Friday, June 26, 2009

Good Timing : Sharing My Thoughts on Nutrition and Excercise

Tamara over at In the Night Farm http://inthenightfarm.blogspot.com/2009/06/fit-to-ride-part-two.html has been doing a thought provoking series on endurance rider fitness and nutrition. It’s been fun to read her posts and the responses as well. Her decision to post on this couldn’t have had better timing for me. It’s only been in the last couple of years I had to start reevaluating my own exercise and diet routine. If you havent’ read her recent series, I suggest you do, go there now! She is an excellent writer and always does her research before her fingers hit the keyboard, which I really respect.

I realized that on one of her posts, I commented about how it would be interesting to hear what other folks did for workouts/diets, etc to stay healthy and in shape but then , I never shared my own story. (Tamara, I thought about putting this all in one of your comments but then it just got too lengthy so I hope you don't mind!)

I’ll begin by saying I am not blessed with great athletic abilities or body type for that matter. I have fought it all my life. I am genetically predisposed with slow metabolism. That fact alone has always been my #1 motivator. Pure unequivocal fear.

Most of the family members that share the same genetic pool that I happen to take after, are 250 lbs plus. Damn Italian blood.. Years ago, I promised myself I would never allow myself to get to that point. I haven't broken that promise but it would be really easy to. To add , my parents put a lot of focus on food growing up. Just like so many other people out there, I was taught to finish everything on my plate… Portion control was lost on me from the start.

Given my predisposition, I knew I would always have to stay active in some fashion. As a result, working out regularly since I was in high school allowed me to pretty much eat what I wanted and not worry too much. That had served me well, up until I hit the ripe age of 30. Then, the whole thing started to turn upside down on me. Suddenly I found that my workout routine of 20 minutes on the Eliptical a couple times a week and few weights (light) weren’t working anymore. I found myself packin it on. I suddenly couldn’t cheat like I used to with diet and exercise routine I was keeping.

Finding the motivation to workout and staying active have never been a problem for me. I love the way I feel when I am done working out. (getting there some days is hard but always worth it in the end) For me, it’s the food/diet thing. Calories in versus calories burned was now becoming a huge factor as my metabolism slows with every passing year . It's really a fact of life but can be controlled. Clearly, I had to rethink the type of foods I was choosing and become more disciplined about my eating habits. I have also had to turn up the volume with my workouts. I’ll admit, It’s been a slow process. I have good days and I have bad days. I have had my share of setbacks too ; like a foot injury, building a house, and other life events have thrown me off course in the past few years. On the other hand, turning 30 also brought me some good things as well, like wisdom. I figured out that I am stress eater and ofcourse, that is my downfall. Sweets are what I reach for in times of stress. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly figured out the mind games I need to play with myself to control those urges. Easy? No. Necessary… yes. So when the office, which is a very “food focused” environment, is celebrating a coworkers birthday with cake and other treats, I can now say no much easier and take great pleasure in watching everyone else eat it, knowing I just saved myself a lot of guilt and grief later on.
That said, with the diet changes that I have needed to make (and still working on ) the hardest part has been meal planning. I have a busy schedule and it’s so easy to grab for unhealthy meals. Incorporating the right mix of lean protein, whole grains and more vegetables into my daily meals can be a challenge. At the same time, trying to keep a husband, who is a meat and potatoes kind of guy fed also complicates matters more for me. Serving him brown rice with grilled chicken and steamed broccoli doesn’t quite do it for his gazelle like metabolism. He could eat bratwurst and beer everynight and not gain an ounce. (maybe a clogged artery or two).
So… I have to make sure meals are satisfying for him but don’t create a train wreck for me.

The answer?

Sometimes I have to cook two different meals. Sometimes, we just compromise. If he wants pasta with meat sauce , I now cook with either brown rice pasta or whole grain pasta and have him hold out part of it from the red sauce and hamburger for me. He eats his pasta with meat sauce and a green salad and I top my pasta with fresh basil, sautéed garlic in olive oil and fresh or sundried tomatoes instead, with a fresh green salad. Problem solved. ( I don't even buy or make gralic bread anymore because that is a temptation I may not have the strenght to resist!)

As far as the workouts, I am at the gym on average 3-4 times a week. I engage in 30-45 minutes of cardio , the time usually split between two machines, the elliptical, the treadmill and/or the bike. I try to stay at a high intensity. When I am on the treadmill, I usually jog for most of it or walk at an incline. Since my foot injury, running has become difficult so my dreams of being a runner may not ever come to fruition. I am not a fast runner but can manage short bursts of speed for interval training and I find that works well for me. Once my cardio is complete I have about a 20 minute strength training routine.

