exercise

Running Out Of Time

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Before our run this morning, my son summed up how I felt about our run this morning.

Joe decided after his successful foray into track last spring that he would go out for cross-country this fall. A couple times during the summer, he received emails from his coaches encouraging training plans and providing workout schedules, emails which he deleted because denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. Once August hit after an entire summer of remaining exercise free, I suggested he do a few weeks of a Couch to 5K training app to dip his toes into the water again. Being a teenager dripping with disdain for anything requiring effort, he had less than zero interest in or enthusiasm for such an endeavor.

If there’s anything anyone who truly knows me knows about me, it’s that I don’t run. I think you should only run when you’re being chased by something bigger and heavier than you, like a large carnivore with sharp teeth or a runaway grand piano. While I have participated in a plethora of 5k events because I enjoy doing fun activities with people I like, I have not finished even one race where I ran the entire course because, as I mentioned, I don’t run. I. Don’t. Run. If you know anything else about me, though, it’s that I am doggedly determined once I set a goal. And this goal was to get Joe on his feet again.

To that end, being the super annoying mother I am, I downloaded the Couch to 5k app to my phone, waltzed into his room at 8 a.m. one oddly cool morning, tossed some socks and his running shoes onto his chest, and told him we would be leaving in 10 minutes. That was two weeks ago. I have been running with him every other day since then because it turns out I love complaining about running while running with Joe more than not running.

Today we were finishing up the last minute of our brisk-walk warm up when I noticed an elderly couple traveling side-by-side on the narrow path in front of us. He was moving along unsteadily with the aid of a cane while she held a walking stick in each hand to assist her. It was a bittersweet scene, at once a charming vision of long-term commitment to a life partner and yet a heartbreaking exhibition of the difficulty of aging. I couldn’t decide how I felt about it.

The gentleman heard us approaching, turned to verify our presence, and slowly moved behind his wife to allow us room to pass. Billie (our annoying, imaginary running coach) barked from my phone that it was time to jog. Joe sprinted off with his long, sixteen-year-old legs. I plodded along behind him and offered a polite greeting as I prepared to pass the couple. The gentleman replied in kind.

Then as I hit my stride next to them and began to leave them behind the way Joe had left me, she sighed and spoke.

“To be that young. Oh, to run again.” 

That hurt. I mentally clutched my heart with my hands.

We spend a lot of time bitching about what we must do. Our monkey minds run a non-stop chyron of obligations through our heads, preemptively sucking the joy out of doing. I’ve spent considerable time the last two weeks bitching about running, mainly while running. It didn’t make the running any easier.

Life is not about what you have to do. It’s about what you can do, even if you haven’t found your way to enjoying it yet.

 

 

Destination Unknown

My lunch today...tropical smoothie with kale.

My lunch today…tropical smoothie with kale.

Fitness is 20% exercise and 80% nutrition. You can’t outrun your fork.”                         ~Anonymous

A friend asked me the other day how my book writing is coming along. And I was forced to tell her the sad truth. It’s not. I really haven’t done anything substantive toward completing a book since I stopped the daily writing on my blog back in January. It was hard for me to admit that to my friend, but what’s harder still is resisting the urge to make elaborate excuses for my written inactivity. So rather than lying to you about some monumental personal obstacles I’ve encountered that have restricted me from writing, I am simply going to tell you the embarrassing truth. Like a dog that stops everything when it notices a squirrel running across the top of the fence, I got distracted by something. That something is food.

In January, after months of knowing it was the right thing to do and yet ignoring my better judgment, I finally decided it was time to jettison the artificial sweeteners in my diet. No more skinny lattes containing sugar-free syrups and no more diet sodas laden with aspartame. I switched to water. Round about that same time, curious about the Paleo diet some of my friends swear by, I decided to do some more research into what I should be eating. Over the years I would occasionally try a diet to lose a few pounds I had packed on. This time I was looking for a lifestyle change diet, something I could live with and maintain. My Type A personality went into high gear and I began reading, watching documentaries and Ted presentations, and doing my research. Then I officially went off the deep end head first. I tossed out everything in my house that was hiding MSG (and all of its pseudonyms). I cleared the refrigerator of food dyes. I decided against Frankenfood and set about a mass reduction in the amount of GM foods we eat. I tossed out packages of foods whose ingredients read like a foreign language. I bought a freaking juicer. And I decided to get downright personal with our food.

