Friday, May 4, 2012

Why Create a Regimen?

Sustainable Balance can now be found at:

Before I get into the specifics of learning to design and execute your regimen, the obvious first question to answer is: Why create a regimen for yourself in the first place?  It’s a good question.  To begin, I will admit that a regimen isn’t for everyone.  If you’re the type of person who doesn’t have specific goals (at least, at this time in your life), and you’re happy with the current state of your existence and your productivity (or lack thereof), then there is no point to a regimen.  However, if you do have goals, and these goals are ambitious, and you have other responsibilities to deal with as well, then a regimen can maximize your success.  For that type of person, a regimen will move you towards your goals without neglecting the other things in your life.  It’s simply a plan for how you spend your time to accomplish as much as you can without burning yourself out.  It allows you the freedom to detach from wondering whether you actually will accomplish your goals because you know that you are on the path that you have chosen.  Obviously my goals are very health and fitness oriented, but this type of thinking applies to everything.  I find bringing this philosophy to fitness and health helps me breathe this to everything else in my life.  More on this later. 

To be on a regimen, you don’t have to hold to the plan 100% of the time.  That is impossible anyway.  If circumstances change (as they do) and you miss part of your regimen, you just continue on the path 
as if it didn’t happen.  Now, obviously the point of a regimen is that you try your best to make it happen, but it can become a source of stress if you don’t have contingency plans for when it doesn’t work out.  A regimen must be sustainable in this way.  The regimen being occasionally broken is part of the regimen.  This will allow flexibility, and decrease the likelihood of you resenting your regimen over time and breaking from it.  Also, a good regimen is one that invites occasional change.  As goals and priorities change, so does the regimen.  That isn’t to say that it should be constantly changing.  There should be periods of time where you stick to it in a constant fashion, but its more the practice of having a regimen that is really important in attaining your goals and growing as a person, not the regimen in and of itself (to a point…). 

Having a wisely planned regimen will also provide measurable results and progress that you can incorporate into your plan.  By keeping track of your results and progress (as part of the regimen…) you can methodically move forward and closer to your goal.  This way you won’t hack away doing the same thing over and over, but will increase the difficulty of productivity of your regimen.  I must stress that more time doesn’t necessarily have to be put into your particular goals (though, this is sometimes true), but you do have to progress forward in terms of what you do with that set amount of time.   No wasted time if you do this right!  Another important part of the regimen is when you are engaged in a part of it, you bring as much of your consciousness as you can into it.  If you’re working – work!  If you’re at the gym – lift!  If you’re cooking – cook!  A good trick to stay focused is to accept that it’s actually impossible (unless you are SUPER passionate about something – good for you if this is true).  I have accepted this for some things, and a trick I use is to “gap out” for five minutes every 20-30 minutes.  Allow your mind to wander for a full five minutes every so often, but BRING BACK THE FOCUS, and the regimen continues…you don’t have to do this, but it works for me.

So, creating a regimen (for me) is for attaining all your goals efficiently.  A goal can be anything:  Getting in shape (a great one!), learning a skill, working more effectively, spending more time with family/friends, holding to a budget, etc.  The structure of the regimen is based on a few factors.  The first is responsibilities that you can’t control.  Say you have a 9-5 job (already a regimen of sorts, but not one you’ve created yourself).  It is obviously ridiculous to schedule your cello practice during this time.  This type of schedule (a very common one) is at least fairly predictable, so why not bang away at that cello three times a week after work for an hour?  Make it happen.  That’s only three hours a week.  Maybe some weeks it’s two, and maybe some weeks it’s four.  Maybe sometimes you get up early to do it instead!  Make it happen (if playing the cello well is your goal, of course).  I find these predictable schedules actually work best with regimens, but even with a more flexible schedule you can be fairly regimented.  Other responsibilities could include taking care of people (kids?  I wouldn’t know, haha), or helping others, or working additional jobs.  Priorities also dictate the structure of the regimen.  If there really is no time, then goals will have to be prioritized.  Some goals have to be put on the backburner until you have either accomplished the first goal, or now have the time to pursue another one (part of an “over-arching” regimen, if you will).  During the last year of grad school, I had to scale back on several hobbies (music and sports) and the amount of free time I had to finish my thesis within the time frame I had given myself (priorities!).  The only hobby I kept was fitness and health (though, even that was reduced, no gains, maintenance only), which I believe helped power me through.   Now that school is over, I’m really making an effort to bring them all back into my life.

Some people might say that having a regimen sucks the passion out of life.  It reduces spontaneity and creates robotic individuals.  I understand this viewpoint, but I disagree.  I think an integral part of any regimen is scheduling in “fuckaround” time.  This time is there to do with whatever feels right in the moment.  There can be a little bit every day, or a whole day devoted to it, or a combination of that!  It’s a refreshing change from being focused so often, and brings that spontaneity back!  Anything goes during that time….It’s all part of creating a regimen that you enjoy (for the most part), so that ironically it actually doesn’t feel like a regimen, but just a very effective, productive, and successful lifestyle. It sounds a little less than fun, but its actually quite effective.  I like to call it “planned spontaneity”.   You can also, once in a while, blow off a planned practice for a good reason (a friend came to town, the weather is too nice to pass up, your wife is in labour, etc), but make sure it’s a good reason.  Don’t lie to yourself.

So, those are my reasons for why I like to create a regimen for myself, and suggest to others to do the same.  As I said before, fitness and health is the core of my regimen.  It brings together everything else, and gives me the strength and stamina to accomplish so much more.  I just moved to a new city (Vancouver), and am in a transition, so the regimen is in flux, but the goals haven’t changed.  Here are my goals around which I’ve been creating my regimen: 

-           1.  Continue to get physically stronger in a time-efficient and healthy manner (yes, physique is a part of the goal for this, but this is also for physical and mental wellbeing along with overall athleticism)
       2.  Continue a healthy diet based on whole foods (Primal!  Mostly…) that I procure and cook almost entirely myself
       3.  Get adequate sleep almost every night (note: almost!  Sometimes you gotta work late, and sometimes you gotta PARTY!  Partying is also part of my regimen – its gotta happen!)
       4.  Be as productive as possible during the workday to make time for other goals (work is in flux right now, but networking to find a job IS a job!  Plus I’m trying to get my grad school researched published – been time consuming!)
             5.  Though I’m finished with university, continue to learn more and more about science!  I WILL figure out quantum field theory some day!  And general relativity!  And biochemistry!  Computer programming!  And…and…the list is endless there.  Oh yeah, and by December I'll be writing engineering exams to get my professional registration in order.  
      6.  Teach science to others (I’m currently tutoring high school math, physics, and chemistry until I find a job, though I think I will continue tutoring as its been very rewarding, but maybe for free if I find the right outlet)
            7.  Improve at the guitar and piano (and the ukulele!), and make sure I sing as loud as I can on a regular basis.  Music in general.
      8.  Spend “fuckaround” time with people that are important to me
         9.  Spend “fuckaround” time alone to recharge (I can be introverted…I need time alone to have energy for others)
        10.  Start new positive relationships at every opportunity
        11.  Write for this blog at least once a month

      Those are my goals, responsibilities are currently low, but will eventually (hopefully!) include a full-time job with a commute.  

NEXT POST:  What my current regimen looks like, and why.  Starting with fitness and nutrition, and moving forward with the rest of the goals.  

Hint:  Its based on the “week” schedule, but not every week looks the same.