the details make the difference

Last week we spent some vacation time at the beach in San Diego; it's a trip my family takes most summers. Normally we stay within walking distance to the beach. This year, however, we planned a little late and ended up in a hotel about a mile away from the ocean. No problem, I thought - we'll just load the car up with all our gear in the morning, get a good parking spot, and set up camp on the beach for the day. Plus we're saving about $50-$75 per night (I rationalized.)

Except, in the process of loading a bunch of gear (and tired people) at the end of the day, I left 2 wetsuits laying on the rocks next to the car. $60 in rental wetsuits later, and with $400 in replacements waiting for me on Christmas lists, my failure to attend to details looks expensive.

Some things only need to be "good enough", like when I'm mowing/cleaning the yard on a summer day, knowing full well we'll have another monsoon in the next day or two to mess everything up again. At that point, I'm not looking for perfection - I just want the yard to look well-maintained... Good enough.

However, when success is really important, or when the task requires great effort, the details make the difference.

When you're trying to lose weight, it doesn't help to pay attention to your main meals if you spend the afternoon snacking on handfuls of this and that. The few hundred extra calories you're eating could easily be the difference between gaining weight and losing weight, even though you've put so much effort into shopping and preparing good meals.

When you're trying to save money or live within a tight budget, the few dollars spent here and there without being tracked - a coffee here or a beer there - could be the difference between ending the month in the red or in the black.

Of course the big picture matters too. But once you get the big picture right, you're not going to be successful without paying attention to the little things - the details make the difference.

-Chris Butterworth


lifestyles travel with you on vacation

lifestyles travel with you on vacation

You may have noticed the lack of new posts around here lately. Well, I was vacationing last week with my family - and it was awesome. Six days of lounging beach-side, soaking up the sun, and letting life's hustle and bustle fade into the background. Ah, paradise.

the beach at coronado island

(never mind the double-work before I left, or the mountain of paper and email staring me in the face this morning. Gotta let that stuff go while you're "hanging loose.")

The best thing about this trip was that I never once had to "exercise" or "diet", yet I got plenty of exercise and I ate great food the whole week!

That's the power of slow and steady. I've spent the last year making small changes to how I approach diet and exercise, so that it's not about a system, a plan, a routine, or a specific type of diet.

Dieting - I eat what I want, when I want. When given a choice, I opt for the foods with fewer man-made chemicals and ingredients in them. I watch my portion sizes - I try to order the smaller version, or I'll try not to lick my plate clean.

As for exercise, I spend less time at the gym and more time playing with my kids. Sure, I still get to the kettlebells or a Fit-20 workout a couple times a week. But gone are the days of spending hours on the bike or the treadmill.

This week on vacation, I walked a lot with my family - up and down the beach and around the town. I raced my boys to whatever point ahead of us they wanted to run. I played smashball with my wife and younger son. I climbed on the rocks at the jetty. I played soccer at the park. Whatever and whenever - we got outside and had fun. It turned out to be plenty of exercise, without once having to do a workout.

the jetty at coronado island
rock climbing on the jetty

lunch with family at a beachside grille

smash ball on the beach

hanging out in town

goofing around at the local park

Overall, I learned two things on this trip:

1.) Lifestyle changes have a much stronger impact than diet systems. I can't imagine how frustrating last week would have been if I had been restricted by what I could and couldn't eat, or if I had had to find time to get to a gym.

2.) I need to take a vacation like this more often!

How about you - what have you had success with (or failure we could learn from) while on vacation?

-Chris Butterworth


run down and Christmas'd out

Last week was all sugar plumbs and candy canes. We were Christmas organized, ahead of schedule, and under budget. We had holiday events lined up, and were somehow managing to keep up with working out and eating well.

This week? Not so much.

A stomach-bug-thingy went through our house, knocking each of us down like dominos. The kids each missed a day or two of school and/or weekend activities. My wife and I weren't lucky enough to stay home and sleep all day, so we trudged through. We had to miss one of the holiday events we look forward to every year, and another event wasn't very fun.

Bedtime, when we should have been going to sleep early, was pushed late into the night by holiday cards, online photo galleries, and other family sharing stuff. We were tired from not getting enough sleep, run down from illness (and not being able to eat), and barely getting through the days. Suddenly, somehow, we're disorganized, behind schedule, and over budget - yikes! (And I haven't written or worked out most of the week!)

