I have to admit: I’ve been lucky in my life. A combination of genetics and luck has allowed me to go three decades without worrying too much about what I eat or even how much I exercise. My weight doesn’t fluctuate easily, I don’t have a finicky stomach, and I’ve never had body issues.
If you think I’m gloating, fear not. As I near the big 3-0, the good luck and I seem to have lost touch, and now I’m noticing these…things. They’re subtle, but they’re here:
I don’t recover as well from eating heavy, unhealthy foods.
My already minuscule “thigh gap” is getting smaller…and smaller…
It is so hard to get up for work in the morning, even though I usually get a good night’s sleep.
My pants feel tighter and my core muscles have lost some tone.
I frequently crash in the afternoon, feeling sluggish and “icky” from downing coffee all morning, eating a heavy lunch, and staring at a computer screen.
I’m not “getting fat”, or even really gaining that much weight. At least, I don’t think so. I’m not an early riser by nature, and never will be, so the pre-7:00 AM wake up call is always going to be a bit of a challenge. And staring at a computer all day is going to make my brain feel like mush no matter what I eat for lunch.
But these things are eating at me now, begging the question: do I feel good?
I was never one of those who subscribed to the philosophy that running = eating whatever I want, but I still have not made much effort to eat mindfully while training. It never seemed like I needed to – I was crushing my training, I met my goals, I recovered well from long runs, I got through high mileage weeks healthy and ticked off miles with no problem.
But…then I stopped running. And the consistent lack of energy I attributed to heavy training mileage didn’t go away. Not really.
I’m not 19 years old anymore. I can’t expect youth and good genetics to save me from a crummy diet and lack of exercise anymore.
The thing I love about running is that it made me appreciate how strong my body is, what amazing things it can do. But it wasn’t until I took a break from running that I realized I can’t have all that without taking care of myself first.
So *deep breath*..it’s time to get serious about self-care.
As I take the first slow steps back into my regular running routine, I’m also taking steps back into feeling healthy. I’ve pulled the Nutribullet out of storage. Grocery store trips are becoming more frequent. The word “breakfast” is sneaking back into my vocabulary, and cases of La Croix are gradually replacing cases of Pepsi. A slew of pre-dawn runs is set to commence in the coming weeks. And I’m beginning to get back in touch with an old bedtime ritual of a good book and a cup of hot tea.
It will take willpower. Sticking to the salad I packed for lunch in spite of the fried saucy aromas of a coworker’s take-out; resisting powerful soda cravings; mustering the energy to cook or grocery shop after a long draining work day. And I think that 5:30 AM alarm speaks for itself.
But then I imagine starting my work day with a fresh burst of endorphins and a fully belly. I imagine not feeling lethargic and heavy mid-afternoon. I imagine having a little more energy and seeing the tone sneak back into my core muscles.
I’ve taken out pressure, pace-tracking and goals so that running can feel good again. But that journey has already highlighted the need to make sure I feel good, too. So here’s to productive exercise and mindful eating; to fresh air in my lungs in the morning and good food in my belly throughout the day.