There is an awesome clarity that comes when you have very clear priorities - and in my case one of those is my health. As I alluded to in my three words for 2023, I’ve had a couple of recent minor incidents that have brought this home to me.
A key one was back in November 2022 when I went for a routine colonoscopy. Having had colon cancer, this was my three year checkup and all was great. No signs of cancer and everything looked good.
BUT… they had to keep me a bit afterward in the recovery area until they could get an acceptable blood pressure reading. I didn’t think a whole lot of it, but a few days later when I went to our local pharmacy to pick up a prescription for our daughter, I had to wait for a bit and so I sat down in one of those blood pressure test machines that we often have in pharmacies here in the US.
And.. I had elevated blood pressure!
Not high enough to be in the “Get thee to a doctor now!” category, but more in the form of “Dude! You need to make some changes NOW if you want to be around for a while!"
So I have.
I’ve been eating healthier, reducing my sodium intake (such as not eating the pretzels and chips I love to eat), drinking more water, and… a key point… trying to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.
Given that I work in a home office and don’t have to go anywhere, it’s tempting on very cold days to just stay inside, but I’ve been forcing myself to leave and go outside.
This health lens has caused me to make some choices:
- If I have a block of time when I can exercise, but I want to write a blog post or record a podcast episode, I ask myself “Is this due TODAY?” and “will it matter if I do it tomorrow?” If the answer is no (as it usually is), then I don’t do it and go exercise.
- If I want to listen to a recording of a work meeting I missed, rather than listen to it while sitting in my office, I open the recording on my iPhone and listen to the meeting recording while walking around my neighborhood. This has the added value that I actually focus on what is being said in the meeting rather than being at my desk only half-listening while I look at Slack, websites, email, etc.
- I have continued my enjoyment of walking at Shelburne Farms, an amazing and beautiful area that I’m lucky to have about 5 minutes away from our house. Living so close, I can time it to fit a good walk in between other things going on in the day. And when it gets lighter (and warmer) I’ll start going in the very early morning again.
- For days when it’s too cold and windy to enjoy an outdoor walk, I have started going to a local ice skating rink. I’ve figured out how I can drive there, skate for 30 minutes, and then get back home all within an hour.
In general, I’ve used the lens of “will this help me improve my health?"
Owning an Apple Watch has also been helpful. I’d dismissed the “closing the rings” Activity thing as a silly gimmick, but I’ll admit that there is a certain satisfaction in knowing I hit my daily goals. The Health app is also useful, and tracking my heart rates, sleeping, etc, is all useful.
Thankfully I have a job that is project-driven and so I can shift my work hours around and start earlier or work later so that I can do some of these things during the day. (And I do recognize that this is a privilege that many people do not have when their jobs are tied to specific hours or locations.)
My goal is that by the time summer comes around, I’m hoping to get back into the running I used to do. We’ll see. I need to be walking faster before I jump into the running again.
The good news is that this all does seem to be working. Two months later, my blood pressure is back down to near normal levels and in fact is even reading as “normal” sometimes. I’ve lost a little bit of weight (still have a long way to go). I’ve found that “Hint of salt” Wheat Thins taste pretty much the same as the regular ones - and I’ve learned how much additional sodium is in so many different foods! And I’m feeling a bit better in general.
Amazing what happens when you have that clarity of priorities in making daily choices!
P.S. I’m also playing in a curling league every Thursday night an hour north in Bedford, Quebec, which gives me two hours of movement that can be intense at times if you need to do a lot of sweeping. It’s kind of fun to look at the heart rates recorded by the Apple Watch after a game and see how up and down they can be.
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