Vacation isn’t just an opportunity to catch our breath, it’s also an important opportunity to recalibrate!

When I think of recalibration, I think of recalibrating a battery (e.g., a laptop or cell phone battery) — occasionally, you need to fully drain it and then recharge it (at least, that’s how I understand it). Colors on a computer monitor can be recalibrated.

Recalibrating is a form of resetting things back to their defaults, the way they were intended to be. For people, it’s about getting back to the basics of healthy living.

Today, we wrapped up our vacation. It has been a time of catching our breath and also recalibrating. On just about every vacation we’ve had, we always seem to talk about getting back to the basics of taking care of ourselves in our lives and ministries (although I’m not sure how much good it does πŸ˜‰ ).

Recalibration has always been important, though. It’s important to our ministries, of course (when we’re drained, we have less to give/offer), and it’s always been important to our marriage. But, now with a child (and eventually a second child), it’s even more critical than ever that we learn to live in healthy ways.

Our primary challenge is finding — or scheduling — family time in the midst of our fluid schedules. Our schedules change from day to day and from week to week — one or both of us nearly always have (multiple) evening meetings during the week and those nights change from week to week. Our fluid schedules require that we be flexible and, at times, creative!

We’ve normally done well with vacations, and we’ve generally done a decent job with our days off (although we probably need to incorporate more “sabbath time” into those days) — it’s the other six days we need to recalibrate. The health and quality of our ministries, and more importantly, our family life, depends on us living in healthy ways!

So, in addition to the basics (e.g., time with God, reading for personal growth, etc.), here are a couple specific growing edges for us going forward …

  • Incorporate more sabbath time into our days off (of course, every day needs some sabbath time).
  • Schedule family time (and couple time) throughout the other six days.

In what areas do you need to do some recalibrating? What are you going to do about it?

Catching Our Breath

Our vacation, which started yesterday, is a time for catching our breath!

That’s especially true for this vacation. We’ve been through a whirlwind in the last few years that included both of us completing a doctor of ministry program, adopting our first child from Korea, and moving. In fact, completing and defending our dissertations, going to Korea to get Ethan, graduating from Asbury, and moving all took place during the first half of 2008!

And the whirlwind continues. We’re still transitioning as we complete our first year in Clearfield and we’re also preparing to adopt our second child from Korea.

Since we normally try to go on vacation in the spring, this vacation is a bit overdue, and we need to catch our breath!

Leadership & Self-Care

Self-care is important for all of us. It’s certainly important for leaders — people who influence and model life for others!

If we don’t care for ourselves — body, mind, and soul — we will have less to give to and for others.

Businesses and organizations are discovering this reality, partly in response to the rising costs of health care. A recent article at describes the interest some companies are gaining in helping their people become more fit and healthy.

Even though I have long believed in the importance of self-care, I was still blown away by the results IBM has seen in just the last three years. According to Joyce Young, IBM’s director of wellness, they have saved around $100 million due to the improved health and fitness of their employees.

The article mentions the Virgin HealthMiles rewards program that I’ve blogged recently. The health insurance plan of the UMC that our conference is participating in, offers membership in the HealthMiles program.

You can read my most recent posts here and here, as well as Racking Up HealthMiles, which has been one of the most popular posts in recent weeks.

Health care costs are high among pastors in our conference. It will be interesting see what kind of results we experience — not only to save money (although that’s important, too, from a stewardship perspective), but so that we will be able to offer more effective ministry, for longer!

HealthMiles Level 3

I have now reached Level 3 (of 5) in the HealthMiles incentives program, less than 2.5 months after activating the GoZone pedometer that came with the program, offered through our conference’s health insurance plan (see my first post, Racking Up HealthMiles).

When I reached Level 2, I estimated that it might take about 60 days to reach Level 3; it took 50. But it will take longer to reach Levels 4 and 5 because each requires 12,000 HealthMiles instead of 6,000 (each) for Levels 1 and 2. And while I racked up 12,000 HealthMiles in less than 3 months, some of those early HealthMiles were given simply for signing up, activating the pedometer, etc. I think it’ll take around 4 months for each of the next two levels, at my current pace.