Along the way, we had many family discussions before mutually agreeing we would work toward a whole food, plant-based diet. We cut way back on meat. I reduced the portion of dairy in my diet from approximately 30% to 5%. We cancelled our milk delivery. We started buying more organic produce. We decided that it matters to us what the cows and chickens we include in our diet consume. We stopped eating out as often. We greatly reduced our consumption of sugar, caffeine, and processed foods. We started making fresh juices and vitamin-laden smoothies to get more fruits and vegetables in our diet. We decided to stick to heart-healthy oils and plant-based fats. I began work on my gluten-free baking. Our unbelievably picky eater, Luke, willingly began experimenting with new foods. Our dinners are now comprised of ingredients that we can pronounce. And we feel better. We sleep better. Our skin and nails are healthier. Our immunity seems to have improved. We don’t count calories. We just eat food that makes sense, food that we understand. And we eat as much of it as we want.

I didn’t truly intend to spend much time walking down this path. It began as a curiosity and morphed into something much larger. Each day I take another few steps away from what I thought was important toward what I now believe truly is. The more I’ve learned about the complexity of our food (gained through years of industrialization, scientific research and experimentation, and a lack of appropriate governmental oversight), the more I know that this is where I need to be focusing my energy right now. This is what I am being called to. Who knows? Maybe somewhere along this journey I will find my raison d’être? Maybe in the midst of all of this I will find my book? Maybe not.

I know there is the whole eat-right-and-exercise-and-die-anyway philosophy. I think about that sometimes and wonder if I’m diverting my energy into something that in the end won’t really matter. Then I read another article linking some health issue to our food supply and I remember that I’ve never been the type to sit back and wait to see what happens. My mother taught me that if you aren’t happy with something, you should fix it. So that’s where I’m headed…to improve my health and the health of the ones I love. Perhaps something will stop me in my tracks early and I won’t live to be the vibrant 90 year old I know I’m capable of becoming. I only know one thing. I want to live as many of my days here on this earth free of pain, feeling good in my skin, and knowing that I’m doing the best I can for my family, myself, and this blue planet. So, for now, I have to keep walking this road to see where it leads. I’m pretty sure that it leads somewhere good.

I Can Resist Anything…Except Temptation

Temptation…thy name is Tamales.

“I can resist anything except temptation.” ~Oscar Wilde

Everyone has their temptation. As a rule, I like to think I’m fairly well in control of mine. My weakness is candy. As you can imagine, Halloween is a nightmare for me. We bought five large bags of Halloween candy this year. I handed every bit of it out, only to discover that my boys had returned from their trick-or-treating with the rough equivalent of what I had spent the evening unloading. Seriously? What kind of cruel joke is that?

Since the boys went back to school, I’ve begun working out again. I hike. I skate. I practice yoga. The combination of the increased exercise and the decreased eating out generally puts me back to what I like to call my “winter weight.” My winter weight is 7-8 pounds less than my summer weight. I know it seems odd that I’m thinner during the time when most people become more sedentary, but I’m a stay-at-home mom. When my boys are home for the summer, I have less time for myself and exercise goes to the back burner. When they start back at school, I have more free time to hit the yoga studio. It just works out that way.

But, right about the time when my clothes are fitting again and I’m feeling happy about my healthfulness, Halloween rears its ugly head. Don’t get me wrong. I have willpower. I do. I can live with unopened bags of candy in my house for weeks. No problem. But, the minute something is opened (be it a 5 pound bag of peanut M&Ms or a can of Pringles), all bets are off. I can’t stop myself. I have issues. You see, there are two very large bowls of candy sitting on the kitchen counter right now. And, while I can turn my nose up at a Butterfinger or Twix, I’m eating Tootsie Rolls, Nerds, and Twizzlers like a bear storing up for winter hibernation.

