ate meat. And for dinner he ate more meat. If he wanted a snack throughout the day, he ate...you guess it...meat (jerky). Sometimes he would eat a handful of almonds, some cheese or a Quest bar. He already had great habits established around drinking water, but also loved his coffee. Occasionally he would have some whisky, but it was rare and he typically avoided it during times of training.
To get started, we needed to know exactly where we were starting from, so I got a copy of his blood work, and we lined up an appointment at a local testing center and had Ryan complete a DEXA scan. From that scan, not only did we learn what his body fat % was, but also how much lean tissue he had, what his resting metabolic rate was, and that he has an incredibly fast metabolism! We used this data to help dial in a nutrition plan for him. The goal was to transition to clean keto for a few weeks that include many more vegetables. We used a keto mojo to test ketone levels to make sure we were hitting our targets.
Within 2 weeks, his usual afternoon dip in energy was gone and he was feeling less bloated. Between eating clean keto and his increased running volume, he was also losing weight...pretty quickly.
Within 1 month of starting our protocol, Ryan was feeling a little low in his runs and he had reached his goal weight, so we started doing some carb testing. The goal for this was to use a blood glucose meter to learn which carbs his body responded well to, and which ones didn’t work as well. We also added in carbs strategically around his longer training days on the weekends, and were well into testing different race foods he might be using on race day. Ryan is lucky because many foods he tested resulted in blood sugar levels that were in the normal range!
By February 15th, Ryan was curious about the changes he had made to his composition and went back for a comparison DEXA scan. He had lost 21 pounds and his body fat % had dropped from 22.76% to 16.58%. When I asked him how he felt about the results from his new DEXA scan, his exact words to me were “I feel great, so that’s all that matters.” Over the process of working together, Ryan worked really hard to tune into his body so he could learn more about what made him feel good, and what didn’t. This is so important for endurance athletes, especially ones who stay consistent with weight lifting in the gym, because the scale doesn’t always tell us the full picture! Plus, he’s going to be out there alone on race day and he needs to be able to listen to his body and respond to what it needs. The new habits he created were helping him do just that through all his training runs and in his day-to-day life.
Unfortunately, on March 12th, Ryan got the very unfortunate news that his race had been canceled due to COVID-19. Of course he was devastated, especially since most of the hard work had already been completed. But Ryan had become an ultra runner and his lifestyle was one of eating healthy and running. He was feeling better than he had in a really long time, so he certainly wasn’t going back now! Instead, he kept after his regular routine he had established. He ate clean. He completed his runs. And he focused on his recovery, even though there were no races on the calendar for 2020 anymore. Meanwhile, like so many other athletes, he waited for news about what to do next. Luckily, after a few weeks, the race directors of AR50 offered the athletes an alternative race. Instead of racing all together on the race route on 4/4, the athletes could set up their own 50 mile course, complete it in under 11 hours, and submit their times to the race directors for verification. Since AR50 is a qualifier for other 100 mile races, Ryan was already hoping to ‘punch his 50 miler ticket’ and be able to enter into Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Ultra Run in November 2020. This was great news for Ryan, because that meant, although VERY different, his race was still on!
He spent the next few weeks developing his own race route, asking friends and family to be his aid stations and support along the way, and finished up his training plan.
On the morning of April 4th, he set out for his race. The day was ‘hard and fun all at the same time’ Ryan said afterward. He definitely had his highs and lows on race day. There were times when his body hurt badly, but quitting never crossed his mind. He had practiced this day so many times in training that he knew finishing was the only outcome. Just like he had practiced on the weekends with long run after long run, he ate 300 calories per hour using Tailwind, Skratch chews and Spring gels. He took approximately 400mg of salt each hour and drank approximately 20 ounces of water per hour. All of this had been personalized, tried and tested for weeks leading into his event he knew this formula would work for him.
Although Ryan did all the hard work leading into the race, no athlete gets to the finish line alone. He dedicated his run to two heros he had lost the week leading into his run, his grandfather who was an Army veteran and Nevada Highway Patrol Sergeant Ben Jenkins. These two men helped him get out of rough patches on race day, as did his friends and family who showed up to crew for him.
