Health.

Earlier this week I wrote here about new beginnings: resolutions, changes, and things to improve. One area that I am focusing on – like the rest of the world – is fitness. However, for me, it’s become an issue of health.

I’m going to be frank here. I’ve been an on-and-off athlete my whole life. In high school I played 3 sports, one of which I loved so much I sometimes had to be shooed into the locker room at the end of the practice (that was track and my event was the high hurdles). In college, I was sporadically into fitness. Working life happened and fitness was all over the place. I had bouts of running with months-long runs of weight lifting. Then a drought. Then back again. Then I stopped. Then eventually back to the gym. You get the picture.

Finally, after getting engaged, I decided to use a half marathon as a way to both accomplish a new goal and get fit for my wedding, and I buckled down into running. This was probably the most dedicated to fitness I was since high school. I was a true runner for nearly a year, culminating in running a half marathon – with no walking – 2 weeks before my wedding.

Then I fell out of the running habit. Then back into fitness, and again falling back out. For years. I decided another half marathon would do the trick. Then I got pregnant and was so sick I couldn’t keep down water in the first trimester, let alone continue to train for the half. So, once my daughter was born, I signed up for a half again.

Training was really tough. I had a small baby, 4-7 months old during the training period, and I was tired. I sacrificed runs for sleep and relaxation for runs and was frustrated with my lack of progress. As the race approached, I had to come to terms with the fact that I would just have to walk a good chunk of the race – but I was going to do it.

And I did. Then the holidays arrived. And we sold our house. And bought a new one. And moved out, into a hotel, and then into the new house. Then it was summer and it was ungodly hot. Then it was fall and we were soooo busy.

October of 2016, my company offered an incentive to get a health check – for a simple blood draw you could earn a $100 gift card to Amazon. Sold! Unfortunately – or actually, maybe fortunately – my results weren’t as good as I expected. It was a wake-up call. In the interest of honesty, transparency, and accountability, let’s talk actual data.

Blood pressure: 124/72 (goal is 120/80 or less). This measurement has been borderline high at every doctor’s appointment I’ve been to since I had my daughter. That needs to change.

Triglycerides: 180 mg/dL (goal is less than 150 mg/dL). This is a type of cholesterol and mine has been high the last two times it’s measured. High cholesterol raises your risk for both heart attacks and strokes. This measurement contributed to an overall slightly high total cholesterol number even though my LDL and HDL levels were good.

BMI: 26.8 (goal is between 18 and 25). While “losing weight” is not the goal here, I am carrying around more pounds that is necessary for my body. I gained 30 pounds with my pregnancy (160 to 191), lost 35 total after she was born (down to 155), but gained 15 back after I stopped breastfeeding (170). And since then I’ve added another 5ish (175ish) – just in the last two months or so. I know I have an issue with my sweet tooth and that needs to be reigned in. In order to be healthy, I do need to lost just a few pounds. I’d be happy just getting down to my pre-pregnancy weight – but my focus and driver here is a healthy weight for ME.

Cardiovascular health. While the test didn’t tell me anything about this – day to day does. There have been times that I’ve been winded when I most definitely shouldn’t be. I struggle to do things that I don’t think should be a struggle (like carry my 22 pound daughter and a heavy-ish shoulder bag across an airport terminal).

It’s right there. Right in front of my face. I am not getting any younger and staying healthy is not getting any easier. And now I’m a living, breathing example, day in and day out, for a small girl who will learn much of what she knows about health and fitness from her father and I. These things need to change. And I’ve come to realize that part of my problem with a lot of things – fitness included – is that I don’t sit down and really think about how I can make sure it fits into my life and is accomplished.

Last year, I figured out how to fit lifting weights in. My husband gets up and goes to the gym early in the morning so I’m in charge of getting our daughter and myself out the door. Then when I get home, I’m hungry/tired/lazy/etc. I could go then, but it’s not ideal. So, I figured out that a lunch break gym session was perfect. I’ve now been lifting weights on my lunch break, 3x a week, for about 5 months now. However, I think for the last few months, I’ve used this as an excuse for not doing cardio – I was still working out, why did I need to run?

But I do need to run. I do need more cardio. My schedule is allowing me to get back to my weekly dance night, but that’s not enough. I realize the only place cardio will fit is in the evenings, so I am committing to make that happen. That might mean eating dinner at 6pm with my daughter and going running at 8. That might mean letting my husband put her to bed and running before dinner. But if I know what I have to do, I can plan for it in my schedule. Scheduling is what is going to make this work. Every Sunday I will sit down with my calendar and look at the week ahead, then figure out where the cardio listed below is going to fit best and put it on the schedule.

I’m focusing on two things for the foreseeable future (as well as continuing to lift weights 3 days a week):

  1. Do the couch to 5K program. When I started running before my very first half marathon – this is what I did. For me, run/walk is so easy. Which makes this workout not intimidating. Which makes me want to do it because I know I’ll be successful. I started this the week after Christmas and my goal is to complete the program. When I complete the program, I should be running about 3 miles. My goal will then be to consistently, over the next 2+ months, to run 3 miles 3 times a week. Once I’ve gotten consistent there, I’ll bump it up to 4 days a week. Once I’m running 12 miles/week consistently, I’ll determine the next goal/challenge. It might be more mileage, it might be a race, or it might simply be trying to improve my mile splits. For now – the main goal is to simply follow and complete the Couch to 5K.
  2. Dance. I discovered a love of dance in my 20s and about 2 years ago I signed up for membership at a dance studio. I pay for 5 classes/month but I’ve generally only been doing 1/month at best. This is a waste of money and every time I go I am so happy that I did. I am making it a goal to attend 1 dance class/week. If I can do 3-4 classes per month I will feel I’m getting my money’s worth – and it’ll take me even closer to my goals for my health.

I’ll update here as we move along. I’m doing well so far but it’s obviously quite early. I’m hoping this keeps me accountable! Are doing anything to improve your health in 2017?

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