Saturday, March 08, 2014

Hamster habits

For most of my adult life, I have struggled against the almighty gut. I am like most people who struggle with their weight. I have gained and lost weight more times than I can count.

Ten years ago, when I returned from a 2,655 mile walk from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail, I weighed about 180 pounds. I was skinny, no love handles, nothing extra. For the next two years, I kept my weight around 200 pounds with a regular regimen of running and being careful to watch my diet. Then, in the midst of early parenthood, graduate school, and some stupid life choices, my weight gradually kicked up, and up.

By the time I earned my master's degree in 2008, I was in the 230s. I wasn't running or engaging in any regular exercise routine. In fact, I was quite sedentary, as the nature of my work as a teacher required ample time for reading and writing. During my year-and-a-half of unemployment, my weight ballooned into the 240s. In early 2011, after experiencing some serious back pain, I decided to join a gym and begin a regular running regime. By the end of the year I was back down to the 210s -- not quite ideal -- but very manageable. The chronic back pain was gone, I felt fit, and was enjoying the regular running. In the latter days of the that year, I was driving a semi over the road and enjoyed going on runs every time I stopped at a truck stop, eventually doing road runs all over the country. That really augmented the travel experience and drew me away from the garbage and combustion of the truck stop.

In 2012, I ran 10 races, including six 5Ks and four 10Ks. But by the end of the year, I was getting lazy. Also, for the first time in years, I had extra money, so I ate out more. It didn't take long to show on my waistline. By the spring of 2013, I was in the 250s, heavier than ever! Ugh. And that is where I've stayed.

Finally, I'm doing something about it, and hope to have the discipline to stick to it for the long run because fitness feels so good. My goal is to exercise at least an hour a day, EVERY DAY, ad infinitum. I'm making it a priority and a habit. This week I ran on a treadmill six days and boosted my hourly mileage from 4.65 to 5.35 miles an hour. And yesterday I walked three miles playing disc golf and geocaching on the first springlike day of 2014.

I don't like diets. Calorie counting isn't my thing. And I'm not giving up beer. But some foods are forbidden to me now, including potato chips or other fatty snacks like them (cheetos, corn chips, etc.), fast food, chicken skins, ice cream, donuts, and most other sugary snacks. Meat consumption will be limited. Fresh fruits and vegetables will be eaten in abundance. I will take care to watch my portions.

And I will continue to run. Running gives me joy, allows me, in warmer, less snowy, times, to enjoy fresh air and scenery. And I know from past experience that when I run I feel better, my mood is better, and I'm more mentally alert.

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