Friday, December 9, 2011

Health Kick

Look out world, I'm on another health kick.

These don't tend to last, but I have been chipping away at a healthier lifestyle for years. My diet has steadily improved, including a new found love of salads. I used to hate salads, until a few months ago when I realized that what I really hated was iceberg lettuce. What a sorry excuse for food that is. So I use lots of spinach, kale, and romaine or other better lettuces, plenty of tomatoes, cucumbers, and sometimes beans and broccoli... not very imaginative, but I like 'em. For dressing I stick to apple cider vinegar, or nothing.

I have been eating far too much meat, though. Turkey sandwich every day for lunch, and often meat for dinner. This is unusual for me; I used to go months without it, not out of any vegetarian creed, but the simple lack of desire for it. Too much butter, too, and dairy in general. Now I find myself greatly missing my good ol' beans 'n' rice diet, so I mean to get back into that. I could eat a burrito every day, I think; I usually cook up a huge pot of brown rice, beans, mushrooms, corn, onions, peppers, etc, enough to last a week. Slap it on a whole wheat tortilla, top it off with some Louisiana hot sauce, and I'm in business.

I'm also running again. This is inspired partly by the book Born To Run, likely the most entertaining and interesting book I've read all year, but also just because I feel I need it. I'm a notoriously weak runner, not much endurance due to a heart valve issue I was born with, but I've let myself go even by my standards and abilities. When I started a week and a half ago, I couldn't run a quarter mile without stopping, my lungs feeling like they were going to explode. I'm already seeing marked improvement, even just a handful of runs later, and I ran my first full mile today. I'm sure I could have kept going, breathing was fine, but I want to ease into it since my muscles and tendons need strengthening. I'm doing barefoot running (actually using huaraches for now, since the roads are really rough around here, and my feet aren't tough enough yet), so strength is vital; and I could feel a twinge in my right ankle.

Barefoot running, being the natural way for a human to run, is a great way to avoid injury, and it cured my shin splints, which I used to get terribly back when I ran in shoes; it's why I never stuck with it. Running shoes encourage a heel strike, which is very bad for your knees, hips, back... the problem is, you come crashing down on a hard bone with every step; and don't think that a little inch of foam is enough to cushion at least twice your body weight coming down on it. No, try running down the road on your heels, without shoes, and you'll quickly switch to a forefoot landing, with which you can use your flexing joints and springy tendons to cushion you-- you'll have to, or you'll be in too much pain. Pain is a teacher, means you're doing something wrong.

There's a lot more to the barefoot form than just forefoot landing, but that's the first part of it. Other aspects are a straight back, shorter, faster steps (keeping your feet under you, not ahead of you), and so on. This site is probably your best place to start to learn about any of this if you're interested.

Another great benefit to this running thing is, I already feel more energetic and younger. Okay, okay, I know I'm only 28, but I have to admit that since I started with this construction work, I've started feeling old; body doesn't move as easily and lightly as it did, I feel stiff, heavy, lethargic. But I already feel more energy since this new regimen, and expect that to only continue and increase. It's like I felt when I was thru-hiking. Strong. I could go all day, and feel great most of the time (sometimes I overdid it). The farthest I've ever run was 4 miles, and whoa what an endorphin high; yet that was a spur of the moment thing about a decade ago, not the result of any health kick. So I know I have it in me, and for now 4 miles is my goal. I wish I'd moved right into a running program when I got off the trail, when it was easy and I was fit, but I'll just have to start from the bottom again.

Anyways, this physical fitness thing is something I've been lacking in my life. It will be a good balance for the meditation and reading and thinking I'm doing. Plus, remodelling work is physical, but what we're doing doesn't really qualify as fitness; it's more like short bouts of lifting and carrying, amid the less strenuous standing around (while masking, painting, sanding, caulking, installing cabinets, lights, fans, etc). Mostly it's anti-fitness, with all the bending, hands-and-knees work, and weird positions you end up in while doing things. So I need to develop this side of my life a bit more to keep things even. So far so good.


  1. Good luck, and hope you stick with it. As you know, having regularly written about it, I've been on a health kick for years...that it's pretty much become a way of life. But running has been something I've had trouble sticking with over the years, isn't something I do consistently. Will have to give it another chance, maybe I'll work toward the four mile goal too, and I'll definitely check out that "Born To Run" book, it looks interesting.

  2. I'm a huge fan of kale. I use it in salads and, these days, it's rare for any variety of soup I make -- and we make/eat lots of homemade soup at our house -- not to have kale in it. If it was good enough for the Roman Centurions, then it's good enough for me. ;-)

    As to the part about running, I have enough trouble standing for more than a few minutes these days.