Saturday, January 18, 2014

Eye of the Tiger

This isn't a personal journal, but it is something that's been going on for a while, and I just thought I'd share it, because I think we've all been there, done that.  And it'll end with a bit of insight about what it takes to get fit, lose weight, eat healthy, and basically resuscitate your New Year's resolutions again.

In October of last year, I bought a gym membership to kickstart a fitness program of sorts.  At that time, the idea was to take some classes, use the weights to get stronger, and work out on the ellipticals for a while because my knees hated running more than usual (I have flat feet). And then, about two weeks after I joined, I went for a run (4 k according to Google), and it was like the clouds of my fitness funk parted and the light of glory shone down on me:  my knees didn't hurt, I wasn't completely out of breath after 300 meters, and I got it again--what's known as your "second wind", when you've run past the point of exhaustion and suddenly everything clicks again and you're flying.

So I thought:  Problem solved, I can run again.  Except I couldn't, not really, not yet, anyway.  I made the amateurish mistake of building up too quickly.  My knees began to hurt like hell again, especially when climbing the stairs carrying the kidlet.  And then there was the matter of weight:  I'm not going to lie and say that it wasn't a factor in this undertaking, because it is actually the main reason why I elected to start running again.  Between breastfeeding and keeping up with the kidlet, most of my pregnancy pounds dropped off pretty quickly, but I still had five more pounds to go when it all just stopped.  All the running and gym classes and weights that I was doing wasn't budging the scale.

Now, at this point, I could have just given up.  And had I not already announced of Facebook that I would be running a 10K in May, I probably would have.  Public announcements can be a great motivator to find a different route to your eye of the tiger.   After a while, I came to the conclusion that I needed to take it slow, and go back to running the 3 k route for a while, so that my muscles would have time to gain strength and equilibrate (one of the main causes of knee pain in runners is an imbalance between your hamstrings and quadriceps--a lot of runners are comparatively weaker in one set of muscles than the other).   I needed to start doing crunches again, because strong core muscles are the basis for good running technique.  And the Christmas money I received would cover a decent pair of running shoes.   I haven't bought anything yet, as the current pair still have a couple months left in them, but I'll definitely need to replace them soon.

I also realized that I had to change what I was eating.  I'm in my thirties, now--it was foolish to expect that I would snap back into shape the way I did when I was 18.  My diet was always pretty healthy, but there were still chips and cookies sprinkled in there, a lot of bread and white flour, and drinking a lot of juice.  I stopped buying chips and cookies (the kidlet still gets his baby biscuits), and began buying nuts and dried fruit from the halal butcher, making my own snack mixes.  I started buying zero-calorie sodas--I know, I know, water is best, but the fact is I like a bit of flavor to my drinks.  I wasn't going to stop drinking juice unless I had something similar to replace it--and frankly, eliminating the chips/cookies was already taxing my willpower enough already.  I am still in the process of incorporating lentils and beans, and decreasing the starches, but so far it's been going pretty well.

But the biggest help has been my husband, who (for no apparent reason) decided to see if he could complete a 100-push-ups-in-8-weeks challenge.  And who talked one of our friends into signing up for the Zevenheuvelenloop in November--15 k of scenic, Dutch countryside and getting your @$$ whomped by runners from unlikely places on Earth (everybody knows the Ethiopians and Kenyans, but Japan?).  With us--and this was before I'd committed to the 10 K.  He hasn't asked me once for a bag of chips since this started, and he's been more than accommodating when it comes to staying home with the kidlet so that I can squeeze in my runs.

And finally, finally, all of these things have slowly started to do the trick.  The scale is finally moving.  I feel a lot better now, and I'm noticeably less moody and more patient with the kidlet.  Life is good.

The moral of the story?  Figuring all this stuff out took me three months, one tweak at a time.  Sometimes it was one step forward, two steps back--I tried, for about a week, eating a high-protein diet, but quickly discovered that I'd rather not-eat than cook two separate meals (the kidlet, for all his baby-fat, is at a perfectly healthy weight), which meant that I didn't have the energy to work out.  You have to figure out what works for you.  Give things a week or two, try to get into a groove.  If you can't, there's no shame in dropping it and moving on to the next thing--provided that you keep moving towards your goal.

The other moral is to have support.  I am fortunate that my husband decided that he, too, would get back into shape with me (though, honestly--the guy has never been out of shape).  We work well together--sometimes in the evenings, we trade off, first I go for a run, and then he goes for a run.  I endeavor to make tasty, healthy snacks--and he enjoys them, and doesn't buy chips to tempt me.  But the strange thing is, even though I know the guy and we love each other and all that jazz, it still took me a lot of courage to work up the guts to tell him, "I'm joining the gym, and getting back into shape."  Part of it, I suppose, is due to the fact that any previous attempts to exercise and diet were actively sabotaged by my mom, who to this day lives in mortal terror that we don't eat enough.  Part of it was also working out--for my own sake--how our intertwined lives would work, now that I was off doing my own thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment