They say the key to sustainability with any fitness plan is enjoyment. And for years, I’ve stuck with this motto. I’m fortunate enough to enjoy many types of exercise, and after forcing myself to do HIIT (I despise HIIT) for awhile in 2011 and 2012, I’ve been good at mostly sticking to workouts that I enjoy. Sometimes that means lots of running, and other times it means lots of yoga. Sometimes it means that I over-exercise because I’m trying to do All The Workouts and then I crash.
The one thing I’ve never really done with fitness, though, is apply my nutrition philosophy – healthy but reasonable – to it. In my mind, as long as I exercised often and diversely, I didn’t need to worry beyond that.
But perhaps I do.
“Healthy but reasonable” as a motto for nutrition has meant that I eat in a way that is sustainable long term. It means that I don’t restrict/remove whole food groups, but I also don’t eat only what I enjoy. If I ate only what I enjoyed, I’d never pick up another piece of fruit or vegetable again. I don’t like fruits or vegetables. I never have. At best, I got to a point where I found ways to eat produce that were enjoyable, which is not the same thing as enjoying the produce itself. But a healthy diet necessarily includes foods that I would never eat without making the conscious decision to do so, and so I make that conscious decision. At the same time, I eat chocolate probably every day. Not massive amounts of it, but some, because I love it, and giving it up would make me go crazy and send my eating patterns into a tailspin. (Hell, even during my ill-advised months with paleo/whole30 eating, I mixed cocoa powder with coconut manna and put it on grapes as a snack to quell chocolate cravings!) This is my balance. This keeps me eating well enough – a healthy-but-reasonable diet.
So what are the fruit-and-vegetable equivalents of fitness? Strength training and injury prevention (stretching, warm-ups, foam-rolling, rest days, ice when necessary, etc). You know what I really don’t like to do? Strength training and injury prevention. Lifting weights is BORING. Warm-ups feel like a waste of time when I just want to get out there and go. Foam rolling hurts like a mf. It’s far easier to just skip all these things, skimp on the post-workout stretches, get a yoga workout in every once in awhile and say it’s enough. Hint: it’s not.
Did you know that one of the best indicators of longevity is grip strength? How is grip strength built? Weight training. Weight training builds both muscles and bones, improves circulation, increases metabolism, decreases the aging process, helps prevent injury, and in general is one of the very best things a person can do. And GAH I’m just not one of those people who enjoy it. Maybe if I was doing it with a group or something, like in a crossfit class? I don’t know. But just lifting weights in my room? Uuuuugh.
Like eating my vegetables, though, I know it needs to be done. So I’ve decided to begin a weight lifting program again this week. I was doing one over the summer, and it worked well for me in a time when the heat/humidity was so awful that I didn’t want to be outside. Plus, I was up in WI and not around all the folks that I hike with. After I got home, though, I had hiking and my running park and all the other things I prefer to do, and I gave it up. It is time to bring weights back into my life.
The other thing that prompted this? I spent all of last week sitting around because my left ankle/foot/skin swelled up to insane levels and was painful to the touch, while my right hip succumbed to severe sciatica again. It was December all over again – just walking to the mailbox had me limping! I felt so much better in January…when I was doing yoga most days. TBH, I’ve not been terribly interested in yoga these days. I’d much rather being doing something else. And so I’ve skipped it more and more…which means that my tendons/muscles have all tightened…which has caused my feet and hips to get all wonky again…yeah. Skipping my yoga is the opposite of injury prevention. And coupled with avoiding my foam roller, my body is in agony. I actually got on my foam roller last weekend, and even the parts that don’t usually hurt (like my upper back) were screaming in pain. Sigh. You know what gets me to do my yoga more often? Weight training, because yoga serves as my warm-ups.
So yes, it’s time for me to adopt a healthy-but-reasonable approach to exercise as well. Yeah, the hiking and running and boxing and dancing and walking and all the rest are great…but I need to include strength training, yoga, foam-rolling, and regular warm-ups and cool-downs/stretching. The same way I need to include fruits and veggies in my diet, even they aren’t my favorite.