Healthy Living in the North

Tales from the Man Cave: Motivation

Family walking outside. Text of the SMART goal acronym overlaid on picture

SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. For Jim, adding evaluation and repetition makes goals SMARTER!

I woke up this morning with a certain melancholy.

We all have days where we feel less motivated and more melancholic. As I sat and struggled to even begin to write, I suddenly knew that I had found my topic completely by chance: motivation.

Everything requires motivation and there is even a whole realm of psychology dedicated to it.

  • How do I make healthier choices?
  • How do I begin to eat healthier?
  • How do I get myself to move more often?

These are tough questions to tackle. I know that if I get up today, there is a good chance I will just continue on with my old habits. For lots of us, change is just not that easy.

I was looking for something different and I found it in SMART goals. SMART goals support healthy lifestyle changes by being Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For me, I want my goals to be SMARTER, so I added Evaluate and Repeat.

Here are Jim’s SMARTER goals. Come on, Jim, let’s give it a try!

  • Make it specific, like walking for 20 minutes each day. Choose your desired change and set a goal for yourself.
  • Your goal needs to be measurable so you can see progress. Make a little chart. Put it somewhere you can tick off your progress.
  • Make sure it’s something achievable and that you can do it. Your goal might be to run the Boston marathon but you need to crawl before you can walk.
  • It’s very important that your goal is relevant to your main desire. Walking 20 minutes a day could be a relevant goal for the desire to run a marathon.
  • This leads us to the next piece: set an end date for your goal. Make sure you don’t sabotage yourself here. This is also a very important evaluation date.

Your goal should be realistic and be achievable within a certain time frame. This is a key element. Set small goals in small time periods.

In my example, I would say if the overall goal is to run a marathon, the specific goal might be to walk 20 minutes every day for three weeks. That’s all – but that’s also SMART.

For your goal to be SMARTER, the next step is to evaluate your progress. This is perhaps the most important part. Often when we do this, we may become disappointed. We may feel like we only achieved half our goal if we were only able to walk on certain days. If that was the case, I say: “Great! It was a success then. You moved!”

Your evaluation should accommodate this new information. Finally, you need to repeat the process.

If your first goal was not as realistic as you had hoped, set a more realistic goal, such as walking 20 minutes every other day. Create a new chart and tick those boxes. When you have achieved and evaluated your new goal, set another one and push the bar slightly higher than before.

Now it’s 25 minutes of walking every other day. Soon you will be jogging.

You can always shoot for the moon and land among the stars, but be sure to keep one solid, SMARTER foot on earth.

Good luck.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.


The realist and January’s contest

Suzanne on a ski trail

Suzanne takes to the trails to accomplish her healthy goals

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” – William Arthur Ward. This wonderful quote always makes me smile, but it is only in the past year that I really understand how I have applied it to my own life.

Often it is a scare that prompts folks my age to get serious about health. I didn’t want to wait for a scare, so in 2012, I took action on my own and started my journey to improving my fitness level and health. Before I could go down this road, I needed to develop some tools to assist me; not just time to wing it! I decided to seek out some expert advice. The local sports centre offered a great venue for me to build some skills. Not being one for too much indoor activity, I quickly realized I could do many things outside. Beautiful trails abound in my neighbourhood and, after some quick lessons on injury prevention and proper footwear, I hit the trails – walking, running a bit and, sometimes, dragging myself along! Before I knew it, I could run up to five kms (and still breathe). I coupled that with some simple weight training and a few other handy exercise routines and was happy with my results! It is all about being active in my view.

Then the snow fell.  Not one to be easily discouraged, I investigated the Otway Ski Trails. I rented skis at first and not long after purchased a pair. As the year came to an end, I was ready to turn over the new year with gusto; no way was I giving up on my goals! Lots of snow that winter made for great skiing and ski I did.

Once the melt arrived so did those nasty little caterpillars! No one wants to share a trail with them, but what could I do until the caterpillar cycle ended? Unfortunately, I didn’t need to worry about that. I had a fall that injured my hand and required surgery. This put a big, wet blanket on my plans! I couldn’t even stay active in the garden, let alone on a trail. I was relegated to watching my husband do yard work, which is not very exciting, despite his good looks! I had to adjust my sails and my personal expectations. I modified my eating plan, walked and enjoyed the spring and summer as best I could, all the while accepting that my injury was a temporary delay. I was surprised at how long it took a thumb and a ligament to heal properly, but I didn’t let the pessimist sneak in! Even simple food prep was a challenge during the summer months; chopping vegetables and making salads really requires a strong thumb! Yet, when fall arrived again, I reflected back on the year and, despite my exercise hiatus over the summer, I still found myself energized to get back outdoors and onto the trails – albeit carefully.

As I write this blog, I am looking out my window at the most recent snowfall, considering what wax to put on my skis for the weekend!

How many times has the optimist in you wished you could snap your fingers and suddenly be healthy? How many times has the pessimist in you told you couldn’t because you didn’t succeed in the past? Be the realist and create attainable goals! Making these changes in my life has been a great decision for me. Because I am active and eating well, so is my husband! We’ve both benefited from this journey and are looking forward to continuing to challenge ourselves to make healthy changes in 2014.

This January, Northern Health is inviting you to help northerners find their motivation with our photo caption contest. By commenting on a caption, you can be instantly entered to win a $300 gift card or one of two $50 gift cards to help with your own journey to better health. All the details are available on the contest page. We look forward to your positive, motivational and fun captions!

