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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bok Choy for breakfast and other follies

I knew I had reached an all-time high (as in "Are you high or something?") when my trainer, who usually remains as calm and composed as can be, flinched at the sight of my food journal. "Bok choy for breakfast, J? Really?" I shrugged: " Well, there were leftovers from last night... I thought I might as well mix them in with my egg whites... does make for a good omelet..."

She could only agree. When it comes to healthy breakfasts, it doesn't get much better than that.

I've come a long way since the time I argued with her that yes, I needed my sweets, and that no, I couldn't possibly cut down on carbs! I now eat much more vegetables instead - and breakfast is no exception. (Have you ever tried a tomato sandwich first thing in the morning? Yum.)

The wonderful thing about lifestyle changes is that if you implement them gradually, you barely notice it. You simply wake up one day and make yourself an egg white and bok choy omelet. Not even realizing it might be slightly unusual. More importantly, not even having a thought for the buttery croissants you used to enjoy.

The same thing happened with exercise. I can still remember - in my distant, blurry past - those days when I felt I had no energy for exercising. I only wanted to rest after a long day of work - is that too much to ask? I at least needed a day of rest between each day of exercise. Right?

Well, not anymore. A lot of changes have made their way... slowly but surely. For one thing I have happily become a "clean food" enthusiast. What I consider healthy - and even what I will actually call "food" has changed drastically. As for exercise, one day of rest per week is plenty.

You would have told me, a few years ago, about the kind of life habits I have now, and I would likely have responded "Are you fu***** out of your mind?" There was just no way. The athlete lifestyle was not for me. I wasn't even sure it really existed. Maybe in some distant, idealized fourth dimension.

As far as I was concerned, those annoyingly thin and ripped (and energetic) people were probably on all kinds of dangerous drugs, or they had "athlete genes" that I lacked. Or maybe they were simply plain crazy to begin with (I mean, some people do take it too far. I once knew someone who basically cancelled all her social life in order to lead an athletic life).

But then I started making small changes. One baby step at a time. Of course I did not start with series of burpees. I mean, at one point, slowly walking uphill was enough to exhaust me. When my father-in-law came to help arrange the yard, I couldn't keep up with him. At all. He's 30 years older than me! Gives you an idea.

Eventually, though, my new "normal" started to resemble what those "fitness freaks" do (to a lesser degree, of course). Even my body started to look athletic. One morning, I caught a glimpse of a six-pack in the mirror. In awe, I told my trainer: "I had no idea we all have an athletic body hiding under those layers of... other stuff".

Of course it hasn't always been an easy ride. Old habits die hard. I will always have a sweet tooth. Greasy, salty stuff, also does have its appeal. So does skipping a workout and instead relaxing with a glass of wine... or two, or three... well, you get the idea. I've experienced many setbacks. The results did not come in as fast as I wished. What I've come to realize, however, is that if you generally have good habits, and only occasionally indulge, in time you will get results. I am not even pushing myself that hard. It doesn't feel that hard anyways.

I also have a new outlook on "cheating". Is it always worth it? Is the brief pleasure worth the consequences (of feeling blah, among other things)? Not necessarily. If the alternative to what I'm doing now is to feel the way I used to feel... tired, stressed, somewhat depressed... then I'm not interested. Counter-intuitive as can be, my life is much more fun now. No kidding!

I have never been in an awfully bad shape, yet just imagining the kind of lifestyle I have right now would have been enough to make me dizzy in the past. But the truth is... - and this is where you need to pay attention: I have never felt better. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Life throws stuff at me and I just deal with it efficiently, Karate Kid kind of way. Always ready. Not scared.

If I had no idea of my birth date and you asked me how old I am, I would probably guess I'm around 18 years old (for the record, that's half my age). 'Cause really, that's how I feel. Youthful. A ball of energy. On top of the world. Along with the - moderate level of - wisdom that comes with experience. I also have a sense of accomplishment and pride that is priceless. I feel strong. Powerful. I can run up flights of stairs repeatedly with heavy grocery bags in each hand, and my breathing remains inaudible. My pulse barely bulges. If that's my version of an early midlife crisis, then so be it!

It's so wonderful I want everybody else to feel the same. I know they can. One baby step at a time. It's so worth it. Trust me on that. Go out for a walk today. Just do it.

By some funny coincidence (and some lack of proper planning on my part), I recently found myself with 3 workouts within a 12 hours period or so. One evening, I went to the gym and lifted weights for an hour, then did cardio for an extra 30 minutes. After some stretching I came back home. I only had time for a quick snack, a quick shower, and it was time to hop into bed. It was kinda late, but I nonetheless set my alarm for 5:30 the next morning: my friend K and I had a run planned at the crack of dawn (an optimistic way to call it since the dawn doesn't crack until way after we are done running). This is when I realized that I had also planned a run with my friend B, on the same day... at 9 am.

I didn't have the heart to cancel any of those runs. I love to run with both K and B. Plus, when I thought about it, I realized this would turn out to be something like a 10 or 12 K split in two... with time for breakfast during the "intermission". Not bad at all when you think of it. Bok choy omelet, anyone?

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