Thursday, April 7, 2016

How Running Saved My Life

Here is my experience with running over the last 3 ½ years. I started running again when I began this health journey 3 ½ years ago because running was the one sport I knew I could go back to doing. I had not consistently run the previous ten years. What I quickly discovered is this:  it is very hard to run with a lot of extra weight. At the time I started I was 75 lbs. heavier than I am now!

I always tell people that running did not make me thinner. It was the “running” that actually gave me the motivation to lose the weight, eat healthier, and make long term changes toward improving my health. The thought of running marathons again had me seeking out the best and healthiest options to support a running lifestyle.

As a part of the journey, I also gave up alcohol. I decided that running was more important and it led to more positive benefits without having alcohol. This was the best decision I ever made.
Without these changes, I would have continued down the road towards chronic illness such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. I was feeding a lifestyle that would have led to a shorter, miserable life. That old lifestyle was slowly killing me from the inside.

As I learned more about other runners, especially Ultra runners and endurance athletes, I quickly discovered that eating a plant-based diet was the best way for me to do the type of training I wanted to do. You cannot go from the couch to a marathon in 18 months by eating donuts – or at least you can’t do it and enjoy it! I wanted to maximize the overall running experience, limit injuries, and recover faster so that I could quickly do more.

After that first marathon in Dec 2012, I ended up running four more (two back-to-back in two days) and added in my first 50K Ultra, all within 14 months of each other.

So yes, running did save my life because it gave me purpose for becoming a healthier me.
I often hear people say they hate running or they hurt when they try it. I say you have two options – keep at it and work on your fitness, or find something else that appeals to you.

My challenge is this: get out the door, find something that excites you, and go after it with all you got.

The passion will drive positive changes if you let it.

Creating your own "Blue Zone!"

How can we leverage the idea of a "Blue Zone" to become more healthy and active?

After reading the Blue Zone Solutions book I started thinking about how this idea of living in an area that promoted health vs thwarting it could be applied to our own lives.  The Blue Zone idea is simple:

There are regions of the world where the healthiest people live. Determining what these people do creates the idea of a healthy region.  Most of the people who live there live longer, healthier lives.

America overall is NOT a healthy blue zone!  We are inundated with unhealthy food choices everywhere – on TV, in our grocery stores, fast food restaurants, and so on.  This is an indicator of being unhealthy because we are a product of our environment.

So how do we change this?  Most of us do not want to leave America, right?  Well, a great place to start is with your environment - which includes your home and friends.

Creating a blue zone at home begins by filling your home with healthier food choices.  Do not be enticed to buy harmful food, but instead, fill your home with fruits, veggies, living greens, and smart beverages such as tea and non-dairy milks.  Then when faced with making a choice for dinner, the default will be the healthy choices because that is all there is to choose from.  As humans it is much easy to make unhealthy choices: 
·         It might taste better
·         it may be easier to eat – think of French fries
·         You’re rushed and you grab something on the go

Your friends can help: This is the fun stuff!  Challenge your friends to create their own blue zones.  Spend time working out together (walking, running, biking, etc.), eating at healthy restaurants together, and encourage each other to be accountable for their choices and actions.  If your friends do not want to play along, then maybe you need to change your friends!  As a runner for example, I tend to hang out with other runners. As a group we tend to be healthier, make better food choices and choose to be very active.

Your Environment: This area is open to your own creativity.  Environments include work, shopping, where you hang out, etc.  When you are at work, bring your own food.  Walk during lunch, use a standing desk, make it a point to surround yourself with healthier options.

Social media groups:  I have found through my own experience that it is fairly easy to influence others around you if you share your ideas, goals, and successes.

In the end, you can change the world around you.  Be the example, have fun, and encourage others to join you.

I promise you won't regret it.......