I'm not sure if the holidays or being under the weather for a few days has a bigger impact on my workouts. But having them both together was killer. Luckily I feel better today - I'll squeeze in a couple miles either at lunch or after work. 11 days 'till Christmas? Bring 'em on!

How are your Holidays coming along? Are you eating well and keeping up with your workouts while still enjoying the season?

-Chris Butterworth

Happy Thanksgiving - my mental, physical, and emotional approach

Happy Thanksgiving - my mental, physical, and emotional approach

This will be the only post I write this week; I'm going to savor the holiday weekend with my family. Hopefully you're able to do the same. And we'll be back to business as usual next week.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Microsoft clipart

There's no escaping the fact - this is Thanksgiving Week. A gigantic meal, which also serves as the kick-off to a Holiday Season filled with sweets, snacks, and more gigantic meals.

I'm sure the web will be dripping with tips and tricks for being successful, so I'm not going to write too much about that on this one. But I will share some of my personal thoughts on the holiday..

Mental Preparation

I like to take a look at how I've been doing lately before the day even starts, and game-plan accordingly:

  • If I've been relatively successful, I might not mind a set-back day - especially if I'm confident I'll be able to get myself back on track.
  • If I've been struggling lately, Turkey Day might not only be a major setback, it might also serve as the gateway drug to a failed season, and I'll wake up on January 1st with big regrets, big goals, and a big waistline.
  • Exercise - I understand that a Thanksgiving-day workout is great, but even a 500 calorie workout will pale in comparison to how many calories I might eat that day if I'm not careful.

Physical Execution

Once you have a game-plan in place, it's all about execution:

  • I definitely want to get a workout in on Thursday morning. Even if I don't burn off everything I'm going to eat, I know I'll feel better about myself. Last year I ran a 10-mile turkey trot (not fun!); this year I'll take my family on a hike in the local mountain preserve.
  • What gets on my plate - Option 1: small variety. One option is to limit what I eat. Turkey, potatoes, stuffing, a little gravy, carrots-corn-peas-beans, and a reasonable helping of a dessert.
  • What gets on my plate - Option 2: small serving sizes. Another options is to have a little bit of everything, emphasis on the little. That way I get all the basics, but I can also try the casseroles, salads, breads and biscuits, and a bite or two of several different desserts.
  • Watch the liquid calories. Beer, wine, sparkling ciders, soda (with or without bourbon)... I could put down 1,000 liquid calories easily. Gotta keep my eye on this one.
  • Get away from the table. Those long, drawn out meals, where everyone just sits at the table and gabs away - I find myself eating just because there's still food on the table. Better to get out - grab a few of the kids and the dogs and go for a walk. Or take a football outside and play catch. It's not that I'm after exercise at this point; I just have to physically leave the table to stop eating!

Emotional Thanks-giving

What are you thankful for?

I spent the first 18-19 years of my life not knowing how good I had it, so the whole concept of "what are you thankful for?" was lost on me. I spent the next 18-19 years of my life focused pretty heavily on the stuff - house, toys, job, investing for the future.. So while I was happy with what I had, and with those people in my life, I was never satisfied. "What are you thankful for" became more a part of going through the motion than it was an actual question - I was happy, but I wasn't thankful.

The last few years have been different, very different. The Great Recession took its toll on me and my family, pounding us financially and emotionally. We've also lost a couple close members of our family. This year, I'll look around the table, and be legitimately thankful - more so than I can remember being at any other time in my life.

  • Thankful for my family - that we've had the strength to stick with each other through some difficult times.
  • For my extended family, and the support and love they offer.
  • That we have a roof over our heads, and a stable environment to call home. (something I've taken for granted my whole life, but which I've learned isn't a given.)
  • For being able to put food on the table, and my kids never having to worry about being hungry.
  • That my oldest son, who has autism, is one of the greatest kids on the planet. If every kid had his heart, friendliness, and compassion, the world would be a far better place.
    • I'm also thankful that he's surrounded by an amazing support team. (extra thanks on this one to my wife, most of all, who spent years assembling that awesome team.)
  • That my younger son, though I haven't always stacked the deck in his favor, has grown and thrived - time after time, in situation after situation.
  • For our health. As trite as it sounds, there are plenty of people who have more to deal with than the basic aches and pains of being in your 40's.
  • For the light at the end of the tunnel, which is burning bright and is easy to see.
  • For those who read this blog, and the digital age we live in. Never could I have imagined being able to learn so much from so many people, as well as having a place to share my opinions with others - from all across the world. All while sitting at my desk. Absolutely amazing.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

-Chris Butterworth