If I told you I have two simple tips that will give you more energy on less sleep and might even help keep you from getting sick, would you be interested? What if I told you it is all free?
I bet most of you would think “Snake oil…”
Nope. Read on.
Turning Point: On February 14, 2014, I worked a regular day – most of the morning at my desk then four hours of meetings in the afternoon – and then I rushed home to take my wife and girls out for a Valentine’s dinner. After the kids were asleep we shared a great bottle of Californian wine and watched a sappy romantic comedy on Netflix.
At bedtime I had recorded a measly 5737 steps.
It was my second day in a row below 10,000 and after a week sick in late January I’d had a whack of recent days that had missed my target.
In that moment I realized I needed a bigger goal. Something interesting enough to warrant attention and more than a little ridiculous (because that’s how I prefer most everything), but still achievable given the time constraints of a full-time desk job and a busy life with two little girls.
I quickly settled on what I thought would be a fun year-long “mini-quest”.
Goal: 10,000 Fitbit steps a day, everyday for a year. Zero days under 10,000.
I’ve averaged over 10K steps per day since I started with Fitbit in March 2012, but my activity was quite variable. In true weekend warrior fashion I generally had a big 20-30K day on either Saturday or Sunday to make up for 2-3 low step days during the week.
My goal was to re-define the “lazy day” and really not to change anything at the upper end.
Result: Mission accomplished!
I am surprised to admit it actually doesn’t feel like it was much of a quest at all. It was exceptionally easy. There were no frantic late evening exercise sessions required. While aiming for 10,000 steps per day I found overshooting was inevitable. I actually had only a handful of days under 11,00 steps (16 to be exact).
Two Lessons Learned: I learned this goal could be easily accomplished with two simple adjustments, that I believe almost everyone can build into their life:
1. Build activity into your morning routine: I sit all day at work. If I do the minimum activity required – drop the kids at school, work, eat in my office and then drive home – I will be at about 1800-2000 steps at dinner. It’s daunting to try to fit in over 8000 steps in a few hours after work. Some evenings you are burnt out and just need to relax.
To avoid forcing myself into evening workouts, I committed to wake up a little earlier to exercise before breakfast (and before the kids get up). I’ll admit I have an advantage – I bought an exercise bike a couple years ago to rehab an ACL injury and it is very convenient to have something at home for dark winter days.
Most exercise bikes gather dust. I rode mine 274 times last year (stats tracked via RunKeeper), virtually always between 6:00-6:40am. This was less of an adjustment than it sounds. I just quit hitting snooze. Previously I would lay there trying to squeeze in just a few more minutes of sleep, waiting for my wife to clear the bathroom before I would shuffle to the shower. I cut that out and got moving. While my Fitbit One isn’t perfect for cycling (only 1 step per full revolution) it did kickstart my day. To mix things up sometimes I went for a run or to the local community centre gym instead.
I now generally arrive at work with 4500-5000 steps, about halfway to my goal by 8am.
2. Plan your steps: With a desk job I need find opportunities to add steps and this takes a bit of planning. Generally I tried to plan at least a day in advance. If I knew my evening would be jam packed I might get up a few minutes earlier to add to my morning activity. I also found I could generally get away for a few minutes for a quick walk. At my regular pace a 16 minute mid-day walk not only got me 2000 extra steps, but also kept me alert for the afternoon and was often all I needed to reach my goal.
By planning out where I would get my steps I had no trouble finding opportunities to squeeze in a few more.
Benefits: I haven’t been sick in over a year, despite intentionally sleeping less. Not a cough or sore throat. Everyone else in the house has been sick at least once and I’ve managed to avoid it every time. I compare that to an earlier period in life when I worked full-time, did an MBA, had a newborn and paid almost no attention to exercise. In that two years I felt like I was sick every month or two. I’m not trying to claim that if you exercise enough you’ll never get sick but it does feel like there is a correlation.
Despite less sleep I also feel far more awake in the morning and I generally have way more energy throughout the day. The increase in energy then makes me crave a little more activity in the evenings. It’s a positive multiplier: More exercise leads to more energy, which makes me want to exercise more.
I’ll admit to some tired/lazy days but I found I could still use the exercise bike in the morning and just lighten the workload a bit and then simultaneously use the time (and my iPad) to plan my day, clean out my email and read or watch the news.
Weight loss wasn’t my goal, but you might assume it was also a benefit. That was not the case. My Fitbit Aria wifi scale tells me I am essentially the same weight now as a year ago. I can track this to my diet. While I exercise more, I also logged more calories on my food tracking app (myfitnesspal) so the net impact on my weight was basically a wash.