After the race was over, I got a message from Ryan’s fiance, ‘Thank you for all of the help. He didn’t $hit his pants, I’m very thankful for that.’ LOL! We laugh, but any endurance athlete knows how much of a reality this is when your nutrition isn’t completely dialed in.
Ryan is a shining example of how to set up your goals, trust the process, set up habits to make it happen, and enjoy the ride on race day. Thank you Ryan for letting me be a small part of the success you had at your first 50 mile Ultra Run. Here is to many many more (but next time with volunteer run aid stations, other runners, and an actual finish line).
Something really interesting happened that I wasn’t expecting to ever happen during this quarantine. I realized that I am actually NOT a triathlete.
For the last 12 years, I have been competing in the sport of triathlon and I LOVE it. I guess I always assumed that would be who I was...Tiana, the triathlete.
But when all the races were canceled or postponed, and all the pools were closed, something interesting happened...I didn’t really care to bike or run. I mean, sometimes I did. But more times I didn’t.
What I DID want to do was workout. Nearly every single day I was doing something, but generally speaking I desire to lift weights, practice gymnastic skills and trail run. It got me thinking about what really drives me to do triathlon and I realized a few things about myself:
This realization got me thinking about my life as a triathlete and the habits I have had over the last 12 years to train for this sport. I guess I just assumed that after 12 years of swimming, biking and running that the habit of doing those things was solidified into my core.
But I just learned that it’s not. Interesting.
It also made me feel really bad for a week or two. Like an imposter. I mean, if you don’t love all aspects of a sport, should you really be dedicating so much of your life to it?
I’ve finally come around and realized ABSOLUTELY! Just because I may not do triathlon forever, doesn’t mean that there are not lifelong habits that I will take with me when I choose to do something different. They just may not be swimming, biking and running, and that is OK!
I also wonder how many other athletes are feeling terrible about themselves for not sticking to their training plan or having a deep rooted drive to continue training as they did before COVID-19?
I mean, if you do, fantastic!
That’s great that you can keep the same drive and intensity in your training. But for those of us that are driven by something different than the training itself, should we really feel bad that we don’t want to train the same way?!? HELL NO!
There is a big difference between a lifelong habit and a temporary habit.
LIFELONG VS. TEMPORARY
Lifelong habits are habits we need to have in place for our entire lives to be healthy and happy.
For example: drinking enough clean water or moving our body regularly.
Temporary habits exist to help us reach a desired goal.
For example: finishing your first marathon or losing 20 pounds.
Running 6 days per week for 16 weeks into something like a marathon doesn’t make you a lifelong runner.
The running required to complete a marathon may be a temporary thing that helps you reach your goal. The race is the trigger you need to develop the temporary habit of running.
For me, I have set myself up with 12 years of races so I have never really had a period of time when I didn’t have something to train for. I mistook this for having created a lifelong habit of swimming, biking and running, but now that the races are off the calendar (for the time being), I realize the truth about my habits: I have created a lifelong habit around exercise, but not around triathlon.
IT’S OKAY TO SET NEW GOALS
So if you have lost your desire to keep training in the same ways you did before COVID, don’t feel bad about it.
Instead, I would highly recommend you take a deeper look into why you trained the way you did before COVID. Then, take those same desires (for me, it’s competition) and consider setting up a different goal.
Let’s call this a quarantine goal. Something you can work towards right now.
Because when this is all over, any habits you set up for yourself during quarantine will likely be lost (see last week’s post HERE on how change is a driver for new habits! Going into quarantine is one change, while coming out will be a whole new change!).
This is a temporary time and likely, the habits we create now will also be temporary.
Valuable! But temporary.
It’s not that you won’t take parts of these habits with you when your life returns to our new normal, but as we already know, every habit needs a trigger.
Your triggers that are in place now will likely not be the same when we get back to work, or are training into an event. So rather than stress about losing training, or eating less structured, or staying up later and sleeping in, how about we be kinder to ourselves and focus on small, consistent habits we can put in place for just this period of time that help us reach a quarantine goal.
When we get back to ‘normal’ life, we can reassess our lifelong habits at that time.
So what is your quarantine goal? I’d love to hear what you are working on during this temporary period of time. And, if you’ve thought ahead, what are you planning for once this quarantine is over?
