I never thought staying healthy would be my biggest challenge in early retirement. Before I quit working full time, I thought my biggest challenge would be finance. I figured that we wouldn’t be able to save for retirement anymore and our net worth would slowly decline. Instead, we continue to save over $50,000 per year and our net worth has increased by over 50% since 2012. Luckily, our income has been better than I expected and the stock market was on a tear over the last few years. So we have done pretty well on the finance side. On the other hand, I haven’t done nearly as well on the health side.
Why did I think staying healthy would be easy? When I was working, I used to go the gym at lunch almost every day. I had been working out consistently since I was in college and I thought I could continue with no problem. Needless to say, it wasn’t as easy as I imagined. I joined the local 24 Hour Fitness, but haven’t fully utilized my membership. It’s just hard to find the time to go. They have a childcare facility, but the hours are a bit strange. It doesn’t work well for us.
Staying healthy should be everyone’s priority no matter what age you are. It should be easier when you don’t work full time, right? Your schedule is wide open and you can dedicate more time to staying fit. There are just a few things you need to do.
- Eat a healthy diet
- Control your weight
- Minimize stress
- Manage your long term conditions
Going to the gym isn’t working out for me. It was much easier to go to the gym when I was working because it was convenient and I scheduled it into my work days. We have been going to the gym about twice a week over the last few months. I don’t think that’s enough to make a difference. Once RB40Jr starts kindergarten, I should be able to go 5 days per week. I will try to fit it in right after he heads off to school. Once it becomes a regular part of my routine, it shouldn’t be difficult to keep up.
Meanwhile, I will have to find ways to exercise outside the gym. Lately, I have been playing tag with the kids when I go pick up RB40Jr and that’s pretty good. The kids are getting a lot faster and it’s a lot of effort to chase them around. Staying active is tougher in the winter because it rained so much this year. It should be much easier to go outside when the weather warms up. I really need to find a sport that Junior enjoys and then we can work on it together.
Also, I got a Garmin Vívofit 2 for Christmas and I’m using it to track my activity level. It’s actually very helpful to get some feedback. In January, I averaged about 5,500 steps per day and that’s too low. I need to bring it up to at least 6,000 steps per day. I really like the Vivofit and highly recommend it if you’re thinking about buying a fitness tracker. Here are some highlights.
- No need to recharge. It uses a regular watch battery and you just need to change it once per year.
- Waterproof up to 50 m. I wear it 24/7. It also has a sleep tracker so that’s a nice bonus.
- The strap is comfortable and the size is perfect. I wouldn’t want to wear it 24/7 if it was any bigger.
- Audible and visual alerts if you’ve been inactive too long. Unfortunately, I tend to ignore them…
Anyway, the key is to increase my activity level throughout 2016. I’m optimistic about this.
Eat a healthy diet
This one is difficult for a lot of people and I’m no exception. Well, I think we eat relatively healthy. We usually cook at home so our meals aren’t calorie bombs. I cook mostly Asian cuisine and that’s generally healthy. I don’t deep fry and I make sure to include vegetables with every meal. We need to eat more fish, though.
Drinks – We rarely drink soda pop and other sugary drinks. I usually drink tea or water. I rarely drink beer and wine these days. Alcohol is bad for my triglycerides level.
Snacks – I think this is my downfall. We have cookies, crackers, and chocolate around the house now because RB40Jr loves them. It’s tough to not snack when there is junk food on the shelf! I need to pick up some healthy snacks and wean myself from processed junk food. I just picked up some organic baby carrots today, but they don’t look appetizing at all. At least, we like fresh fruits and eat them regularly.
Control your weight
I’ve been pretty good here. My weight has been stable around 131 lbs for years now. I’m getting softer around the edges, but at least I haven’t gained weight.
Here is one that I’m doing very well in. I was very stressed out before I left my career and it was negatively affecting my health. I had headaches all the time. My shoulders were painfully tight. My eyes were blurry from looking at the computer screen 10+ hours every day. My back hurt from sitting too long. To top it all off, the stress was causing panic attacks and depression.
These days I feel much better and I’m not constantly stressed out anymore. Being self employed isn’t completely stress free, but it’s a lot better than my former corporate environment.
Manage your long term conditions
It’s inevitable to pick up a few long term conditions as you get older. About 10 years ago, I went in for a routine physical and the blood test came back with a very elevated triglyceride level. Triglyceride is a type of fat (lipid) in your blood that can increase your risk of heart disease and other health issues. My triglyceride level was over 500 mg/dL and that’s way higher than normal. I got it down to a more normal level with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. However, it seems to be getting bad again. My last blood test shows my triglyceride level to be around 200 mg/dL. Anything above 150 is not good. I need to exercise more and eat healthier.
*I also have mild mitochondrial disease. It’s a genetic mutation that limits my ability to exert myself. I can’t sustain intense activities like running for more than a few minutes. So intense programs like cross fit won’t work for me. That’s why going to the gym is the easiest way for me to exercise. I can rest between sets of resistance training. I can also monitor my heart rate closely when I’m on the cardio machines. I have to keep my heart rate under 150 so I don’t faint.
Easier said than done
It should be easy to stay healthy, but I’m having a difficult time with it. I don’t see myself as overweight or completely sedentary so I don’t put enough effort into exercising or modifying my diet. Seeing my triglyceride level elevated is a wake-up call for me. My priority this year is to bring down my triglyceride level and improve my fitness. You can have all the money in the world, but life won’t be enjoyable if you’re not well. I need to live a healthy lifestyle so I can be around for my family.
What about you? Do you have a difficult time with exercise and eating healthy?