Achieving anything is never about a singular, grand act but rather an abundance of little acts, done consistently that from afar look like a singular, grand act.
I began sharing “One Thing I’m doing for my health and well-being” as a daily touch-point emailed out to my readers during the quarantine in March. It became more popular than I could have imagined. When that first quarantine ended, I asked for feedback on what readers wanted to see next. It was quickly clear that the “One Thing” format was loved and needed to stick around in the weekly digest format.
You’ll see that the One Things span far beyond just exercise and nutrition. To me, becoming unbreakable is about so much more than what kind of workout you do.
Yes, exercise is of use for your health and well-being; it’s why I built a whole line of fitness programs, from Unbreakable Body to Unbreakable Play (which is a really, really, fun play-based program I asked my good friend, Kirsty Grosart to craft for the library of programs I offer).
But your health and well-being is also about how you go about your day, and all the little things within the day that can serve to support you in health and happiness. So with that, here are 30 One Things I did for my health and well-being in 2020.
30 Simple Things You Can Do
For Your Health & Well-Being
1. I’m taking my coffee outdoors to sit on the patio with my guy and soak up the first sunlight of the day. We started doing it one day when I opened the door to let in some fresh spring air and felt the sun’s intensity hit me like a ton of bricks. “Oh, it says it’s only 45 out but it feels way warmer, want to sit outside for a bit?”
Of course, morning light is super good for your hormones and brain chemicals. But sitting on the ground, surrounded by the growing vegetable garden, reading books, and sipping coffee…I felt grounded and had steady energy all day. That made it easier to move through every task I had to do that day, and so for me, a few minutes of sun sitting = exponential benefits for my health and well-being.
2. I’m doing this series of simple movements to undo some tension in my mid-back, improve my ability to take a deep breath (you have attachment points for your diaphragm in the spot where I am placing the balls), and show some self-care love to myself.
Please grab a few tennis or lacrosse balls, a towel or yoga mat, and a pillow or yoga block and enjoy this movement series with me.
3. I’m getting back into more strenuous exercise. As you know if you were with me for the daily connection emails, one thing I reminded you about frequently was that it was important to stress your systems (cardiovascular and muscular) a few times a week. I’ve made the best I could with the sandbags we made that weighed 30 and 45 pounds, but I realized recently that I need to do more – not for my physical health, but my mental health.
4. I’m taking dance breaks at least once a day during my long stretches of writing. I tend to go without music when writing, but then crank it up for a short (5 minutes or less) dance break. It raises my heart rate, gets my circulation going, helps me to move stagnant energy out of my mind, and always puts me in a better mood.Remember that your well-being isn’t just what you do in your workout, it’s also how you support yourself all throughout your day. Give it a try! Pick some music you like and get your butt out of the chair for a few minutes of grooving out. 🙂
5. I’m getting out for longer stretches in nature, which means taking a hard look at my schedule and deciding what’s not as valuable as what the outdoors gives me for my health and well-being. And then being ruthless about chopping out everything that is mediocre in terms of value so that I can have room for hikes and overnights and fishing, amidst that whole “business owner” thing I have going. 😉
6. I’m getting back into sessions with a personal growth coach I’d worked with in the past who guides you through Byron Katie’s ‘The Work‘. If you’re not familiar, ‘The Work’ is four simple questions that you pose to a stressful thought you’re having, and through that questioning, the thoughts lose their power.
7. I’m back to working on all Six Pillars in my workouts, rather than the few I was mixing into my other workouts previously. If you don’t know, the “Six Pillars” are a framework I developed for targeting six key areas of the body to ensure they are strong enough, mobile enough, and capable enough for doing whatever you want to do. The six areas do a lot for you and they work together to help you move through life. The beauty of the Six Pillars framework is that you can work on just the areas you need the most attention on, or you can work on all six together.
8. I’m focusing on breathing through my nose as often as possible. I know, this may sound weird if you’re not familiar with what I’m about to share. We have two ways of taking oxygen into our bodies – through the nose, or through the mouth. Mouth breathing is useful once you pass the point of exertion where you can no longer get enough oxygen in or carbon dioxide out via your nose. Other than that though…nose breathing is where you want to be. For more on this, read James Nestor’s new book, Breath.
Doing this has helped me feel more aware and in tune with myself. It’s also helped me practice making nose breathing my default in times when it previously wasn’t. And, it’s helped me feel like I can take more steady breaths.
