Wednesday, May 16, 2012
In terms of exercise and eating, I've been really thinking a lot this past few weeks about this idea of listening to our bodies. And, by that, I mean reeeaaally being in tune with what this wonderful machine that we call our body honestly and truly needs from us to function at its peak.
I've sort of naturally divided it up in my head into two separate streams of thought - food and exercise.
If you've been around SparkPeople for awhile or read much on nutrition, you might have heard the term "food as fuel". I was unaware of what this meant for most of my life and, quite honestly, did not fully understand this concept until the past few months.
But, I do remember the first time I heard of this concept. It was a few years ago and my brother had moved to California and, when he left, he was extremely overweight, having been overweight most of his childhood and adult life. One day, I received a photo from him and was shocked to see that he'd lost more than a quarter of his body weight in a few short months! I asked him what in the world he had done to lose the weight...besides, you know, living in California. His answer was, "I walk everywhere because I can't afford a car and I eat vegetarian 6 days a week and only let myself have meat once a week." Then he said this and it always stuck with me (even though, at that time, I lazily shrugged it off): "Leah, you just have to look at food as fuel for your body and that's all. I don't care what I eat anymore...I just eat what I have to for my body to work correctly. There's not this huge level of enjoyment attached to eating anymore." Well, that did not sound appealing to me at all at the time.
When I returned to SparkPeople in February, you might remember that I rather flippantly agreed to do South Beach Phase 1 with a friend, which is basically a metric ton of vegetables and some protein every day for two weeks. The first few days were odd for me. I had never eaten so many vegetables in my life! It was extremely time-consuming in the first week to plan all my meals and snacks so I would end up having what I needed to not be hungry throughout the day. But, as time went by, it got much easier. By the second week, the diet had become second nature and I was throwing meals together within minutes. It was during this time that I realized that I was beginning to see food as fuel. This phase of the diet completely re-set the hardwiring in my brain regarding food. I no longer desired food as a reward. I don't really crave sweet things anymore. And even though I moved to the Spark Diet (as opposed to staying on South Beach's more strict Phase 2), I kind of just naturally stay away from carbs now without even realizing it. In fact, most days my Nutrition Report shows that I'm low on carbs.
Now that I've added running to my life, I am re-learning how to properly fuel my body with the extra activity in mind.
Of course, I've got a couple interesting examples to share, in which I will walk through this process with you of listening to your body.
First, I need to confess that I got 3 hours of sleep last night. This is in no way advisable or healthy - frankly, I made a choice to stay up late and I knew it would affect my body today. But I did it anyway. I don't do this often (if ever) so it won't become something that taxes my body in the long-term. But it is important to know this for the following examples. So, just go ahead and stick that little feather in your cap and hold onto it and I'll tell you when to bring it out again.
I actually woke up at 6am and my body felt good - so I did my run. I had not eaten anything before my run, but I felt perfect upon returning home. I made sure to get some carbs in me immediately - a slice of whole grain toast with some natural peanut butter for protein and good measure. And coffee - I mean...DUH. I felt satisfied and left for work.
At 10am, I went into our Accountant's office to work with her on some bookkeeping. We were just chugging along doing our work and something happened to me that has never happened before. I suddenly stopped and gasped. She looked up and said, "What's wrong?" I said, "I'm desperately hungry." Now, it's one thing to know the feeling of your body's natural hunger cues, but it is quite another to have hunger savagely pounce on you like a ninja assassin. I was literally fine one moment and the very next moment, I sat straight up and my stomach felt COMPLETELY EMPTY...and I was dizzy. So, using this as an object lesson...what does this tell me? I can discern that I probably should have eaten more than a piece of toast with peanut butter after a 3-mile run. I believe if I would have added a banana or some juice, or even some milk, it might have helped balance my system a bit more...even if I wasn't feeling hungry.
WHAT? Yeah...that brings us to our next parable.
Today I went to lunch with a friend and we were good little healthy girls and got delicious salads. These were wonderful, balanced salads with some meat and cheese (protein) and some healthy fats (avocado and olive oil). I ate most of my salad, but not all because I felt full. When we stood up to leave, I didn't feel dizzy but my entire body felt extremely weak...even though I had just eaten.
SIDE NOTE: Now, pull that feather out. YES...I slept for 3 hours. This is most likely WHY I felt weak. But...I am also a grown-up and I have a job so I can't just take a nap whenever I want on a Wednesday.
