What being fit buys me

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One of my recent slow runs under the hot Texas sun.

I’ve worked for over a year and a half on being healthy. I’ve worked for the past eight months on being fit. I’ve talked a lot about what losing weight and becoming healthy has brought into my life, but I haven’t talked about what being fit has changed for me.

I can go up and down stairs without getting winded or being in pain. Most healthy and fit people take this for granted, but when I was at my heaviest weight, even a flight of stairs would make me winded. Now, I can go up and down stairs, even running, without raising my heart rate.

I am more flexible. This one is weird, but true. As I’ve been doing more exercise, my joints, tendons, and ligaments allow for greater range of motion which makes me far more flexible than I have been for decades. I can sit on our couch with my legs up against my chest, and it feels not only comfortable, but good to stretch my muscles in my legs. It also makes tying my own shoes much easier.

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Early morning PT in the National Guard.

Service in the military. This one is pretty obvious, but without being fit, service in the National Guard would have been impossible for me. Now, I can run, do my push ups, do my sit ups, and more importantly, be physically ready for any task or challenge I’m faced with. I’m not the strongest guy in the unit, but I’m able to pull my own weight and do what’s expected of me in my job and then some. It’s important to me to set an example for the junior troops, and I am doing that with my physical fitness.

Ability to do projects around the house. This is something I struggled with when I was fat and unfit. Just lifting a drill would make me break out into a severe sweat. Putting up a shelf was a major job not due to difficulty of the task, but due to the physical toll it would take on me. Something I also never realized before was that the injuries I would sustain while doing these household projects was in large part to being out of shape and unfit. When you drop things or take shortcuts which are unsafe, you tend to get injured more often. I can now tackle projects without it being a problem for my physically.

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Running with my son. He motivates me to keep getting better.

Running. Duh, right? What I didn’t expect was that I would enjoy it. I didn’t expect that I would be continuously challenging myself to improve. I did’t expect to become an inspiration to my son who is currently getting into running with me. My wife also enjoys it and it’s something we can share together from time to time.

Body image. This one I didn’t expect either. When I lost a lot of weight, my body looked better (thinner) but I was “Soft.” Now, after seven months of running and push ups, my muscles are looking defined, and I don’t look “Soft” anymore. My arms are more vascular, and my muscles are more pronounced. This has improved my self esteem a bit, and I now like the way I look. I haven’t been able to say that in a very, very long time.

I’m sure there are more things I could list if I think about it, but this is a pretty solid list of the things that I’ve noticed on a daily basis. Losing weight is good for your overall health, but fitness is important to allow you to get more out of life by being physically able to accomplish any task put before you, whether it’s a task related to work or fun.

Getting started is (damn) hard

I made a short video on my running blog in which I talk about getting started with exercise, and how sometimes, I really am not in to it. I said it was discipline that gets me past not wanting to do it, and keeps me going. That’s completely true. But I think I didn’t go into how I do that, because I think I made it sound like, “All you have to do is just do it and it’ll get done.” That’s kind of silly. Like, “No kidding!”

What I was trying to say and didn’t do as good a job of as I’d have hoped for was that the single-most difficult part of exercise for me is getting started. From the time I just decide to do it and when I get started, it’s pretty easy. But to get to the point where I commit mentally and begin preparations for a run? That’s the difficult part.

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Me after running my first 5k distance since starting running in September, 2016.

I run every other day. As an older guy, I need the recovery time. I know there are lots of folks my age out there who run 5-6 times a week. That’s great for them! However, for me, it’s just not feasible. I don’t want to invite the possibility of injury, and so far, this regimen has been doing well for me. My run times are steadily decreasing, my pace increasing, and my resting heart rate decreasing. My cardio health is improving, and I continue to make solid, steady progress. The down side of running every other day is it gives me a lot of time to begin dreading a run.

