30 - The Year of Endurance
Every year, I try to assess my goals for the next yearby establishing my annual goals through a comprehensive, ‘Annual Review’. Through my partnership with Johnson & Johnson’s Live Healthy, Live Well Council, they asked if I could share my thoughts on how I’m going to make 2019 my healthiest year yet. That concept fit in perfectly with my ‘Annual Review’ which I initially learned from Chris Guillebeau, a fellow friend and traveler whose knowledge and passion for travel and entrepreneurialism piqued my interest back in early 2014. Prior to embarking on Expedition 196, my 196-country Guinness World Record attempt, in 2015, I purchased a dozen or so entrepreneurial books to force me to make the most out of the adventure from a business standpoint.
Since the age of 18 through 24, for the greater part of my youth, I had traveled to roughly 25 countries alone, working in nine of them, developing a strong foundation to my career through internships, business development and entrepreneurial thinking. I viewed Expedition 196 as my way of utilizing 6 years worth of experience in travel and turning that passion into a lucrative career. Along the way, and since the age of 16 I’d been racing triathlons. It all started with a sprint triathlon which I did in the form of a relay with my family. From there, I advanced to racing my own, full sprint. And thereafter came the Olympics, 70.3’s and finally, my first, full Ironman. At the age of 16, I had made it a goal to race my first Ironman before the age of 30, and when 2018 came along, I realized that 30 was only a year away and I was forced to meet my deadline quickly. In 2017 after finishing Expedition 196 in February, I began immediately training for my Ironman which requires at least a full year of preparation. A couple of injuries, and hundreds of hours of training later, I was at the starting line of Ironman Florida on November 4th, 2018. During my darkest moments as I swam 2.4 miles, biked 116 miles and ran 26.2 miles, the motivation that forced me to overcome those moments was the fact that I had set this goal for myself at the age of 16, 13 years earlier - to finish this race - and there I was, finally racing it. There was nothing that was going to stop me from finishing that race no matter how physically debilitating or mentally challenging it was. Even if I had to run, walk, or crawl, I had no other option than to finish because I knew that that was my last chance to race an Ironman before my deadline.
Now that my goal of traveling to every country by the age of 27 and finishing my first, full Ironman by the age of 30 is complete, I find that there is no other option than to utilize my energy towards another endurance-based goal as I approach my 30th year. I wanted something that would push me to my ultimate physical limits while also focusing on driving my career and philanthropic goals. And while my plate is packed to the brim with projects and work commitments, I need this for myself - for my mental well-being and to be able to stay on track with living the best and healthiest life that I possibly can while inspiring others to do the same. This next goal will be completed by my mid-thirtieth year, I am hoping that it will set the stage for a positive and motivating decade following.
Some people think that the age limits I set for myself are unnecessary, and would rather encourage me to set longer-term goals because, “you have the time” but do we really? Many of you reading this by now should know my philosophy on life and how little time we actually have - we never know when it will be taken from us. Therefore, I personally don’t believe in waiting in order to fulfill a life goal or mission. I think the best time to do it is now. When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, even though they are somewhat “short-term”, I actually don’t believe them to be very lucrative, and this is why I turn to Chris’s ‘Annual Review’ to be able to develop a proper document outlining clear, actionable goals and a set of criteria that enables me to meet those goals. I think it’s easy and fun to set New Year’s resolutions but then when an individual is unable to meet them and instead give up 3-6 months in, it can lead to a real mental pitfall, leading us one step backwards instead of forward towards our best lives.
Some of the questions that Jennifer Turgis,PHD, VP of Behavior Science and Advanced Analytics at Johnson & Johnson says we should ask ourselves regardinglaunching into a successful year of health and wellness are similar to the ones I’ve been asking myself every year as I compile my own personal, Annual Review. Without having answers to the basic questions like “Do I have the energy to pursue all the things I want, including spending time on personal interests and with family? Do I feel like I'm moving forward in life or are there specific places where I feel stuck in a rut?” It’s challenging to figure out a solution towards acting on the goals that we establish for ourselves. If you’re looking for more tips on how to lead a productive 2019 year, check out Johnson & Johnson’s article here.