The surprising thing was that I immediately said to my friend without even thinking about it, "My body feels extremely weak. What should I eat?" To be quite honest, I shocked myself with this automatic response. Again, it goes back to food being fuel. In lieu of falling asleep in the park like a bag lady, I needed an alternative to give my body the energy boost it required to get through the rest of the afternoon. The answer? CARBS. So I hustled on over to my local co-op grocery (which, by the way, I believe is the SAFEST place to purchase carbs because, more often than not, they are made from natural ingredients or whole grain or delicious organicness) and plopped my handful of Clif Bars (stocking up - they were on sale!) and bananas on the counter. I just looked at the cashier and said, "I NEED CARBS NOW." Haha. That's me...freaky weird co-op grocery girl.
But food as fuel is not the only factor in this magical equation...
So, I woke up this morning and actually felt decent at 6am! I was tired but my body didn't feel sick like it usually does when I wake up with not enough sleep. I was able to get out of bed, so I decided to go for my run. I walked out the door and I'm telling you guys...that first breath of air in the pre-dawn hours is like an instant drug the moment it hits your lungs. IMMEDIATE wake-up and an exhilerating feeling of being alive. And this is BEFORE my run even starts.
Turns out, I had the best run of my life. Cut quite a bit of time off my 5k time by adding longer running intervals. Listen, don't get overly impressed here. I don't run fast at all. I think LMFAO wrote me into their Party Rock Anthem when they wrote the line, "Every day I'm shufflin'". But I was proud of my progress...and can now run a straight 7.5 minute interval with absolute comfort and no heavy breathing. That's a huge improvement over just a few weeks ago when I was doing C25K and could barely run the 1.5 minute intervals.
I was really listening to my body this morning, as I knew I had had so little rest and it could affect me. I walked when I felt the need for more air. I had a super lame interval of running that wasn't even two minutes long in the middle of the run. But made up for it with my longest running interval on the way home. Normally, I'd only walk the final 5 minutes of a run, but this time I walked the final 11 minutes. I probably COULD HAVE run again...but I didn't want to push it.
I truly believe this run is what has given me the energy to make it this far through my day. If I wouldn't have done it, I might have face-planted into my computer about 4 hours ago.
My focus on listening to my body with running is not only in relation to the actual run. I have found that, probably due to my previous injuries, it is best for me personally to take two days of rest in between actual runs. So, my schedule for the week starts with a run on Sunday, a cross-training walk on Monday and a complete rest day from cardio on Tuesday. Then, the next real run is on Wednesday. And so on and so on. I find that I feel more soreness and possibly strain in my ankles the second day after a run and not the following day as one would expect. Thus, my complete rest day on that day. I have found this to be a great plan so far. And have avoided any injury or pain.
Last night, I started reading a book called "Complete Book of Women's Running" by Dagny Scott Barrios. This book is put out by Runner's World and I had received a recommendation from a friend. I picked it up at the library and, quite honestly, didn't feel it would be that interesting. I mean, come on...a book about exercise??? BORING. I figured it would be all tables and charts and training schedules. But I was surprised when I flew through 5 chapters because the author's voice and writing style is just so beautiful and easy to understand. What a great read!!! In the tune of this whole idea of listening to your body, I thought it would be appropriate to end with these beautiful excerpts from that book:
"When listening to your body, it's important to understand that you can't separate your running from the rest of your life. If you're tired from other activities, it can and will affect your running. You might find your energy drained from a family problem, a bad night's sleep, or office stress. You can't fight the impact of those things; nor should you ignore them. Factor them in when gauging how hard to push in your workouts. Running at this stage (beginning stage) should remain a positive, enjoyable complement to the rest of your activities. If any day proves too challenging - your legs hurt or your breathing is uncomfortably labored - back off. Walk as much as you need in order to finish. Take the next day off, and repeat the previous workout until you can complete it comfortably. Do this as many times as necessary.
Over time, you'll come to understand these training principles as you see them in action. You will feel the bounce in your step after you take your off day; you will become aware of the microcycles of improvement in your running from month to month; you will recognize when you push too hard or when you're being inconsistent and your training suffers accordingly. Pay attention to these principles and to the message your body sends. Eventually, you'll find that you can tailor a training program to your own needs, no matter what type of runner you are."
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
A lil shout-out from yours truly!
Monday, May 14, 2012
For the first time in many years, I feel completely and utterly happy.
In the best shape of my life - physically, mentally, emotionally.
It didn't come about the way I expected.
I never could have predicted things would work out quite this way.
It wasn't consistent with the framework I had set up for my life...but sometimes you have to step out of the box to find joy.
I didn't anticipate so much work.
And, yet, it's been easier than I thought it would be.
All it takes is a choice to keep going. Every single day.
And YOU did this.
You inspired me.
You pushed me past my fears.
You saw true value in me when I didn't see it in myself.
You have been there for me when I felt competely alone.
You are available all hours of the day and night.
You fill my head with dreams and ideas and inspiration.
Your tenacity and kindness caught me by surprise.
