Thursday, May 24, 2012

What Color is Your Life?

As a  "Life Balance Strategist," I've discovered that there are many personal assessments out there. Some ask lots of questions. Some have you rate various aspects of your life on a scale of numbers. Others make you plot points on a chart or graph.

I hate to create any negative energy since I know all of these tools come from a place of wanting to help people.   However, I have a few minor complaints. 

Let's discuss.

One is that these tests tend to be far too complicated.

Most likely if someone is seeking out a "life balance assessment," they are already experiencing some stress in life.   In my opinion, many of these tests unintentionally exacerbate the stress.

Here's a very popular format: "I enjoy the company of others: Never, Seldom, Occasionally, Most of the Time, Often, or Always."

As far as I'm concerned, you really need more details for some of these questions to be answered accurately. For example, who exactly are the "others" and are refreshments being served?
Some have trick questions such as,"If you were a fruit, what kind would you be?" Or, repeat questions worded different ways to see if maybe you lied the first time.

Some tests just take so damn long that if you didn't have a life balance issue when you started, you very well may have one by the time you're done.

Luckily there are some personal assessments out there that attempt simplicity. You can simply write a plus or a minus sign next to specific categories or answer a handful of yes/no questions.
However, even these have one consistent flaw for me. They tend to place equal emphasis on internal as well as external life areas. For example, one has sections of a pie chart with labels of health, friends, work, spiritual, and family. A bunch of others include a square with four quadrants including categories like work, friends, family and self.

My philosophy and a primary inspiration in creating Personal Strategic Management (PSM) is that SELF must be the critical core.  Internal is prioritized over external.   YOU are the central point of energy; radiating from the inside out to create success in all of the other areas of life.

Here's a preview of what I've defined as the "Capacity Framework":

True life balance starts with the internal. It's our ability to maintain a strong and healthy Critical Core, even when we are not reaching external goals.
At the end of the day, throughout your life... all that external stuff may come and go.  But you've got YOU forever, baby.  Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the rest of your life.  There is not another single person, thing or activity for which this is also true.
Here's a high level explanation of the self-assessment tool I created and have been delivering at volunteer life balance workshops like the one I did at Emerson College recently.
To start, think about your own life in terms of each PSM area: Critical Core, HR/Facilities, Learning, Social Responsibility, & Finance. Rate yourself in each of the five categories based on this green, yellow, red scale.
Think about each "rating" in terms of your OWN criteria. Don't assess yourself based on the judgment of society or your parents or whomever. It's called a SELF-assessment for a reason.

For example, Finance & Profitability: Let's say you are a stay-at-home mom and do not collect an actual paycheck. Yet, this arrangement works well for your situation and does not create stress for you personally. Your contribution may be that you control the budget, watch expenses and physically pay the bills accurately and on time. You may not work outside the home but this area may well be green. It could also be red. You need to decide for yourself.

Conversely, you may have an advanced degree but really feel there's some other educational goal you want or need to achieve to feel completely fulfilled in some way. So, even an MBA executive might mark L&D as yellow or red.

All that said, the first place to focus is in the center - the Critical Core. In this area, even more than the others, think of the colors as a standard American traffic light.
If you rated your Critical Core as red, then STOP. Chances are pretty good that if you are truly a red at the Core, there's not a lot of sustainable green in your life.

No matter what measure of "success" you perceive in the other areas, nothing is more important than figuring out what you need to do to start taking care of the Critical Core.
A very nice lady recently responded to this advice with, "I was taught that taking care of myself ahead of others is selfish."    I get that. But let's review: If you get sick (mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually) you are not really doing anyone justice. Don't kid yourself. Be selfish. I'll write you a note.
If you rated the Critical Core as yellow, then PROCEED WITH CAUTION. Contrary to popular belief, yellow does not mean speed up quickly because you know it's going to turn red any minute. My fellow overachievers -- this means you.
If you're green at the Core, then KEEP GOING. YAY YOU!
Self-assessment is really about creating awareness. Not just about what we may want to do differently but also about what we're doing right. Likewise, the personal strategic planning process is as much about outlining what has worked well for you in your life as it is about improvement.
Thank you for Occasionally, Most of the Time, Often, Always reading my blog. I really appreciate it!

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Day 35/60: Insanity Q & A

Insanity Workouts:
Day 29 - 35: Recovery Week (Core Cardio & Balance)
Day 28: Rest
Day 27: Plyo Circuit
Day 26: Cardio Power & Resistance
Day 25: Cardio Recovery

Yep, I'm still at it.

The past six days comprised "Recovery Week" which meant doing much easier and shorter workouts.  Unfortunately, I am now so fully sucked into this craziness that the recovery week workout didn't feel challenging enough.   Twenty minutes of not quite sweating just wasn't satisfying.  

Sick, I know.

Yesterday, I ran five miles just to feel like I had done something.  It was a mistake.  My hip flexors and piriformis were not happy.  Ouch. 

So, in answer to reader Stephanie's question about what advice I would give to someone else starting this program:   Learn from my mistake and remember that when it says "rest" and "recover," you should REST and RECOVER.

