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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Getting Fit

I have a friend who recently ran her first race ever, at the age of 37. She does not consider herself a runner, which I whole-heartedly disagree with. In my opinion, if you run, regardless of distance or pace, you are a runner. Go ahead, call yourself a runner. It feels good! I learned that she just started running a year ago and on that first day of running she was only able to run to the end of her street. But, she stuck with it and went back out there, day after day. One year later, and more than 70 pounds lighter, she completed her first race. She is so inspiring!

Hearing her story reminded me of where I started almost a year ago and made me reflect on what has worked and what hasn't, for ME. I started running on January 28, after giving myself almost 7 months to recover and adjust after Lucy's birth. That first time running, I did less than three miles and paced at somewhere around 14 minute miles. It felt awkward and uncomfortable to run, almost like I was running with two left feet. Since January, I've run two half marathons and have logged almost 600 miles in my training. I've been able to increase my pace to 8 minute miles on my shorter runs, and even though I wasn't focusing on losing weight, I've actually lost 20 pounds and I feel strong and healthy.

Here are a few things that have worked for me:

1) Set small, easily-attainable goals. And, then, constantly adjust them and make them more challenging. For example, I started off running (or walking) 3-4 days a week for 20-30 minutes, without any pressure of how far or how fast. I just had to get out the door and do something. Now, I try to get out 4-5 days a week and try to constantly increase my speed or my distance or both.

2) Set bigger, long-term goals. In other words, signing up for a race (or two) that would keep me motivated to keep pushing and keep reaching. I've found, though, that you can do this without signing up for races. Just pick a certain pace or distance that you want to get to by a certain date a few months out and then work toward it.

3) Find a workout buddy. I've run and trained for races all by myself and I've trained with people. It makes such a huge difference to have someone to exercise with. Talk to people you'd want workout with, ask around. You might be surprised to find someone else looking for someone just like you to join them in working out. It helps to have someone else working toward the same goals and someone that's depending on you to be consistent. I've been so lucky to have had lots of running buddies, sometimes even going on multiple runs on the same day.

4) Appreciate all the benefits. I don't put too much emphasis on whatever physical benefits that come from exercising, because I get so much more from my workouts that go way beyond the physical. There are mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits that come from being active and having a little time to myself to fill my bucket. I feel like running actually helps me be a better mom. Any physical benefits are just extra.

5) Listen to your body. When it aches, let it rest. When muscles are tight, stretch them out. When something is hurt, find things that will fix it. When it's hungry, feed it. When it's thirsty, drink lots of water. I've found that when I'm exercising, I naturally crave more healthy foods and drink a lot more - another side benefit to running. I try to listen to my body and be extra kind and gentle with myself.

6) Reward yourself. One of the best parts of being active is the feeling that I can eat anything without feeling bad about it. I'm not shy about rewarding myself... I just don't go overboard. I feel totally okay with splurging (even daily) on a small scoop of ice cream or a cookie or a handful of M&Ms, but I'm super careful not to put all three of those in the same bowl at the same time. (I'd at least spread them out throughout the day! haha!)

7) Don't get discouraged! Most results are going to happen so slowly you might not even notice them if you aren't paying close attention. Those slow changes are healthier for the body and are much more likely to last. If I take the 20 pounds I've lost since January, then it figures out to losing less than a tenth of a pound every day. Another way of putting it, I've lost one pound every two weeks. That's insanely slow, especially compared to results that some pills or diets will promise, but it's natural and it's healthy.

Just like everyone else out there, I have things about my body that are softer or rounder or curvier than what I sometimes want, but I really do love my body and love having this exact body of mine. I love moving, I love feeling alive, I love working my lungs and feeling my muscles burn. I also love food and I love feeling like I can enjoy the flavors and tastes even more when I'm doing what I can to be active. That is the best part!

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