Update, September 23, 2012:
I had a slow start, but since March of this year I’ve gained and lost and gained and lost, for a total, so far, of almost 20 pounds and 1.5 pants sizes. (Depending on the clothing designers; the high-end pants tend to be cut bigger than department store clothes.) I “run” M-W-F each week and am up to 4 miles at a 12-minute pace. My husband
nagged encouraged me to sign up for the Disney World half marathon coming up in mid-January. I haven’t officially started training for that yet, but you have to walk before you can run, right? I’ve also run two 5K races this year. In the first one, I came in first–there was one other woman in the race in my age bracket. In the second one, there were a lot of women my age (the run benefited a high school track star who had died), so I didn’t even come close to first, but my time was better. My 5K time (on the treadmill) is faster now that it was then, so I can see that my efforts are paying off.
How have I done it?
About eighty percent of health/weight loss is what you eat. I was using myfitnesspal.com to track what I eat, which also tells me if I’m getting enough of essential nutrients. (I never seem to get enough potassium.) I still go back to it now and then to see how I’m doing, but I HATE tracking every morsel I put into my mouth. But if you’re eating without thought and you’re still the mayor of your couch, you’re not going to lose much, are you? So I wake up at 5:30-ish every day (which, yes, was very hard to do at first), even on days I don’t run, and then 3 days per week I get on the treadmill. I started out with the treadmill set on “2” and forced myself to do that for 30-45 minutes. I eventually eased the setting up to 3 and then 4 and now, on occasion, I sprint with it set on 5–without being sore the next day.
I think that’s one of the keys–don’t follow the “no pain, no gain” myth. It might take a little longer, but you’re less likely to have to take a month or two off to heal torn muscles, etc. Instead, throttle down the exercise so that you are in the fat-burning zone without hurting yourself. If that’s a casual walk around the block after dinner with the dogs, that’s still better that sitting in your “butt groove” on the couch, nursing a family-sized bag of pretzels! But don’t be afraid to challenge your body and your lungs by stepping it up a bit every other week or so. You won’t know for sure if you can do it if you don’t try. If you can’t do it this week, try again next week.
Give yourself a break!
Also, it’s important to give yourself a rest day. That’s why I only run every other day. Yesterday (Saturday), I rode my bike behind my husband as he went on his 13-mile “long run” for this week. (He’s training for a marathon.) Not only did my legs need a break from Friday’s run, but biking uses different muscles (or at least uses them differently). Plus the ground was wet and soft in some places and very rocky in others, making it harder to to pedal. AND I ran out of water! My husband actually PUSHED my bike in some places. My butt, arms, shoulders, and neck are sore, but legs seem OK today. The hardest part (besides pedaling!) was keeping the bike upright on the very bumpy, muddy ride–which is why my arms, shoulders, and neck are sore. Nope, a 2-hour mountain bike ride the day after a 4-mile run is not a good idea for my body. Not yet, anyway.
My 2012 New Year’s Resolution
Every year for the past 25-ish, my New Year’s Resolution has been to “get healthy.” Anyone who knows anything about making goals would say that “get healthy” is too broad of a goal. For you to have any chance at achieving a goal, it has to be broken down into smaller, manageable goals. So this year, my main goal/resolution is to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day. Which still is probably too broad. Maybe it should be, “Get out of bed every morning at 6 am, put on workout clothes and shoes, and get on the treadmill (in the winter, when it’s still dark at 6 am) or take the dogs for a walk.”
My husband, Bill, started running 2 years ago. He weighed about 230 pounds. Now he weighs about 160. He did that by running. He used myfitnesspal.com to track his diet. He discovered that he never eats enough because he’s always running! He’s run 3 marathons and 14 half marathons, so he’s always training for something. I often follow along on my bike, but 8 mph isn’t much of an aerobic workout. (The muscles of my legs and butt get a workout peddling up hills, though. If you don’t believe me, try it. Park your bike at the bottom of a steep hill, then peddle up the hill.) Obviously, running has worked out well for him. Not only has he lost fat, he also lowered his total cholesterol, raised his “good” cholesterol, lowered his triglycerides, lowered his blood pressure, and so on. In other words, he “got healthy.”
Meanwhile, I’ve been watching what I eat (mostly), cutting simple carbs, eating more fruits, vegetables, salads, etc., and trying to exercise enough to actually raise my heart rate and burn some fat. But that’s not enough. After a woman gets to “a certain age,” her metabolism slows down, especially if she took a 25-year break from exercise and got a desk job! To get the metabolism started up again, I need to run.
Learning to run again
No one who hasn’t run for 25 years is going to run a marathon. Or even a 5K. First you have to walk. And walk. And walk. That takes time and is usually quite boring, unless you live near a nice state park or a beach board walk, which I don’t. Getting motivated to walk for 30 minutes at 6 am when I’d rather sleep for 30 more minutes is difficult. To help with that, I bought Run Your Butt Off! a book from the editors of Runner’s World magazine. In Run Your Butt Off!, Sarah Lorge Butler, Leslie Bonci, and Budd Coates take you from not running at all to running 30 minutes over 12 “stages.” (Not 12 weeks, because each stage might take you more or less than a week.)
In the first stage, you just walk non-stop for 30 minutes. If you can do that 3 or 4 times in a week, you’re ready for the next stage, which is walking for 4 minutes, then running for 1 minute, and repeating that four more times. In each subsequent stage, you walk less and run more (2 minutes, then 3, and so on), until the final stage in which you run non-stop for 30 minutes. They offer helpful advice for both weight loss and running, and “coach” you through each stage. Just reading the first few chapters is motivating and puts you in the “get healthy” mindset.
Finding the time to run
In the first chapter of Run Your Butt Off! they discuss the number one reason people don’t exercise regularly—no time! The author writes, “You don’t blow off going to work every morning, nor should you skip your exercise appointment.” That’s true—but I won’t get fired if I don’t exercise. (However, studies show that healthy, attractive people tend to get and keep jobs more than unhealthy and unattractive people. Not fair, but true.) The running coach in the book, Budd, comments that it drives him crazy when the parents at his son’s gym practice complain about not having time. He runs while his son is practicing and says, “If you’ve been sitting here for an hour, you have time to run!” He has the same mentality as my husband—“my run is more important than watching my son practice.” I never enjoyed sitting out in a field watching my sons’ soccer practice, but I know they appreciated my being there. Most moms can relate to this excuse, and instead we try to fit exercise into our time (as if we have any!), not our family’s time. And if that means getting up an hour earlier, then that’s what we have to do.
I’m struggling with whether I want to post “before” pics and measurements—I wouldn’t want to gross you out and scare you off! Over the next 12 weeks, check in here with my blog now and then to see how I’m doing (and “Like” or “+1” me to up my stats!). Maybe I’ll post pics and measurements. Maybe I’ll post some tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way that might help you “get healthy,” too. Maybe in 2012 I’ll be running in the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon! (OK, maybe just the Family Fun Run.)