2011 themeword: #fitness

For the last four years, I’ve kicked off the year with a themeword — some word that helps me to focus on some kind of change or result I want to achieve over the next 365 years. This year I’ve chosen “fitness”.

Now, my first connotation with “fitness” instills visions of the gym and working out and huffing and panting and getting sweaty, coupled with a sour dose of pain thrown in just so you know it’s real. And indeed, that’s one of the five areas of fitness I’d like to focus on this year:

Health & fitness

As I mentioned, the whole workout aspect of fitness is actually top of mind for me lately. Sometime last fall I realized that I creeped back into my old ways of relying on too much caffeine and not getting enough sleep and realized that I needed to make a change.

Even though I used to go the gym, it seemed too aggressive to just jump back into it again, and decided to avail myself of one of Google’s health coaches (yes, we have health coaches!). After consulting with Coach Kalen for a month or so, I decided to bite the bullet and join Fit Lite, a local circuit training gym, with Brynn.

After getting back into a regular workout routine, Coach told me about a new experimental program that Google was starting up called Core Performance. He didn’t tell me much about it, but suggested that I consider it — especially since registration would be limited to about 150 spots. After checking out the program, I tossed in my name and fortunately made the cut!

Now, three times a week I work out in a center that looks like this:

Each of those machines coupled with a storage unit set atop with a blue ball is an individual workout station. For an hour three times a week, I go through a workout routine that’s been customized to me — based on physical and behavioral assessments. And though I’ve only been at it for a little over a month, I do believe that I’m seeing results.

How can I tell?

I started to track my health more aggressively, and challenge myself using a variety of self-tracking tools including Healthmonth, my FitBit, and Google Health. For example, this is the summary view of data being piped into Google Health from FitBit:

I also just got a Withings Wifi Body Scale which allows me to record my weight and BMI — two measures that I hope I’ll see going down and to the right in the coming year!

So, the goal of putting all these things together (many of them are high tech, it’s true) is really to bring about a better overall state of mind, and to help me feel better and more healthful in general. If not now, then when?

Bonus: Spotify put together a pretty sweet collection of Workout Playlists from a bunch of major labels to help provide some hot beats for your routine. (Now we just need Spotify to launch in the US!)

Relationship fitness

So in addition to physical health, I believe that it’s also important that I continue to work on my relationship fitness. This includes working on my relationship with Brynn (which I’d say is already doing very well after nearly 3 years!) as well as doing more to reach out to friends and family.

Since joining Google last year, I feel like I’ve become a bit cloistered down in Mountain View. I’ve certainly made new friends, but being on campus all the time has also resulted in experiencing fewer spontaneous outings and get-togethers, and I’d like to remedy that in 2011. Like physical fitness, it’s going to take word and focus but is worth the energy.

Financial fitness

If you’ve known me for any amount of time, you’ll know that money doesn’t really motivate me. I’m more interested in solving interesting problems or working on exciting challenges with smart people than making bank. All the same, I’s a growin’ up — and that means being a bit more responsible when it comes to what I spend, and how I spend it. It also means being more aware of what I save, and now that I have a little extra, where to invest (it helps that Brynn’s brother-in-law is a financial advisor!).

Among other things, I’m trying to consolidate my accounts, shut down extraneous credit cards (I don’t use credit all that much or have any outstanding debt as it is), and get a handle on how I spend my money (no surprise, but most of it goes to living expenses and food). I think I’m in good shape for 2011, but seeing as how money has been one aspect of my life that I’ve really ignored for a long time, I imagine I’ll only get smarter about my financial fitness by year’s end.

Mental fitness

A secondary benefit of working out your body is that you sleep better at night and tend to consume calories more efficiently — which can also mean improved mental acuity. I intend to spend more time exercising my brain this year — through reading and especially writing.

You may have noticed, for example, that my [old] blog has gone dormant. That’s not because I stopped publishing or writing! It’s because my writing became more sporadic and distributed across many different surfaces (from internal Buzz to Facebook to Twitter to email!). As a result, my thinking has become a bit chaotic — where I seem to think in 140 character chunks, rather than complete, well articulated thoughts.

To remedy this — and as a consequence of using Buster Benson’s excellent Healthmonth — I’ve started writing 750+ word essays using a site called 750words (also by Buster Benson). What I love about this tool is the gestalt feedback it gives me after I spend 30 minutes just writing freely:

Chris Messina wrote 771 words on Thursday December 02, 2010

This kind of daily dose of “what am I thinking about” motivates me to create, and in turn, helps to exercise my brain — even if I don’t think I have anything good to write, it keeps my mental juices flowing and gives me a way to express myself that’s both private and longer than 140 characters. If I can write even 50% of the time in 2011, I think my thinking will improve tremendously.

Work fitness

Now, of course one of the elephants sitting over there in the corner is a personal problem that I’ve known about for a long time. No, I’m not an alcoholic (but according to Threewords.me I’m a bit of a narcissist), but I am a serious procrastinator. I tend to work well under deadlines, but that usually leads to increased stress, poor planning, and now that I work on a team, poor communication and collaboration. In some ways, I’ve gotten as far as I have because I tend to work well in bursts and on my own — and when I was an independent consultant, that approach suited my talents just fine.

But that’s not the kind of work that I’m responsible for anymore, and it means that I have to learn to plan my work out more intentionally, and to communicate my plans and coordinate with others on their efforts so we can time things accordingly.

I certainly think that I’ve improved my work style over the last year since joining Google, but boy do I still have a long way to go! 2011 will really about that — becoming a better and more productive worker, while continuing to enjoy and feel proud of the work that I produce.

The runner-ups

For a couple weeks I bounced around words like “create” or “build” or “velocity” for my themeword this year. Seeing as how I spent a good deal of last year “underground”, I’d really like to have something to show for my (and my team’s) efforts soon. These themewords reflect that desire, but ultimately my themeword is about me and my priorities for myself… I believe that we’ll be able to show off our good work this year, and that will be more to do with how I conduct myself — and make myself fitter, happier, and more productive — than how I necessarily intend to change the world.

So now that you know my themeword, what’s yours? Leave a comment here, or tag your tweet on Twitter with #themeword!

Originally published at chrismessina.me on January 5, 2011.

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