My number of steps/day has been increasing. Overall, I’m averaging 15,719 steps/day, but I’m averaging 17,460 steps/day in April, including seven days with at least 20,000 (a mark I only hit four times in the month and a half before April).

I am still waiting for a Mac version of the software used to upload steps from our pedometers. In the meantime, we are using a PC that we have access to. A beta version of the Mac software is being developed, but it isn’t working for me yet. I have provided feedback on my experience with it (as requested) and am waiting for the next version (while I would gladly do the testing for free, I will receive 250 HealthMiles for testing it).

Reaching Level 3 adds another $75 to the $25 earned for reaching Level 2 (Levels 4 and 5 provide $100 each for a total of $300). By the way, the program is now available to individuals; see this page for details.

Even outside of the HealthMiles program, though, I think simply wearing a pedometer is a good way to track your steps and your level of activity.

Next stop, Level 4. One step at a time.

Forced Breaks

In the old days (the days before Ethan), there were times that we would go non-stop in our work (ministry and/or schoolwork). That might mean things like going from early in the morning till late at night or eating a meal on-the-go. We didn’t do that all the time, of course, only during seasons where there was an extra load.

We’re in one of those several-week-long seasons right now where we could (maybe even need) to go non-stop. The difference now, though, is that Ethan forces us to take breaks — we have to stop to feed him and/or spend time with him, occasionally. πŸ˜‰

But we’ve found the breaks to be good. Not just breaks, but breaks with Ethan. He helps us to lighten up, to help us remember that some of the things we’re working on — things we’re required to complete by a deadline that is fast approaching — in the grand scheme of things, are not the most important things in the world!

Well, it sounds like Ethan is getting awake. Time for breakfast!

HealthMiles :: 21 Days to Level 2

Less than three weeks after starting the HealthMiles incentives program, I have reached Level 2 (out of 5). I plan to update my progress as I reach each new level (see my previous post, Racking Up HealthMiles, including the comments about how individuals can now sign up for the program; we have joined through our conference’s health insurance plan).

Reaching Level 2 (6,000 HealthMiles or “rewards points”) is fairly easy, though, and it generates $25 HealthCash (which I can receive in the form of gift cards or cash, I believe). Many of the first 6,000 points are given simply for things like signing up and activating the pedometer, completing a Health Snapshot survey, signing a smoke-free agreement, as well as extra points for reaching each of the milestones (7,000, 12,000, and 20,000 steps) for the first time (100, 200, and 300 HealthMiles, respectively), etc.

Overall, I took 296,221 steps in my first three weeks (an average of 14,106 steps/day) in getting to Level 2 which breaks down like this …

  • Less than 7,000 steps: 1 day
  • 7,000+ steps: 2 days
  • 12,000+ steps: 16 days
  • 20,000+ steps: 2 days

According to the HealthMiles website, 7,000 steps is considered a good day’s workload. Other sources consider 10,000 steps a good target (the HealthMiles site even offers a downloadable guide to getting 10,000 steps/day).

The one day I got less than 7,000 steps was the day we travelled to Mechanicsburg for 6 hours of psychological testing, totaling 12 hours with time on the road, taking tests, eating lunch, and talking with a counselor. One of the two days I got 7,000+ steps was the first day, which was only a half day.

Interestingly, on very few of the 21 days did I actually get out and “walk” (I did get out and walk on the two 20,000+ days, including our day off yesterday). Most of it was simply walking around from the time I got up in the morning till I went to bed at night. As I said before, I do a lot while walking — thinking, praying, even eating and/or reading, sometimes. I also park at the back of parking lots and take stairs instead of elevators whenever possible.

20,000 steps isn’t really worth it from a HealthMiles perspective (not to mention that the days after getting 20,000 steps, like today, I’d be happy with 7,000 steps! πŸ˜‰ ). 20,000 steps generates 100 HealthMiles but you can take 12,000+ steps (80 HealthMiles) and log an activity session in the Activity Journal (10 HealthMiles) for 90 HealthMiles. However, hitting 20,000 steps the first time is a good deal with the 300 bonus points!