9. I’m listening to a Tara Brach guided meditation mid-morning, around the time when normally I’d be going for a second coffee. I’ve done meditation off and on for years, but it was a recent section of the book that I was working on about nervous system tolerance, that caused me to bring it back into the regular routine.I was reviewing all the things that the branches of the nervous system do, how they interplay with each other, and what things influence them the most. And it rejuvenated my excitement about supporting the interplay between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems with small things each day. A short guided meditation as a pause from the morning hustle-bustle has been a rejuvenating addition to the day! It helps me feel more at peace, with a clearer mind, and more energy for the rest of the day.
10. I’m walking while wearing a backpack full of weight that is heavier than I’ve ever carried before. I have to admit, I always thought rucking (as it’s called) made sense for training for activities where you were specifically going to be walking or hiking with a heavy pack, but didn’t think much of it for general fitness. Not that I thought it was unhelpful for fitness, it’s just that if I thought of physical training, I thought of a million ways to train before I thought of rucking.
Every style of physical training is unique in some way – from barbell training to yoga and everything in between. But rucking is unique in a way I hadn’t appreciated before. It’s a different experience than hauling around a backpack that’s easy in terms of load.If you want to try adding walking with a weighted backpack, here are a few tips I learned along the way:
- Be sure you load your pack correctly. If your weight is too low or too far away from your back, it will make your shoulders hurt terribly. I speak from experience. Put a bunch of towels or a small foam roller in the bottom of the pack, then put your weight on top of that.
- Tighten your backpack to your body, but not so tight you can’t breathe.
- Ideally you can stand mostly upright while wearing the pack. If you have to stoop over, you may need to adjust the pack, get a different pack, or do a lighter weight first
11. My one thing this week is that I’m standing on my rock while I make coffee and then I’m doing extra sets of toe lifts while I wait for the coffee to brew in the french press. Being in big hiking boots is no bueno for my feet so I’m upping the amount of work I do to counteract the time spent in sturdy boots.If you’ve never seen the rock in question, it’s one that I found outside and brought home and has a nice rounded edge for standing on and pressing into your feet. It lives in the kitchen. And if you’ve never seen the toe lifts, they’re at the end of my free follow-along movement routine.
12. I’m focusing on my breath as part of my work breaks. When doing focused work, you may find that you shift your breathing to something more shallow, rather than deep relaxed breaths. Some folks even hold their breath more when they are intently focused. Box breathing is used by NAVY Seals and regular folks alike to help restore a sense of calm. I like box breathing because it keeps me attuned to the breathing, and when my mind wanders (which it frequently does!) I am able to bring it back to the structure of the box breathing count. Here is a fun gif that visually guides you through box breathing.
13. I’m incorporating hip mobility training while catching up on the calls I missed from the program I’m taking while I was off the grid. The lessons are easy to listen to and watch, and so I brought my laptop down to the floor and did some mobility training for my hip rotators while listening. While I appreciate having full focus on a workout, when I’m just adding in ‘extras’ to help my body to move more, I love being able to kill two birds with one stone.Here’s a blog that has an exercise for the hip rotators in it. It’s not where I would start someone who is starting at ground zero with their hips but the exercise does help you see how active inputs are a part of a solution for improving ROM and strength in the hips. And if hips are a big focus for you, my Unbreakable Hips program is right up your alley.
14. I’m doing my best to get in what I can for workouts during a week that has been hectic (that’s putting it mildly). If you’re a long-time reader of this digest, you have seen that while I do move and exercise every week, it rarely looks the same in terms of schedule, time, and intensity.
A lot of clients I work with start out thinking that they have to check off all the boxes perfectly every week when it comes to working out. But that’s often a recipe for feeling like a failure. While two or three times a week of resistance training has been shown to be the ‘sweet spot’ for results, does that mean it’s ineffective if you don’t do it exactly that way? No. Especially not when you consider that the long game is what matters. Be someone who moves as often as you can, but don’t worry if this week was different than last week.
15. My body is telling me that the amount of sitting I’m doing lately is not really working for my body. Even though it’s for good reasons – writing! other projects which shall remain nameless for now! – I know my body and I can tell that I need my glutes to be doing more in a day than just being cushions for me. So I’ve injected glute bridges into my movement breaks. They help me get into hip extension, something I’m not doing at all when I’m sitting. And they send signals to my glutes which my glutes respond to by increasing circulation, increasing the sensory awareness I have of the area, and truth be told, they make me feel refreshed!
16. Getting good quality sleep is really important for your health and fitness. I’ve been jamming on a solid bedtime routine and it’s helping me get good sleep lately. Amongst other things, it includes being in a dark room by 8pm, taking Magnesium, and setting the “be asleep by” time based on what time I’m naturally waking up. Read Matthew Walker’s book, Why We Sleep, for more on the critical importance of good sleep.