Over the year I actually came to the conclusion that the bar was set too low and 10,000 steps everyday started to feel too easy. I decided to up the ante and move to something tougher: 100,000 step weeks. I’ve managed to keep up that goal since mid-September and have learned that as long as I can still find one big day a week it is fairly easy to achieve.
Downside: I’m now a step junky and I tend to skip exercises – fun exercises – that don’t increase my step count. I am less inclined to go swimming as my Fitbit is not waterproof and lengths get no steps. Same goes for the rowing machine at the gym. These are great exercises but I have become too obsessed with step count.
Summary Stats: I finished the year just shy of 6 million steps (5,968,887 to be exact) and my daily average increased from 12,363 to 16,353, a whopping 32.3% year over year increase. The big change was confined almost entirely to the complete elimination of inactive days. My lowest step days was 10,253 versus 1,785 in the previous year. In fact I had 127 days less than 10,000 in the year prior to setting my goal and I cut that down to zero.
The chart below captures step count in 1000 step buckets and shows my biggest days weren’t bigger or even much more frequent – the goal was to keep constantly moving to eliminate the low end of the scale.
Click Chart to Expand
A wine-themed post today as I prepare to head to the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival tonight.
Today I learned:
1. Crutches: After much research I must conclude no one has invented a device that will allow me to simultaneously use crutches and carry a wine glass.
I had imagined someone would have come up with some sort of gryroscopic-like sippy cup device that I could hang around my neck, but alas I am out of luck. The coolest thing I could find (pictured below and taken from a post at blog.winecollective.ca) looks good, but you still need a free hand.
In the end all I really learned is that my wife is going to be carrying my glass all night. That is all on her though, because she won’t let me go to the Wine Festival tasting event utilizing my original idea (via bonappetit.com):
2. Wine as a Crutch:
“Wine is like a crutch – it supports me.”
Wine is certainly present alongside many of the good times but hopefully it isn’t a necessary companion in the bad times.
This quote did teach me one lesson though, helping me avoid learning the same thing the hard way tonight. As I head out towards one of those good times in life, the quote reminds me that yes, wine is like a crutch, but do you know what else is like a crutch? An actual crutch.
If I want to ditch the kind of crutch helping me get around these days then I better go easy on the other kind tonight.
Today I learned:
1. I am an idiot: Admittedly, some may tell me this should not be news or at least it should have been an assumption going in. Regardless, I didn’t make it past 7:15am before the label was applied this morning so at minimum this is earlier than usual.
As I prepared for work , 7 days post ACL-reconstruction, my wife looked at me like I was nuts. This in itself is not unusual, but she is a physiotherapist so when rehab is concerned I need to listen (even more than I usually do, of course). I continued to prepare until, as I struggled to pull my socks on, she muttered “you’re an idiot.”
This helped snap me out of it, and we had a good discussion on surgeon recommendations, rehab principles and recovery. Suffice it to say, another day at home for me. A good reminder that I don’t always know best, but at least my wife does.
2. Inspiring Action with Why’s not What’s:
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
– Simon Sinek
The goal is to sell people on why you do what you do. What you do is simply the proof of what you believe. Within Simon Sinek’s Ted video (linked below), he draws together this concept with several engaging examples – Apple, TiVo, and the Wright Brothers – but for a business leader or manager the most tangible example from my perspective relates to Martin Luther King Jr.
In jest, Mr. Sinek quips “He gave the I have a dream speech, not the I have a plan speech.”
This struck a cord and immediately made me consider how I have addressed my team in the recent past within activities like staff meetings, project planning sessions and 1:1’s. It served as a good reminder that too often we emphasize what we are doing – what the plan is – not why we are doing things. This is not to say we ignore the why, but rather we don’t always lead with it, and perhaps don’t give it the time and credence it deserves.
Importantly, in management the why must be tailored to individuals and the team. For example, when I think about one large project I worked on in the past, our why messaging was at a corporate level, and it didn’t sell the goal at a personal level. In the end, people follow for themselves – not solely for the money but for whatever else is intrinsically driving them. Selling your staff needs to get personal, in terms of why it is good for them. Get your Why right and you will have no trouble getting your team on board for the How and the What.
Today I learned:
1. The Best Laid Plans…often go awry. In an earlier post on preparation to work from home post-ACL reconstruction, I subtly (?) bragged about how well prepared I was to remain effective during time out of the office. By day 2 it became clear, despite IT support and “successful” testing, all tools are not equally reliable. The IP phone on my PC is a bust – it keeps cutting out.
