Monday, June 13, 2011

Three Miles, Island not Included

from: Daytona Beach, FL, USA
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This morning I ran three full miles.

Ok, jogged. Whatever.

My previous record was 2.1 miles. My record before that was 1.5 miles, then 1.2 miles, then 0.7 miles, and then 0.3 miles. These are jogs, with no break. They're rather slow jogs, yes, but they're jogs. Finding the proper speed is important.

Last Friday, my 80 year old walking partner and I walked 7.5 miles. Our previous record was 6.6 miles. He didn't feel like walking today, so I decided it was time to see how far I could run, and you see the results.

I'm not doing intense training here, folks. I'm just getting out there and doing it, putting in practice some techniques and habits I've developed over the years, and which are finally paying off. Here are some of them:

Habit 1: Eat breakfast, no matter what. Even if it's just a handful of peanuts (unsalted, of course) on the way out the door, eat something within 30 minutes of waking up.

Habit 2: Drink water. I've trained myself to reach for water every time I feel thirsty OR hungry. For one, most people mistake thirst for hunger; downing a glass of water will almost always eliminate the feeling of hunger. For another, it takes 20 minutes for food hitting the stomach to register and for your brain to tell you you're full. Quickly downing some water not only prepares your stomach for food, it also sends this signal so that when the food does start coming, you won't need to eat as much of it to feel full. When you feel full (BEFORE you're stuffed), stop eating. An easy way to improve your digestion and drink more water without noticing is to have a glass before, during, and after each meal.

Habit 3: Eat something approximately every 3-4 hours. It doesn't have to be a full meal; snacks count.

Habit 4: Avoid sugar, salt, bleached flour, and starch. I've finally broken my habit of ordering pop at restaurants - thank you guys for jacking up the prices to obscene levels - and I avoid things like bread, potatoes, salt, and sugar. Not all calories are created equal. If you eat 1000 calories of sugar a day and I eat 1000 calories of green vegetables, who do you think is going to feel healthier after a month? Who do you think is going to lose weight, and who is going to gain it?

Habit 5: Eat vegetables. I'm terrible at this. I hate a lot of vegetables, especially the best ones. I get mixed vegetables and stir them in with the rest of the food so I don't notice them as much. I also have been drinking  lot of vegetable juice. I have to get the Great Value brand from Walmart because V8 tastes awful and costs twice as much. I drink a glass or two a day.

Habit 6: Stay active. When I worked on the ship, I could walk a few miles a day on my routine to go fix computers, up and down stairs, back and forth to the shop, and so forth. Plenty of activity. When i was a truck driver, I had to climb in and out of the truck a lot and do some walking. I had to keep my head from bouncing all over. I'd park in the farthest spots and stop frequently for bathroom and walking breaks. Now, as a writer, staying active is a little tougher. You have to take the time to actually do it. I walk about 15-20 miles a week, I ride a motorcycle wherever I need to go (weather permiting), which does take some effort. My friend plays a lot of basketball with his kids. If I loaf, I soon look like a loaf.

Habit 7: Cheat once a week. ANYONE can put off their favorite sugary, carb-loaded, starchy junkfoods (and fruit) for a few days. Get in the habit of telling yourself, "I'll eat this in five minutes," and then go do something else for a while. Get in the habit of walking down the most evil aisles in the grocery store and JUST check the prices, then walk away. Get in the habit of eating whatever you want on one specific day of the week. Eventually, you'll be able to push away any temptation, because ANYONE can put off eating crap for a few days. And then don't buy the junk until that day, don't even have it in your house. If you have others in the house who don't love you enough to support your decision to lead a healthier life, you can still get them to hide the worst stuff so you don't notice it. Or move out. And make sure you're active during your cheat day to keep your metabolism up.

Habit 8: Don't beat yourself up. You're going to make mistakes. Don't take it as a reason to kill yourself, or to give up, or as proof that you can't do it. Accept it as part of yoru record. Do you think that when I told myself (and all of you) last year that I wanted to be able to jog 2 miles, that when I wasn't immediately able to do so, I gave up? Heck no! I kept track of what I did and noticed that each time I made improvements. I patted myself on the back for getting closer to my goal. And when I achieved it, I set a new one: to be able to do 3 miles, which I achieved in one stroke.

Those are just EIGHT of the habits I now use to improve my health. And I developed them by asking, "What's the smallest, measurable change I can make?" Try it. What's the smallest measurable change you can make to improve your health?

.

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