Another reader, Tina, suggested that it would be helpful to have a little more detail about some of the exercises in order to gauge if it's something she would even want to attempt. 

There's one set called the "Level 1 Drill" that I think is a good example for you to try:
     * Do four push-ups
     * Staying at the top of your last push up, alternate bringing in your feet like you are running in place while in plank position.  Keep your butt down.
     * Jump your feet in and stand up, reach hands up to the ceiling
     * Go back down to plank and repeat, starting with the four push-ups
The Plyo workout calls for doing this series five times in total.  There is also a Level 2 Drill which is the same except for eight push-ups and "plank runs" instead of four.   Obviously, it's much harder in context of the other 30+ minutes of exercises but hopefully this gives you a general idea of what you're up against.

My friend Sarah shared with me that she bought a workout DVD she's been wanting to try but just hasn't been able to get herself to do it.  Knowing I'm also a mom who works full-time (etc) she wants to know how I actually do it.   Keeping it really simple, I focus on just two steps:
     1. Wake up earlier
     2. Push play

Replace your slippers with sneakers and sleep in your sports bra if you have to.  Don't make it more intimidating than it needs to be.  Get your arse out of bed and push the little button with the arrow on it.  Don't allow yourself to dread the workout or anything else you have to do the rest of the day.  Just start moving.

 If you have any other questions or if there is anything else I can do to help you, just let me know!


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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Day 24/60: Two Quick Tips

Insanity Workouts
Day 24: Plyo Circuit
Day 23: Cardio Power & Resistance
Day 22: Pure Cardio & Cardio Abs
Day 21: Rest Day
Day 20: Plyo Circuit

This week, I have two quick tips that I'm hoping will be helpful, even if you aren't "insane."

1) BYOM - Bring Your Own Music.  Most workout videos these days give you the option of using their background music or not.  I typically use the program audio for the first couple of weeks because it helps me learn the cadence of the workout and focus on the routine itself.

At the point where I start getting slightly bored (usually week three), I make the move to my own tunes.  On my iPod, I have a "workout" playlist.  Lately, I've been enjoying the genre stations on Pandora instead.   My taste for music is very eclectic so I might do the classic rock channel one day, pop and hip hop the next, and then showtunes.  Have some fun with it! 

2) CORE FOCUS. These workouts have really helped me be much more mindful of my midsection -- in a good way for  a change.  Throughout every exercise, there are reminders to keep the core tight.  It's made me start thinking about tightening the ab muscles at other times as well: walking around the house, sitting at my desk, in the car.  

This is something you can do even if you are not engaged in a formal exercise program.  Just start paying attention throughout the day.  Notice when your belly is just sort of hangin' out there and see if you can contract those muscles.  Focus on your core.  Not only will it make your midsection better, but it will help protect your lower back as well.  

Just standing at the fridge contemplating the Häagen-Dazs?   Focus on those belly muscles, squeeze and hold!   (Then walk away.)

Good luck and keep pushing play!!!


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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Day 19/60: Still Workin' Hard. Still Pushing Play.

Insanity Workouts:
Day 19: Cardio Power & Resistance
Day 18: Cardio Recovery
Day 17: Pure Cardio & Cardio Abs
Day 16: Plyo Circuit
Day 15: Fit Test

Wow, time sure flies when you're sweating your buns off.  

One thing hasn't changed since last week: this stuff is hard.   One of my favorite moments is when Shaun T. asks one of his (unbelievably fit) students how they are feeling during the workout and she replies, "I feel like sh*t!"  You don't get that kind of candor in most programs.  Love it.

There is just an incredible adrenaline rush which keeps you going.  Shaun T. has a very motivating style that helps a lot.  Afterwards, it always feels like an accomplishment.  Totally worth it.   That's what makes you hit the play button, even when you know it is going to be work.

Naturally when you are putting so much energy into something, you want to see results.  Whereas P90 & P90X only do a "check-in" every 60 days, Insanity has one every 15 days.  I like this.

The other difference is that Insanity is more focused on fitness improvement vs. weight and inches.    One reason for this may be that you have to be in reasonable physical condition to even begin to do the Insanity program. 

That said, I still get on the scale and do measurements.  I can't help myself.  Not surprisingly though, I didn't see a big difference on just day 15.  (When I did P90X, I actually gained two lbs in the first two weeks.)   

My advice here if you also can't help yourself from being focused on such metrics: just hang in there no matter what the scale says.  Don't get discouraged.  Keep going!

On the flip side, I was really happy to see fairly dramatic improvement in my Fit Test results.  The Fit Test involves doing as many reps as possible within one minute for each of eight different exercises. This week I was able to do anywhere from 10% to 65% more than I did on day one depending on the exercise.  My form was better as well.

So, if you're tempted to blow the Fit Tests off -- don't. 

The other "ah ha" I wanted to share is that you will want to get a sticky yoga mat for Cardio Recovery.  I used one for the first time this week and it made a big difference in my stability and form.

Hope that helps!  Keep digging deep!

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