So, just to keep you all updated, my crazy runner friend Britta has
decided to do what I consider the craziest run she’s tackled yet; a 24
hour race. Basically, all the runners have 24 hours to cover as much
distance as possible and whoever runs the farthest wins. Some people
are moving the whole time, but everyone takes little breaks for
eating, drinking and peeing (I hope!). Here’s what’s really crazy though… I’ve
decided to do it with her! Now, I may have some running experience,
but the longest I have ever run is 22 miles and that was 4 years ago.
I have four months to get my butt in shape to run for a very, very long
time. Why might I be doing this? Well, bragging rights, for starters.
How many people do you know who have run for 24 hours? (or at least
attempted) Also, I love my friend and her husband and will use any
excuse to go out and see them, even if it entails running until my
legs fall off. But the most important reason, the thing that actually
get me out the door every evening is this:
This picture was taken just after she Britta successfully completed a
marathon in a great time. I took one look at that picture and thought,
“now that’s who I want to be!” I love the feeling of being proud of
yourself after you’ve done something incredibly difficult, and I miss
that sense of identity that being a competitive runner brings. When I
look at that photo, it makes me feel that this goal accomplishable;
that there is tangible proof I can change my life to be more like
I mentioned a few blogs ago about goal setting, and how you are
significantly more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down
and post them somewhere you can see them. So, here is my goal. Right
now I want to train to be able to run 3 hours at a time, instead of
the 1 hour I’m at now. Here is a picture of my goal, right next to my
desk at work, and next to it is my inspiration.
What are your goals? Have you ever used a photo as a source of inspiration?
I recently watched a documentary on being a professional body builder. The video followed some of the biggest names in business the same ones you see gracing the cover of some muscle super pump scream flex magazine. It showed the daily life of being a weight lifter. It mostly focused on off-season, bulking, diet and routine leading up to a big show. What I found to be shocking is how unhealthy the men we place on a fitness pedestal are. One of the weight lifters who seem to be an identical twin to Hercules couldn’t walk up the stairs or from the parking lot to the gym with out being completely winded. I couldn’t fathom how some one who seemed so perfectly fit could be so unhealthy. The weight lifter went on to say in the movie that he started lifting weights because he was already strong and found it to be easy compared to most people.
That statement set off a chain of thoughts that led me to writing this blog. I have always found running to be easier than most, I have long legs, I am lean and full of slow twitch muscle fibers, and distance running quickly became a comfort zone for me. It wasn’t until I joined the Marine Corps did I realize that just because I could run far and fast didn’t mean that I was as in shape as I thought. Soon I had to ask my body to perform new and strange tasks like martial arts, lifting ammo cans, prolonged hikes with packs in excess of 70lbs, pulling fire hose, lifting pilots the list goes on and on. I had to completely re-evaluate what I considered in shape. We all know what our comfort zones are, so I challenge you to set aside 2 days this week to choose an exercise routine outside of you comfort zone. If you run, try lifting weights; if you’re already a gym rat, try yoga or find a local road race. My weakness is flexibility, so starting this week I will incorporate yoga 2 times a week and will blog my results. Feel free to post you thoughts and ideas, along with your comfort zones and weaknesses.
One of the hardest things about trying to change your habits is realizing how much your partner’s choices affect your own. When I plop down on the couch after a long day, I may have every intention of eating chicken and spinach, but if Kevin suggests we order a pizza, suddenly my willpower is out the door and I’m stuffing pepperonis in my face. It’s amazing how Kevin’s choices can completely alter my perspective. One minute, I’m all about being healthy, but as soon as he says “pizza”, it’s incredibly easy to rationalize a bad decision. We put trust in our partners to take care of us and have our best interest at heart, and when they make an unhealthy decision, we automatically view that decision in a little more positive light.
The first thing to remember is that your partner’s decisions don’t have to be your own. If your husband is dying to order wings or just doesn’t feel like exercising, remind yourself that when it comes down to it, you are still the only one truly in control of your health, and it’s up to you to make a healthy decision. It’s so much harder if your partner won’t do it with you, but believe me, they will take notice if you don’t decide to partake in their unhealthy choice. If your wife suggests you have chocolate cake for dinner and you decline, eating stir fry instead, she might just join you!