A couple of years ago, I worked with a personal trainer to make sure I was doing all the right things. She helped me figure out what is the best routine for me with weights especially. Turns out, while my genetics predisposes me to struggle with weight, it also predisposes a high level of strength. I can leg press 210 lbs for 3 sets of 15 without breaking a sweat. That also means, unfortunately , that I will never be one of those girls that can get away with 2 sets of 10 bicep curls at 20 lbs. Just doesn’t do it for me. I have to work a lot harder…DARN!!

I have known a lot of people that start a workout routine and do very well, make lots of gains in strength and condition but then they lose motivation and all the hard work was wasted when they return to their old ways. We all have our days when it would be easier to just go home and take a nap. So, how do I stay motivated not to slip into that roller coaster pattern? There are no easy answers but there are simple answers.....

I mentioned earlier that my motivator is the fear of ending up like so many of my family members. There are so many health risks associated with being that heavy and I have lost a few loved ones as a result. Fact is, I don't want to die from a cardiac infarction or stroke. I don't want to develop diabetes. The simple answer is health for me. It's the right thing to do to take care of this one body I was given. Additionally, I have another motivator that nearer and dearer to my heart… literally..

A few years ago, my doctor found that I have a mitral valve prolapse. It scared me at first with all the cardiac family history but with a little research, I realized it’s quite common in people. A prolapse can be mild to severe. The echo revealed that mine is more on the mild to medium side of the scale. It doesn’t cause me too much grief but I was advised that it can worsen with age. It’s not all that uncommon for people with MVP to need a valve replacement at some point. I want to keep in top cardio condition to avoid that. So, I may not have the toned body I want yet, but you can bet that I keep in top cardio health. My resting heart rate is 53-55 beats per minute and that makes me smile.

So, what motivates you to stay on course? What are some of your pearls of wisdom to planning healthy meals with a busy schedule ? I don’t know about all of you, but I can’t wait to hear what a weekly meal plan looks like for Tamara and maybe she can offer some of her time management secrets.

5 comments:

Boots and Saddles 4 Mel said...

I would like the first commend you on your courage with sharing such a personal story with us.

After contemplating Tamera's blog as well, I have come to the conclusion that I too are succeeding in the "strength/exercise" portion. I'm struggling in the "lean/eating" category, which is no suprise, as that's the way it's been my entire life. I've NEVER been able to eat what I've wanted and not pay the consequences. As a result I do have healthier eating habits just from years of doing it, but it's not enough. I need to bring what I eat (whole grains, vegies etc.) together with portion control, together with not eating when I'm not hungry...followed by consistancy.....

My eating trigger is tiredness/exhaustion. I make poor choices and a lot of them when I'm dog-tired. Here are some tips that have worked for me. Like you, I am looking forward to more of Tamera's posts:

1. Plenty of sleep is key.

2. 2 types of cardio (currently I'm only running, but running+swimming is ideal for me)at least 4 days a week. with 2 days of pilates per week and 2-3 days of strength stuff. This is in addition to my riding. Don't ask me when the last time I actually met this goal was....I just do the best I can each week and keep plugging away.

3. Make healthy food convient. I'm willing to pay a little more to have the food I should eat at my fingertips - baby carrots, pre-shredded cheese, pre-washed lettase in a convient container, yoguarts in little containers, milks in idividual servings, etc etc. I hate paying more, but if I eat my veggies because of it, it will be worth it.

4. Look for new ideas to keep food interesting. At the bluegrass festival they were serving crepes stuffed with all sorts of veggies. Crepes are fairly healthy, especially if you use a buckwheat. A good replacement for my tortiallas (which replaced my bread). I decided that parfiats for breakfast would be nice. This morning I took plain yoguart (unflavored, unsweetened) and layered it with grapenuts, bananas, peanut butter, and a touch of honey. Voila! Delicious and sustaining/filling breakfast.

I certaintly don't have it figured out and that's why I LOVE hearing from people like Karen and Tamera about exercise and nutrition.

Boots and Saddles 4 Mel said...

Forgot to subscribe to comments!

Boots and Saddles 4 Mel said...

BTW - I didn't address motivation because I struggle with it. Having a goal - a 100 mile race, a marathon, an open water swim, really helps. I found out very early that the goal "look good in my pants" doesn't work for me. I exercise because I enjoy it (which is why I run/swim etc and don't go to the gym - gym's are not fun for me), and like the way it makes me feel. How it makes me look is a very small part of it. I fall off the wagon, but always end up getting back on. I've tried different "reward" programs for myself, but I've come to the conclusion that I make a choice - either do it or don't do it. It doesn't really have anything to do with how I "reward" myself.

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Jonna. Sounds like you're on the right track in a lot of ways, and the posts on which I'm still working for this series should give you some new suggestions.

In the meantime, you've give ME some additional ideas for what to include in the series. Good gracious, it could go on forever! Yikes!

Jonna said...

Boots- Thanks for sharing your ideas. Here's to the strength it takes to keep on truckin!

Tamara-can't wait to read all about it! It could go on forever, glad I gave you some more ideas.

Have a great weekend to both of you!