I recently wrote and recorded a podcast about The Four Burners Theory – where you theoretically have four life ‘burners’ that represent different areas of your life. Work, family, health and friends. You can have two burners on full strength at any given time but once you add more burners, you decrease the strength of the others. And if you try to burn all of them at the same time, you’re basically fucked and your whole oven will explode. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. You can burn two burners really well, three burners very averagely and four burners for a very short amount of time before you fall into a heap. That’s the general gist.
Your burner priorities will also change as you get older. Your friend burner may be a huge priority in your 20s but as you get older, or perhaps start a family of your own, the family burner may become more important. If you have a job you really like, your work burner will be firing on high but if you have a job you don’t really give a shit about and you’re just phoning it in, your work burner will be off or on low. Does that make sense?
In the podcast episode about this theory, Kelly and I both identified the health burner as being a top priority for ourselves but having said that, it’s also a low maintenance burner. I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with my health and exercise routine so it’s as low maintenance as possible. This means even though my health burner is always on, it requires little to no maintenance.
We had quite a few listeners and readers ask about creating a good baseline health routine, so here are a few ways you can create a good routine that’s as low maintenance as a goldfish.
1. It’s much easier to maintain a good health routine than it is to regain it
It’s so much easier to go to a gym class, go for a walk or hit the treadmill when you’re already in the habit of doing it. It can be super tempting to drop your exercise routine when you have a busy period at work, it’s the party season (hello December… I see you) or you’re on holidays. I used to do this all the time. I’d be like ‘It’s December 14. I’m pausing my gym membership until after New Year. Wine and mini sausage rolls are now my main source of sustenance.’
Then, come January dragging my feet back to the gym was torture because I wasn’t in the habit and I’d been shovelling food and alcohol in my gob for a solid fortnight and I felt like shit. I’m certainly not saying you have to be totally saintly and eat salad for Christmas lunch or drink nothing but water on your trip to Italy but there’s no need to go full sloth on that situation.
I feel better when I eat well and move every day so obviously, those are excellent things to do in busy periods at work, during party seasons and while on holiday. Just tone it down a little when you feel like you need to. Have fruit and yogurt for breakfast instead of pastries on holiday and go for a big walk instead of hitting up a gym class. Then you can eat lovely pasta (in very sensible Italian sized servings!) with wine for dinner. When you’re under the pump at work and just can’t drag yourself out of bed for the gym in the morning, go for a walk on your lunch break or a meet a mate for a before dinner walk. Think about ordering healthy meal kits to be delivered to your house so you don’t resort to takeaway when you’re too busy to shop or cook. It’s so much more manageable than giving up entirely and then trying to claw your way back in a months time.
Of course, I fully support proper slovenly, cheese and wine filled weekends several times a year. They’re very excellent. Just make sure you get back on track on Monday. The longer you leave it the more it hurts.
2. Sometimes you don’t have a choice but to start over
If you’re sick, if you’ve suffered a trauma or if you’re not well mentally, chances are your health burner is going to burn right out and that’s totally okay. It happens to everyone. Go gently. Be good to yourself and slowly get yourself back on track. This is why point number 1 is so important – avoid turning down your health burner when you have the option not too because you never know when it will get turned off for you.
3. Solidify your unbreakable rules
You’ll know what works for you. Like if you have a soft spot for cafe style banana bread (fresh from the oven with lashings of butter… drool!), make it a rule that you can only have it every second Friday. If you love a glass of wine, stick to having it on Fridays and Saturdays only.
4. Give yourself allowances
I rarely do formal exercise on weekends. I’ve tried but I just like to have slow, easy mornings on the weekends because my weekdays are always so manic. I make sure I do proper, sweaty, get-results style exercise every weekday so I can get by with a long walk on Saturday and Sundays.
5. Concentrate on the three most important areas – diet, movement and mental health
If you can get to a good place with these three things, the maintenance on can be very manageable.
This week on Straight & Curly, Kelly and I are talking about creating a good baseline for your health burner, so you can turn it down to simmer without totally losing the plot.