17. I’m doing step-ups for cardio, specifically I’m doing the ‘best step-ups you’re not doing’ according to Todd Bumgardner’s article on them. Well, Todd, I’m doing them now so joke’s on you! All kidding aside, I was in need of something to support my cardiovascular fitness when not in the mountains and the step-ups have been a useful tool. There’s some details to how to get the most out of them, so be sure to read through the whole article.
18. I’m starting my day with action. As the days have begun to get shorter, morning’s have been darker. I personally love being up and at ’em by the time the sun comes up in the autumn/winter time, and starting my day right off with some kind of action-taking helps me get revved up for the day. Some days, I get my workout in first thing. Other days, I sit right down at the computer and start writing. Doing something that ticks the box of “action” first thing has really bolstered me to have steady energy throughout the day, and I’m definitely getting more done when I feel a sense of accomplishment before 7am.
19. I’m reflecting on a wonderful podcast with Sharon Salzberg and Duncan Trussell. If you’re not familiar with Sharon, she’s a world renowned teacher of Buddhism and loving-kindness meditation. And if you’re not familiar with Duncan, he’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before. Expect his podcast to be…unique, to say the least.They talked a lot about compassion and kindness on this podcast, and specifically, Sharon talked about compassion (& other positive traits) being like a muscle that you need to train so that you can call on it when things get challenging. They start talking about that at the 19:00 minute mark.
20. I’m getting exercise and body care in whenever I can – but to be frank with you, moving to a new home puts a serious crimp in ‘time available for anything other than the most urgent priorities’. We moved last week and are on the long road of settling in, fixing things that need fixing, and otherwise finding a rhythm of life in our new home. Here’s the thing to remember if you’re finding yourself similarly pinched on time lately:
Your body is always responding to the signals you send. So even small actions make an impact. Do a few squats when you get up from your desk. Sit on the floor to eat dinner instead of in yet another chair. Do a few neck circles while you’re waiting for water to boil for tea. It all adds up. And when you can do more, do so.
21. If you followed this newsletter during April, you knew I was lamenting not having a TRX suspension trainer. They’re versatile, easy to setup anywhere, and can be used for stressing any part of the body. I’d had tons of them when I owned the gym in Chicago and sold them all because I wouldn’t be needing them anymore. Well, I thought I’d sold them all. Turns out, I’d kept one, and it had been in storage at my mom’s house.
So I’ve busted that thing out for some fun workouts. I wrote more about my workout strategy right now in this week’s new post. Click here to read “How To Ask High Mileage Questions In Fitness”.
22. I’m living in the energy of ‘enough’. Remembering that whatever amount of working, cooking, writing, moving, exercising, etc. I do in a day…it’s enough. Having been an entrepreneur for something like a decade now, I’ve long since accepted that there will always be more work to do. But there’s a not so subtle difference between accepting that no matter how far you got today there’s more waiting for you tomorrow, and knowing that what you did today was enough. Not good enough. Just enough. Ya feel me on that?
23. I hung a doorway pull-up bar in my office so I can do some ‘grease the groove’ reps on it each day. With this setup, pictured below, I can do pull-ups, simple hanging, and finger/hand strength work on that wooden beam that is suspended from the pull-up bar. It’s a rock climbing strength tool that has a thin ridge cut into each side for you to place your finger pads on and hang from.If you don’t know what ‘grease the groove’ or GTG is, it’s a form of training introduced by Pavel Tsatsouline. It involves doing just a few reps of the same exercise many times throughout the day. You never get to muscle exhaustion but you do train the neurological pathway for that movement. You build strength by way of improving the muscle firing patterns. Here’s a good article from Breaking Muscle if you’d like to learn more about it.
24. I’m adding more texture into my life. You ever have one of those food cravings where you know you want *something* but as you think of each food you could go get from the fridge your brain is like ‘nah’, and you could through all the foods and realize none of them are what would satisfy you? I get a similar sensation sometimes, but with work.
When the workload has been heavy and consistent for some time, and I’m feeling a bit crispy, I will think “oh, I just need to go to a new place in the house to work/get a cup of tea/do some movement etc. then I’ll feel energized to get back to work.” But in these moments, it tends to turn out that while all those things are nice, they don’t satisfy the ‘craving’.
Because what I’m actually craving is more texture in my day, things to break up the one-note nature of looking at things on a computer, typing things on a computer, reading things on a computer, talking to someone on a computer… Even work you love to do – especially if its tethered to a computer* – needs intentional texture built into and around it. I wrote an article about adding texture to your life that is relevant here. *also thinking of kids in zoom school all day
25. I’m keeping gratitude top of mind. First thing when I wake up, throughout the day, for big things or seemingly inconsequential things, like making a cup of coffee, I’m keeping my sense of gratitude top of mind. In a year when there is a lot to be disappointed in, I think amping up the focus on gratitude is paramount. Not only for mental health, but for your entire well-being.
