I long ago committed to nailing work-life balance, until I realized that work is a massive part of life, and there are so many other big parts of life to balance as well. So really what I aim for is how to achieve a balanced life overall.

But in an effort not to overwhelm myself with all the various aspects to focus on, I have honed into three parts that are most important to me, and those are, in order: connection (a full life), health, and purpose (growing and giving). I obviously still focus on work, and am lucky in that my job helps me achieve some of these objectives. In another sense it makes it more difficult, which is why I call the trifecta work-fitness-fun, even though I readily acknowledge there is a lot more to life than these three things, but I love how this sums it up a bit better than work-life balance.

On the topic of fitness, I’m lucky to have been blessed with generally good health, with a couple notable hiccups that thankfully I recovered from without long-lasting damage. I was also blessed with height, and while it makes it a a pain to shop for clothes, it definitely has several other advantages. But I missed out on the good fortune that would have gotten me a decent amount of strength, speed, grace, and coordination to go with it and make me a sports star. I managed well enough, and enjoyed playing a lot of different intramural sports and being generally active outdoors. All of this goes to say that I’m definitely interested in staying healthy and strong, but I’m not training for the next IRONMAN or practicing up for an upcoming tournament, as I’m focusing more on my career and being an amazing partner and parent more now. This is more about doing all that while maintaining a commitment to health and strength, and how I chose to do that when it would be a lot easier to let it all go.

I’ve been collecting the key things that matter for keeping up a healthy minimum daily baseline. These are the things I’ve found will set me up for the most success in many parts of life, so I track each one on the regular. When life gets rough and schedules tight or I backslide for whatever reason, these are the basics that I come back to so I can reset and get started again. I go through this list in order and one at a time make sure I focus on meeting that minimum again, so that I can layer on bigger and better things from there when I can, and know that I’m covered when I am focusing more on other areas.

To make it simple, I can track each of the following items. I do this by setting them as Favorites in iPhone’s Health app, which gives a summary and trends in one convenient location. There are other ways to do all of this, and I share these in case you are looking for something to get started or tweak to make your own.

  1. Water – 80 ounces each day minimum, 96 is even better. I do this first because water is a great way to make sure I’m taking breaks through the day, seriously. Plus it gives me good energy, helps curb cravings and binge eating, keep your immunity up, and prevents kidney stones (I’ve had one. Trust me, drink more water). I was a longtime MyFitnessPal user, but switched to Lifesum because it exports water to Apple Health.
  2. Activity – “The Rings”: my daily Move, Exercise, and Stand goals set in the Fitness app and tracked by the Apple Watch. I keep these realistic (currently at 400 cal / 20 min / 12 hr) so I can crush them each day with a little stretch, rather than miss them on the regular. I’ve bumped them up a couple times in the past when I notice that I’m never missing them. And I’ve pulled them back when I had some arbitrary ideal in my head that I would rather consistently miss and then give up in discouragement. This is why I find it so important to understand my current performance, so I can set goals I can sustainably work towards from there.
  3. Protein – I aim for 74g of lean protein based on my height and typical activity level. Doing protein on purpose helps me keep my hunger cravings in check, which is good because I don’t have a massive amount of willpower when it comes to cupcakes and potato chips. I use Lifesum to track what I eat, though I try to create predictable menus I can repeat so I don’t need to track all my food every day.
  4. Sleep – It was only this year that I came to understand how important a full night’s sleep was on your health. I knew it mattered, but I didn’t know that it could cause your appetite to increase as a result of hormone changes, that your metabolism would slow for the same reason. I’ve seen that exercise can counter the effects of a lack of sleep, but I prefer to not take too many chances here and aim for both. I haven’t worked with Brad Jensen, but I’ve heard him speak and credit him with this aha moment.
  5. Steps – Technically, this is covered indirectly by the Move ring, but I like this as a more tactical measurement to hit, and I love the excuse to get out on my aloha road once in a while when I’m not hitting that 5000, too. This is one that I know people say should be 7000 or 10k, but knowing me and where I’m at right now, I choose to aim for 5 and know I can do more when I’m ready to shift focus here more.

Beyond the minimum here, I then work up to adding in 5 intense workouts a week, starting with strength training, and not neglecting stretching. Like with all other parts of my life, I find that having a plan is so important, so first and foremost I make time to figure out meals for the weak, how much available time I have around sleep and physical activity so that I’m not compromising those often, and making sure I have time to process the emotion that regularly comes up when I feel like I should be doing more or I’m not healthy or strong enough. I’d rather burn that energy than let it burn me, so doing a good old writing exercise instead of avoiding thinking about it at all often loosens whatever shame I’m holding onto so I can get moving again. Literally.