Some reflections on staying the course to better health

With Summer just a memory, Fall quickly vanishing and Winter right around the corner, we're approaching the time of the year I find to be the most difficult for staying motivated on my personal wellness journey. Days are short and darkness seems to dominate my non-working hours. At this point in my life it's clear that I am definitely an outdoors person, and part of that love comes from daylight, and more specifically, the light generated by abundant –and warm – sunshine.

Along with the fact that I enjoy warmth and dislike the cold, spending my exercise times cooped up indoors has never been appealing, so my motivation is typically very low from late October until mid-Spring. I have consistently identified my preferences as a potential area of weakness. Why? Because over the years, I have not succeeded in my ability to stay the course and do the work necessary to stay as fit and healthy as possible.

As with most things in life, what we value and find important is not likely to simply happen because we want it to. Success comes when you carefully plan your approach and evaluate your performance on a regular basis, making sure you are doing the work and putting in the effort needed to achieve your goals. During warmer weather and longer days, I often view my exercise routine as automatic. My workouts are fun and occasionally hard, but there is never any doubt as to whether I will complete them or maintain my goal of healthier dietary habits. stayactive

The Winter is a whole different story. I often find my mind playing games with me looking for ways out of exercise or excuses to eat that one extra treat, almost as if to compensate for the sometimes dreary weather. It is during these times that I have to be resilient, and stick to my plan with even more resolve. Wellness can't be an activity that sometimes switches to autopilot, but rather a lifestyle commitment requiring vigilance and daily hard work.

It's hard work because consistency with regard to wellness is not easy. We all struggle from time to time with motivation and making the best choices. What makes it easier is to have a plan and then take that plan step-by-step as you move toward your ultimate goal.

Does this mean I sometimes fail in my efforts? It sure does! Nobody is perfect, and I especially count myself in that number. I deviate from my plan, but hopefully I learn along the way as to what makes me successful and then I try a little harder. As Albert Einstein once said, "A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new."

Failure is ok as long as you learn from it. My particular failures in the past as far as my fitness regimen is concerned have included a decreased desire to get up and exercise in the cold and the dark. I have also let my diet slip to where I had no diet and I ate almost everything I could easily get my hands on. The point is, I had no plan, and I wasn't willing to do the work to make one. willpower

I have learned from my past after thoughtful reflection, and I am making a conscious effort to improve my wellness performance this year by doing that work. I know it will be hard, there will be times I want to give in, but I must persevere. I look forward to the challenge and the long road ahead. I look forward to overcoming obstacles, and looking for ways to keep my wellness plan intact. But most of all I look forward to looking back on this winter season and knowing I did all the hard work necessary to achieve my goals so I can stay healthy in order to enjoy my spare time (even those hours without sunlight!) with my wife and daughter. All my hard work is really for them.

Are you willing to do the work for wellness? Can you stay committed? I bet you can if you plan for obstacles, accept them, and move beyond them to reach places you never dreamed possible.

"Something fabulous is out there. Taking shape. Emerging. Peeking. Calling your name." ~ Author unknown.

Good luck on your journey and stay healthy my friends.


Chair – My Healthy Lifestyle Employee Wellness Committee
(Editor's Note: In addition to serving as Chair for the Employee Wellness Committee, Daniel Ballin is the Administrator of Riverside's Therapy Group, Wellness and Outpatient Services and oversees all of Riverside's therapy services along with Riverside's Wellness and Fitness Centers in Newport News and Gloucester.)