We all have a responsibility to ourselves and to our loved ones to do whatever we can to take care of ourselves...our minds, our bodies, our souls, our overall well-being. So why are there so many limiting factors to accomplishing that? Why don't we make ourselves a priority more often than we do? Why is society slowly killing itself through unhealthy lifestyle choices?
WHY DO WE ACCEPT THIS AS BEING OKAY?
How do we change this?
When I became a runner, it started a slow transformation to putting general fitness first. I had always been conscious of my weight and health, but wasn't a totally consistent exerciser. When I signed up for my first race, a half marathon, it forced me to schedule my workouts and make training a priority. It's been over 4 years since I did that. As I look back at these past few years I can see the transformation unfold and it makes me very happy.
I'm not perfect. I splurge on cheeseburgers. I like chocolate. I sometimes prefer my fish to be fried. I drank Coke at dinner last night. One thing that doesn't change? Exercise. I never take a real break from it. In over 4 years the longest I've ever gone without running is 15 days and that was only because I was very sick. I was more angry about not being able to work out than about being sick. It had become so ingrained in me that exercising was a necessity that my body physically craved it and was going through withdrawals without it. Just like our bodies need food, they NEED exercise.
The nutrition aspects of my fitter lifestyle have taken a bit more time. I've always tried to be balanced in my choices and I've never been an overeater, but there are a few things here and there that I've slowly improved over the years. I add in new things when I can, try out new recipes, eat fresh ingredients more often, have almost entirely cut out fast food (it actually completely grosses me out 99% of the time now), and turn to water 95% of the time for fluids. Surprisingly, it really hasn't been a particularly difficult thing to do. Since I'm an endurance athlete I have to pay attention to how I'm fueling. I'm forced to make better choices so I can perform as well as possible in training. This just naturally spills over into my general food choices throughout the week and not just when I'm fueling for a particular run.
The past few days I've been thinking a lot about how society in general views fitness. We all know how important it is - that is being rammed into our heads more and more - but unfortunately very few people put forth enough effort to actually BE FIT. We have cars for transportation, we have fast food restaurants with easy drive-thrus, we can pick up the phone and get greasy delivery, we work over 40 exhausting hours a week, we overschedule our children and therefore ourselves, and we do all this without thinking twice about how a good workout is going to fit into it. The result?
AMERICA IS FAT AND UNHEALTHY. Yeah, I said it. Look around. It's true. And it makes me so very, very sad because it doesn't have to be that way for ANYONE. Do you ever watch Jay Leno and hear him say "this is why America is fat" during his monologue? He hits the nail on the head every time.
I don't care if you're 65 years old, if you have arthritis, if you think you "can't run", if you don't know how to cook, if you work too much, or if you have 6 children. YOU STILL MUST MAKE TIME TO BE FIT. No excuse is acceptable to me. I don't expect you to be 120 pounds and rail thin, but YOU STILL MUST TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEALTH.
Yes, it's easier for me to make time than a lot of other people. I don't work outside the home, I "only" have 2 children, I have the resources available to me to make it a priority, and I have a supportive family. But I still have to DO THE WORK. I can still easily give in to exhaustion, laziness, or depression and decide not to do that 4 mile run.
BUT I DON'T.
One thing that frustrates me beyond measure and forces me to sometimes bite my tongue is when I hear friends (of all ages, but particularly middle aged or older, or those who have had children) laugh off their lack of fitness or their overweight reality as not a big deal...because they aren't young anymore it's expected that they would become out of shape or become overweight. When did becoming overweight as we age or have children become acceptable? I don't get that mentality at all. We should never accept a lack of fitness or an overweight body to become the expected reality for us just because we're AGING. Who cares if we're aging?
I'm nearly 38 years old and although I do miss my flatter stomach of 20 years ago I can still run laps around my 18 year old self BECAUSE I CHOOSE TO MAKE THAT MY NEW REALITY. Age is completely irrelevant to me. I do not expect to get slower as I age...I'm making myself get faster. I do not expect to run fewer marathons as I age. I'm signing up for MORE.
I hear friends talk about their medications and it makes me sad that they do not have any idea that if they just started a fitness routine and tweaked their diet the vast majority of their health problems would be gone. GONE. It took me only a few months to take 35 points off my cholesterol...because I bought a pair of running shoes and used them. My mom lost 50 pounds, reduced her meds signficantly and her fitness level is a complete 180 from where she was 2 years ago...because she joined a gym and did the work and continues to make that a priority. She's 65 years old and is in better shape than when she was 35. My 52 year-old brother-in-law has done something very similar and is a totally different man than 2 years ago, while passing on these important healthy habits to my 11 year old niece. And he does this as a single parent. My friend Tricia, who blogs at Endurance Isn't Only Physical, is another perfect example of someone who said NO MORE and changed her life, losing 128 pounds in a year....and she runs marathons! There is a 72 year old man in my running group who has run 60 marathons. He ran his first one when he was 58 YEARS OLD.
A friend of mine, Gene from the blog Accountability, posted this yesterday and told him I had to steal it. Forgive the F-bombs, but it gets my point across perfectly.
So don't tell me you can't. Don't tell me you don't have time. Don't tell me you're too old. Don't tell me you have too many health problems. Don't tell me you're too tired. I don't want to hear it.
As many of you know, I lost my 37 year old sister over 2 years ago. She was morbidly obese and was taking over a dozen different medications because of various ailments such as diabetes, high blood pressure, lupus, etc. The majority of her health problems would probably have ceased to exist had she adopted a healthier lifestyle. To say that I feel an incredible amount of guilt for failing in motivating her to change her habits is a huge understatement. I had so many opportunities to help her, but I didn't. I had opportunities to talk to her, to do research for her, to be a better supporter, but I didn't. Would it have saved her? I don't know...no one knows...but I'll never know for sure. Maybe it could have. Yes, I have a lot of guilt which fuels my anger and frustration at others for letting themselves become unhealthy.
I don't want to lose anyone else to preventable health problems. EVER.
So next time you catch yourself saying "I've just been so busy so I've put on 20 pounds," or "The last thing I want to do at night is exercise", or "My kids keep me so busy"....JUST STOP. Stop sabotaging yourself.
Schedule your workouts.
Research healthy recipes.
Buy fresh ingredients.
Stop eating fast food.
PUSH YOUR LIMITS.
YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK. AND YOU ARE WORTH THE EFFORT.