I take my job very seriously. And since Backroads is an active travel company, it’s only reasonable that I’m active and that I travel. Many CEOs don’t live and breathe their products and company culture the way I do. But even if Backroads didn’t exist–though I can’t imagine my life without it–I’d be living a healthy lifestyle.
I’m addicted to fitness. Why? Because being fit and healthy allows me to live my life the way I want to live my life.
I can go out and ride with the 25 year olds at our company staff ride every year (I’m 61 years old.) I can travel the way I want to travel, which for me, means getting up and running the streets of Paris for two hours in the morning before anyone else is up (this is the best way to see a place in my opinion, by the way, whether it’s Paris or Prague or Vienna or someplace else.) I can get out and do fun things with my kids, set a good example for them, too. Everything is more fun and so many more things are within reach when you’re fit and healthy. Being in shape vastly improves your quality of life.
If you read Quality Obsession, you know I’m absolutely obsessed with quality and that I measure everything. Tom Hale Total Health (THTH), then, should feel almost inevitable. Here’s how it came to be.
Fifteen years ago, I was 30 years into running in a big way. I ran competitively, and I just kept getting injured.
I was at Thanksgiving with the in-laws, frustrated with my injuries, and I decided I needed to change. Enough was enough. I needed balance. That was key. I needed to get out there and do lots of other things besides just running so darn much. I biked, too, obviously, but I was running more than I should.
As an effort to come up with a more balanced regimen I decided to incent myself. THTH was the plan I devised and it’s predicated on giving myself points for doing all kinds of different activities, and also credits and debits (in the form of points) for various other kinds of attributes that I wanted to get more or less of. For example, a better night’s sleep earns me positive points. Days sick is negative. Water’s positive. More than one alcoholic drink is negative. And so on. Everything gets tallied up and I get a score every single day, week, month, quarter, and year. Graphs track my changes over multiple years. For example, I’ve cut back on the gluten and my weight’s the best it’s been in over 15 years. If I hadn’t been tracking everything for the past 15 years, I might not see this direct correlation. Knowledge is power. And when it comes to health and fitness, I want as much knowledge and power as I can possibly have so I can tweak my life and recalibrate to create the outcomes I want.
I’m very convinced that if you don’t measure things, you’re much less likely to change. (And in my opinion most people don’t measure things enough.)
My very first go round three months into THTH, I went overboard on everything. I was so dang amped up about my new program that I completely overdid it. I was getting up at three in the morning and exercising for hours. I was running. I was doing yoga. I was doing this that and the other thing. I got in incredibly good shape. And I got incredibly tired of it all. Really quickly. I burned out.
So, I recalibrated my program to get a little bit more to the heart of this–which is to have more balance. Now I have a program that works for me. Health and fitness is all about finding something that works for you. Something that’s sustainable. You’ve got to know your strengths and weaknesses, your habits and challenges. Again, information helps you create and maintain and continually refine this. It absolutely has for me.
Over the past 15 years, I have practiced THTH religiously. I track all the data, and it’s then input into my computer for analysis. I know this sounds like a lot, but I probably spend two or three minutes a week entering data at this point. Like learning to tie a shoe, at first there are so many steps, so much to think about. Which lace goes over which lace? Which hand makes which shape? But once you figure it all out it’s nothing. It’s just something you do every day.
Now, any time I want to know anything about myself, in terms of health and fitness, and even things like sleep and cravings and allergies, I can go back over my data and run reports and see exactly what’s changed and what hasn’t. Now, I make educated assumptions about things like how bad my allergies really are, and how much they affect my exercise routine, and therefore my quality of life. When I look at all this, I can make informed decisions like, okay, my allergies have gotten really bad, worse and worse year after year, in fact, and it’s time to actually do something about them. I can see things like, for example, I shouldn’t run the Dipsea race in June every year because I have to go out and train at the worst time of the year for allergies, and maybe I should find another race at another time of year to focus on instead. Correlations become too strong to ignore. I can always choose to do otherwise, which I do sometimes. Ignore the information. But at least at this point, it’s a choice. I can choose to live this way or that. It’s empowering to be armed with all this information.
I don’t know if I’d call this a wellness plan–it’s a really rather serious fitness plan for me. But fitness is certainly a part of wellness.
I do everything to the nth degree if I’m going to bother to do it. When I commit, I commit fully. I know this about myself. It’s no surprise that THTH is like wellness on steroids, but I like it. It works for me. I can see when I go overboard, which I haven’t done for a while now that I have all this information. And I can laugh at myself when I’m being too serious, which I tend to do.
But this is what I need. Everybody ought to have their own plan, based on what they need. My one piece of advice, though? Measure. Measurements are information. And information is power.