Thursday, August 18, 2011

Kevin's Healthy Threeway

Hmmm…what is fitness to me? Man, I just can’t sum it up quickly. This may take a minute. I’ll start by saying what it’s not. It’s not P90X, or Insanity, or any number of fitness videos. Sure, those things can be a part of a fitness routine; however, overall fitness is so much more. To me, fitness comes down to a sound mind, body, and spirit. Lame, right? I know. It sounds lame when you say it, but I believe it. I believe you need to be balanced. Lose one part of the equation, and it can all fall apart.

What’s it mean to have a fit mind? For me it means staying sharp. Play Words With Friends, do crosswords,  READ! Reading opens your mind to new ideas, helps your spelling and vocabulary, and keeps you away from the TV. It’s been shown many times over that people who watch a lot of TV take in many more calories in a day. We’ve been wired to eat when we watch a lot of TV, and it’s usually not a healthy salad either. If you’re going to be serious about food choices and exercise, then you need to have an open and flexible mind.

I’m going to talk about something that may keep some from reading on: sound spirit. Alas, don’t be afraid. I’m not seeking to convert anyone to Christianity. I am a Christian, and it influences much of my life. However, whether you share my beliefs, or you’re atheist or agnostic; I have to believe that there is something that makes your spirit stir. For some, sound spirit means spending time outdoors; it really replenishes their spirit. Maybe it’s the same for you. Maybe it’s time alone with a good book. I don’t know, but I’m sure that you know what it is for you. Don’t lose touch with it. Keep those activities close. When you feel defeated spiritually, then it affects you mentally and physically as well.

Now on to the main course, sound body. I’m learning that sooo much goes into a fit body. Most of us don’t have the dedication to carve out a dedicated time to exercise 3-6 times per week. Life just gets in the way, right? Well, yes and no. My biggest struggle isn’t my diet, but it’s making time to be as physically active as I’d like. A year ago I was running 25-30 miles a week. That, along with light weight training allowed me to stay at a level that I was very happy with. Physically, I have never been in better shape than I was in during my early 20’s. I was reasonably fit from being pretty active in high school, but I was a growing boy with a hyper metabolism. When I got to college I got really serious about fitness. In a span of 9 months I once went from 185lbs, and maybe 14% body fat, to 225lbs and 7-8% body fat. I did it by lifting weights seriously 4-5 times a week and playing a lot of basketball. I was young, had time, and it was easy. From my mid-20’s to my early 30’s I was never really serious about fitness or my diet. I was very average in every way. Now, I’m reaching an age (34 next month) where I can’t be so nonchalant about it.

Last June I made the decision to eliminate red meat from my diet. It was an unintended consequence from reading a book that has absolutely nothing to do with red meat or food at all for that matter. I read “Born to Run”. Some of you may have heard about it. That book is what got me running. That book made me believe that I was capable of going out and running more than a mile at a time. That book made me want to go out and run more than a mile at a time. I started by running on the treadmill at L.A. Fitness. I think I could only run for 1-2 minutes without stopping at first. I decided to start running intervals. I would run the equivalent of a lap and a half around a track, and then I would walk half of a lap. I was able to do that for maybe 20 minutes at first. The next step was running a mile, and then walking a quarter to half of a mile, then repeat. Soon, I was covering 3 miles. Next I could run 3 miles nonstop. At that point I decided to start running outside. Man, what a difference! Running outside is about 20% more difficult. I was immediately humbled, but not discouraged. Within no time I was running 4-6 miles at a time, and didn’t even feel like I had done anything until I had run at least 3 miles. I was doing that 4-5 days per week.

Red meat. How does that tie into running? I realized that if I wanted to run well, then I had to fuel my body well. Junk in equals junk output. I can really tell a difference when I fuel my body with good foods. I decided that I was eating far too much read meat, and far too many processed foods that were filled with ingredients that I had never heard of and couldn’t pronounce either. I had never heard anyone say, “you need to eat less chicken and/or fish,” but I had heard and read that it was important to moderate how much read meat you take in. Let me be clear though. I’m not suggesting that you have to stop eating red meat. It was strictly a personal choice. I haven’t had red meat in 14 months now, and I don’t miss it a bit. I started by substituting ground turkey for ground beef, and now I mostly eat organic (free range, no hormones, or antibiotics from local farms) chicken and as much fish as I can. I try to snack on apples, bananas, nuts, and Newman’s organic pretzel sticks instead of chips and cookies. I find that I’m satisfied quicker and easier. I really struggle with vegetables. I hate lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower, peppers, onions, cucumbers, etc…I think you can see the pattern. I will basically eat corn, green beans, and potatoes. I like sweet potatoes, and I can sometimes tolerate spinach. I found that I can tolerate asparagus, but I don’t love it. I’ve tried to eat salad, but I hate all salad dressings. Hate. Seriously. Don’t ask about ranch. I’d rather be water boarded with hot sauce for an entire day than eat two bites of lettuce dipped in ranch dressing. Seriously. My solution for eating more veggies has been juicing them. I bought a Breville (highly recommended!) juicer and started to juice up some stuff. It’s amazing! My favorite recipe is lots of spinach with apples, carrots, ginger, and a little bit of lemon. It looks like liquid grass, but I think it’s delicious. I have found that I really enjoy drinking vegetable juice made from fresh organic vegetables. I literally feel a surge of energy for a few hours after drinking a glass of homemade juice. I also drink 100+ ounces of water per day. I cut out sodas at the same time I cut out red meat. I might have one soda a month now. I just don’t enjoy it anymore. Diet sodas are forbidden for me too. I think my body knows when I’m taking in artificial sugars, and it makes me crave the real thing which means sugary junk food. I hated drinking water at first, but now I’d prefer it over almost anything else.

Organics. That’s important to me too. We made a conscious decision to do all of our shopping at Whole Foods. It’s a 90 mile round trip for us, and it’s completely worth it. It has become very important to me not to eat anything with trans fats, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, or any other numerous fillers. Pick up a jar of Peter Pan peanut butter and you’ll see a list of ingredients that you probably didn’t know was in peanut butter. The peanut butter we use has one ingredient: organic peanuts. Amazing concept, huh? When it comes to veggies, if it grows in the soil, then it’s very important to me that it be organic. That vegetable is absorbing what is put into that soil. Put non-organic fertilizer and pesticides into the dirt and it goes into your potatoes, carrots, beets, etc…When you shop at Whole Foods it’s just so much easier to get good fruits and vegetables. It’s also easier to eat foods that are made from whole organic ingredients, and not a bunch of processed fillers. My mantra is that if I can’t pronounce it, then I don’t need to eat it.

I’ve rambled a LOT, and I don’t feel like I’ve made a really cohesive point, but that’s kind of how I approach fitness. It’s a culmination of a lot of little choices. Buy good food. You’ll eat less because it’ll fill you up quicker since it’s more nutrient rich. We bought a week’s worth of groceries from Whole Foods for less than $70!  Don’t look for the closest parking spot. Park an extra 50 or 100 feet out, and enjoy the extra walking. Take the stairs. Tap your foot if you sit at a desk. You’ll burn extra calories all day. Go for a walk on your lunch break. Start walking your dog if you have one and don’t walk him/her already. Start making small changes to your diet; you’ll stick with it easier that way. Read a book. Read a fitness magazine, maybe you’ll find new inspiration. Find a workout/accountability partner. Just do more than you’re doing now, and you’ll gradually start to become more fit. Fitness doesn’t have to be 5am trips to the gym, or 2 hours lifting weights to work one particular muscle. Fitness is a total lifestyle. It’s not what I do, it’s becoming who I am.

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