On the HealthMiles site, users can challenge other HealthMiles participants. I created my first challenge yesterday (a 21-day challenge for the most steps starting next Wednesday — unfortunately, our workload during those 3 weeks will be extremely intense!). In recent weeks, I’ve been looking around to see who’s wearing GoZone pedometers, including at last week’s interviews with the Board of Ordained Ministry. In all, I challenged 14 other people. (If you’re a HealthMiles member and would like to participate in a future challenge, let me know.)

While reaching Level 2 was easy, reaching the other levels will be more difficult. It’ll take another 6,000 HealthMiles to reach Level 3 ($75), then 12,000 more to reach Level 4 ($100), and another 12,000 to reach Level 5 ($100) — and that’s with many of the freebies and bonuses out of the way! It took me 21 days to get to Level 2, but I’m guessing it will take approximately 60 more days to get to Level 3 (if I stay on track).

Racking Up HealthMiles

As of January 1, 2009, our conference has a new health insurance plan (HealthFlex) through the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits (of the United Methodist Church). The plan offers a new incentives program, Virgin HealthMiles, designed to get participants active and fit.

Participants who sign up for the program can earn HealthMiles (i.e. reward points) which can generate HealthCash (up to $300/year per participant). HealthMiles is currently only available to organizations, but is going to be made available to individuals in the future, according to the site.

From the perspective of the health insurance companies, active/fit people tend to have fewer health issues and therefore cost less to insure so it’s a win-win for both participants and health insurance companies.

This comes at a good time for us. As I’ve written before (this post and this post) exercise is an area where we’ve needed to find the rhythm in our new life as parents. I also need to lower and contain my (bad) cholesterol, which has always been a nagging problem (for mostly non-dietary reasons).

I think that because I’m a competitive person, simply having the system of tracking activity would be good for me, even without the financial incentive. Of course, adding HealthCash to the mix makes it even better! πŸ™‚

The HealthMiles program involves wearing a pedometer, which automatically counts (most) steps (we each received a free pedometer with the program), and then periodically uploading steps to the computer (via USB cable). The website offers a central location to track activity, results, and rewards.

Participants earn HealthMiles by taking steps (i.e., walking, running, even biking) or other kinds of (cardiovascular) workouts using a heart rate monitor, participating at the website (visiting the site, logging entries in an activity journal), and by showing improved health (body mass index, body fat percentage, and blood pressure). There are special incentives along the way as well. For example, last week, there was an opportunity to earn extra HealthMiles simply for logging at least 7,000 steps each of the five days leading up to Valentine’s Day (we just started on Valentine’s Day, unfortunately).

It took us a little while to sign-up and to get our pedometers registered/activated. We’re also waiting for a Mac version of the software (used to upload steps from pedometer to computer) which is slated for a late March release (in the meantime, we’re using a PC that we have access to).

Even though I’ve just gotten started, I’m finding it a real incentive to keep moving and to be more active. For example, I’ve always parked toward the back of parking lots and I usually take the stairs instead of elevators, but this program has already increased my commitment to that! (In the early days of our relationship, I use to tell Joleen she’ll thank me when she’s 90. πŸ˜† ).

So, how many steps should you take each day? According to one of the FAQs at the Virgin HealthMiles website …

We recommend 30 minutes of accumulated, moderate physical activity at least 5 days a week. This equals about 7,000 steps a day, including the steps you take just going about your daily life. Opt for the stairs instead of the elevator, take the dog for a jog on the beach, start a lunchtime walking group at work, consider a walking tour instead of a bus tour on your next vacation. It all adds up.

It’s amazing how quickly the steps add up. I tend to do a lot of walking, anyway, while I think, pray, and (sometimes) eat (some might call it pacing πŸ˜‰ ).

There are five reward levels. Level 2 earns $25 (with 6,000 HealthMiles) and Level 5 tops out at $300 (with 36,000 HealthMiles). At the outset, I’m thinking Level 4 is doable, and while reaching Level 5 will be somewhat intense, I think it’s also doable, especially if there are some extra incentives along the way.

So what have you found to be a good incentive for you in staying active and fit? Also, if you participate in the Virgin HealthMiles program, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.