Fitness Guides and Gear

Let’s Focus On Running (even if you “hate” running)

Hello August!

I’ve done the Zone Diet. I’ve done a month of weight-lifting (though I’m not satisfied with how that month went, so we’ll go back and try that again). I’ve done the Paleo Diet. Now here we are in August and the focus is on…. Running! If you hate running, don’t go darting away from this page. Stay with me a few minutes.

A lot of people love to run. A lot of people hate to run. Putting aside serious ailments and health issues, I think one of the big reasons people hate to run is because it’s not easy. Even though our bodies are designed to do it, and as a kid we likely ran around the neighborhood playing Tag and Manhunt, it’s still not easy. If you’re not in great cardiovascular shape, after five minutes you might be huffing and puffing, ready to quit. I get it. Training to actually be decent at running is one of the reasons I actually continue to run. I don’t want to get out of running shape and have to re-teach my body to handle it again. It sucks! So I just keep running…

Exercise isn’t meant to be easy. It shouldn’t bring to the brink of death or serious injury either, but it should challenge you physically and mentally. Every single run will make you question how far and how fast you can go. It will test how easily you will quit, or how strong you are to keep going even if you are hating life at that hot, sweaty, moment.

Running – as well as many other exercises – is often a big mental game. Everyone comes up with a number in their head. It may be the number of minutes you want to run, or the number of miles, or the speed at which you run. Then if those numbers are not met, negativity and disappointment set in, ultimately leading to quitting. Why? Aside from you, who is keeping track? Who is paying attention? Isn’t any number above sitting on the couch at least worthy of some joy?

If you’re not a regular runner, don’t come up with an unrealistic number. If you have never run 3 miles in your life, or haven’t in the past 10 years, don’t make that your number. Obviously failure is right around the first bend. And when it comes, can you handle it, or will you give up and declare, “I hate running” because that’s just easier?

Again, our bodies are made to run. There is not a ton of equipment needed to get it done. An open road, pathway, or a treadmill at a gym. A decent pair of shoes meant for how your feet are designed. Regular comfortable exercise clothes. Nothing fancy needed. It’s on the cheap end of all possible sports to partake in. I challenge you to really think about why you hate running (if you do). Is it because it’s difficult when you don’t regularly do it? That can easily be improved. That whole feeling of failure when you suck at it can rapidly be turned into a feeling of achievement when you see how quickly you can go from running half a mile to two miles, nonstop. It is because you compare yourself to other runners and feel a sense of inadequacy? That’s nonsense, don’t do that to yourself. The world of exercise is supposed to be a happy, encouraging place. Cheer on the faster runner and keep going.

If you haven’t run in awhile and decide to get out there and go for a run, tell me how it goes! I’d love to hear about it.

Happy running, friends!

(Hey Jen, what’s up with that painful looking picture up above? That’s me running the Marine Corps Marathon back in 2015. It hurt, and I was tired, but I was damn proud!)

Dieting

Diet Realities

How do you lose weight? We all know the answer to that – diet and exercise. There’s no secret, no magic pill, no cure for being overweight. Change your diet, change the amount you exercise, and voila! Hello weight-loss. But in reality, it’s not quite that simple.

So much of life is mentality. That damn brain calls all the shots. It decides if you’re happy, scared, motivated, and decides if you have the will power to choose cucumbers over crackers.

Somewhere along in life our perception towards food got complicated. Once upon a time there weren’t so many choices. We had to hunt, gather, and go out fishing for our food. (I wonder if the toddlers of those people ever said, “that’s yucky, I don’t want it” to parents of that time?) I don’t know for certain, but do you think back hundreds of years ago, people were concerned about eating too much bread and overloading on carbohydrates? “If you keep all that bread, you’ll be too fat to walk to the water well!”

Diets, though often laid out well for people to follow, can get complicated. Why on one diet is beans okay, and on another they are shunned? Why is corn healthy, but it’ll cause you to bloat? Why are some anti red meat, while others think of it as a good source of protein? All that information coming at you from different sources, all with different opinions, can leave you standing in front of the refrigerator door thinking, “Ahhhh! I don’t know!” I get it. It can be serious mental overload when you’re just trying to make the right decision but you’re not sure what actually is right.