More importantly, for me anyway, is to remember how my poor decisions affect Kevin. Every time I decide I don’t feel like running, I am actually exerting negative peer pressure on him to stay home too. I am giving him permission to skip his run and watch TV with me. Each time I suggest we order pizza, I’m not only hurting my health, but my husband’s as well. This is where sacrifice really comes in. Being in a relationship of any kind usually means putting someone else’s needs above your own and weight loss is no exception. If I truly care about Kevin’s health and longevity, it’s my responsibility as his wife to make that’s as easy as possible for him. That means that I need to be the one to suggest we eat healthy tonight and make sure we get out the door for our run. It’s a big responsibility, but the more often I can think about his needs instead of my own, I am that much more likely to do the right thing.
As I took out another slice of pizza and dunked in to a nuke warm jar of nacho cheese, I then proceeded to gorge myself while drinking at least 3 beers. I looked over at my wife who was staring at me with her mouth open. We then began a discussion on what is a “healthy life style”.
I have always been skinny; from my senior year on I have been 6.2’and around 150-160 pounds, my waist never exceeded a 32. In high school I ran up to 60 miles a week, with never more than 2 weeks off a year. Then I entered the Marine Corps where I served as a firefighter, rescue technician, water survival instructor, drill instructor and martial arts instructor. During my eight years in the Corps I regularly worked out every morning, I have always scored a perfect 300 point score on the Corps’s physical fitness test. I took this as a blank check to eat what ever I wanted. I thought I knew what I was consuming vs. what I was expending in physical activities. Turns out, if you eat 4,000 calories a day, burning off 800 really isn’t going to cut it. Plus, my wife pointed out that I was putting myself at risk for heart disease and diabetes, which runs in my family. My wife argument was clear and based on sound, provable fact… mine was, well not. So I agreed to change my eating habits, my change was slow!
At first it started with making my own meals, adding vegetables and not dunking pizza in nacho cheese. I would say my transition started 3 years ago, and over time I have completely changed how I eat. I can go through a bag of spinach a week all by my self, I make almost every meal my wife and I eat. I try to use only fresh ingredients and I do most of the shopping. Candy bars have been replaced with granola bars or just loose granola. Sugary cereals have turned into eggs with spinach or oatmeal. While I will admit that my habits aren’t perfect they are now far superior to what they used to be. My weight remains unchanged, but they way I feel and the recovery process from my exercise has skyrocketed. I have never felt this good. I wish that I had started my new eating habits many years back. I share this story not to brag, but to share my experience. I looked healthy so there for I thought I was healthy.
If you or someone you know falls into this category I would enjoy hearing from you! Feel free to post a comment. Kevin
Among my many faults is a lack of any domestic prowess, specifically in the area of organization and cleanliness. I balk at the idea of washing the dishes after dinner and I resent every moment I spend doing laundry. Usually I put my big-girl pants on and find a way to get it done, but every now and then I need a little extra motivation. So, for those of you who are anything like me when it comes to doing household chores, I found an interesting article today with a little extra motivation.
A new study has just been published from Queens University in Canada showing that daily household chores can increase your cardio respiratory fitness! They used accelerometers to measure daily activity and then correlated that measure with aerobic exercise capacity; turns out that people who tended to do more daily chores around the house also were more fit. While this isn’t the strongest research design, it certainly shows that if we move around more during the day, we are either likely to be more fit because of our chores, or at least burn additional calories that we may not have otherwise. The article has a nice slideshow of how many calories you could burn while doing chores, which I’ve summarized below.
Walking up stairs with groceries
Washing your car
Spend an hour cooking dinner
1 hour of dusting
30 minutes of gardening
Washing the floor
1 hour of vacuuming
It’s amazing how all those chores can really add up to additional calories burned! Plus, chores are always more fun when you do them together. Kevin and I get home from work aro0und the same time, and some nights the only way I do the dishes is if he’s right there, doing them with me. Household chores can be a great way to find time to exercise together and keep the house clean!
