If pulling on your sweat-wicking threads, lacing up your flashy, minimalistic running shoes and pounding the pavement with Daft Punk blasting through your ear buds for 40 minutes or so isn’t your idea of a good time, then don’t do it.
And equally, if huffing and puffing your way up a steep and muddy single-track trail through forest while your quads turn to jelly is your idea of torture, then don’t do that, either.
Also, if sweating all over the floor and looking super unattractive while you lift heavy weights sounds downright deplorable, then feel free to give it a miss.
Oh, and if you need an excuse to not run a marathon, here’s a list 26 reasons you can use next time that annoyingly fit friend of yours tries to convince you otherwise.
Of course, these are all MY ideas of a good time.
I’m lucky that I actually enjoy all of the things you’re ‘supposed’ to do be fit and healthy. I run because I love running. I love that feeling you get when your legs move so effortlessly over the pavement or trail; I think it’s the closest we can ever get to feeling like we’re flying, without actually flying. I love to lift weights and work out in the gym because I sit on my butt all day at a computer, and it feels good to actually use my muscles. I also love the feeling you get after exercise, whether it’s from running or yoga or cycling or hiking or just walking my dog.
I’m also lucky that I’ve learned to love healthy foods. Oatmeal, chia seeds, berries, yogurt, chicken, salmon, salads, sweet potatoes, roasted vegetables… why compromise your precious body and fill it with processed foods when all this good stuff is available? I’m the laziest cook EVER and still manage to eat pretty good 80 per of the time. The other 20 per cent of the time I eat REALLY good — as in really good chocolate, really good cake, really good coconut ice cream, really good yam fries, and really good wine.
As a human living in a culture that seems bound and determined to make us fat, I feel pretty lucky I like all these things.
But it definitely wasn’t always that way.
I used to live on cereal and chocolate bars when I was younger. When I was 12, I could easily pack away a Quarter Pounder with cheese, medium fries and a chocolate milkshake from McDonald’s in one sitting. Every Friday night, my family used to get take-out. We usually had KFC or Chinese food or something equally greasy. I probably would have been an overweight child if my mom didn’t cook healthy meals for us six nights of the week. She’d try and pack a healthy lunch for me, but I would usually just throw it out or trade my sandwich and apple for a Wagon Wheel. Considering I didn’t play any sports, I’m amazed I was as lean as I was as a kid.
But then everything changed one day when, after our usual Friday night take-out meal of Chinese food, my dad had to be rushed to the hospital. He had had a massive heart attack just before I was born, and was told to give up smoking, fatty foods and alcohol as his heart was badly damaged. I honestly thought that this time he was going to die and that Chinese food was the reason. He was in the hospital for months, and had to have angioplasty with a stent put in his heart to keep him alive.
My dad was in and out of hospital for years after that. Because my dad was obese and wasn’t supposed to have fatty foods, I stopped eating fatty foods. In fact, I loathed fatty foods and tried to stop my family from eating them as well. I remember I used to stage protests in the kitchen with my stuffed animals with signs that said “Don’t Eat Meeee!” taped to them when my mom was cooking steak. I equated obesity with heart attacks, and thought if I led by example, maybe I could keep my dad around longer.
When I entered my teens, I become more interested in fitness and health. Although I had given up fast food, I still loved cereal and sweets and didn’t really have a well-rounded diet. I also HATED sports, especially running. But slowly, over time, I learned to love it. I remember how happy I was when I ran 1.5 km without stopping for the first time.
Once I began to love running, I tried other activities and discovered what I love to do (endurance sports) and what I (still) don’t love to do (team sports). I researched what foods are supposed to be good for you and tried them, and continue to eat the ones I do like (quinoa, hemp seeds, gogi berries) and don’t eat the ones I don’t like (cucumber, potatoes, wheat grass). While I don’t eat McDonald’s or other fatty fast foods anymore (probably more for psychological reasons than anything), I still eat sweets (gotta have my daily chocolate!) and indulge in pizza, steak or a burger every few weeks or so.
The only time I really stick to a workout plan is when I’m training for something, like a marathon or ultra… and even then I usually do it pretty half-assed. The rest of the time I just do whatever I feel like doing that day, be it a run, lifting weights, going for a hike or doing yoga. I know I’m happier when I move my body, so I do it more often than not.
In our seemingly endless quest for happiness, health and a fit body, I think the secret to success is awareness, trying things you think you might like, sticking with what you love and making a habit of it. Also remember that forming new habits takes time. Years, even — so don’t be discouraged if your new-found passion doesn’t change your life overnight.
If you end up loving running, high fives. If swimming is more your thing, high fives for you, too. It really doesn’t matter what you do — just move.