Back to the basics

I've been feeling a bit off lately.

This past month was a little crazy and work sort of took over my life. We had a big livestream to prepare for, a new tool to build, and not a lot of time to do it.

I'm happy to report the event went really well and we accomplished what we set out to accomplish.

But I got myself completely out of whack... so I decided to take Thursday and Friday to recoup.

It was midway through Friday and I still felt like my body's RPMs were revved way up and I was having no luck winding down.

I took the kids to football practice and headed over to Honest Coffee to enjoy a cup of coffee and do some thinking.

I starting trying to identify why I was feeling out of sorts.

As it turns out, it's really pretty simple.


There are a few keystone habits I have in my life, not the least of which is exercise.

I function best when I run 3-4 times per week.

Unfortunately, it's stupid hot here in Nashville in the summer, and there are many days where even first thing in the morning, it's wildly uncomfortable to go out for a run.

That combined with the increased focus on work and slipping schedule meant that my workouts had been dropping to 1-2 per week.


I also hadn't been sleeping all that well.

Several nights, I woke up at 2:30 or 3:00 with a shot of adrenaline coarsing through my veins.

Had we covered all our bases?
Had we prepared as well as we could have for the upcoming event?

Some nights I would jolt awake with an idea or thought that would prove really useful.

Other nights I just laid there awake, stressed, with nothing at all helpful coming to mind, wishing I could just fall back asleep.

After the event, it took couple nights to get back to a more regular sleep pattern but I have been able to get there.


The last area that's been slipping is my weight. A few years ago I lost 33 lbs in 102 days. Since then, I've been able to keep the weight off... until recently.

I have tried to keep within a 5 lb window (150-155). Recently, I've crept back up to 164 lbs.

As I sat there in the coffee shop thinking about these things, I realized that most of why I felt off kilter could be traced back to these 3 basic things, and 2 of the 3 were directly linked to exercise.

It was liberating to realize all of these are within my ability to affect.

So I decided to do it!

Here is how I'm addressing each of the basic areas:


1. Protect my morning routine
As I mentioned, my morning routine has suffered recently. This is an important time for me. It's a time for me to be still and meet with the Lord. It's a time for me to prepare mentally for the day. And, it's the best time for me to exercise. I've decided to start holding myself to going into the office at 8:00 unless I have an earlier scheduled meeting (which only happens about once a week). I've been slipping out of the house between 6:00 and 7:00 to try and get some extra time in at the office, eroding my morning routine. That's not a good idea. No more of that.

2. Utilize the workout center
Yesterday, I ventured over to our workout center in the morning to run on the treadmill rather than outside. Well, I ran to the workout center and back (about 1.5 miles) and did the rest of my workout on the treadmill. We have access to an air-conditioned workout center through our HOA that until yesterday, I had never set foot in. Time to start taking advantage of it when the weather makes it miserable to run outside.

3. Register for a race
It can sometimes be demoralizing to be running all the time with no goal in mind. Since I started running a few years ago, I've completed 8 half marathons, a couple 5ks, and a 199 mile relay (that one was a blast). Since Covid hit and cancelled everything, I haven't run a single race. Time to get something on the books. I've yet to run a full marathon so I figured, what the heck, now's as good a time as any. I registered for the Nashville marathon coming up in November. Now, I have a reason to train!


1. Get to sleep early.
I wake up at 5:00-5:30 most days. That means if I can get to bed by 9:30, I can get 7.5-8 hours of sleep. I've tracked my sleep in the past and that's what I need to perform at my best. It's easy to let this one slip when work is heavy or we have guests staying at the house, but it's important. If I don't make this a priority I always pay the price.

2. Improve delegation
I have people who can help me at the office. And they do. But I could be doing a better job of empowering them to take certain responsibilities off my plate. I'll be far more effective at the things only I can do if I can master this.

3. Limit alcohol intake
I don't drink much to start out with. But I've noticed over the past few years that I definitely don't sleep as well on nights when I drink alcohol. Not worth it. I decided to keep it to one drink a week max.

4. Buy a new mattress
This one might not be necessary... but it's on the table. I've been waking up sore almost every morning. Can't help but think a better mattress could help. Then again, maybe I'm just getting older.


Last but not least, both sleep and exercise become easier when I get back to my ideal weight.

I've done it before and I can do it again.

1. No more snacks
All those snacks lying around the house and the office can be tempting - but they add a ridiculous number of unnecessary calories to my daily intake. The hardest ones to skip are the chocolate-covered blueberries and those Kirkland cashew clusters (If you're not trying to limit your snack intake, try these... they're amazing!)

2. One dessert per day
Leaving room for a cookie or some other dessert with one of my daily meals.

3. Exercise at least 3 times per week
This one already has its own category. No need to say more.

4. No more donuts
Until I get back to my target range, I don't need to be having donuts. My son brings them home with him from work... but that doesn't mean I have to eat them. His brother and sister will have to step up and take on the additional donut consumption responsibilities.

5. Drink lots of water
It's easy to fill up on snacks and over-eat at meals when I'm not drinking enough water. Ensuring I get plenty of water helps keep cravings down and has me feeling less hungry.

That's it!

It's nothing new.
It's the old tried and true.

Once I'm back in the swing of things my mind will be clear again, I'll be sleeping like a baby, and my energy levels should return to normal.

I know this because I've been there before.

I wish I didn't need to watch what I eat, make sure I get enough sleep, or exercise regularly. But if I've learned one thing about myself over the past few years, it's that I do.

I need it.

I'm a much more pleasant and effective version of myself when I take care of those few basic things.

So here's to doing those things that don't always come easy, but that always pay off!

Mark Armstrong

Mark Armstrong

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