Can you hear me now? Nope.
The good news is today I learned many of the free tools available are more reliable than those we pay for. Google Talk and Skype have saved the day, and not added any cost to me or the company. No IT support either – plug and play, just like things should be.
2. Why I wouldn’t succeed as a drug addict: It’s plain and simple. I just don’t have the stomach for it. For 2 1/2 days following surgery I was nauseous and dizzy. I felt weak and couldn’t stand to be on my feet for long. Using the crutches to cross my house made me feel like vomiting. My mind was foggy and I couldn’t concentrate. I was feeling as though the recovery period was going to be much worse than I thought.
Today it finally occurred to me that maybe it was the pain medication, not the surgery, that was the problem. I decided to go cold turkey and kick the drugs to test the theory out.
It was a good decision.
Within 2-3 hours the fog lifted. I was immediately more functional, both physically and mentally. The knee pain, despite no pain medications, is exactly the same if not better, too. It was an interesting lesson. It turns out the surgery wasn’t as bad as I thought. I am just not very good at doing drugs.
Today I learned:
1. Perpetuating a Gender Stereotype: I hate to say it, but there is no denying it: Girls are natural caregivers.
Following surgery I was worried my little ones would be too rough on me or too demanding.
Two days in and nothing could be farther from the truth. In addition to an overwhelming desire to see my “owie” every 5 minutes, they seem to possess an innate understanding of how to take care of people. There is no jumping, no rough play, no crying, no demanding. I am being showered with hugs and kisses, gifted with cards and artwork, and lent even the most treasured of stuffed animals if they might conceivably give me some level of comfort. Pillows are adjusted, paths cleared for crutches and snacks retrieved. Nothing but the best for daddy.
I have no set of boys to compare this behaviour too, so it is possible this would be true of all kids, but I don’t get the sense that would be the case. My only real knowledge of little boys comes from the fact I was one once, and I hate to say it, but I don’t think I possessed the same patience and understanding at their age.
2. Disgusted by Another Stereotype: “Linsanity” looks good on the NBA. Ever since the Grizzlies left town in 2001 I have sought out, and enjoyed, every new reason I can find to despise the National Basketball Association. I still hold quite a grudge.
2011 Lockout? Petty greed, on both sides. I was sad it ended.
Lebron’s prime-time signing? The best of bad TV.
Ron Artest becomes Meta-World Peace? That would never happen in hockey.
Out of all of it though, I haven’t enjoyed anything more than “Linsanity.”
For two straight weeks, media outlets have been tripping over stereotypes – firings, inappropriate headlines, embarrassing graphics, over-compensation, and just generally making fools of themselves. It appears just about everyone in or around the NBA doesn’t quite know how to act when an Asian male (born in L.A. for goodness sake!) finds success in the league.
The one exception in all this of course is Jeremy Lin himself who seems to be taking his sudden rise to fame with a sense of grace and humility. No embarrassing quotes. No off colour remarks. No over-the-top chest pumping. He just keeps showing up and proving his game night after night. This is one of the few opportunities I can think of – Steve Nash aside – where we can learn something about how to behave properly from an actual NBA player. The NBA finally has a good story to tell, and it seems they just can’t find anyone to appropriately tell it.
Today I learned:
1. Bed Rest in a Digital Age: Prior to yesterday’s ACL reconstruction, I had two previous arthroscopies on the same knee in the early-1990’s. It was almost 20 years ago but I have two vivid recollections:
- Dialling my own home phone number from downstairs to make it ring upstairs so I could ask my mom to bring down some ice cream, without getting off my lazy butt. I remember this, partially, because she reminds me of it every chance she gets.
- Watching ALOT of crappy TV.
As a high-school student who actually attended all my classes, this was my first exposure to the Soap Opera genre. Try as I might I never took to Days of Our Lives and General Hospital, but there just weren’t many other options in those days.
The world is different this time.
I stacked months of reading by my bed in preparation for the down-time but one day out of a general anesthetic and still hooped up on pain meds, my head is not so much into books. Instead I have watched a few shows recommended by friends on Netflix – The Hour and Justified are favourites so far – and watched a work-related webinar.
As I look at myself now, surrounded by my iPhone, iPad, and macBook Pro, as well as my work laptop and blackberry, I have a sense this round of bed rest will be very plugged in. This blog may in fact prove to be therapeutic as it forces some form of daily creation, rather than consumption.