I don’t dread every run. Not even every other run. But every now and then, the last thing I want to do is go out, run hard, and be out of breath with my heart beating out of my chest. Don’t get me wrong: I actually do enjoy running now, and there are days when I really look forward to my runs. Heck, there are days when I’m obsessed with getting out on the road and running. But for the times when I’m not so motivated, I need to draw on an inner strength and discipline that sometimes is hard to harness.

That’s where perseverance and discipline really comes into play. I talked about perseverance on my PaleoMarine blog, and it’s the single most important factor in my success in losing over 140 lbs. This is another case of the answer being simple but implementation being difficult. It’s easy to say, “Just push past the negativity and start and get it done,” but actually doing it is another thing entirely.

I get it. I’m right there with you.

I don’t know how you motivate yourself, or what drives you to make yourself better, healthier, or more fit. That’s something you need to discover for yourself. I don’t have the answer here for you for that one magical thing that can make getting started easier. Heck, if I knew that, I’d be using it myself! The only things that have helped me and may help you are the following:

  • Fake it ’til you make it. This has been a big one for me. I used to hate running and all exercise. One day on a run, I realized that I would do better during my runs if I liked them, so I decided on the mantra, “I love running.” I would repeat it to myself often during runs, and lo and behold, it worked! I actually enjoy running now!
  • Setting a goal for running pace and distances. I’m not overly competitive, but I do like to take on challenges. I set goals for myself for running pace and distance based on the Marine Corps PFT standards. Now as a National Guard Soldier, I make sure I can exceed those standards to the best of my ability. This drives me to keep going and to get better.
  • Technology. I love tech, and having a Garmin Fenix 3 HR has made collecting data during my runs not just neat, but downright amazing. The data collected during my runs really allows me to analyze my runs from many different angles to compare my efforts and results with previous runs.
  • When all else fails, discipline. I have decided that I will run a minimum of three times a week, with no more than two days off in a row. When I get to that third day, I leave myself no option to consider not running. Perhaps that’s the trick: I don’t allow myself to even consider not running on those days. I can’t put it off if I don’t allow myself the opportunity to call it off. The exception to this rule is bad weather. I won’t run in the rain. Sorry. It’s not happening.

While those work for me, you may have to find what works for you is different. Heck, it may be the same (yay!) and if so, get out there and do it! My life has been improved dramatically not only through my weight loss, but through my fitness. Being more fit has enabled me to experience things I would otherwise not be able to do, and opportunities that would not have been possible for me. It honestly has been a life changer. Getting started can be tough, but once you get going, the momentum will carry you. Just give yourself that nudge to get rolling.

Keep the fire burning

We have our ups and downs. There are days I’m disgusted with my lack of progress in either weight loss, getting slimmer, running faster, doing more push ups, starting on my sit ups, etc. I’m not immune to feelings of failure and defeat. We all experience these things. It’s how we handle those feelings and what we do afterward that separates the successful from those who are not.

When I feel defeated, I do what I can to put it at the back of my mind and formulate a plan to get past whatever barrier I’m facing. When I was having problems with feeling motivated, I set my mind to faking motivation until it was genuine. Sounds crazy, but it works. When I wasn’t making progress in losing weight, I analyzed what I was doing and found I wasn’t eating enough. I fixed that and began losing weight again. When I decided that there was something wrong with my running, I decided to try running without looking at my watch for the pace and running naturally. Turned out that I am able to push myself more effectively when not watching my GPS data.

As it happens, I haven’t run in the past four days. The first regular run day I skipped as last Friday because we had friends coming over, and I needed to help get the house squared away. I lost track of time, and the next thing I know, people are coming through the door. Run missed. The next day, Sherry and I went and did our Saturday thing and spent the day together running errands, and again, the day got away from me. Sunday was… well, it was a lazy day and before I knew it, it was dinnertime and I didn’t want to keep Sherry waiting for another hour to eat, so I skipped my run again. Ugh.

It’s not due to motivation. It was due to poor time management. The irony is that I was actually pretty upset about not being able to run. Each time I realized how time got away from me, I felt upset. Today, I will run. I have stuff to do, but I will run regardless of how late I have to go out and do it. The fire is burning inside me, and I will not let it go out!