I’ll be the first to tell you, that while I love triathlon and fitness now, it didn’t always come easy to me. I was what we’d call a “wall hugger” when I was on the swim team in high school, I always came in last during cross country races, and being fit and fast never was something I was extremely passionate about. Oftentimes when I was younger, I would find it challenging to balance training and my love for food, and the latter would oftentimes win, leaving me with a lack of physical fitness that I needed to get through my triathlons effectively. But the more I focused on the end goal, and the harder I worked to change my ways, the easier it was to fall into a routine or rather, lifestyle balance of training and indulging in life’s simple pleasures. I think anyone can make subtle changes over time to be able to eventually lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle, as opposed to one of extreme highs and extreme lows. I do believe that the New Year provides a perfect time to evaluate how we can meet these goals to create a fantastic, health-driven life for ourselves.
Based on my own experience and the tips mentioned in the J&J article, I would say that the key to following through with your goals in 2019 and living a healthier year both physically and mentally would be to consider my five tips;
- Rise with the sun
There has been a ton of research over the years on the fact that the earlier you can wake, the more productive and goal-oriented you’ll be. If you can get into the habit of waking up between 5-6 every morning, you’ll naturally be tired and ready for bed by 9-10pm every night, able to have a more effective and deeper sleep, ready to tackle the day early in the morning. Whether you have a job that starts at 8am or a ton of responsibilities for that day, waking up between 5-6 will allow you the time to either focus on your goals, get those e-mails out of the way, and get your daily exercise in, all before most people are even out of bed. Trust me on this one, rise with the sun.
- Start your morning off with a 30 minute walk
This one is really important to me, and something I’ve been trying to stay consistent with for the past few years. I find that a 30-45 minute morning walk on an empty stomach (or with a coffee in hand - less the sugar), whilst listening to a podcast (NPR’s ‘Ted Radio Hour’, ‘How I Built This’, ‘Hidden Brain’ or ‘The Why Factor’, are a few of my favorites) sparks a creative and positive thinking mindset that sets up the rest of the day. No matter what happens, I did everything in my power to start the day off right and expand my knowledge base in order to inspire myself to complete my goals for the day.
- Drink a liter of warm lemon water
This is a habit that I started falling into during my Expedition. I can’t emphasize enough how incredibly important it is to stay hydrated, and what better way than to get it out of the way early on in the day? I attribute not getting sick often to feeding my body what it needs first thing when I wake up. Not only is adding lemon and maybe some fiber and L-Glutamine to your water beneficial to your health, but the liter will also hold you over until you get back from your walk
- Make fitness a priority
I think that sometimes for most of us, the most effective way to start training and remain on a healthy trajectory is to register for a race or two. The good thing is, that there are so many races out there for all age groups wherever you are in the world, and one or two of them will surely fit in with your schedule. Whether it’s a 5k running race, a swim race, or a triathlon, I encourage you to register for one in this New Year and spend the greater part of the year training for it. Don’t be daunted by the fact that you might need to dedicate your life to training and make great sacrifices, it doesn’t have to be that way (unless you want it to). Your race should be challenging enough to give you motivation to incorporate training/workouts into your day but also easy enough to not have to change your work/life schedule around too much to start. And remember; you don’t have to “race”, you can walk and go at your own pace, but this will just give you a starting point from which to launch from. If you have something to work towards though, you’ll be more apt to find the time in your schedule to make the training happen, and the more you’re able to make it a habit, the easier and more enjoyable training/working out and eating healthier will be. If you have a busy schedule and find it difficult to commit to working out in the day or evening, then you can utilize those extra hours in the morning that you have from waking up earlier and get it done then.
- Before the start of the week, make a “To Do” list of what you will accomplish every day that will lead to the result(s) come weeks end
I like to keep this list on my laptop so that no matter where that week takes me, I have my list on my laptop to refer back to, in order to make sure I’m meeting my daily goals. Usually, every morning I will pitch to 10-20 brands for potential partnership, spend 30 minutes responding to e-mails, and another 10-20 minutes focusing on current project deadlines (this is usually after my morning walk). This way you can keep yourself on track with your workload, goals and tasks if you can see your list right in front of you.
I hope you enjoyed and let me know in the comments what tips you adhere to when approaching your health and wellness goals!