I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Tag: health

Why I Run


My Latest Obsession

My shoulder hurt too much for Downward Dog. Yoga had been my obsession for the last decade. Child’s Pose had been my refuge when I needed to cry at all the indignities of mid-life: career let-down, the appearance of jowls (jowls?!), the death of my mother, and the growing up of my children. Hand Stand had been my adrenaline rush, which I still hadn’t fully mastered. (Do we ever fully master anything?) I had pretty much let go of other activities and thrown myself into yoga, well at least as much as I could with a family and a full time job plus commute to Manhattan. I got certified to teach and continue to teach one class a week to appreciative middle-aged women, like me.

When it became apparent that I really had an injury – Degenerative Labrum Tear (ahem…aging) and Frozen Shoulder – and needed to practice yoga in a much reduced and more limited way, I wondered what I could do instead? I had run a little bit throughout my life but it was never a passion. I admired others who ran but never seemed to be able to achieve more than 3 miles and was certainly never happy when running.

I started walking. I would walk to Pilates class and back. (About 2 miles round trip). It was January 2018, and I would bundle up. Around March, I wondered if I could run. I ran a block. Literally. One block. Shocked at the huffing and puffing, I decided that no, I couldn’t run. The challenge remained, and so it went for the next 6 months. I added distance to my walks and lengthened the amount of time that I ran. When I did too much, my body let me know and I would have to take a break – never running two days in a row. By the end of last August, I was able to run 3 miles without walking. So, I entered my first 5K race in September. Why not?

My 22-year-old daughter was home at the time and decided to run with me. I told her I was very slow. “Oh Mom, that’s okay. I will stay with you.” We’ll see…I thought. The gun went off and everyone dashed ahead. After all, it was a race! I was left in the dust plodding in the back. My daughter tried to stay with me, but I shooed her ahead. I really didn’t need company for this torture. I thought I was going to die. At about the one-mile mark, the leaders were on their way back to win. I just kept plodding. My goal was to finish. At the two-mile mark, I started passing the walkers. When I saw the finish line, my daughter was cheering. I poured it on, (what was available to pour on) and – sort of – sprinted across the finish line. Under 40 minutes (woo hoo!) and not the last in my age group. Success! I was hooked.

Last Fall, I went for a physical. I hadn’t had one in about five years and was expecting a clean bill of health. Surprisingly to me, my cholesterol was high at 251. She told me to exercise more. Exercise more?! My husband, my friends, and I all laughed. How could I do more than I was doing? Well, Game On. I joined a cheap gym and started adding weight training. (My PT had told me that my upper body was weak, which was why I had the shoulder injury.) I kept up my 3-mile runs through the Winter and ran a second 5K in April, shaving 3 minutes from my time and no longer feeling like I was going to die.

It was like a new relationship. Completely infatuated with the endorphins, my mind wanted to run more than my body could handle. I still find I can’t run two days in a row. So cross-training it is. Weights, Pilates, and yes, Yoga. My shoulder is healed. (P.S. I love yoga after running – it gets everything stretched out.)

I joined a running club in May and started going to weekly running clinics with interval training. It has made a big difference! The camaraderie of other people, the discipline to incorporate speedwork, the chance to run new routes and the inspiration to try longer distances. I’m up to a solid four miles 3x/week and my goal is a 10K this Fall. Plus, I’ll go for my annual physical in October and see what I hope will be a drop in my cholesterol. I’ll keep you posted about that.

I am Afraid of Vacation

I am afraid I will gain weight. 

I have been lucky enough to take many wonderful and adventurous trips that have involved beautiful places, joyful connections, new pursuits, as well as dangerous risks to me and people I love.  My biggest challenge with vacation is not the risks involved but my neurotic fear that I will gain weight.  At home, I exert extreme control over what I eat, when I eat, how much I eat and how active I am.  I know exactly what I can eat to maintain my weight.  On vacation, I lose that perceived control.  I like active vacations because I know that at least I will be able to work off extra calories from restaurant dinners.  I also prefer to have some access to a kitchen so that I can make my own breakfast or keep healthy snacks on hand.  So, while it is wonderful to have a break from everyday life, I find it very stressful and difficult to fully relax.  So difficult, that I usually lose weight on vacation because I over compensate for my fear of gaining weight.  Over the years, I have learned a lot about what works for me when it comes to eating and vacation.  Some tips:

Do Drink Water.  (Isn’t this the first tip on any wellness list?)  When traveling, your routine is disrupted and it can be easy to become dehydrated, leading to headaches, fatigue, and constipation.  Drinking water will help you feel better, regulating your mood and your appetite.

Don’t drink too much alcohol.  When on vacation, it’s like a party every night and easy to drink too much alcohol.  Alcohol lowers your resistance to temptation and increases the likelihood that you will overeat.  Alcohol disrupts your sleep and impacts your energy level.  You will sleep better and be more active if you don’t drink too much.

Do eat.  Eat consistently.  Try to eat as normally as possible.  Keep a few snacks handy.  My favorites include yogurt, almonds, and dried fruit.  Keeping hunger at bay will help prevent overeating at restaurants.

Do enjoy what you eat.  I struggle with allowing myself treats.  At the breakfast diner, I choose oatmeal.  At the lunch café, I choose grilled chicken.  At the dinner restaurant, I choose grilled fish and only one glass of wine.  When everyone happily decides to go for ice cream, I am not happy.  I don’t like ice cream.  I am embarrassed that I can’t join in the fun.  And who doesn’t like ice cream?  What kind of weirdo am I?  The flavor is not intense enough.  The fat content makes my stomach gurgle unhappily for hours.  (A bit lactose intolerant? or years with a difficult father who inflicted portioned amounts of ice cream regularly?)  I tried tried tried to relax and enjoy ice cream on my recent vacation.  I did not succeed.  The Swiss Chocolate at Spinnaker’s in Jamestown, RI was a big disappointment.  Bland and uninspiring.  But I ate all of it.  Unhappily.  When we went to Ben and Jerry’s in Newport another night, I relied on my go-to healthier option.  I had a sugar cone with a small scoop of mango sorbet.  Under 250 calories and fat free.  I was so much happier with this, but really didn’t need it.  Perhaps I need to eat ice cream with Alan Richman.

Don’t finish it. The first bite is the most delicious one.  Like money, a certain quantity of food is essential for survival.  But more money does not yield more happiness.  Similarly, more food does not mean more happiness.  Indeed, when we overeat, we tend to feel bad physically and emotionally.  After satisfying our need for survival and our desire for deliciousness, the enjoyment of food tapers off.  Notice that the first bite is where the anticipation and flavor is.  And how much more delicious it is when you are hungry.  Enjoy that first bite fully!  Then, notice how quickly you adapt to the taste.  Once your hunger is sated, you are simply ingesting calories.  Notice when you stop being hungry and when the delight of the taste fades.  It is time to stop eating.  Plus, you will be left with a feeling of virtuousness for not overeating!

Do pretend.  Pretend to be an active, cheerful, energetic person, game for anything – even if you are not.  (I am not.)  You will be more active.  You will meet more people.  You will have more fun.  Being active and trying new things will distract you from thinking about food and eating too much.  After all, what better time than on vacation to try a new way of being?

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