Why do it?

As this glutinous season grinds on, it’s time to look forward to the new year and start making our plans for training and racing.  I’m excited that so many in my inner circle of family and friends are lacing up and hitting the road (or the treadmill), and hope that many more will join us as this year closes and a new one begins.  As you look toward a healthier horizon, know that it’s never easy, sometimes it’s really boring, and not all runs are good ones, but making the decision to become a healthier you is one you’ll never regret.  Here are a few things that keep me looking for my running shoes at the crack of dawn.

*It helps me be nicer.  I took the week off from running after last weekend’s half marathon to nurse a few ouchies, and by Thursday, my sunny disposition had melted into a snarling, semi-hysterical puddle.  I had two vicious run-ins over the telephone, both of which make me hang my head in shame today.  Not that they were unprovoked, just that I usually deal with that type thing much better.  Apparently, I need running to help me deal with anger issues.  :/  Who knew?

*I’m responsible for my long term health/well-being.  No one else.  I often listen to podcasts as I run, and this morning’s run started with an Andy Stanley series entitled “Take Responsibility”.  In it, he made the statement that if you aren’t prepared to eat right and exercise now, when you’re healthy, you should sit your spouse or children down and ask them to go ahead and plan on taking care of you as you age.  Ouch.  While there are many things that lie outside my ability to prevent, there are lots of things that lie within it.  Eating well and exercising help me be the best me possible, today and in the future.

*I’m good to myself.  Time spent alone on an early morning run is the most quality time I spend with myself.  I relax, recharge, regroup, and reenergize.

*I catch up with my girl time.  Occasionally, I like to run with a friend.  It’s fun, motivating, and keeps the route interesting.

*I catch up with my guy time.  The thing I miss most about having my man down for the time being is running with him.  Yes, he pushes me hard.  Yes, that makes me grouchy.  It also makes me a better runner.  Get better soon, old man.

*I catch up on my reading.  I love to read.  But, my schedule (like yours) is overly full, especially this time of the year.  So, I download great books to my iPod that keep me company on long runs.  I’ve run with Harry Potter and friends, Jay Gatsby and Daisy, the inspiring women in “The Help”, Jamie and Claire Frasier from the “Outlander” series, and many,  many more.  I also like to listen to podcasts by some of my favorite speakers, including Andy Stanley (pastor of Northpointe Community Church in Atlanta), the late, great Zig Ziglar, the down to earth Joyce Meyers, and the funny girls over at Another Mother Runner.  Long runs are often “catch up on my podcasts” time.  

*I have a worship experience.  I have lots of music on my iPod and that sometimes leads to an amazing run.  My running playlist is very eclectic, running the gamut from Queen, Steppenwolf, and Tom Petty to Jonah 33, Jeremy Riddle, and Mercy Me and everything in between.  I dial it in, hit shuffle, and let God choose what I listen to.  At mile 4 this morning, just as I was getting in my groove, He selected Mercy Me’s “Word of God, Speak”.  And, it did.  Mile 4 was a hands raised to heaven kind of mile.  Love it when that happens.

*I feel spectacular.  I’ve been running consistently again for a little over three years.  I felt better after the first six months, then after a year, I felt great.  Now, I have energy to spare, morning runs fuel my day, I’m seldom sick with anything worse than a fever blister, and I wake up easily in the mornings, looking forward to the day.  Does it get better than that?

I hope this list helps you get motivated or re-motivated to move.  Please, don’t think you have to be a runner.  In fact, if you’re just starting out, haven’t run in a long time, are a little older, or are prone to injuries, just walk.  You never have to run, you certainly never have to race to reap the benefits of adding exercise to your life.  Everyone starts slowly, then gradually improves. It’s the natural way of things.    In the words of the incomparable, recently departed Zig Ziglar:

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God’s masterpiece

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

Do you ever feel completely overwhelmed by the world? By the tasks that have been assigned to you? By the nature of the world that we live in and the “me” generation it has produced? It’s been that kind of week for me.

I wrote last time about listening when God speaks. It’s a difficult task to master, and I’m usually much too chatty to sit still and listen. But, lately, I’ve been so overwhelmed with the spirit of the world that I’ve been reaching to God’s word more and more for comfort, peace, and understanding. It’s made me more attentive to His voice. The trouble with that is that I have a more clear vision of the things He expects of me. I say the trouble because I feel like I’m not up to the task. I’m woefully inadequate.

I have become a little reclusive as I’ve gotten older. Not to the point of being a hermit, just treasuring my alone time a little too much. Knowing all the while that God expects us to be part of the world. We have work to do. But, the truth is, I’m not that crazy about people. There, I said it.

