Members of the ELCA pension and benefits program have a wellness benefit. We earn up to $450 off of our deductible for participating in various activities aimed at identifying and addressing our individual health risks. Taking a health assessment results is worth 150 points ($150). After that, enrolling in various online programs to encourage stress reduction, weight loss, increased fitness activity and the like add points to your account, up to a total of 450 in a year.
I chose to earn 300 points with the GO! Challenge, a four-week program that seems to be intended for groups to do together. It works as an individual project too. There are tracking sheets and stars for various activities. I didn't keep track of stars. Instead, I looked down this list, and chose something new every week to focus on.
- Healthy breakfast
- Fruits & veggies
- Aerobic exercise
- Core/strength training
I found the GO! Challenge helpful in encouraging me toward some habits I want to keep. Here's what happened.
Week One: Breakfast, Water & Sleep
Farewell to frosted mini-wheats & constant coffee. Hello to 9:30 p.m. alarm.
I always eat breakfast, so that seemed like an easy place to start the challenge. I decided cold cereal (ok, not just cold cereal: frosted mini-wheats) did not exactly count as a healthy breakfast. I lost the mini-wheats habit in favor of oatmeal or my homemade granola, yogurt and fruit.
During week one, I also started to drink 8 glasses of water a day. It was harder than I thought. I had to cut back on coffee and tea to get in all that water! Four weeks out from the start of the challenge, the water habit is growing on me. I still have to think about it, but I'm getting it done.
I love sleep so that seemed easy too: at least 7 hours. The trick I had to learn here was to set an alarm for myself at 9:30 p.m. every night. Ideally, I hear the alarm and wrap up what I'm doing so I can be in bed by 10:00 p.m. I love mornings, and if I go to bed at 10:00, I can actually wake up in time to enjoy the morning.
Week Two: Fruits & Veggies, Aerobic Exercise, Quiet
Dinner on a schedule, walking the dog, and going to chapel.
In Week Two, I started trying to track whether I had eaten at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. I figured out that I did a better job if I had a plan for snacks during the day and veggies on hand to cook for supper. Hank and I have also started trying to eat at the same time every night. There is something about the structure that makes all of this veggie prep easier.
I love citing the results of the recent Great Britain study that people with dogs get significantly more exercise than people with gym memberships. Kaylee is my walking partner. If I walk with her for about 30 minutes in the morning, and then walk when I have opportunities during the day, I can routinely get in 10,000 steps a day
For "Quiet", the GO! Challenge people suggest prayer, meditation, doing a puzzle, and so on. While chapel at Luther Seminary does not usually feature all that much silence, I decided to count it in the quiet category. From Week 2 of the challenge on, I got more faithful about chapel attendance at school. The change also had the effect of helping me connect with people (another category on the challenge) since getting to chapel requires stepping outside my office, and because there is always some social time after chapel
Week Three: Flexibility/Balance
Yoga, and "enough already."
I like practicing yoga, but through the winter, my practice had become increasingly intermittent. With all the sleep I have been getting since Week One of the Challenge, I am now able to get up for 6:30 a.m. yoga classes a few days a week.
I also realized in Week Three that there is a limit to how many wellness activities one can add into one's life before feeling stressed by all the wellness activities. Less is more sometimes.
Week Four: Core/Strength Training
The yoga studio where I am a member has a class called, "Yoga Sculpt." It is basically yoga done with weights. Much of the class is aimed at strength training, but it also has components related to flexibility and cardio fitness. Last week, I tried the class for the first time. It's hard. At this point, strength training has been the only unappealing part of the GO! Challenge for me. On the other hand, muscle strength makes just about everything else about getting through the day easier. I'm going to keep at the Sculpt classes once or twice a week and see what happens.
Results of the Challenge
In a nutshell:
- I got my wellness points for finishing the Challenge. $300. is real money.
- Water, walking, and eating lots of fruits and vegetables are just part of daily life now.
- I lost two pounds. I know this sounds like "nothing" over four weeks, but I only had about 10 pounds to lose to have a normal Body Mass Index, so 2 pounds is 20% of the way to my goal.
Overall, the challenge was easier to complete than I thought it would be. If I had it to do again, I would stick with the strategy of doing the easiest lifestyle changes first. The "early wins" kept me motivated.
I have this persistent fantasy that with about three days of healthy eating, I will lose ten pounds, or I'll magically fit into clothes that are a size smaller. The GO! Challenge confirmed how unrealistic that idea is, at least for me. Nothing dramatic happened to me. Nothing dramatic at all. I just feel better.