What am I thinking?

It’s something I ask myself every time I feel a muscle ache. “What the heck am I thinking? Why am I doing this at almost 53 years old?” Just last night, my wife told me that some folks think we’re a little crazy for eating healthy and exercising. Those same people question us making such a drastic change in our lifestyle “So late in life.”

Me after my run yesterday. It was pretty hot out, but I got it done and did the work.

First of all, I don’t see us making the lifestyle change as being so late in our lives. If I have anything to do with it, we changed our lifestyle half-way through this amusement park ride called life. I’m fairly certain that by eating healthier and exercising, we will extend our lives beyond where they would have ended had we not improved our health. My own body was beginning to fail me, and just the simple task of tying my own shoes had nearly become impossible. Something had to change.

Second, maybe we are a little crazy for eating healthy and exercising. But if this is what’s called being crazy, then people who don’t eat right and don’t exercise are flat-out insane. Controlling what goes into our mouths is much simpler than people make it out to be, and exercise doesn’t have to be marathon running or hours long gym sessions. A simple 30 minutes, three times a week is all you need to do to make your heart pump a little harder than usual to keep your body in shape.

It was also brought to my attention that some people are wondering when we will “Go back to normal” and stop eating healthy and stop exercising. After all, it’s easier for people to root for us to stop being healthy than it is for them to change their own habits. Somehow, seeing Sherry and I succeed at health and fitness highlights their own feelings of insecurity and heightens their anxiety over their inability to eat healthy and exercise. This is, unfortunately, pretty common.

I have at least six more years of fitness ahead of me that I cannot escape. Being in the military dictates that I always be physically fit and ready for war. As a leader, I have to ensure that I’m above reproach when it comes to not only my leadership skills and knowledge, but also in physical fitness. I cannot be an effective and inspiring leader if I’m not in as good shape or better than my Soldiers. I feel that this is very important, and I see this as my primary motivator every single time I go out for a run.

Beyond that, however, is the fact that I really enjoy being unlimited by physical ability when my wife and I want to undertake adventures. I love that we can hike, mountain bike, zip line, or do pretty much whatever we want because we are not only fit, but we are not overweight. Activities like zip line riding have weight restrictions for safety. Five years ago, we never could have even considered zip lining. We just bought two kayaks that will arrive in June and we can’t wait to hit some inland waterways!

I don’t feel 52. I feel better today than I did at anytime in my 30’s due to eating right and exercising.

What am I thinking? I’m thinking that I’m fortunate to be this active at age 52. I’m thinking that my health is much better today than it has been in over 25 years. I’m thinking that I might be able to stick around and annoy and molest my wife for more years than if I were to just let myself go. I am also very fortunate that my body is allowing me to do these things. Sure, I’m sore more often than I’m not because I’m always pushing myself to become stronger and faster, but that’s a good thing. My intention is to never stop eating right and exercising. I don’t want to be limited by my health or lack of fitness if there’s anything I can do about that.

The Race to Better Fitness

My beard is almost all gray now. What the heck?

I’ve said many times on this blog that there is no race to get healthy, lose weight, or get fit. Not only can you not rush the process, but trying to do so is dangerous and can result in injury which slows your progress. The best plan is to take things slowly.

When I began my weight loss journey, I had no expectation of a rate of weight loss. When I began my fitness journey, I had no expectation of rate of improvement in my level of fitness. I embarked upon both journeys with the goal of steady improvement over time. I knew and expected setbacks, plateaus, and difficulty, but I endeavored to persevere and conquer. I also adopted the mindset of this being a never-ending journey with no end. This was a lifestyle, not a temporary cycle.

When I hurt my Achilles heel last year, it took me out of running for 5 solid months. Two months after hurting my heel, I hurt my shoulder which took me out of weightlifting, leading me to no fitness for three months. I only started running again in February, and my weightlifting has not started yet (but is due to start next week again… finally). I have had to take things very slowly with my running to get back into it safely, and while I still have stiffness in my ankles, it’s actually not the injury that hurts; it’s stiffness from not running for five months. I’ve started stretching exercises during the day to help loosen things up, and it’s finally starting to help.

It’s taken almost three months, but I can finally run 3 miles without pain and after the run, not have spaghetti legs. It never took me this long to get back into running, but I’ve also never been almost 53 years old coming off a serious sports injury. Things take longer to heal when we’re older, and to avoid further injury, I’ve taken things slower than I have in the past. The result is being able to run and actually enjoy it. I still have a hard time starting a run, but once I’m out there, I work hard and make the best of it. The Bluetooth headphones help a lot for that.

I’m also back to doing 50+ push ups before my runs. I used to do over 100. In February, I could only do 25. I’m working my way back up to 100+, but I’m not pushing things. My shoulder doesn’t need to be reinjured. I have a military school tentatively scheduled for June/July, so I need to make sure I’m in good physical condition as the school I will attend is very demanding physically.

Take your time. Be safe. Adopt the 80% exertion rule for fitness: only expend 80% full capacity when exercising. This keeps you from being completely worn out after a workout, and also allows your body to heal properly and quickly. I have taken things slowly and have been very happy with the results. With the exception of the two military and sports-related injuries I sustained late last year, I’ve been injury-free for four years of running. It’s like the turtle and the hare. Being a turtle has its benefits.

Still Doing the Work

I haven’t been shaving every day because nobody really sees me lately.

Even in these strange days of COVID-19, it’s important to keep doing the work. Keep eating well, keep exercising, and staying motivated. I know it’s hard, but it’s these times of difficulty that define our character.

It’s through times like these that we are tested to the limits of our own abilities. Mentally, more than anything, being cooped up and stuck indoors for weeks at a time takes its toll on us. It’s at this time that eating good, healthy food is more important than ever.

Good food fuels our brains, and allows us to function at our best. Being rid of processed sugar keeps the brain focused and strong, and allows us to concentrate better and keeps our emotions in check. Mood swings aren’t a thing for me when I’m not imbibing processed sugar.

One of the best things for stress relief is exercise. I get out and run every other day (making sure to stay wide from anyone else outside) and starting today (again), I’m working out in my home gym on my non-running days. 30 minutes a day is all it takes, and since many of us are working from home (or worse; not working but at home), 30 minutes is a small slice of our time.

The most important reason to eat well and get exercise is to bolster our immune systems. The healthier we are, the stronger our immune system is. Ever notice people who eat well and are physically fit don’t catch colds as much? There’s a reason for that.

I look like a character from the video game, The Division.

The next time you make your provisions run to the store, skip the snacks and foods with processed sugar and try to get more natural, whole foods. Learn to cook some delicious meals from scratch. Your brain and your immune system will thank. you.