Grab your FREE guide to Meal Planning and Prep at the end of this article!
If you have ever taken one of my courses, or you have been following me for some time, you have heard me speak of Gretchen Rubin’s work on habits.
She is an author and researcher who has written multiple books on habits, including The Four Tendencies and Better Than Before. Two other authors who have written books on the topic of habits that I have enjoyed include Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit and James Clear, author of Atomic Habits.
Although all the authors speak about habits in a slightly different way, their messages are all the same. Our life is exactly what it is because of the habits we routinely follow every day.
As this is being written (April 2020, during the COVID pandemic), I think we can all agree that our version of “everyday” has changed drastically over the last few weeks. Many of us are facing a new reality and we don’t really know for how long this new reality is going to last. It’s no surprise our old ways and routines have been kicked to the curb! To top if off, the question many of us are asking ourself is ‘will things ever go back to the way they once were?’
I bring this up because I am seeing all sorts of memes like this one on social media…
Cute cat, but you guys...NO! Seriously, a lot of damage can be done in 30+ days of a shelter in place if you don’t have a plan. I know this time is temporary, but it can either help our health, or hurt our health, and the choice is ours! I know many people don’t have as much control over the foods that are in their houses as they would like (either someone else is buying food for us, or what they want isn’t readily available to them at the store), and add in that gyms are closed around the world, but a plan for this time is necessary to come out of this healthy and well!
So instead of just letting yourself go completely for 30+ days (which is a strategy you can use, but I don’t recommend), let’s look at how we can approach our new temporary situation, specifically around food, that can help us be better than before.
In Gretchen's work, she speaks of ideal times in life to make habit changes. Just take this quote from her book Better Than Before:
‘Any beginning presents an important opportunity for habit formation, because a beginning allows two powerful elements to combine: novelty and habit. The novelty of a new start wipes out our previous habits, and that absence allows new habits to crowd in.’
What she is telling us is that we are in an ideal time for habit changes now. A few weeks ago, many of us experienced a change in what was our normal day-to-day living. For some of us it felt like a complete transformation, and for others, a small inconvenience. If you felt that, you were presented with an opportunity to create new habits.
In a few weeks when life starts to return to ‘normal’ (whatever that will look like) we will have yet another opportunity to create new habits. Are you ready?
It’s moments like these that Gretchen calls the power of a ‘Clean Slate.’ If you have ever set a New Years resolution, then you have used the strategy of a ‘clean slate.’ If you have ever started a new job or moved into a new house, you have experienced a ‘clean slate.’ If you have ever ended or started a new relationship with someone important, you have experienced a ‘clean slate.’ These are opportunities for a fresh start. These opportunities for a clean slate can come as a surprise. But today, we can take advantage of the fact that we know that this COVID-19 situation is temporary and things will return to a new normal soon. So we have two chances to set ourselves up for success. Now, and again in a few weeks.
Let’s talk about how both can look from a nutrition perspective.
First, before we discuss the here and now, I encourage you to reflect on what your life was life before COVID-19. Ask yourself these questions:
-Did you love your life? Are you excited to go back to it exactly as it was before?
-Were you happy with your routines around your diet? Did you prepare healthy meals at home? Did you eat because you were actually hungry, not because you were bored or sad? Was the majority of the food you put into your body nutrient dense whole food?
-Were you happy with your routines around your movement? Did you exercise enough each day, but not too much? Did you have a great routine around stretching and mobility? Did you have enough recovery time in your schedule?
The answers to these questions can help you decide how to tackle the “right now”, and what to do once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
For most people, my recommendation during the pandemic is to minimize damages. So many people have temporarily lost their gym, have had a minor or major change to their work environment, have been given extra responsibilities of things like homeschooling or caring for a loved one, and from a dietary perspective, are having a hard time eating the same way they did before. I’m not talking about from an emotional perspective, but from an actual physical perspective. If you are truly minimizing your time going into public, that means access to fresh fruits and vegetables will be limited, unless you are growing them yourself. That’s why I am recommending to my clients to let go of ideals and go with the flow! That doesn’t mean we can or should be eating whatever we want whenever we want it, but to be more relaxed on whatever diet you might have been following before all of this started. To help manage the current situation and set yourself up for a smooth re-entry post COVID, here are my tips:
That’s right, actually write out your menu for the week. I know you might be home and can make a last second call about what sounds good for lunch, but generally speaking, those last second choices aren’t always the best choices. My recommendation is to pick a day to plan (most of my clients find Sunday is a great day for this), and start off by eating a good balanced meal. With a full belly, sit down with your calendar and plan out your meals for the rest of the week. If you have a great recipe book, or some boards on Pinterest saved, reference those for inspiration. Keep in mind that fresh vegetables will be limited as the end of the week approaches. So plan for your fresh salads and vegetable dishes to be earlier in the week, and save the dishes that are made up of heartier vegetables for later in the week. If you have access to frozen vegetables, plan for these later in the week too!
I know you might be home, but cooking a meal for yourself 3x per day is exhausting and really time consuming! If you absolutely love to be in the kitchen, and you have a lot of time on your hands, this might be a viable option. But if not, I highly recommend you food prep 1-2 days per week so you have grab-and-go meals in the fridge. Reheating when it’s time is simple and fast. And decision making, gone! You made the choice on your food prep day, so save that brain space for something else today!
WHEN PLANNING AND SHOPPING FOR INGREDIENTS, LOOK FOR NUTRIENT DENSE INGREDIENTS THAT LAST A LONG TIME IN THE PANTRY AND FRIDGE
If you are like me, you prefer FRESH! I generally avoid canned fruits and vegetables, and even choose fresh over frozen most of the time. But we are in a unique time that calls for some flexibility! If you are following general recommendations to minimize public exposure, you are hopefully making 1 (or less) trips to the grocery store each week. That means you need to pick foods that are going to last! Look for recipes that include foods like:
-onions and garlic
-dried legumes (homemade hummus anyone?)
-frozen fruits and vegetables such as peas, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower (look for it riced!), organic corn and berries.
If you don’t know how to use any of these items, turn to the almighty Google! I typically use Pinterest and use the search terms “Paleo _______ recipe.” For example, if I want to use my acorn squash, I will search for “paleo acorn squash recipe.” In fact, I just did this search for you and found this caramelized onion, apple, and sausage stuffed acorn squash recipe...YES PLEASE! These search terms will eliminate most recipes with dairy and gluten (two foods my body doesn’t love) and has generally given me great results. If Pinterest isn’t your thing, you can use the same approach in a Google search!
Eventually, things will progress into our new normal. I doubt it will look exactly like our old normal before COVID-19, but no matter how it looks, we have this golden opportunity to establish NEW habits! Do you want to be someone who meditates daily? You can do that. Do you want to be someone who arrives at the gym 15 minutes early so you can do some extra mobility? That can be you! Do you want to be the person whose coworkers are jealous about their lunches? Go for it!
Here lies the problem. We humans are creatures of habit. If we are not ready, and have not made plans to create NEW habits, we will easily fall into old habits as soon as things go back to ‘normal.’ If you want that, great. If you reflect on your answers to the questions I asked earlier and you are excited to make some changes, then you must plan for them now. In Better Than Before, Gretchen encourages her readers to start how they want to continue. When your shelter in place is up and you can return back to your new normal, you have to be disciplined enough from the very start to act the way you want to act for the future. In other words, if you want to be the person who packs a lunch for work each day, you have to start planning to either make dinners large enough to have leftovers, or pack your lunch the night before. Don’t get caught up in the business of getting back to work and think you can start this a few weeks into your new routine. Your work is going to be as busy in 3 months as is it when you return. Start your new habit from the very beginning! This won’t be easy. You will have to be disciplined. But with some pre-planning, it’s completely possible.
There are so many possibilities to new habits you can create when the shelter in place is lifted. What are you most excited about?
If you want to get back on track with meal planning and food prep NOW, download this FREE meal planning guide. This guide will help you plan out an entire week's worth of meals, a shopping list by the different grocery departments, and even includes a list of foods that last for weeks in the fridge and pantry!
And stay tuned for more tips on creating healthy habits during and after COVID in the coming weeks!
Tiana Rockwell is a certified nutritional therapist, avid endurance athlete and dark chocolate lover. She believes that by eating REAL food, we can balance our body and reach optimal health and wellness!