Your tenderness is so deeply felt.
Your example is what I am building this new life upon.
Your success is the driving force behind my success.
There really aren't words for how much I love you...for bringing me to this new level of happy - with myself, my life, my body, my heart.
Thank you. So very much.
Sunday, May 13, 2012
I really can't find the words to explain how I have been feeling about the incredible outpouring of love and support from the Spark Community on the blog I posted Friday, in which I described my feelings of running a distance of 5k. I have tried to write a personal note back to everyone that left a substantial comment on that blog and I think I've got about 200 of you so far. The stories you have shared with me and the kind words of encouragement are enough to fuel a thousand future runs!
A lot of you also said that you were inspired to try running yourself. Or to push yourself further. That is a wonderful spirit and to think that I might be able to play a part in helping you be a better version of yourself is quite humbling.
Frankly, I was surprised to only receive two messages (so far) holding a warning (I expected many). I received a particularly helpful message from PAPAMIKIE, who is a certified running instructor. PAPAMIKIE made it clear that he was not at all trying to discourage me (or any of you) from achieving our running dreams, but that he wanted to make sure that we are clear on not only the benefits of running, but also the risks.
"60% of recreational runners in NA get injured every year, seriously enough to have to change thier running program. Most injuries are caused by doing too much too soon or running with bad form.
The problem with too much too soon, is that the damage is small and progressive and often goes unnoticed until it is noticed because something gives.
It is possible to just get out and run, and to do this safely (without a program like C25K). I did it. It is also posible to do serious harm by repeatedly asking the body to do too much.
I sometime compare this to putting on weight. We do this just a little at a time and we do not notice this, and then one day we discover we are overweight, and we may wonder how it happened.
I hope you will understand that I encourage your goal, I support running and I believe that people at various weights and various fitness levels can enjoy running. But I am also aware that lots of people do themselves harm by going at it in a way that leads to injury. I just wanted to bring this to your attention."
I just want to thank PAPAMIKIE for sharing this information with me. As someone who has been severely injured in the past (see my recent post, "Broken...But Still Strong"), I am ultra-aware of my body and especially my weakest areas, at all times. In fact, you should know that this morning I wanted to run, but because my ankle felt a little tiny bit sore, I have built in one more rest day. Also...just because I was able to run a distance of 5k and break one of my own mental barriers, it doesn't necessarily mean that EVERY run from here on out will be a 5k. It will all depend on how I am feeling that day and whether my body is able to handle that magnitude of a run that day. I cannot stress enough the importance of listening to your body.
Please do not misunderstand. I believe in every single one of you!!! I KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that we can all do ANYTHING we set our mind to doing!!!
It would be irresponsible of me, though, to neglect all the facts:
1. As you see in every exercise video out there, a person should ALWAYS make sure their exercise program is OK with their doctor/personal physician. I got the all-clear from my orthopedic surgeons and my family doctor before I tried anything on these old broken/healed bones!
2. A trainer or an expert is a great asset. Even if you can't afford a trainer on a weekly basis, it is helpful to at least have someone to gauge your current fitness level and help you design a plan for the future. I've been lucky in that I haven't paid for a trainer, but have a couple of very close friends that happen to be personal trainers. And, when you're friends with a personal trainer, they tend to give you all the good advice free of charge.
Don't forget, too, that there are experts out here on SparkPeople...all over the place! People like PAPAMIKIE and Coach Nicole - people whose lives are dedicated to helping people be successful in their fitness endeavors. All it takes is a bit of time and research to glean from their excellent wisdom!
3. FORM IS SO IMPORTANT. I'm sure I don't have perfect form (especially since I'm just a beginner). But I have to admit that for the majority of my run, my brain is laser focused on form. Mostly because of my past injuries. I worry that if I let my brain wander and just look at the pretty trees and birdies, I won't be paying attention and I will sprain may ankle or fall down. God knows I'm prone to falls! I really can't afford to break concentration with my list of bodily issues. So, for example, if you have trouble breathing doing the intro C25K runs, it might not be a good idea to push yourself any further just yet...until you have that breathing under control.
Like PAPAMIKIE, I don't want to dampen anyone's spirit or zest for running.
The truth of the matter is, I feel emotionally connected to all of you incredible people and I would be so terribly heartbroken if any of us were to get hurt or injured.
So, with that in mind, I thought it would be good to pass along this wisdom.
Make no mistake - I'm going to keep running!!! But I will be listening to my body and paying attention to my form and checking in with my panel of experts. And I will do it the correct way.
If we all follow these guidelines, we will have everything we need to not only reach our goals, but to be transformed into the very best we can be. I can't wait to see how we grow - AND how we shrink!!!
Love to all of you!!!
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