God has tasked me with something recently that is a little frightening and completely overwhelming. I feel useless and unable to put coherent thoughts together that will enable me to accomplish this. I keep reminding myself of the “regular” folks He has used throughout history to accomplish His will, but right now, they just make me feel more inadequate.

For many years, I’ve told other women that God won’t give you a task that you can’t perform. You won’t necessarily have the skills to accomplish it, but He will give you His grace, His wisdom, His talent, His ability and enable you to complete your piece of the puzzle. It’s time I put feet to that belief and move forward in the knowledge that He will give me His wisdom and grace in my moments of need. He gives us these seemingly undoable tasks so that we will fall into His arms and seek His face. Just as He allows us to hit rock bottom before we can climb our way out of the abyss. He wants us to realize that in ALL we do, we are completely dependent on Him.

The verse I quoted at the start of this post was in my Bible reading this evening. After I read it, I couldn’t read any further. My eyes kept going back to that verse and reading it over and over. It’s the verse He meant me to see this week. I am God’s masterpiece and He has plans for me. He has them for you, too. Don’t allow Satan to rob you of the knowledge that God will walk your path with you, no matter how dark or dangerous, no matter how hopeless it seems.

I’ll close with this prayer of Paul’s to the Ephesians. It’s my prayer for you (and me!), too.

Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. Ephesians 1:15-18

Let our hearts be flooded with Light!!

I want to soak up the sun

My sister and niece are training for their first half marathon in the spring (the Disney Princess Half). They aren’t runners, and are just starting a running program, so this is new to them. They will do a run/walk or walk/run for the half, but the Princess is such a fun race, that I know it will be the start of many more for them.

They are going through some of the angst that all new runners face, but the one that is the most serious is one that we deal with at whatever stage we are in our fitness journey. Learning to deal with the heat. I’ve had a couple of conversations with both of them as they work out the kinks of their training plans, and a sinister truth was brought home to me. Getting old really stinks sometimes. As I’ve talked with my 20 something (or are you 30, Skye?) niece, my advice is very different than it is for my somewhat older sister. She’s older than me & I’m 50, so you can figure that out. Starting a training program in the heat of a Mississippi summer takes a certain kind of moxie. Or insanity. Both of which my family has in spades.

Learning to listen to your body is not easy. The abuse a 20 something body can take differs wildly from the abuse a 50 something body can take. I can tell a difference in the way I feel after a really bad run in the heat (which I had this past Sunday) from how I felt after a bad training run even in my forties. I’m affected for days, whereas before I could shake it off within hours. So, I listen. My body told me to take a few days off this week after the relatively short long run I did this weekend in the soup that passed for air. It was a tough one for me, I’m developing a new eating plan (more info on that later), and it’s still in the early phases, so I haven’t worked out all the kinks yet.

My point here is very simple. It’s hot. If you live anywhere in the south, it’s really hot. And, steamy to boot. Dial back your training accordingly. Decide what your true goals for running are. Not short term goals, like a race or weight loss, but a life plan. Mine is pretty straightforward. I run for good health, for sanity, for enjoyment, for stress management. I can accomplish all that with a dialed back training plan for the summer. June’s runs were mostly about enjoying new places. July’s runs are about slowly, slowly rebuilding my base so that come fall, I can kick it into high gear as I prepare for my late November half.

Be smart, train smart. Don’t do something to yourself this summer that will cause you to be unable or unwilling to advance your goals when the weather cools. And, it will cool. The seasons are pretty predictable. We have fall every year around here. We don’t always have winter, but we will have a fall.

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Pass the Kale, please

One of the most mystifying aspects of running to me is nutrition. I love to eat. What a minute, I don’t think you heard that: I LOVE TO EAT! I am a southern girl and I was weaned from mother’s milk straight to fried chicken, fried okra, cornbread, and chocolate cake. I have lots of happy foods, but some of my favorites are spaghetti with meat sauce (spaghetti of the enriched, white variety); pizza loaded with meat, cheese and extra thick crust; cakes of almost any variety, but especially birthday or wedding cake, red velvet, Italian cream, really moist chocolate. You get the idea. Happy food is whatever your go to food is when you’ve had a bad day, and most of mine is heavily drenched in fat, sugar, and enriched white flour.

For most of my adult life, though, I’ve been a fairly wise eater, indulging in the worst offending foods on rare occasions. I’ve never really been a health nut about nutrition, but I’ve tried to reign in my worst eating habits and have been fairly successful over the years. I’m not a fad dieter, never tried such diets as “The Grapefruit Diet”, or “The Cabbage Diet”, although those were (maybe still are) making the circles of my friends with varying degrees of success. I have done a variety of diets, including Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem, with great success, but inevitably slip back into poor eating patterns, especially during times of stress or really busy work seasons. Nutrition, it turns out, is a very personal issue. What works for one may not work for another, so I think that finding out the best eating plan for yourself is really a matter of trial and error.

