Crafting a healthy lifestyle is sort of like practicing a sport. You need willpower, you need a plan, and you need to make mistakes. I believe there is not one single route to health, and whatever path it is- it is never straight and clear. The most important thing is to pick the path that you find easiest to follow, and know that it is totally ok to stray away every now and then.
Your path might be paved with yoga, a plant based diet, and the occasional doughnut- or running, carb cycling, and lots of ice cream. Whatever definition a healthy lifestyle carries for you, make sure that the road to health is not paved with good intentions and bad execution.
I’ve been sprinting, lunging and jumping on my path to a healthy lifestyle for quite a while now. Over the several years I have kept rerouting my path with elimination diets, sandy protein shakes and little short-lived attempts at yoga. My constant through it all has been running. I picked up running as a kid because I wasn’t very good at tennis and or much else, and it has stuck around since then.
But not until this week.. You see I’ve tripped on many potholes as I have made my way to living a healthy lifestyle. But the largest and most menacing pothole has ironically come in the form of loving running too much and stretching not so much. Which has now has me benched with a torn hamstring.
I’m bummed that I can’t run, and I feel kind of cranky and out of shape already. It’s time for me to snap out of it though and try to enjoy a new temporary (hopefully) path to recovery. Maybe it will involve giving yoga another chance.
Its like starting over again, and in the spirit of healthy start ups here are the lessons I’ve learned along the way:
Lesson #1: Working out more and eating less is a fallacy:
I had always assumed that cutting out foods, was a short cut to my body’s ideal destination. So this conventional wisdom of cutting back on food and burning whatever remains with vigorous exercise- naturally resulted in a deficit. Yes, this summed up to a drop in the scale and my dress size. But it slowly killed my metabolism. The science behind it goes something like this:
Your body thinks it is starving and so your metabolism adapts by making use of less calories for the same amount of energy-essentially holding on to more fat. This is your body’s way of being more efficient to help you survive, but it absolutely kills your body’s ability to burn fat.
This article sums it up perfectly: “Here is the information you have never been told. Your body does not work like a calculator. It works like a thermostat..”
Lesson #2: Dial it down:
This is my greatest vice. I have the best intentions, but ultimately I have a tendency to do much. A balanced training plan should have at least 1-2 days of rest each week of gentle stretching, yoga or walking; no strenuous activity. The body needs rest to recover and to grow back stronger. Rest includes proper sleep, and a little self control. I used to think that if I didn’t go hard everyday, I would somehow wake up fatter. This is a. unhealthy b. ridiculous and c. actually false. Because exercise is a stressor on the body, and stress causes the body to retain visceral fat. Thus, an un-relaxed overs stressed body will start to house more fat. Even if ironically the stress comes from sweating more.
Lesson #3: Carbs are not the enemy and neither is fat for that matter:
Not having enough carbs or fat both contribute to impaired function.
Lets start off with carbs: They are your body’s primary source of energy, by producing glucose to fuel your cells. Which is required to maintain brain and muscular function. When you severely limit carbohydrates, you restrict readily available energy. With depleted energy levels and impaired brain function, you will feel generally weak.
Lesson #4: Mobility and body work are integral to recovery and longevity:
This is ultimately caused my injury. I would go on a long run or through an intense conditioning session without proper cool downs or warm ups for that matter. This turn slowly turned me into the tin man, with tight ligaments that were primed for injuries. I was a pulled hamstring waiting to happen, and eventually it did happen.
I urge you and myself to make time for foam rolling and proper stretching every day ( even on off days) . Additionally, I am aiming to fit in body work at least once a week to schedule a deep tissue massages or chiropractor work.