Suzanne Johnston

About Suzanne Johnston

With more than 25 years of leadership experience in health care and government, Suzanne is Northern Health’s vice president of clinical programs and chief nursing officer. Suzanne obtained both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing from the University of New Brunswick and completed her doctoral studies at the University of Arizona. Suzanne has a special interest in leadership development and is experienced as a facilitator in this area, and she has volunteered with United Way agencies to help build leadership capacity for non-profit boards. In her spare time, Suzanne loves to spend time outdoors with her husband and her golden retriever, Pirate. (Suzanne no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)


A SMART start to the new year

As we approach 2014 many of us will be thinking about making lifestyle changes to improve our health: eat more vegetables, exercise more, stop smoking, and countless other things we would like to change. But, what will it take to be successful? How will we know when we have reached our goal?

I would like to share some of the things I have learned about making healthy lifestyle changes over the years.  Making lasting change is never easy and every one of us needs support from friends, family and colleagues to master these personal challenges.

First, you need to “do it your way.”  Take time to reflect on when you have been successful in the past.  How did it feel and what helped you that time?  For example, it took me 22 years of marriage to work out that all I need to do is tell my wife all about the healthy change I want to make, repeatedly, and in great detail.  That’s all it takes, after so much “talk” how can I do anything but carry on?  Sorry, Julie and thank you for your patience!

S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound.

It also helps to write out S.M.A.R.T. goals and keep them somewhere you can see them. Below, I share with you the plan I have developed for one of my current goals:

Specific: Over the next seven weeks I will build up to complete 100 pushups in a workout session.

Measurable: I will train three times a week and keep a written record.

Achievable:  I am confident that I can achieve this goal.  I am reasonably fit and desire to increase my upper body strength and technique accordingly.

Realistic:  I am committed to maintaining an exercise routine and there just so happens to be a book and training program to meet this goal.

Time bound:  I will start on January 1st and finish on February 19th.

So there you have it. I have some understanding of how to keep motivated. I will tell my wife all about my plan and progress toward my goal.  Fortunately, after 24 years, she has learned to tune me out, and cheer me on at the same time.

Other things that motivate me are some apps that I have downloaded to my smartphone. Many are free and some have a minimal charge. In my next article, I will tell you about some of these apps and what I like about them.

What are some of the health goals you are setting for yourself in 2014?

Michael Melia

About Michael Melia

Michael Melia is the director for northwest mental health and addiction services. He is a registered psychiatric nurse and has a bachelor’s of science in nursing and has recently completed a master’s in business administration. Michael is serving as an elected board member for the College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses. When not working, he enjoys spending time with family, keeping fit and exploring rural B.C.


Making happy and healthy living a goal

20131115menshealthIt’s good for you” is a common phrase from Eric Farleigh. Eric is a 33-year-old Registered Nurse (RN) recently hired to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia (UHNBC). Born and raised in Hazelton, Eric later moved to Vancouver to obtain a degree in Kinesiology. Unhappy with the work prospects and the income that accompanied his degree and eager to move back north, Eric enrolled into the Bachelor of Nursing program in Prince George. He has been working as an RN now for four years and enjoys the diversity of his job. Married with two cats, Eric always makes time to exercise, tries to make healthy food choices, and frequently competes in marathons and events like the Tough Mudder.

I recently chatted with Eric about his love of the north, health and keeping active.

Living in the north
I asked Eric what he liked about the north so much that made him want to come back. A practical outdoors man, Eric told me that he truly enjoys the north for its abundance of nature and affordable housing. An avid hiker and fisherman, Eric stated that he tries to explore as much of the north as he can and often visits areas like Terrace and Nass Valley.

Staying active
Content with the background information I received about Eric, I asked him why he stays so active. For Eric, exercise and activities are a way to relieve stress, stay competitive, stay healthy, and live longer.

He also gave me tips for people with limited time in their schedules to help them stay active. He said, “Walk to work, use any spare time you have to do something active, be consistent, and find active hobbies that are fun for you like basketball, squash, etc… and it helps to have friends with those similar interests.” Eric also suggested picking a marathon or another activity that will motivate training, as “it gives you a reason to exercise.”

I asked Eric what he did besides exercising to stay healthy mentally and physically: “Eat healthy, stimulate yourself mentally, try to keep your stress low, and get enough sleep; don’t buy unhealthy foods, if healthy food is not readily available in the house, you won’t eat it.” Eric is apparently known for his peanut butter sandwiches at lunch time, and usually brings veggies and fruit for snacks.

Setting goals
I asked Eric if he had any good stories about some of the activities or competitions he has done and he told me about the Tough Mudder competition he did in New Jersey last November (this particular Tough Mudder is an intense multi-day obstacle course that raises money for the Wounded Warrior Project). When asked why he did it, Eric said he didn’t know what he was getting himself into…but he got to go to New York and it was a good reason to train. To prepare for the competition, Eric went to Forest for the World and jogged in a wetsuit.

Eric has been active most of his life and is a great example of what motivation, accountability, and consistency can accomplish. Tough Mudder competitions are not for all of us, but making small changes and setting goals to better health are things anyone can do. Whether it’s walking to work or packing healthy lunches instead of going out for fast food, it’s important to start somewhere and have a base from which to build a new life. I would like to thank Eric Farleigh for taking the time to share his story with all of us, and I hope that it was a motivational read.

Jamie Klitch

About Jamie Klitch

Jamie is a 4th year student of the Bachelor of Nursing program at the University of Northern British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, he is now married and has a new baby boy (Micaiah), keeping him very busy. Before he discovered nursing, he was a treeplanter for 10 years which helped to affirm his love of nature. Even though he enjoys his new career, he still misses spending his days wandering cut blocks in beautiful northern BC.