The link above is a blog post by Donald Miller which connects two great passions of mine–basketball and writing. So I had to share it.
The post also gives us, as writers, permission to have bad days. Whew, that’s good, because I have more bad days than good ones when it comes to producing quality writing. This post also engaged my thoughts around the connection between writing routine and fitness. For me, I cannot possibly quiet my mind or sit still long enough to write a poem or an essay unless I have at least an hour of exercise each day. Most days, I log more than one hour. This could be walking or yoga or running or weight-lifting or non-swimming water exercise.
Because I devote such regular time to fitness, many of my friends are women I have met with a mat or a band or a barbell between us. Many of these friends are fitter than I am, so I hesitate, always, to give advice about diet and exercise. With that caution in mind, here are some random thoughts I have about diet and exercise and I dedicate this to all women who are driven to improve themselves and to be the best we can be:
1. Fitness should serve you, not the other way around. If you serve the Fitness god (who looks like Barbie, by the way…and you, of course, don’t) then this is a tragic form of idolatry. What could be adding years and more importantly layers of energy and quality to your life will, instead, take you by the high, bleach-blonde fantasy pony tail that you have and yank you out of your own life. Yes, you might be a size 4, but your conversations will be only one-dimensional diatribes about the perfect green smoothie and the best regimen for killer abs. There is no acceptance in this territory, and when we can’t accept ourselves and our less-than-perfect bodies, we shut down the avenue to understanding the miraculous gift of God’s acceptance of us. Worse yet, we question his perfect wisdom in creating us with physical flaws. Angelina Jolie recently went public with the news that she recently underwent a preventive double mastectomy because of her nearly certain genetic probability of developing breast cancer. Here is one of the most physically beautiful women to ever walk the face of the earth. It is a very good thing for Angelina and family that she understands the deeper elements of true beauty. While it is not possible for me to look like Angelina Jolie, it is completely possible and desired by God that I have the confidence in myself to know that beauty is not the summation of perfectly chiseled body parts.
2.Gentle Moderation. I love high intensity workouts. I love pushing myself and attaining goals. Nothing wrong with doing Crossfit or running marathons as long as we listen to our bodies and exercise for the longterm benefits. If your body hurts, though, let it rest. We shouldn’t be judging our worthiness for the day based on how many stairs we climbed, or as I have been known to do, how close to cardiac arrest I pushed myself. Two years ago, I was heavy into Crossfit, and now after sustaining a back injury which keeps me from doing high intense workouts anymore, I do notice that my body is different, but honestly it isn’t THAT different. I am still in the same size of clothing as I was. My arms are not as muscular but they aren’t flabby either. I am curvier and look more like a middle-aged woman, but I am also able to enjoy other pursuits like writing and cooking and being with friends more because I am not chronically fatigued from my daily workouts and so depleted physically that the rest of my day after my workouts aren’t consumed with fueling my body with calories for the next workout. I don’t really miss the workouts. I miss the endorphin-highs. It takes more time for me to burn the calories I need to burn to maintain my weight, but I am much more at peace about my day and about my life, and I am much less HUNGRY all the time. Don’t get me wrong….if I could still do Crossfit I would. I loved it, but I can’t and both Barbie-god and myself have to be okay with that. It’s odd, I don’t miss it nearly as much as I thought I would.
3. Eat Real Food. Sometimes I just want to open all the windows of my house and shout Guess what? Human beings used to eat sugar and white pasta and dairy products and they eventually died. And guess what else, you can go through your life avoiding these food substances and you are STILL GOING TO DIE SOMEDAY. I do believe in pursuing the eating of more fresh vegetables and fruits, but some of the posts I read from fitness buffs in blogs and on Facebook and some of the conversations I hear from ladies in the locker room at my local exercise haunt, lead me to shake my head. These women apparently never eat real food anymore. I recommend the wisdom of Nina Plank and her Eat Real Food movement. Count the cost. You are giving up a day in your life for this. Personally I want to talk about something else and I want to eat real food given the fact that I don’t get this day back ever again. Today, at age 50, tacking on another year at the end of my hopefully but not guaranteed long life is not as precious or as vital is this day right here and now is to me. Food is fuel, but it is much more than that. It is also a way to connect with other people. I don’t want to eat like an astronaut.
4. Guilt makes you fat, not real food. For me, the journey to prioritize myself as a Christian wife and mother has been a climb through a lot of hastily consumed brownies. I have been addicted to sugar in the past. There is a connection between sleep deprivation and poor eating habits. It’s all about finding emotional, physical, and spiritual balance. What works for me doesn’t necessarily work for you. The key to achieving ideal weight and long-term health is to address all aspects of why we make the food choices and the exercise choices that we do. Right here, right now, let’s take a deep breath and say I am beautiful just as I am. The only person who needs convincing of that is myself.
5. No matter what you do, you are going to die. It might be with perpetually and falsely perked-up breast implants or Botox cheeks or hair that is too blonde for your laugh lines. You might meet your Maker in bling-jeans that in previous generations only country music stars would wear, but make no mistake about it, we can’t cheat death no matter how many unassisted pull ups we can perform. It seems to me a good percentage of our days (perhaps the equivalent of how many hours we put in on the treadmill) should go toward what is eternal about us and our lives, and to the extent going for a jog prepares my heart and mind for eternal living, that is the extent to which all of this matters. It does matter. Show me a woman with a barrel-shaped belly and I don’t care how many women’s retreats she has led or how many sermonettes she has delivered or how many hours she supposedly spends in prayer, I will show you the truth that there is guilt there, and hiding and hoarding and lack of balance. For me exercise is a very spiritual pursuit. Sometimes so is a good donut. When I eat a balanced diet and when I exercise at least an hour each day, I feel so much better and I am able to accomplish so much more. But it is the balance, not the steady feeding of endorphins that keep me grounded able to be the best me. We begin to attempt to control what we fear when we realize we fear what we can’t control. In reality, my body is aging. My skin is getting thinner. My teeth are losing enamel. My hair is well, my hair. I fear loss of my quality of life probably more than I fear total loss of life. But I can’t control these natural processes. I can only live in the reality that this is life as it is meant to be lived and there is no dodging the uncomfortable parts. Perspective is the word. Exercise within the realm of this reality.