Making fitness and health a habit

I’ll be the first person to admit that I do not like working out. Despite all those endorphins they say make you happy and the fact that I was pretty active when I was younger, going to the gym takes major effort and a lot of talking myself into how important it is.

Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live in. (fitness quote)

I’m trying to remember this and make fitness more of a habit.

One of the parts of my happiness project is to make fitness and health a habit. It’s no secret that getting in regular exercise and eating better pays off in the long term, both for your health and for your attitude. My goal is to make it a habit now, so as I get older, it becomes a regular part of life.

So for this year, I have resolved to:

  • Take a fitness class once a month
  • Go to the gym an average of 3 times per week (12 per month)
  • Don’t buy lunch out more than once per week
  • Don’t buy dinner out more than once per week
  • Eat a salad once per week
  • Drink 32 ounces of water per day

I took my first class this week – a “butts and guts” type workout – and it was fun to workout with other people, instead of just by myself. I think I’m definitely going to keep doing that in the future. I got to 10 trips to the gym in January and I’m currently at 6 in February, with just over a week to go. It will take a lot for me to meet the goal this month, but I’m going to try. One thing I’m finding makes it easier is to have something in my workout that makes me feel strong. For example, this month I did a benchpress for the first time and got to pressing 65 pounds and then I did deadlifts for the first time and lifted 100 pounds. It’s nice to feel like a beast every now and again 🙂

I think going out to eat a lot (which we’re really guilty of) is a gateway to unhealthy eating, which is why one of my goals is to eat out no more than twice a week – once for lunch and once for dinner (which will also help my bank account!). This is actually going really well so far. One of the things that’s helped is putting more focus on meal planning and grocery shopping at home. If you actually like what you’re eating and have everything to make it, it’s that much simpler to stay in and cook.

I’m still working on eating more salads and drinking more water. Not that salad is the only healthy food, but it’s usually better than what I make, so I’m trying to work at least one salad into a meal a week. Water’s not usually my drink of choice, but I think drinking more is a good thing to do (especially during these dry Minnesota winters), so I’ve got a 32 ounce water bottle that sits with me that I’m trying to get through once a day.

I’m still trying to do all of these consistently, but I have been getting better, which I can tell is already helping my happiness!

What type of healthy habits do you try to include in your daily routine? Any suggestions to make my goals easier?

A life in the blue jacket

As you may or may not have heard, this week is National FFA Week. It’s a week that current and former FFA members change their Facebook pictures to nostalgic photos of corduroy clad teenagers and we reminisce about car rides to national convention, judging livestock and giving speeches we spent weeks and months preparing. FFA – formerly known as the Future Farmers of America – is one of those experiences that takes hold of you and never quite lets go.


Every year during National FFA Week, I find myself thinking about my life with the organization. See, I like to say I was born in the blue jacket. My dad is an agriscience teacher and FFA advisor and is a former state FFA president. My sister was in FFA a couple of years after me. In our house, FFA is synonymous with family.

I love this picture of my dad when he was the Michigan FFA state president!

It’s a little blurry, but my dad – my ag teacher and my FFA advisor – set me on a path of learning to do and doing to learn.

My sister and I in matching corduroy. In our household, FFA = family.

Trailing my dad to school for as long as I can remember, I grew up watching high school and college kids take care of animals, practice for contests and earn degrees. When it was time for me to become an FFA member, I couldn’t wait to jump in with both feet. I did every contest I could get my hands on. I met countless friends and traveled all over the state and country. It was an eye-opening experiencing, all based around agriculture and leadership.

My national dairy judging team.

By college, it was time for something a little bigger. I was given the chance to serve as a state FFA officer with people who became some of my best friends. State office gave me the opportunity to meet kids from so many differing backgrounds. I visited students in inner city Detroit and from rural counties. Some focused on horticulture and small animals, while others focused on traditional ag programs like livestock and crop production. My eyes were opened to everything that FFA could do, not just for me but for other students, as well.

The 2007-08 Michigan FFA state officer team – and some of my best friends.

After state office, I served as a collegiate host for National FFA Convention, where I got to meet past state officers from other states and give tours to current and potential supporters of the National FFA Foundation. It was wonderful chance to share all the great things FFA does for its members with people that had the ability to provide the same opportunities and more to future generations of agricultural leaders.

Today, more than 10 years after donning the blue corduroy jacket for the first time, I’m continually amazed by everything I was able to do, the places I was able to go and the people I was able to meet. While it’s true that FFA also presented me with plenty of challenges, every experience I had in FFA was a learning opportunity that prepared me to be the person I am today.

As I start the next phase of my FFA involvement – as an alumni volunteer – it excites me to see the potential in students. Some will become leaders of companies. Others will never leave their hometown. But no matter what, they will have learned the value of “learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live and living to serve.” And for that, I’m so glad that this wonderful organization exists.

Happiness is up to me

I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last year thinking about happiness. What makes people — and, in particular, me — happy? What doesn’t? How can we do more of the former and less of the latter? And how does personal happiness affect career and relationship success?

A couple months ago, I read “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin, in which she tries to tackle these exact questions, in way everyone can relate to. As she documents in the book, Gretchen took a year and identified those behaviors which can impact happiness — which she picks based on a mix of research and personal experience — and tries to increase the frequency of those actions in her life. For her, they were things like organizing the house, singing in the morning, taking more pictures of her kids and doing things she finds fun. It’s a great read and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking to pick up a new book.

So, for 2014, I’ve decided to embark on my own “happiness project”. I’ve come up with a list of things I think will positively impact my personal happiness, as well as a list of three guiding principles. It’s my goal to work away at this list throughout the year to hopefully keep making a better version of me, which should also improve my job and my relationships with family and friends.

So what are my guiding principles? No matter which project I’m working on, these are the things I’m trying to stick to:

    1. Do it when you think about it.
    2. Smile more.
    3. Act the way you want to feel.

And the projects? I’ll talk about the full list in future posts, but in general they fall into these broad categories:

    • Make fitness and health a habit.
    • Increase work productivity.
    • Have more fun.
    • Get the little things out of the way.
    • Build/strengthen personal connections.
    • Make time for me.
    • Think about others.

I’ve already started learning that not everything on my list is going to be easy to accomplish, but I do think it’s all going to be worth it.

So, here’s to a year of putting happiness in my own hands!

What things do you focus on to improve happiness? What impact does improved happiness have on your life? I would love to hear about it in the comments.