Sunday, January 24, 2010

Confessions of a health nut

OK, so I have a confession to make. I have an addiction (just one?).

Let's just say, I have a certain addiction that I'm going to talk about here.

I am addicted to exercise. There. I said it. Oh, wait. "My name is Julie, and I'm a exercise-holic."

Health and fitness are extremely important to me. I think I've been interested in both for years, and my interest and level of commitment to them have grown over time.

I had been lifting weights on my own for several years, and then, two years ago, I signed on for the personal trainer program at my workplace. She was a little bouncy and dogmatic for me, but she certainly knew her stuff. She quickly showed me, to my chagrin, that I'd been doing the home exercise program with less than proper form, leading to less than optimal results. I hadn't been squatting nearly far enough for my squats, wasn't protecting my back fully (chin-up, chest-out, weights close to the body), and so on.

I have a weak back, and it had been getting stiff every morning, before I started doing weekly (or twice-weekly) exercises to strengthen it. There were whole categories of exercises to strengthen the back that I knew nothing about. My back is so much stronger that I think weightlifting with a coach is the best solution to most back problems, and anyone who is able to start a strengthening program should do so.

Two years later, I'm up to squatting about half my body weight. Hooray! That probably does not sound impressive to hard-core lifters, but considering my age and the fact that I'm a woman of rather slender build, I think it's great. I work out with weights twice a week, usually.

Now that I've been lifting seriously for 2 years, I look at my body in the mirror sometimes, and I say: Who is that awesome-looking chick? She's so built! (Maybe a bit on the skinny side, though.) Don't get me wrong -- I'm no female Arnie, and I have absolutely no desire to be.

I have also always loved walking. Last year, about in January, I decided to start jogging again, for the first time since I was a teenager. I was inspired by talking with a half-marathoner. I guess I made about every beginner's mistake there was -- ramping up the training too quickly and pushing too hard, leading to injury and a layoff for a while.

Now I'm back in the game and loving it! This is thanks to a sports doctor, who told me my hip problem was causing my knee problem. He gave me exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the hip, and 6 weeks later, I had significant improvement. I'm now on a maintenance schedule, doing these exercises about once a week.

Let me explain -- I'm not a marathoner nor triathlete, nothing that intense. My current regimen is 3 days a week of jogging, consisting of 15 hard-pushing minutes, 20 easy, and 30 easy. "Easy" means a comfortable pace for me; it's still work! I am adding 5 minutes a week to my longest weekly run in preparation for a local 5K Power of Pink walk/run in Floresville in March. I'm probably doing about 11-1/2 minute miles (very slow, in other words). I'm just glad my knees are holding out so well, with minimal pain and swelling so far.

Maybe when I get really good, I'll switch from timed running to distance. I'm a lot more patient with myself now. I'm just thrilled that I can keep jogging for up to 30 minutes, whatever the pace. It's a great feeling.

So, I've found that I can combine activities in one day. I can walk a mile, plus do a tough weights workout. I can run 20 minutes, then later mop the floor. Or 20 minutes and then wash the car. Today I walked 30 minutes, then later ran 15 hard ones. (Hard for me, probably up to about 10-1/2 minute mile.) Now I like to do at least something every day; 15 minutes of walking or on the exercise bike, at least.

I recently read in the Express-News (I think) that more exercise is better. And more. And more. That means that folks like marathoners are, by far, the healthiest people on the planet. That's fine with me -- I'm not going to start training for any marathons. I say this just in case you think I'm a health fanatic, or anything along that line. No, there are plenty of real nuts out there. I saw a whole bunch of them, thousands, at the Rock-n-Roll marathon last fall, where Austin & I were waterboys. Most people who are runners would think the amount of running I do is quite minimal.

As far as nutrition goes, I am much more conscious of what I put in my mouth, since now I regard food as fuel, not just fulfillment. Not that I've overcome my sweet tooth! But I have added quite a bit more non-meat protein to my diet, and lots of fruit and vegetables. I still can put away amazing quantities of popcorn, whether it's Target, movie theater (horrors!), or home-popped.

It's difficult because my husband loves the things I tend to avoid, meat and potatoes. I suspect that when the kids are no longer eating at home, we'll be preparing separate meals. We already are on that track now -- while the kids and my husband put away a steak, I am chowing down on salmon.

I don't enjoy eating red meat the way I once did, and I suspect it makes me sluggish. Plus, it's just so terrible for the environment, in addition to being bad for my health. I guess I don't worry about my kids too much because I ate whatever as a kid, with no regard to fat content and the like, and I had no lasting ill effects from it. Actually, when I graduated from high school, I weighed about 10 pounds more than I do now, and I think I put on another 5 in college.

I'm more concerned with whether my kids are interested in sports and exercise, which they are. I think the healthy-eating bug can strike at any time; for me, it came rather late. So I'm modeling a lifestyle that my kids may someday choose to emulate, especially when they see their waistlines expanding from that good ole American lifestyle.

Truthfully, I could probably write something different about exercising every day, much the way I exercise pretty much every day. I'm finding some really great blogs about health that I listen to on my easy jogging days. (On hard-push days, I require inspiring music to keep me going.) They are NPR: Your Health, and iExercise, also from NPR. Will they squeeze out my beloved Zencasts? They haven't yet!


  1. Good for you Julie! I need to walk again. I just don't have the desire or energy to do it. My granddaughter living in Ft. Worth is addicted to is good!
    Keep up the routine ...I behind you....literally...haha
    Lois Wauson

  2. Wow, I am so inspired by this post, Julie. I wish we lived closer and could do something together. I have weights in the garage, and I am sure my form is not what it should be. I am just now getting back to a routine after having injured my ankle a while back. I WISH I weighed what I did in high school - but getting back on track feels good.


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