All the technology comes in handy too – this time I have 4 separate devices that I can use to Skype my mom to see if she can drop by with a bowl if Ice Cream.
2. Over-prescribing Meds: On discharge from hospital I assumed I would be sent off with a small script for T3’s, but in fact I was given a prescription for a fairly heavy narcotic. Interestingly, I was prescribed 60 tablets which my close friend (a pharmacist) described as “an awful lot for knee surgery.”
Taken at the recommended dosage of 1-2 tablets every 4-6 hours, the 60 tablets would be depleted at a rate of between 4 and 12 per day. Essentially, worst case I have 5 days of meds, but best case I have 15 days (or more if I don’t need them frequently).
This made me wonder: Why prescribe so many tablets?
Surely if I am in so much pain that I run through these meds at the fastest pace then someone should see me before 5 days to assess the problem. Alternatively it could be that I will have so many tablets leftover when I am done that they end up sitting around in my medicine cabinet long after I need them. This invites abuse by me or someone else.
I trust my doctor – I think he’s great and I am sure he did a good job on my knee – but I wonder how much thought went into the follow-up medications. It may be that he assessed me and felt a large prescription was safe and low risk. I hope that is the case.
It seems to me though that it is more likely the script size was just a convenience factor for both him and me – an attempt to reduce follow-up visits just to write a new script. If that is the case then I am not too impressed. A smaller prescription would potentially catch and save problems at both ends of the spectrum.
Just a brief, knee-themed, post today as I spent most of the afternoon under general anesthetic for ACL reconstruction. I consider it a moral victory that I made it in under the wire today by blogging on my phone from the recovery room! Pardon any spelling/grammar issues. I will clean it up post morphine induced stupor.
Today I learned:
1. Fasting Goes Slowly: Apparently a blanket rule applies. No matter what time your surgery is scheduled for the following day, they force feed you the same message: No food or drink after midnight.
This hardly seems fair. I am sure the guy with the 8am booking barely noticed he missed his first coffee of the day, and he would have been in post-op recovery room before his tummy even started to grumble. On the other hand, with my 1:45pm time slot, I had to suffer through the entire morning and into the afternoon void of anything at all.
The worst part of my painfully slow fast was a toss up. It might have been making my kids breakfast – the little ones dined on vanilla yogurt with fresh strawberries and mangos, while I wasn’t even supposed to lick my fingers. I think though, the worst part was the caffeine headache that kicked in at 10:17am when my body realized it was not going to receive the latte that it has grown so fond of. If it wasn’t that, then it was the man in the waiting room openly salivating over his plan for a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast at 1:03pm.
That all said, the question for me is this: Why is there an across-the-board midnight rule on fasting before surgery?
I can’t find a reasonable resource that explains why my fast needed to be 14 hours when someone else gets off with only 8 hours. In fact, Wikipedia even suggests 6 hours is fine. Without a plausible explanation then, I am left to assume this rule exists because some hospital administrator assumes I can’t do math and count back 6 or 8 hours. Next time I am going to beg for the early spot and then order a take-out brunch delivery to the recovery room.
2. Before and After: A knee looks very different in the morning before a surgeon starts digging around in it than it does afterwards. I suppose I didn’t really learn this – it seems rather intuitive – but I was able to obtain the photographic evidence to back up the lesson.
Before – right knee with all the pieces, sans a ruptured ACL, where nature intended:
After – right knee with a piece of hamstring tendon now fixed in place where the ACL once was. I assume the old ACL (not pictured) is in a waste bin somewhere. The rest is on ice:
Today I learned:
1. When you lose enough weight you need to adjust your watch strap: This realization is motivating but also oddly disconcerting when it dawns on you that your wrists where once in a state that could actually be slimmed down. Well, at least one part of my body is ready for the summer beach season!
2. 6am Wake-up call from Robin Sharma: My wake-up call this morning wasn’t exactly courtesy of Robin Sharma, but it was inspired by him. After yesterday’s post about a take-away from The Who Sold His Ferrari, I spent the evening consuming the book. Inspired and energized by the message I woke up at 6am to continue reading and ride the exercise bike before work. As I was cooling down from a 30 minute ride, just about ready to start the rest of my day, I read the page photographed below:
When you are looking for signs in life they are easy to find. Similarly, if you want to make excuses, they are easy to make.
In this case, I could not have found a better or more timely sign. As a result, today I learned very early on in the morning that I had started the day off on the right foot, and I am quite certain it will help me find the motivation to start tomorrow the same way.