Tonight I had a craving for one of my favorite candies…Hot Tamales. I’ve been addicted to those red capsules of evil dating back to my days working for Mann Theaters in high school. I would buy a box on my break, take it into a theater, and down the sugar while watching part of Out of Africa or Back To The Future. I bought a few boxes weeks ago because I like to have a stash on hand for family movie nights at home. The boxes have been in the top cupboard of the pantry for weeks, and I’ve done an excellent job of ignoring them. But, tonight, blame it on the candy floodgates having been opened by the decadence of Halloween or blame it on PMS, I wanted those stupid cinnamon-flavored pieces of nutritional garbage. (First three ingredients: sugar, corn syrup, modified food starch. Nutritional value = -536.)

I brought them up to my room where I began watching a Netflix rental. I set them atop the books on my nightstand and stared at them. Or, rather, they stared at me. Perched atop The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, there seemed to be a battle of the forces of good and evil playing itself out an arm’s reach away…the tamales representing my baser, selfish wants and the book representing my desire to bring myself to a higher realm of consciousness, my zen. I really wanted to tear the box open, but I would look at Tolle’s book and remind myself that I didn’t need the candies. I simply wanted them. I was full from a pizza dinner with the family. I’d eaten more than I usually do at dinnertime, and I was already feeling a bit uncomfortable. (Ever since my gall bladder and I parted ways, I can’t quite eat the way I used to. Getting old sucks.) And, I knew that eating 500 calories of food dye and sugar would make me feel absolutely miserable both physically and mentally. I pushed thoughts of the devil candies from my mind. I watched my movie. I played Word with Friends on my iPhone. I ironed. Yes. Ironed. On a Saturday night, even. I read aloud to my sons. I stuck my tongue out at the red box in defiance.

It worked. The box still sits unopened on my nightstand…three hours after its appearance there. And, I’m feeling fairly smug about the whole thing. My pants will still fit tomorrow. I did it! I resisted temptation. I feel like I could take on the world. Now, I merely have to hope that my level head and nerves of steel persist through the night because I’m too tired now to take them back downstairs and tuck them away in the cupboard above the pantry where they belong. You know, one could rationalize that cinnamon candies are just a few ingredients away from being a cinnamon bun. That makes them justifiable as breakfast food, don’t you think?

What About THAT Guy?

Yesterday I went to do one of my usual fall workouts. I know it’s not technically fall yet, but when the kids go back to school it’s fall for me. Anyway, I was at Red Rocks Amphitheater to do my standard exercise routine there. It basically consists of my walking or jogging a loop around the inside of the amphitheater…up the stairs, across the top of the amphitheater, down the stairs on the other side, across the front of the stage, and back up again. Depending on my energy level and schedule, I will do that 5-10 times. It’s not overly strenuous because I don’t get too intense about it, but it’s enough of an interval workout to get my heart pumping and my legs worn out. The charm of working out at Red Rocks goes beyond the sheer beauty of Red Rocks itself with its scenic with views of Denver and the towering red rocks framing the vivid blue sky. When you’re there, you feel like something of a bad ass. You’re not walking your dog down your block; you’re out there with the warriors who leap the steps, jump the benches, do lunges at the top of the amphitheater, and then crunches on the stage. And even if you’re not there doing a boot-camp style workout, you’re still there putting in your time. The folks who work out there form a loose community of nut jobs for whom a jaunt around the park does not truly register as exercise. You are a part of something unique and cool. You’re at the most awesome gym in the country. You’re a link in the crazy Colorado network of endorphin junkies. It’s no mistake that Colorado is the leanest state in the nation. We work at it.

So, as I was climbing stairs and feeling particularly bad ass for being there when what I really wanted to be doing after only five hours sleep was napping, I spied this guy.

<——-This guy is a firefighter. He’s in his full gear. He’s hauling a hose. He’s got his tank strapped to his back. He’s climbing the stairs in boots. Somehow, after watching him walk the stairs I was walking while wearing all that gear, I didn’t feel like such a bad ass any longer. In Colorado, as impressive as your dedication to your own health and fitness is, there is always someone who is more dedicated, someone who is doing what you do only he’s doing it longer, harder, faster, and better than you will ever do it. It’s humbling. It’s also inspiring. In my next life, I want to be that guy. For now, I’ll be satisfied that I was out climbing stairs at Red Rocks rather than sitting on my butt on the patio at Starbucks with a morning bun and a triple venti latte.