Healthy, Inside and Out

Fitness is a huge part of my life.

What does this have to do with a blog about eating real foods? Well, exercise does things for our bodies that food alone can’t do — while also mitigating some of the damage we do to our bodies when we don’t always choose the right foods (like during kitchen renovations). Not to mention it makes us look good, feel strong, it gives us self-confidence, and relieves stress. And when you fuel your body with healthy choices, your body will thank you and exercise will be (relatively) easier. Conversely, when you work so hard to acheive a fitness goal, you’ll think twice before reaching for junk food. By getting your butt off the couch, you’ll have more energy so you can get your butt off the couch. You won’t feel as weighed down and you might even lose some weight.

I’m lucky enough to have access to a free gym at my office and one in my community center. I also have some basic equipment at home (hand weights, yoga mat, balance ball, pull-up bar). I have several workout DVDs, and I like to get new ones from the library to try out before buying. I generally work out at my office’s gym during lunch, either doing strength training or a HIIT-style workout using my Nike Training Club app, which combine cardio with weights.

But my favorite way to exercise is outside, and thank goodness the weather has warmed up so I can head outdoors! When I’m outside, working out doesn’t seem like, well, work. I love to go hiking with friends, on a bike ride, or on a run. I love being outside in nature, nothing in front of me  and nothing behind, just the path beneath my feet (or wheels). And sometimes you are rewarded with a great view.

I strive to work out five or six days a week. I know most of you are sitting there thinking, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” Well, I’ve decided that making the time to work out is more important than, say, watching an hour of frivolous TV. I make exercise a priority and and make sure there is time for it in my schedule. If I know I have to go for a run on Thursday after work as part of my 10k training plan, and you want to go out to dinner, well, you’re gonna have to wait til after my run. No excuses!

That’s why, to me, the most important factor of a workout is a planning calendar. I need that structure to force me to stick to the plan. Otherwise it becomes too easy to say, “One day won’t make a difference, I’ll just work out tomorrow instead.” Because then you blink and you missed 5 days in 2 weeks. Whoops. I have completed P90X and Insanity twice each; what I loved about it was the way the programs are set up so you have a concrete plan and you can easily chart your progress. You make sure you get every workout in, or else you’re just cheating yourself — and the numbers prove it.For my 10k training. I made myself a daily calendar with how many miles I am supposed to run each day and how my mileage will progress. This plan is flexible, but if  I start missing days, I won’t be ready on Race Day.

Another way to make sure you keep to your fitness schedule is to surround yourself with like-minded people. This way, they can keep you accountable (and vice versa). If you can find someone to work out with, that’s awesome. Go to a group fitness class and introduce yourself to the instructor. Then she can call you out when you skip class. Or just have a friend who asks you if you did your scheduled workout that day. When you say “Not yet…” he or she can give you That Look that forces you into your sneakers. Or just post about your acheivements on Facebook (“Just ran 4 miles — felt great!”) and watch the Likes roll in. It sounds superficial, but it’s motivating!

And finally, don’t make the mistake of using exercise as a reward for eating terrible-for-you food. Running a mile only burns about 100 calories. Which merits you, at best, a banana, not a milkshake — even if it’s a real-food milkshake.

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