Here’s my advice for any of you who are looking to change your dietary ways:

  • Be realistic. If you eat heavy carbs almost daily, dessert on a regular basis, love sodas and processed snacks, then take your time easing into a new diet. If you decide “Come Monday, I’m not eating pasta, cookies, snacks, or drinking soda again” do you really think you’ll stick to it? Going “cold turkey” on so many items at one time is not going to go well. You’ll be angry. Frustrated. You’ll give up. Take it slow – cut out the soda one week. Then the next week, cut out pasta, or cut out carbs from lunch every day, and eat them during dinner. Or vise versa. (Note: I’m not anti carbs, you need carbs in your life, but the healthy kind that come from fruits and vegetables.)
  • Be honest with yourself. We all think we eat healthy. No one wants to admit they’re putting a bunch of crap into their bodies every single day. Take a good look at your diet. At the end of the day, write down everything you ate. You don’t have to share it with anyone and fear being embarrassed. Be truthful with yourself – did you eat more than you needed? Are the amounts of fruits and veggies too low?
  • Don’t make excuses, just find the source of the problem. Are you overfilling your plate at dinner and just finishing those last few bites you don’t really need because it’s easier than throwing it away, or saving it? Are you filling your plate as much as your husband’s, but he’s 50 lbs heavier than you, so really you shouldn’t be having equal shares? Are you afraid of saying no when people ask you to go out to eat with them? So then you go out, and because you don’t want to get into a long, inwardly frustrating discussion about trying to eat healthier, you order the burger instead of the fish? Find the source of the problem – why can’t you stick to a diet? Why can’t you change your habits. Then fix it.
  • Eating anything better than what you currently do, is “right”. After you’ve figured out the source of your problem, were honest with yourself, and have made the decision to be realistic with changing your dietary habits, you are now faced with the “Okay, so what do I eat”. If you didn’t have enough vegetables in your life before, start there. Even if the corn or the beans make you a little bloated or gassy, it’s still better than munching on a bag of chips. Increase the veggies and fruit, decrease the amount of boxed stuff, and you will see progress.

For the month of July I am trying out the Paleo Diet. It is popular amongst many Crossfit athletes (I don’t do crossfit), and is thought of as the “Cave Man” diet. Basically, if you can’t hunt or gather it, it’s not to be eaten. There’s a lot of common household foods that are on the do-not-eat list, but truthfully it’s pretty simple to follow, just not all that culinarily exciting. Because I previously did the Zone Diet for a month, my will power is quite strong right now. My mentality towards certain foods – pasta, rice, boxed snacks, sugar – has changed. I don’t crave those items. My body has done well without them, thus my brain has rewired itself to not want to gravitate towards those items at all.

Time and patience is critical. I did the Zone Diet for a month. We can do ANYTHING for one month. No seriously, you can. It’s 30 days, not 30 years. That is all the time you need to rewire your brain, change your mentality, and gain the will power to make dietary changes.

And remember, that bad food had to get into your kitchen somehow. If you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it.

Good luck in the kitchen my friends, you can do this!

Exercise Motivation

Why do you want to exercise?

Welcome to my blog. It’s nice to have you here.

So why do you want to exercise? Or diet? And how can my page help you on your journey?

I’m Jen, and I’m “normal”. I don’t stray too far on either side of the fitness or healthy eating spectrum. I believe exercise is a vital part of life. I prefer to do some level of activity everyday, but dedicate 30-90 minutes of structural exercise 3-6 days a week. I know and appreciate the value of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and fish, and minimal fats in my diet. But, I also understand when you’re in a new country or on vacation, that carpe diem should be applied to one’s diet.

So yes, I’m normal. But I also consider myself a motivated person, and I have had a few people tell me I’ve motivated them on their fitness journeys, even when I hadn’t intentionally tried to.

Why do you want to exercise? Is it is for your own mental and physical well-being? Is it because a medical professional told you you have to? Is it because you feel the social pressure to do so? Before one can succeed at reaching any sort of exercise goal, this question must be answered. You must also figure out if it’s a strong enough reason to keep you motivated. I exercise because I like it. I like watching myself overcome a fitness feat I had doubt I could reach. Mentally speaking, if I don’t exercise for a few days, I get really grumpy. Physically I feel a little gross. But that’s me. Those are my reasons. That is part of my exercise journey. What are your reasons? What keeps you motivated?

Why do you want to diet? I know you’ve heard this before, but doing a diet without any plan to change how you eat for the rest of your life is doomed to fail. If you stick to a diet for 2 months, good for you. But if you return to a previous, unhealthy way of eating immediately afterwards, well then what was the point?

How can my page help you? If you hadn’t already read on my Facebook page, or from following me on Instagram, I am on a mission to try out different exercise and diet plans over several months. I will give honest feedback on how the plans are going, and whether they live up to the claims we all hear about. For the month of May, I checked out the Zone Diet, which is very popular among crossfitters (I am not one). During June I will continue the Zone Diet, but without it being the main topic of focus, as I will be dedicating this month to Strength Training. I hope you join me!