Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My fitness journey, continued

So I want to share a little more about my path toward personal fitness and good nutrition. (Incidentally, I am expounding after eating 2 giant pieces of stuffed-crust Pizza Hut pizza tonight. If temptation is before me ...)

My love for fitness, like everything else, has been a journey with sometimes slow progress. I have enjoyed walking for years, and working out with weights too. Walking would mean maybe 30 minutes at a time, several times a week. Nothing too fanatical.

I've gradually become more intentional, not to say fanatical, about working out nearly every day. It just feels too good to skip. It is such a stress reliever. Sometimes, I admit, it "hurts so good." But then those endorphins kick in, and I have to smile. That's what discipline is all about, working through the discomfort to reach a higher level. That's what it takes to achieve excellence in any area of life.

And, you probably figured out, I'm completely human and not consistent in doing the healthy thing. I love sweets and snacks.

I have been able to increase the amount of fruits and veggies I eat, now getting more than 5 a day. That takes planning ahead. I pack about 2 fruits and 1-2 vegetables for lunch and snacks every day, and I have replaced servings of grains (the old base of the outdated food pyramid) with fruits or veggies. I do love to snack on fresh fruit. Apples, bananas, pears, anything in season, even part of an orange (even though my stomach doesn't always handle the acid well). Veggies become more convenient when I take frozen or fresh-cut portions to eat with lunch. I love salads, but usually don't have time to make those for lunch. I eat them often with dinner.

Did you know that the new recommendation from American Heart Assoc., due to soaring obesity rates, is for women to eat just 6-1/2 teaspoons of added sugar/sweetener a day? Of course, men get more. About 10 tsp. daily -- how generous! Each teaspoon is 4 grams, so if you are noshing on yogurt or oatmeal or the like, you can look at the grams of added sugar to get an idea of how many teaspoons you're putting away. This goes for added sugar only, not naturally occurring sugars in fruits, etc. Watch those drinks, especially. Thank God I am not a big soda fan.

I've already decided that some things that are sweetened, like yogurt, are too sugary, so I buy plain and sweeten it lightly. Usually, I add protein shake powder to yogurt to get closer to getting half my body weight in grams of protein, which is recommended to maintain muscle mass. That's a pretty amazing amount of daily protein, by the way.

No matter how far I've come, there are still setbacks. The experienced "athlete" just is able to take them in stride, because they have had them before and know they are temporary. Today, I added 5 more minutes to my longest run, making it 40 minutes. It shouldn't have been a problem, but my body decided that it was. A problem. That I've had before, after running. I'm just so grateful that Dwaine took the kids to scouts tonight so I could relax for a while.

I've always thought that there should be a balance between exercise and the rest of life, meaning that workouts should not leave me so physically exhausted that I can't enjoy a normal day. People who are doing heavy-duty training can use so much energy on their workouts that there may be little left for everything else, and I think that's when it goes too far. I also don't want to ruin my knees. My left knee still swells, makes lots of little noises, and hurts if I bend it all the way. And that's running 75 minutes last week, mostly at a slow pace. (i.e., very little)

Here's a final thought that I find inspiring. You are part of a continuum of humanity, in every ability and skill you have. There is always someone in front of you who is ahead of you, and someone behind you. These people who are nearby can be great sources of inspiration for you to maintain and improve your skills. You see someone a little ahead and think, I could do that with just a little more effort!

Someone behind may make you remember how that felt, and may also motivate you to keep from being overtaken. Or it may be, if it's someone younger than me who is struggling, I want to be overtaken so they can feel a sense of accomplishment. (Look! I just passed that middle-aged lady!!) That actually happened at last year's Power of Pink, and I was thrilled (secretly) that the young person marshaled his strength to pull ahead of lil-ole-me at the finish.

No matter how good you are, you're probably never going to be the best -- or the worst. You are part of a host of people who are all working with a common purpose. This is a great truth that runners are lucky enough to experience first-hand at races. What a thrill it is to be in that pack of sweaty, striving humanity!

Don't you want to be part of a group that is getting better and stronger?

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