Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Riding the Exercise Roller Coaster into Spring

It's currently about 115 degrees in my small third-story bedroom. The thing about these lovely old brick St. Louis homes is that while the rest of the house can be drafty as though Jack Frost was making himself at home on your couch, heat still rises.Downstairs, my roommates/landlords are probably wondering what the constant *thump* *thump* *thump* coming from above means as I try (and fail) to quietly exercise to my newest Jillian Michaels DVD. Tired and sweaty, I turn off the television.

I gave up in about 15 minutes.

This is the story of how I went from training to run my first half-marathon to where I am now - physically and emotionally tired in my journey to a healthier me. It's a problem many people face in their weight-loss and getting-fit goals, and it's something that's hurt me tremendously in the past. The last time I gave up so spectacularly, I gained 45 pounds in four or five months, then lived (miserably) with the extra weight and extra bad eating habits for the next year or so. Finally, during a trip to Yosemite National Park with Andrew in 2012, I got fed up and lost 30 pounds. That's great and all, but I still had goals to reach before the Epic Crash of 2011. And here I am now, struggling to bridge the gap between eating healthy and eating on a budget that is, without pity or hyperbole, below the national poverty level.

This is not an uncommon problem either. The sad reality is that economically it is more affordable and more available to eat nutritional garbage than it is to consume the most basic of nature's abundant food. Also, that garbage is, more often than not, quicker to make and eat for someone who doesn't have a lot of time to throw around. Growing up in a food desert that is rural Illinois during the winter, you'd think my unhealthy and sedentary habits were learned at home. Surprisingly, it was only into my adult life that I've had to deal with these issues (as a kid, I was scrawny, always on the go, and craving raw vegetables like my life depended on it), and maybe that's why I'm so ill-equipped for long term health despite all the reading and research I've done.

For instance, after my first major victory in re-claiming my health back in 2010 (5 days at the gym, it became my study spot), I decided I was at the point where, since I was happy with my weight and I had taken on two part time jobs on top of being a full time student, I could eat ALL the burritos I wanted. Oh Salsa Rico, you fickle beast. The weight spiked back up until said trip to Yosemite. So I started running. And I ran a half marathon last November! But then this impossibly long, harsh winter came like a lion that really hates exercise and I spent the majority of my time piled under blankets or eating fast food to or from work.

Why is it so hard to make this a lifestyle? It's important to note that in order to be successful, one must look at it as such; this is not a diet. This is not temporary. I don't get to stuff my face with yummy burgers and burritos and ice cream after I've worked out hard all week. It's the hardest lesson I'll ever have to learn, and my life may actually depend on it. I know my happiness will. It's not just about body image - it's about having energy, and strength, and an outlet for mind.

There is hope for me, though; through my retail job I've actually found a training plan that I MUST stick to in order for the company to pay an entrance fee for a 10K I'm running in April. I'll be strength training, working on my speed and power, and doing my darndest to stick to the paleo diet (you know, meat, fruits, and veggies, no bread). We'll see if that's the kick in the rear I need to get going and welcome Spring (and swimsuit season) in with less flabby open arms. Best of luck to you who are hoping to do the same - stick with it, you'll get there!

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