And because of course someone has studied the science of gratitude, here’s a few things practicing gratitude might do for you: “Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people, they seem to sleep better, have better self-esteem and more mental strength.”
26. Deadlifts. We started setting up our garage gym and that means I finally have a barbell and bumper plates. If you’ve been with me since quarantine (the first one), you know I’ve been adapting my movement and exercise time to suit whatever I had available to me. From making sandbags to crawling around a room for time…I always made sure to find a way. And you can, too! You do not have to have weights to have a good workout.
The number of ways I found to get a great workout or movement session in without weights was immense, so I’m definitely keeping those things in the workout mix. And, I’m now gratefully adding in regular deadlifts and other barbell exercises.
27. We all know that using social media has negative consequences, and having a way to manage it so that it doesn’t manage you is vital. If you’ve been here for awhile, you know I do a social media hiatus every year (it’s fantastic, join me for it next year!) But when I’m not on that hiatus, I need a way to engage with social media that makes me feel healthy and good. My One Thing this week has been no social media till later in the day.That way, I get a lot done in the morning, really all my most important work for that day is done before I even open the apps on my phone. That means no going down rabbit holes, no distracted attention, no getting worked up about nonsense.
28. As my workouts have gone back up in intensity since getting the barbell and weights for our garage gym, I’m noticing how I’m more sore. That’s a given, of course. But what is really being highlighted for me this go around as I’m juggling more work and life stuff than ever is how if you’re going to make time for strenuous workouts, you have to also make time to recover from them. This week’s One Thing is making time to restore and recover after strenuous workouts.
I always say this to students and now I’m saying it to myself: the recovery/restorative work you do to recover from your workout IS a part of the workout. If you don’t make time for it, you didn’t actually ‘complete’ the workout. Now, sometimes we all need to cut a corner here or there. But if you want to feel your best, it pays to figure out the following equation:
How much time do I have these days – how much time will I need for restorative work = how much time I have to workout
29. I’m making a point to take a walk after lunch. In addition to helping to regulate blood sugar after a meal, a midday walk helps you get natural light into your eyes which can help set you up for a better night’s sleep that night. (Morning light is also a big ticket item for helping with getting a better night’s sleep!)
A midday walk also helps raise my NEAT metabolism – that’s Non Exercise Associated Thermogenesis for all of you playing along at home. It’s a small but valuable part of your overall metabolism. Leisure walking, gardening, fidgeting, cooking, and gentle daily movements, all are NEAT activities.
30. I’ve been building up my cardiovascular fitness in what is known as “zone 2”. This is to help me improve two things: my mitochondrial health and my ability to maintain a fat-as-fuel-source heart rate. I am not using cardio as a weight-loss tool (it’s a poor tool for such an endeavor anyways).
If you don’t know about cardio and fuel sources, here’s a quick primer – as your heart rate elevates, you shift the fuel source from which you burn energy. Ideally, you burn more from fat at lower heart rates and then shift to burning more glycogen as your heart rate rises. However, to be efficient at using fat as fuel, you must have well-trained mitochondria. Mitochondria are a component of your cell that helps produce energy (amongst a whole host of other things). And just like everything else in your body, you can train them to be more efficient and effective. That’s important too, since poorly functioning mitochondria is frequently a precursor for a hole host of health problems, from diabetes to dementia, and much more.
Anyhoo, there are 4 to 5 “zones” of cardio you can train in, depending on who you’re talking to. Most folks jump to zone 3 and 4 because it’s the zone where you feel like you’re working hard (but that’s not what you want for this kind of training). I want to be metabolically flexible, so I’m working in zone 2 for these jogging sessions. There’s way more to say on this so please read this article from Dr. Howard Luks if you’d like to keep learning.
I hope this list helps you see all the ways you can take care of your health and well-being that are right at your fingertips each day.
If you’d like to join the readers who receive my weekly One Thing in the Fit For Real Life Digest that comes out every Friday, click here. It’s free and you can opt out at anytime.
And if you’re already get my Digest, I’d so appreciate it if you shared this blog post with one friend and encouraged them to sign up for the Digest. I would love to share it with more folks in 2021!
Ready to get some guidance for the exercise component
of your health and well-being care?
My Unbreakable Body programs will help you do so.
Click the “Get Started Now” button to choose a program that’s right for you.