A few years ago I was at my in-laws home for Easter and they always put on an Easter egg hunt. Everyone is assigned a color and an equal amount of eggs are placed strategically throughout their yard. My wife has always been the champion egg hunter in her family, or at least so she claims. She also isn’t shy about hiding the fact that she wins not just this Easter egg hunt but most family games. That was before I was on the scene. Easter in Chicago is beyond cold and snow is always in abundance, but we put as much wintery layers on as we could find and proceeded to the starting line. Off we went in a mad dash and I soon realized why my wife always beat her siblings; they were more than happy to walk and reminisce about years past enjoying each other’s company while my wife competed with an intensity that few NFL defensive linemen can muster. So I, in turn, followed suit.
My lack of knowledge of the battle field terrain was quite evident from the start. Sara knew all the hotspots and I was lost, which she was not shy about pointing out at every chance she got. I knew I needed to level the playing field, so I found one of her eggs and stole it. She could not win if she never found her last egg. We all beat her, and when she found out I cheated in a nostalgic family Easter egg hunt, it quickly turned into what can only be described as a Blitzkrieg of snow balls hurtling at my face.
I tell you this story not solely as an amusing anecdote but to show just how competitive my wife and I are. We compete at everything. Our competitions have ranged from something as simple as an evening yatzee game after dinner to doughnut eating competition. We use our competitive nature as drive for our healthy life. There are many ways in which one of us clearly has an obvious advantage, whether its strength, speed or agility. This never deters whichever one of us is holding the short end of stick. One of our work outs that best illustrates our drives to push each other is repeat 400 meter sprints, but the trick is that only one of us runs at a time, like a relay. The person not running only gets to rest however long it takes the other one to finish their sprint. I seem to internalize in my mind when my wife runs a faster split thinking she is trying to give me less rest so I in turn am pushed to try and inflict the same to her. It’s not just in running; we do it in everything. If its weight lifting we see who is lifting more compared to their body weight. We do it with sit ups, pushups, tennis. We take our competitive nature and turn it into a tool that both of us benefit from. So try and find a sport or game that involves physical activity and turn it into a competition. We find this to be a great way to raise the intensity level in our routine.
About 5 years ago, the entire nation became enthralled with the Atkin’s diet. Everyone and their mother was going carb-free in the name of losing weight and for some people, it did seem to work. People traded in their hamburger buns for lettuce wraps and ate all the bacon their heart’s desired. Now, we seem to have come back to our senses a little bit and the newest trends are distinguishing bad carbs from good carbs; high glycemic index foods from low and all-natural foods from processed. So what’s the deal? Do carbs really make you fat? And, is there such thing as a good carb or a bad one?
First, lets talk about what a carbohydrate is. Carbs are essentially sugar molecules strung together. A simple carbohydrate means that the sugar chains are very short and easy to break down, whereas a complex carbohydrate has long, complicated chains of sugar that your body will take awhile to digest. For example, soda or sugary drinks are simple carbs because they are essential just liquid sugar and your body breaks that down almost immediately. Whole grain oatmeal, on the other hand, is a complex carbohydrate and you body will break that down much more slowly.
These characteristics are what the glycemic index (or GI) is based on. Basically, researchers compared how fast a person’s blood sugar increased after eating different types of carbohydrates in comparison to eating pure glucose (sugar). The sugar drink was given a rating of 100 and all foods thereafter were given a number in comparison. For example, kidney beans have a glycemic index of 27, but french baguette has a glycemic index of 95. Foods with a GI over 70 are considered high, and foods under 55 are low.
So, who cares? Why is the GI important to weight loss? Well, it may have everything to do with insulin; a hormone released from the pancreas in response to an increase in blood glucose. Insulin is basically a storage hormone. It’s job is to notice when your body has consumed excess calories and figure out how to store those calories for later. You can store carbohydrates in your muscles as glycogen for later use, or you can convert them into fat and store them in your adipose tissue long term. Obviously, most of us would prefer not to increase our fat stores, so the key here is not to have huge spikes in insulin. Foods with a high GI will cause your blood sugar to sky rocket, and your insulin release will follow suit, but, if you eat foods that have a low GI, your blood sugar levels remain more level and you don’t release as much insulin. That’s why all those diet books keep telling you to pick complex carbohydrates and to avoid “bad carbs.”
Stay tuned for how insulin and blood sugar levels can change with exercise!