I was out on my morning walk early today. It was warm and fresh, not a breath of wind, birds singing and my dog joyfully tootling along by my side.
I love this time that I give to myself. It is time for me to be with myself and commune with nature. I feel connected and alive, at one with myself and at peace with the world.
Ironic really as only a few years ago I used to laugh at the walkers – “call that keeping fit! You haven’t even broken into a sweat.”
Now, you see, I used to run, miles every week, come rain, shine or storm, nothing would stop me. Oh and heaven help you if you said “I saw you out jogging today”. I didn’t jog! I was a runner. Miles and miles each week I would pound the pavements, pushing myself to the edge of my anaerobic capacity, the never ending hill sessions, sprints, laps, intervals, time trails and mixed paced runs all in the name of keeping fit.
But you know what even though I could run a 10k race in a respectable 40 minute time and a half marathon or triathlon was my idea of a fun way to spend a Sunday I wasn’t really fit.
I ate poorly, mainly pasta, bread, rice, cheese and processed foods, mars bars and coffee to fuel me when I felt tired and packets of potato chips until they were coming out of my ears. I hardly touched vegetables and protein, what did I need that for I was an athlete and athletes ate carbs.
Now fortunately I never got injured, well nothing more than a sprained ankle or a few cuts a bruises from the odd times I’d fall off my bike in my own driveway. Yet I was constantly tired, moody and hungry. I weighed about 50 kg, was super lean and people who hadn’t seen me in a while thought I’d had cancer. But in my mind I was FIT.
My body however was telling me otherwise, coughs, colds, flus, aches, pains, tightness, stiffness, soreness, boils, shocking periods and PMS and insatiable hunger.
I was punishing my body and was actually malnourished.
Once I began working as a holistic dentist I made many changes to my diet and lifestyle. Nevertheless, the punishing workouts and training regimes continued. I felt less tired, didn’t get as sick as often and was sleeping better. Yet something funny was happening. I didn’t seem to be able to go as fast or as hard as I used to and I’d feel irritated rather than elevated when out on my training rides or runs.
Then one day I went for a run, I couldn’t get going, my calf muscles felt like they might snap and my heart rate was super elevated. I pushed along telling myself it would pass and then my body screamed at my so loudly I had no choice but to stop and take notice. It said “I hate running, it hurts me, treat me gently”.
Well I was dumbfounded. Yet I knew deep down this was true. I only took up running because I was overweight and back then I did hate it, I used to cry and think I was going to die as I couldn’t breathe and my heart kept skipping beats. Somehow though I overrode that, ignored my body and carried on regardless. But not this time. This time I thought “you are right, this isn’t actually doing me good”
I never ran again from that day to this. And this is where it gets fascinating.
I now workout with light weights most days, walk for an hour regularly, swim and keep myself active. My body IS fit and toned but most importantly – healthy.
I never get sick, I only need a few hours sleep and two meals a day, my body is shapely and I weigh around 48 kg. Yet I look vital, healthy and full of life, no more cancer victim physique here.
It makes me wonder then given my own experience whether to be fit we really need to run and push our body to extremes. I feel it was only a matter of time, had I not chosen to listen to my body, before I developed chronic fatigue or some auto-immune condition from the years of battering myself in the name of being fit.
Exercise doesn’t have to hurt you just need to keep active.
What I have realised is there is a massive difference between fitness and health.
Health for me incorporates sleep, meditation, real food, gentle exercise, connection, laughter and LOVE.
What does health look like to you?