The Written Word

Health, Fitness, and Spreadsheets

I like Excel, so I want to apologize in advance for the heavy use of columns, rows, and graphs. But they’re important. Even important-er is the story they tell. Because while I’m on the right path to better health and fitness, I don’t feel like it. And I need something visual to help me see what’s happening.

Let me explain that dorky image. I decided to come up with areas I wanted to improve. Straightforward things like what I ate and how much I moved. But also some others which I thought would be just as critical. And I gave each its very own little column. Every day, I rank each between 1-5. Each week I take the sum of each column and add it to the graph. And as only an Excel-overachiever can do, I dynamically color-code the cells based on a red-yellow-green system of whatever. (I ran out of words to describe my deep Excel-ness).

But I’m not here to talk about monitoring. I’m here to talk about (a) is it working, and (b) why would meditation be just as important as exercise?

To start with, there is a video included at the bottom of this post. It explains what I’ve started and why. Scroll down and take a quick look, if you haven’t seen it already.

Let’s get to (a). Yes, it’s working. I’ve recently had people ask me if I was losing weight, and I suppose I am. Slowly. I don’t see it, but I’m also watching paint dry. I don’t notice the degree of each day’s dampness. In the past, I’ve done this major health rebound with a vigor. Hit the gym for hours each day. I could feel the pain of improvement. The hunger of losing weight. I’m not really feeling much different with this approach, except maybe some impatience. Aside from my chart and the off-comment from a friend, I would have no idea that progress was afoot. But more on that later.

As far as (b) … I need to explain a few columns. Food, exercise, and sleep. You know exactly what they are. Basic building blocks for health. But I also have flexibility and meditation in the mix, and they have just as high an importance as the others. Why? And why am I failing at them?

The roller coaster I’m on where I get extremely fit, then not, needs to stop. I’m obviously not putting the icing on the cake, so to speak. So I started thinking about what would augment the basics. There was once a time when I could do the full splits. Now I can barely bend over enough to touch my knees. All the muscle in the world isn’t going to make me feel better if my body is an unmoving block. Same with my mind. I’ve not done a thing for it previously. And meditation is a great way to build that muscle as well. (Or at least help it rest and recover). So yea, I need to improve in those areas. And judging by my lack of progress over the past five weeks, it’s something that I’m not used to working on.

By the way … you’ll notice I didn’t include weight. Or any physical measurements. Why? Because that’s not my goal. Yea, I was around 250-some pounds when this started. I’m not that far away from it now. But I don’t care. This is about how I feel. Which is why that last column is so important. And the one in the middle titled ‘Happiness’.

“Body” means how comfortable I am in my physical body. Do I feel like I can get up without groaning? Could I go paddle for hours in a kayak? Do I feel physically healthy? This is a grand goal of this program, after all. And arguably one of the two most important metrics. Again, the other being happiness. What Body is to the areas below my neck, Happiness is to what’s above. Simple question … am I happy? And taken all together, I should see gradual improvement across the board. With one day my body and joy being consistently in the high 4-5 range each day. That’s the lifestyle I want to maintain.

I’m happy with the food and exercise. I need to do better, but who doesn’t think that way at times. I’m making solid progress there, I believe. And I do need to make a really solid effort at relaxation and stretching. But that’s just starting a habit. I think the more important takeaway from this is … the curve on that chart shouldn’t be a straight line. I don’t expect the same climb every week. Up until now, sure. Maybe. But success should build upon success. Today’s chart shows the first set of improvements. What I’m building upon next isn’t sand, but gravel. It’s more stable. I should be able to put more on it. And in a few weeks, the base will be concrete. And the next set of upgrades should be faster and better. (He says hopefully).

If you’re reading this and have something of your own you’re trying to “once and for all” establish, I hope my ideas can help. Maybe not my enthusiasm about spreadsheets, but the notion that you have to build ever stronger bases on which to erect the next set of habits. Firm those up and then do the next floor of the building. I’ve always done the “let’s fix this NOW” routine, and I consistently revert. I have no idea if this is my path to success this time, but I’m going to try. And try to encourage you to do the same, with whatever it is you’re trying to do. Have some patience, you are getting better. It may not be obvious to you … it’s happening semi-slowly … but it is noticeable. I’m crossing fingers and toes that we all find success, and stay successful.

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Captain Rick
Our dear Cap’n has been sailing the seas of life for 50-some years. Somewhere between impulsive and a stick-in-the-mud, he finds himself embarking on journeys that will either solidify his wandering ways, or give him a nervous breakdown. Come join him on his new adventures in moving pictures on YouTube at

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