Over the last few years, I’ve been on a journey to become the best person I can be, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I’ve shared a lot of that journey here. I recently listened to an Andy Stanley podcast that was a replay of a sermon he presented at the first of the year entitled “Just One Thing”, and it reminded me that I needed to provide an update to this year’s focus for me – my weight loss goal.

I decided at the beginning of the year that I was going to whittle my goals down to just one thing. The one thing that I felt would help the other goals become more manageable – losing the weight that has steadily crept up on me over the last six years. Weight management is one of those things that almost all human beings have in common. We obsess over it, micro manage it, and jump on every new bandwagon that promises “fast, easy weight loss with no dieting and no exercise”. We’re constantly looking for that magic pill or elixir that will have us bikini ready by summer, even when it is a detriment to our health. I’ve never been much of a bandwagon gal, but I’ve known my share of desperation and desire for a quick fix. I’ve learned that most diet plans work, but for me, a diet plan has never been a long term solution.

Enter my 50’s. A decade that was preceded by weight gain, then a return to fitness as I began to regularly train, then run, then a year that was devoted to training for a marathon in which I gained an additional ten pounds. The marathon weight gain is not unusual, and is a discussion for another day, but the pounds are there just the same and they are stubbornly refusing to leave their newfound home.

I know from past experience that any “diet” for me will have to be a life-style. The challenge has been in finding the right, nutritionally balanced eating plan that satisfies my appetite and is life proof. A plan that doesn’t require complicated recipes, hours devoted to meal planning and preparation, and that still offers food that tastes good and that I’m willing to eat for life. Gary has jumped on this with me, which makes it much, much easier, as I don’t have to cook something for me and something else for him. That makes life so much simpler.

We found a book with a life plan for folks needing to lose belly fat and enthusiastically set out. After four weeks of diligent work, I stepped on the scale and it had not budged. Not even an ounce. That’s the kind of thing that usually sends me straight to the Blue Bell Moo-lineum Crunch aisle, but God is blessing this effort, and He has kept my focus. I began tweaking my meal choices, and invested in another great book that helped me to really understand the role that food should play in my life. I’m not offering the names of either of these books here, because, as I mentioned before, nutrition is a hugely personal issue, and I’m tailoring the meal plans to suit our lives. If, however, you are interested in knowing which ones they are, put your e-mail in the comments section and I’ll be happy to share the titles with you.

The main gist of our eating plan involves eating whole, organic foods, prepared in my kitchen. We eat six small meals a day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with three snacks. Each snack combines a protein and a carb to help with blood sugar balance. There are lots of vegatables, some fruit, some meat, and some dairy. I’m not a huge fan of bandwagon science. What’s good for you today will be discovered to cause cancer next year. So, we just eat foods that are simple, organically grown (for the most part) and whole. My rule of thumb is I don’t prepare or eat it if it isn’t something my great grandmother would have served.

We are now seven weeks in, and I’m happy to report that I’m about five pounds down, and Gary is about eight down. I can tell a huge difference in my running and in the way that my clothes feel. Another exciting plus is that a couple of weeks ago, when I became sick with a sinus/ear infection, I got well very quickly and was running again within a couple of days. I have felt better, less “weighed down”, if you will. And, I’m cautiously optimistic that the weight will continue to come off, even though glaciers melt faster than this. One of the most precious things that age has brought to me is my ability to be patient. I’ve learned that slow is good, and the more slowly I do or learn something, the more likely it is to stick.

My happy foods have changed over the last weeks. I love a venti soy au lait sprinkled with cinnamon and shared with friends, a full bodied, smooth glass of red wine enjoyed while watching the sun go down off my deck with my man, the tart, pungent taste of ripe strawberries. Who knew? I’m trying to add one “super food” to our diet each week, and Gary is gamely trying them, although sometimes he only tries them once. If you have a recipe that makes kale a happy food, please share it. So, far, no happiness there.

I reblogged a post from a blogger that I enjoy because it touched something that is very dear to me. The fact that we have to push ourselves beyond our perceived boundaries if we ever want to grow and change. There’s another post in that for me, but, for now, I’ll just apply it this way – make your health a priority, push through the boundaries that limit you – the “I can’t lose weight, so I’m not going to bother,” or the fact that you don’t like certain foods, so there’s no point in eating them. We’re grown-ups now, it’s time to move past that, learn what works for you, then do that for the rest of your life. I want to face God with the knowledge that I didn’t let Him down by the way I treated ((or mistreated) my body. That’s my prayer for you, too.

“I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down.” Nehemiah 6:3

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