The Exercise Equation

Here I am, nearing the end of my chocolate blogging month, and I realized I haven’t mentioned exercise at all. Odd, since that’s clearly the other half of the healthy living equation. All this mindful eating is great, but if you’re not moving, you probably won’t reach the goals you have regarding your weight and fitness level.

I’m sure I’m not the only one being dive-bombed with crackpot messages from various media sources that we just need to find that magic food to melt our fat away (Is it bananas? Or is that the food we should NEVER eat? Arrghhh, I can’t remember!). If we find that magic food (or pill), then we shouldn’t have to do any icky exercise, which might induce sweating and make our hair go flat.

I’ve never been one of those people who tries to find a way to get out of exercising. There’s never been a time in my life when I haven’t been engaged in, and more or less enjoyed, being physically active. On the food end of things, I’ve had a fairly healthy diet, have amassed the knowledge of what I should eat, but have still let cravings derail me time and again.

This kind of lifestyle made me a very fit 20-something. Then, my 30s arrived. I added two children, adding pounds with each that did not all go away. Exercise fell to the middle, or bottom, or my to-do list, which meant it was happening once or twice a week instead of four or five times. And I snacked, mindlessly, out of stretches of boredom or stress.

Slowly, I adapted to a new normal, thinking, well, I’ll never get my body back to what it used to be, but maybe I can keep it where it is. But something snapped when I hit 40 (I’m 41 now). I didn’t want to be “where I was” for the rest of my life. Yet, I fully realized how much harder it is to keep weight off in this age bracket, knowing, too, it’s not going to get any easier.

Bu I didn’t start with the food. I’ve never been on a “diet” in my life. My mother used to try every grapefruit/cabbage soup/celery fad that came out in her “women’s” magazines, and I saw how crazy it made her (and how much more weight she gained).

I simply decided to kick my exercise up a notch. Last year, I tried running. Bought some fancy shoes and took my new dog around the block. I wasn’t new to the sport. I’d been a runner in high school, but of the sprinter variety (100m and 200m). A full lap around the track was a bit overkill for me, then and now. But, soooo many of my friends had taken up running! Look, there they go, down my street, looking very fit and *sort of* happy!

I hated running. And it’s pretty clear that if you hate a particular form of exercise, you are not going to do it much. At the beginning of this year, I signed on to a Crossfit gym, and I’m loving it. This is not a commercial for Crossfit, however. It’s definitely not for everyone. The point is that you have to find what fits with your own goals and personality.

My new exercise routine is very difficult, which is why I’m currently only doing it three days a week (today is an off day, and I’m having trouble lifting my very sore arms over my head). But when I’m doing an activity I enjoy, I don’t mind “difficult.” I like pushing my body to see what it can do.

The crazy, lightbulb moment for me this month has been this: controlling my cravings is also very difficult, and the payoff can be just as rewarding. I honestly don’t know why I’ve never consciously made this connection before. I suppose one reason is because the physical aspect of getting in shape is much easier to see. I can feel, in my sore muscles, how hard I worked yesterday. I can set a timer to how many minutes of cardio I completed, and if I wanted to, could track how many calories I burned.

But, it’s much harder to keep track of the (hundreds?) of decisions I made yesterday about food, and thus harder to see my progress. Yet, I know there were at least a few moments when I stopped myself as I approached the kitchen, really registering why I was in there. Was I actually hungry? Or was I just bored, or stressed? Every one of these mindful moments deserves to be counted, as much as every bench press.

My new goal is to give the same attention to my mental muscle as I’m giving to my biceps. If I can get the whole system in sync, it will be very sweet indeed.

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