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Defining “Healthy Way of Life”

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In a recent meeting, I asked a team of colleagues to elaborate on what our organization’s tagline, “healthy way of life,” means to them. Their responses varied, but two common themes kept emerging: fitness and nutrition.

Yes, both of these are definitely elements of a healthy way of life — and yet it’s so much broader and bigger than that.

From my perspective, “healthy way of life” is a lens for examining every aspect of our lives, including our relationships, our health, our environment, and more. It’s a filter for honestly reflecting on whether our time, priorities, and choices are truly aligned with our values and passions.

With that in mind, here is what I think it means across several different areas:

Mindset.  Move through your days with intention and purpose. Be present. Stop for a moment to get clear on your “why” — that driving force can influence all of your choices and actions and get you closer to those big dreams.

Health and well-being. Take care of yourself — physically, mentally, emotionally. Get plenty of sleep, manage your stress, practice self-care. Give yourself permission to rest and ­recover when you’re feeling worn down.

Be an active participant in your healthcare; be your own best advocate. Take vacations, disconnect from technology, connect with those you love.

Fitness. Move — it’s that simple. Ideally in ways that motivate you to do it, in some form or another, every single day. Exercise with an awareness of where you are right now and be willing to challenge yourself to reach for that next goal, whatever it is for you.

Nutrition. Eat mostly whole, fresh foods that nourish and satisfy you — and that you truly enjoy.

Notice how food makes you feel and how your body reacts. Hydrate, supplement, and optimize your nutrition in ways that support your unique body.

Relationships. Your connections with yourself and others are everything. ­Devote time to nurturing honest, sincere, courageous relationships with those you love. Find delight in one another.

Be kind and respectful — to your­self, to those who have differing viewpoints, to strangers; you can learn so much about and from others if you take the time to listen and ask questions. Seek commonality.

Reframe the perception of rivals — start seeing those competitors as people who are pushing you to be better.

Community. Connect to people and causes that do the most good. Together, you can discover new hobbies, advocate for a cause, and make a difference in your community and the world.

Career. Pursue work that you’re passionate about, that exhilarates you, and that allows you to contribute your best gifts. Think of it as finding the convergence of your interests and abilities.

Technology. Use devices mindfully, and set limits on how much time you spend on them each day. Notice when screen time is negatively affecting you, and instead find ways to use technology to your benefit.

Personal development. Learning is a lifelong pursuit. Pay attention to those internal desires to develop new skills or knowledge. Never stop expanding your horizons.

Environment. Earth is the one and only home we have. Take care of it through conscious daily choices, whether it’s avoiding plastic or choosing greener options when they’re available. Be a leader in making social responsibility the norm.

Remember that this is not only our home, but also that of future generations and other creatures. It’s our responsibility to make it a place where others can thrive for years to come.

These concepts are just a few of the many ways that the phrase “healthy way of life” can shape the direction of our lives. My hope is that my interpretation inspires you to reflect on what it means for you — so you can define and create your own unique version of it.

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Health & Fitness

STRONG BODY, STRONG MIND: Let’s Go Streaking

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I completed my 96th consecutive day of running today. In the past three months, I’ve logged about 185 miles.

This may or may not sound impressive to you. But for me, the part of this story that is the most bewildering is that for 96 days straight — no matter the weather (it’s been a hot and steamy summer; it’s August as I write) and no matter my mood (overwhelmingly anxious) — I have run at least one mile every day.

As someone who doesn’t identify as a “runner,” this is just wild.

The idea came to me last May. I’d spent the previous two months going on long daily walks, which was one way I coped with the early days of the pandemic. Turning one mile out of my four-mile loop into a run seemed like a good way to pick up the pace while increasing the difficulty.

This commitment lasted a couple of weeks, until a stormy day gave me an excuse to skip running and walking altogether. After 16 days of running, I patted myself on the back, lay back on the couch, and opened Instagram.

That’s when I saw one of a series of articles by my friend (and Experience Life contributor) Elizabeth Millard about the Runner’s World Run Streak, for which she profiled people who ran daily for weeks, months, even years! I was blown away. It turned out my little running experiment was nothing novel — and it even had a name.

A “run streak,” I discovered, refers to the number of consecutive days you go for a run. According to the United States Running Streak Association, all it takes is one mile per calendar day. As I dug deeper, I was inspired by seasoned streakers, including one woman who was working toward a 1,000-day streak.

On May 18, after my single day off, I recommenced with Day 1.

In doing so, I didn’t have a plan. I still just wanted to aim for a mile a day, at whatever pace felt right. I didn’t have an end date in mind: I figured my body would let me know when it was done. I promised myself that I’d listen.

Through the rest of May, June, and July, I ran my mile. At the beginning of August, on a whim, I signed up for the Twin Cities in Motion’s Looniacs Challenge to run 100 miles that month.

Now I was upping the ante by committing to increasing my daily distance from one mile to about three. It seemed like a big jump, but I was tempted — and still committed to listening to my body and stopping when it said enough.

Recovery — through proper nutrition, sleep, stress management, mobility work, and true rest — is always critical, no matter my activity. But over the years I’ve learned that recovering from runs is more challenging for me than recovering from other workouts. Although my mind loves running, my body isn’t always a fan.

So I doubled down on my recovery routine and focused on varying my running routes, distances, and intensity as much as I could.

I continued to cross-train, strength-training three times a week and doing brief yoga sessions almost daily. I’m convinced that my long history of strength, conditioning, and mobility work has supported me in my run-streak experience.

As occasional discomfort cropped up, I paid attention and took action. I invested in new running shoes and professional bodywork that I could maintain on my own. I listened to my body, yes, but I heeded my mind, too. My mind wanted to run. It wanted to know how far and how long I could go.

To date, the answer is 96 days and 185 miles. A part of me hopes that when you read this, I’ll still be streaking and feeling amazing. Perhaps I’ll be running my miles through snowdrifts, perhaps on a treadmill. Or perhaps my mind and body will have agreed to stop well before the season turned.

Either way, I’m grateful for the consistency that streaking has given me these last few months.

Each day, I’m guaranteed a workout, even if it’s just a 12-minute jog around my neighborhood. Each day, I find success by completing something hard, no matter how small or insignificant a mile might seem in the grand scheme.

And each day has been a reminder that small, hard things done consistently can amount to something huge — something that once might have been impossible.

This originally appeared as “Let’s Go Streaking” in the January/February 2021 print issue of Experience Life.

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