Weight Update: The Plan Works!

I’m pretty happy this morning. I did skip running this morning, and I think I will regret that later this afternoon if I’m forced to run in the rain (when it’s also hot out), but after a weekend of strict Paleo, I’m down 9 lbs already! I weighed in at 188.8 lbs on Saturday morning and this morning, I weighed in at 179.8 lbs. I’m thinking that most of my added weight was water retention from eating foods high in sugar and in greater volume than usual.

Tonight after work, I begin my regular running schedule again of three runs a week. I was only able to get in two runs in the past two weeks in Spain while I was on vacation, and I’m going to be paying for that with slower runs with a bit more difficulty in the beginning. I also know my push ups will suffer. I’m hoping to get at least 60 (down from 80).

Either way, I’m happy to see the weight come back off and get me closer to my goal once again. I was pretty cranky about my weight Saturday morning even though I knew it would go away. It’s just easier to deal with it now that I’m seeing it drop again so quickly.

Edited to add: After my run tonight, my weight was down to 177.0 lbs! I know, more water weight lost, but overall, it’s looking like I’ll be back to my pre-vacation weight by the end of the week if all goes well! This is exciting!

Finding the time to exercise on vacation

It’s hard to do sometimes, especially when you plan on doing a lot of sight seeing. Getting exercise in during a vacation can be a low-priority, but it’s something that you have to keep up with. There are several reasons I’ve been adamant about exercising on vacation.

  1. My journey to living better through good health and fitness doesn’t get put on hold on vacation. I need to continue to be vigilant to ensure I don’t get into any bad habits that would hold over after the vacation ends.
  2. I need to keep my running going because as a National Guard soldier, I will be expected to be just as fit when I get back from vacation as I was when I left for it.
  3. I am eating more food while on vacation, and some of it is non-Paleo. While we’re walking 2-3 times as much as we normally would be at home as well as trying to eat as Paleo-friendly as we can, we are not skipping some of the unique foods that Spain has to offer (I’m looking at you, Paella!). That means we need to keep the fitness up to augment our good eating to keep the weight down.
  4. It is stress relief, plain and simple. I went a week without running (the first week here) and I felt my stress melt away on my first run since being in Spain. It really does help center me and clear my mind.

I know most people see exercise as something that has to be done only grudgingly,  but once you learn to embrace it (or, trick yourself into it like I did by faking to like exercise until you have convinced yourself that you actually do like it!), it gets a lot easier.

PaleoMarine’s Running Blog!

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I’ve decided to start a separate blog for my running. I feel that my running is a separate journey from Paleo. Yes, they are connected: Health and fitness go hand in hand. However, my post-run reports are a little more specific to running and more personal in nature, so it makes sense to segregate them.

The url for the new site is running.paleomarine.com. You can visit, subscribe, or ignore. Either way, that’s where my post-run reports will be going from now on. I’ll leave the post-run reports already posted here, but I’ve already migrated them over to the new site as well, so they are all there in one place. I will cross-post from my running blog when it’s applicable here as well.

Post-Run Report: February 1, 2017

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Today was an interesting run. I set out to take my time and have a comfortable run. I also set out to do over 4 miles, which I did. What surprised me was my pace: 9:34. This is within my happy range. I am able to consistently run within the 9:30’s, which is good for a comfortable slow run. When I kick it up, I can hit sub-9’s, which is my PRT goal (that’s what they call PFT’s in the Army/National Guard).

As for push ups, I did 70 and called it good. I could have knocked out the last 10, but I wasn’t feeling it. The day was long and a little stressful, so I felt I could use an easy workout day. Oddly, running 4.13 miles felt good, and the last mile was really very pleasant.

I’m getting the hang of this running thing more and more. I can’t say I love it when I start a run, but by the end of it, it’s actually pretty nice, and when I finish? Even better. It’s a great sense of accomplishment, and the stress or anxious feelings I’ve carried with me for the day all melt away. After a nice hot shower and then dinner, all is good with the world.