Former Olympian Summer Sanders has been documenting her journey in training for Disney’s Princess Half Marathon with espnW. How does a Midwesterner non-Olympian like myself find inspiration in someone who is already fit training for a marathon? Surprisingly, it’s quite easy.
“A bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise.” -Winnie-the-Pooh
You could eat nothing but vegetables, lean grass fed meat and drink nothing but water and you’d still need exercise. We were made to move and never before has our society been more sedentary. Sometimes I’m jealous of New Yorkers, their exercise is built in most days, taking the stairs and walking almost everywhere. Where I live there are barely even sidewalks let alone running and jogging paths. Shows like ‘The Biggest Loser’ can make for good television, but may be turning a lot of people off to daily exercise because the show makes fitness look so hard. Talking a walk with your kids around the neighborhood, pushing them on swings or dancing with them in the living room all count as exercise, and anything is better than nothing. You don’t have to cry on a full incline treadmill twice a day (or ever) to get healthy, you simply have to find what works for you and do it.
“Exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate. The world wasn’t formed in a day, and neither were we. Set small goals and build upon them.” -Lee Haney
Somewhere some little voice in my head started to whisper “You could do a half marathon” and for some reason I started to listen to it. There’s no reason I couldn’t, but I have a very long way to go to even qualify to register. When I asked a friend where to even begin she suggested Hal Higdon’s training programs, lo and behold to even begin one of his programs you have to be a pretty solid 5K runner. I am not a runner, ‘solid’ and ’5K’ are not side by side in my vocabulary unless we’re talking about photographing a 5K, then? I’m solid. Looks like it’s C25K (couch to 5K) for me. Cody on the other hand is legitimately training for a half marathon and is finding a lot of good tips and inspiration in the book Run Less, Run Faster. I had a friend decide she was going to do 20 minutes of exercise every day for 90 days. “I can do anything for 90 days” she said. And you know what? She did, and it made a big difference (and became a habit.)
“Whenever I feel the need to exercise, I lie down until it goes away.” -Paul Terry
The best investment I’ve made in myself recently is a FitBit. It’s a tiny little pedometer that I hook into my bra each morning and wear all day. It keeps track of my steps, how far I’ve gone, how many flights of stairs I’ve gone up as well as how well I sleep at night. I even have it set to say “Hey, hey there pretty!” when I first turn it on. Every once in a while I’ll get an email congratulating me on 20 flights of stairs or 50,000 steps in a day. It’s like being accountable to someone who can’t judge you, and being rewarded when you outdo yourself. Knowing it’s there motivates me to park further, walk more and take the stairs whenever I can. I also found out I walked more than 5 miles through airports last week, business travelers must be super fit.
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.‘” -Muhammad Ali
While exercise has its immediate benefits, the true benefits will be seen long term when we’re all tiny old people hobbling around with saggy tattoos and old hipster concert t-shirts. Muscle mass begins declining in our 40s and how quickly we lose it depends on how much we start out with. At 50 the rate at which we lose muscle outpaces our ability to gain it. Gaining muscle now, in our 20s and 30s will teach our bodies to hold onto it and retain it better as we age. If we don’t teach our bodies to build and maintain muscle then it will have no reason to hold onto it as we age.
“Training gives us an outlet for suppressed energies created by stress and thus tones the spirit just as exercise conditions the body.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
Cody goes to the gym loyally, Monday-Saturday no matter where we are in the world. It has done wonders for his stress levels and while it may sometimes takes away from time he has with our family, I practically kick him out the door these days knowing I’ll get a happier, less-stressed husband in return. The gym on the other hand is different for me, I carry a lot more baggage to the gym with me (two kids) the idea of getting everyone ready to leave the house knowing I have to be prepared to shower in front of strangers causes me more stress than most exercises could release. I much prefer to go on a walk with my girls or romp around my living room with a dance or Zumba game on my Kinect.
“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” -Ann Wigmore
I follow the “stick to the outer walls of the grocery store” rule 80% of the time. On the outer walls are the foods with expiration dates that existed 100 years ago. I’m always the person in the checkout line with the long line of strange fruits and vegetables that take longer to measure and weigh, my produce and cheese drawer are where it’s at and I’d like to think I always have enough of a fruit or vegetable to create either a side dish or fun treat. I’m not perfect by any means, I mean, Mega Stuff Oreos, hello? But I do my best and always feel so much better when I do.
You certainly don’t have to run a marathon to achieve fitness goals, perhaps it could be your ultimate end goal but in the meantime set smaller goals and revel in your success after achieving each one.