In a post Rows and Columns, I provided the background that made me realize I am what I’ll mildly call, a “rules-oriented” person (or what the casual observer might call “on the spectrum”). I have rules for everything:
- How I travel – there’s a rule for that
- What I read – there’s a rule for that
- What I cook or eat – there’s a rule for that
- How I dress – based on wind chill factor. Yes it’s different for 31°F vs. 29°F
- How I handle our bills and taxes – there’s a rule for that
- How I invest and save – there’s a rule for that
- When and how I meditate – there’s a rule for that
- My exercise routine at home or on the road – there’s a rule for that
By having rules I take the guess-work out of implementing good habits. I just have to do them if there’s a rule for that. But it seems the rules that lead to good physical health habits have important but less tangible benefits as well. Let’s explore them by examining…
What If There is an Exception?
No biggie, other than breaking out in the occasional case of hives or saying the name “Wapner” repeatedly, the implications are pretty minor. It is not uncommon for me to break my reading rule, for instance, when a book is recommended to me by someone I love and/or respect. My friend and role model Valerie Rind recently wrote a book called “Gold Diggers and Deadbeat Dads.” It’s a book with practical solutions about how to deal with the financial shenanigans that often take place between loved ones. I could deal with Gold Diggers barging into the reading queue because it conformed to the love and/or respect exception and because it is a subject that matters to me. It’s a great book. You should read it. Anyway, I think I just convinced myself there was a rule for that so let me try again.
Yesterday, I was due for a visit to the gym (there’s a rule for that). Based on its location and a windchill factor that crossed my cycling threshold rule, I should have walked. However, next week I’m driving to NC again for Module 2 of Duke IHCPT. My wife feels and I agree that given the distance, it’s better for me to drive her late-model vehicle than to drive my 2000 Oldsmobile Alero (it’s kind of a rule).
And, because my Healthy Transportation rules cut back my overall car use, it’s a good practice for me to start my car about once a month just to keep the battery sparky (it should be a rule).
Now, yet another source of wild entertainment for my wife and children is the fact that I don’t like to start the car unless I’m going somewhere with it (It’s a rule! – I owe my father for that one). Starting the car and letting it idle in the driveway or even to move it a few feet is a giant Davey H No-No. So I decide that after I start the car, I’ll drive the 1.75 miles to the gym. I was violating my Healthy Transportation rules.
So I pull out of the driveway and, Oh! My! God! What is wrong with you people?!? What are those turn signals on the car for?!? Are yours broken?!? You realize that when the light turns green you’re supposed to go, don’t you?!? And you with the Maryland tags, don’t you know what “No Right Turn on Red” means? There are rules for these things!
For the first time in years, I arrived to the gym totally stressed. Usually, when I ride and especially when I walk to the gym, I can use that time to transition from the stress factory that is the Davey H 1.x life to my happy place. When I walk to the gym, I’m not worried about the car from Maryland in the next lane weaving into me (they’re always from Maryland). The pedestrian or bike in front of me will not make me miss the traffic light. We can all go at the same time. The queue-server ratio of predicate calculus is on our car-free side.
Better yet, because I don’t have to focus on what the car from Maryland is about to do (there always from Maryland), I can use my time more productively. So if I do walk out the door feeling stressed, I can use the time to think through solutions to what’s bugging me.
Anyway, I finally get to the gym. These days. my workouts are almost 100% resistance training because I get my cardio just by going back and forth. But, because I drove, I had to invoke my rule that ensures I work in some cardio. In the interest of time I do two rounds of Tabata sets on the rowing machine (there’s a rule for that). I’ll explain Tabata and other forms of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) in a future post, but in a nutshell, it is exercising in a compressed timeframe with your volume knob set to 11.
Thankfully, the very act of working out has the same effect that walking and cycling does. I got some creative thinking time. In fact during a workout that lasted about 35 minutes, I was able to:
- Discover a solution to a nagging problem the Davey H 1.X has been stewing on for weeks.
- Come up with a new alternative to my company/domain name problem that I discussed in this post on branding. (Domain Available and Procured!)
- Devise the content for this post, it’s predecessor and the Tabata/HIIT post I’m threatening to do. (I’m assuming if you’ve read this far, you view that as a threat you hope I follow-up with). But that Tabata/HIIT post requires some research so I have to RTFM first.
Furthermore, the combination of working out and being able to solve some problems helped soothe my nerves. It calmed me down. All was right with the world.
But now I have to drive back home…
What Can We Takeaway from this Stream-of-Consciousness?
- Davey H has rules.
- Establishing rules that encourage healthy habits takes the guess-work out of doing the right thing. It limits your ability to negotiate your way out of adopting them.
- To make these rules work and habits stick, they need to be compatible with your lifestyle.
- Some people don’t even need rules for healthy habit formation. In fact for some rebellious souls they may be counterproductive. In those cases don’t make rules. Call them guidelines instead.
- The benefits of physical activity do not just manifest themselves physically. The example described here in which not being physically active (i.e .driving) increased stress and inhibited creativity are not just anecdotal. The research demonstrates the emotional and mental benefits I experienced are real and repeatable.
- Davey H has issues