While ruminating on change and New Year’s Resolutions, I ran across this article in the New York Times. The two questions “why don’t I do this already?” and “why do I feel the need to do this now?” seem to me to constitute a very useful approach to life changes. In the case of “why don’t I do this already?” it should lead to problem-solving around the answers. If (for example) you’re not eating healthfully, why not? Is it grocery shopping? Time to cook? Lack of ability to cook? The three problems have different solutions.
When people ask me how I’ve managed to lose weight, a lot of it has been problem solving, one new habit at a time.
There are a lot of messages about weight and fitness going around as New Year’s Day approaches. I have mixed feelings about all of them. I am well aware that many resolutions are not kept–but I am also aware that *decisions* made about making a life change can be a very good thing. I ran across an article about “body positivism”. This appears, at first glance, to be about accepting your body, whatever your weight, but there seems to be an undercurrent of “don’t bother trying to change, because you should love your body no matter what you weigh.”
I think that part of this is an excellent message–“celebrate what your body can do!”– but I disagree that excess weight is okay. I spent a lot of years with more weight than I’d really want to admit (here or anyway) and I feel much better now than I did when I was heavier. My knees hurt all the time, now they rarely do, even with all the running I do. I’m no longer developing insulin resistance: my fasting blood sugar has dropped from a very slightly high 105 to a nice 92. I’m not nearly as tired at the end of the day. I don’t wake up felling unhappy about my clothing choices and the way I look in the mirror (when I had the courage to look in the mirror).
When I decided to lose weight, more than three years ago, it wasn’t about looking better (that really has been a huge bonus!), it was about performance. I wanted to feel better, lose the knee pain (and avoid knee replacement surgery), run faster, get my borderline blood sugar down, run faster so I could keep up with Rush, and not hear my knees make that crunchy noise when I went up the stairs. I wanted to fit into airline seats. I wanted to cross my legs comfortably. I wanted to feel fast and lean.
It has not been easy. I have made my contributions to Weight Watchers (an organization that makes me want desperately to change it) in pursuit of a place to discuss food issues. I track everything I eat (and very rarely eat anything wrapped in crunchy plastic); I cook my own food most of the time and take my own food with me when going to dog events. It requires planning and thought and making big batches of soup for the freezer so I always have something healthy to eat, even when I am bone-tired. I swim and I run and I bike so I can have occasional treats. It’s not easy.
But… My knees don’t hurt. I’m not going to need those knees replaced at 60 (my current age), as they warned me five years ago. My blood sugar is normal. I ran a five-K race and placed first in my age group two weeks ago–beating eight women. I still have seven and a half pounds to go, an amount that should make my five k time 49 seconds faster. And it’s a lot easier to keep up with Rush, too.
In the last few days–New Year’s Day is tomorrow, after all, a few people have asked me about the Couch to 5k running program. So here’s a fuller answer. Yes, do Couch to 5k (c25k). But… do it very slowly if you’re starting from not doing much. Repeat each week until it feels easy and comfortable and even pleasurable. C25k was written for thirty year olds. When I started (two years ago), I did each week twice–it took 6 months instead of three. Then, once I reached the ability to (mostly) run three miles very slowly (I was doing 13-minute miles–tall people can walk that fast!), I went back and started over again, trying to run the running intervals faster, really run. But doing it gradually has meant that I’m stronger, uninjured, find running a pleasure.
And keep records of how you’re doing. Progress is slow–but you can see it if you have a record.
If you’ll find it motivational, sign up for a race. If you’re local to Portland (Oregon), and want me to run with you or do a five k with you, just ask.
BUY GOOD SHOES FOR RUNNING before you start, especially if you’ve ever had foot problems. I *love* my Hoka One One Clifton 2 shoes, but YMMV. My daughter loves her Altras. A good running store can help you with shoes. BUT, if you’re like me and too intimidated/embarrassed to go into a good running store when you’re forty pounds overweight and 58 years old (all those skinny young people? scary), Zappos is your friend. Free shipping both ways. Just buy four or five pairs and return the ones you don’t like. Hoka has free returns too, with a thirty day trial, so you can wear them to actually run in.
Finally, New Year’s Day is tomorrow (as I’ve mentioned), and it’s got me thinking about accomplishing small goals with a little bit of work toward them, every day. For many years, when the kids were small, I tried to spend 10-15 minutes every day working on a quilt, because that worked stayed done. In a world with small children, most things don’t stay done: there’s always another meal to prepare, another mess to clean up, another pair of shoes to buy–it was endless. But I have quite a few quilts that I finished during that time–and they’re still done.
Last year on January 10th, Jay’s friend Kurt Searvogel started riding 11-12 hours each and every day (more than 200 miles) in his quest to set a new world’s record for most miles cycled in a year — the record will fall in just a few days now, as he is now over 74000 miles (the record is just over 75K miles). He got a lot done with a lot of time every day.
My goal for 2016 is to spend a little bit of time *every* day drawing. I admire people who can sketch and have it not look like a grey blob, and it occurred to me a while ago that this was about practice NOT about “talent.” My intent is to spend ten minutes a day practicing sketching, with the goal of being better at it by the end of 2016.
Note that this is a behavior, NOT a result. The behavior is “draw ten minutes a day”; the result would be “get good at sketching.”
A quick summary of 2015: 20.0 pounds lost, 595.6 “official” miles cycled (rides for ice cream dropped), swam 23.2 miles (started in September), ran 528.6 miles. 5.58 million steps, 2600 Fitbit “miles” (some of which were run), 12.3K floor, 778K calories torched. Patting self on back. Smugly patting self on back.
Finally, I will note that I’ve been planning my 2016. I have two 5K runs in January, another 5K in February, a 10K trail run in March, a 10K road race in June, and a sprint-distance (0.5 mile swim, 12.4 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) triathlon in August. I am entering CPE trials in hopes of qualifying for CPE Nationals in California in 2017; I am entering AKC trials with the intent of getting better at AKC courses, since I find them challenging.