Monday, May 26, 2014

Too Much of a Good Thing

I'm in a suburb of beautiful Auckland, New Zealand, a brisk 11 degrees Celsius right now. There is not a single cloud in the sky, and the slight breeze is very welcomed by the cat that is curled up next to me on the porch.

See? No clouds.

I'm sitting in a wooden lounge chair made by a teenager several years ago that seems sturdy enough that the cat doesn't seem to be worried I might break the chair and smoosh him into a splintery cat pancake. My belly is still full from last night's feast. I've been feasting pretty much every day since I arrived. And I mean 'feasting' in the most literal term meaning 'stuffing my face silly with utterly delicious foods,' as I've been getting spoiled by 4-6 course meals every night, homemade by a magical wizard lady in the kitchen. 


 New Zealand wine, crackers, and Almond/Apricot cheese

 Salmon sashimi, fresh ground ginger and garlic with soy, and gerkins 'n sausages

crunchy Salmon skin chips 

Sesame paste noodles 

Champagne with berries 

Really freakin good ice cream

I just went for a run down the street. Let me rephrase: I just did some hill sprints about a mile away from the house. And by hill sprints, I mean I jogged up a steep, grassy hill towards an awesome-looking tree with a tire swing several times. 

Awesome tree with tire swing 

Hill. One angle of it.

I haven't worked out in a while. My lungs have gotten stale from being stagnant in use. Although I've been in a place with crisp, clean air for about a week now, and I've done a quick hike or two in the mountains (hills? It's NZ...I'm not sure which is which now), I haven't done anything incredibly challenging for my body, and I can tell it misses it. My allergies and asthma have a lot to do with my shortened workout today, and I know that in the matter of a couple days, my lungs will wake up, my energy will skyrocket, and I will be able to do a much better workout. But as for today, I'm taking it easy. 

I used to push myself to the limits every time I worked out. Used to. Like when I was an athlete. Like when I wasn't an athlete. Like when I didn't know that there is such thing as too much. I used to push myself until my body would want to quit, and then I would push myself a little more, and call it "mental training." Just a little more. Gotta get to 10, 20, 50....just a couple more. And I would do it, rain or shine, because I had to. Anything easier, and I would consider myself a weak "normal" person who wasn't going to succeed. I would train 2-3 times a day, especially if I was prepping for a competition. I would be maticulous about my eating, following the "low fat" trend that was popular back then. I listened to what the magazines said would be good for me. What the media said. Train hard, don't eat fat, train more, and override what your body tells you when it says it's tired because you can push through it! You can do it! No pain, no gain!

Is life really about disregarding what your body tells you to do? Should that be the marker of how 'great' you are at physical accomplishment? You decide to run a marathon because it shows you can do more than your body is meant to do naturally. You decide to train for your recreational sport 2-3x/day, 6 days a week, hard, even though you're tired and hurting all the time, and you're falling asleep at work, but have insomnia at night. You go on a strict diet 6 days a week, eating "really healthy" foods at perfect portions so you can get the perfect body you've been dreaming of, despite the fact that all you can think of are cookies and steak and never feeling satisfied. 

I've done that. All of it. It's gotten me nowhere. Your body inevitably wins. If you train too hard, it shuts down for a few days. If you train too much, it might shut down for a few weeks. You get sick. You get injured. You just can't. If you're too strict with your diet, all you will think about is food. What you have to eat, what you can't eat. And when you have your "cheat day," you eat like you've been starving for the past week. Because you have. 

I don't know about you, but this has always been a problem for me...

"Too" has a big psychological impact. Too much, too little. We've all heard that moderation is key, but the hard part is to implement it, especially those of us with a competitive nature. It's great to keep fit and healthy by exercise and eating nutrient-dense foods, but I've realized that It's impossible to do it 100% all the time. When you're on vacation, enjoy your vacation. Don't worry about being on your diet all the time, or working out every day. But listen to your body. It will tell you when enough is enough. It will tell you when it needs to exert some energy. And don't feel guilty while you're on vacation. Ever.

With your every day life, remember that habits make a person. Keep on somewhat of a regular schedule with your workouts/physical activity/Play, to make sure you get it in (because over long time, your body can and will get accustomed to a sedentary life, and your brain will go with whatever is easier to do at the time), and eat healthily most of the time. If you want that ice cream because it's a new flavor that came out and is limited time only, get it. Just don't make it a habit. Habits are hard to break. If you've ever tried to break a bad habit before, remember how hard it was, and if you want to go through that again. 

If you're in a sport, train like you're trying to perfect the sport, not like you're trying to win at every practice. When it comes time that you have a competition coming up in a few weeks, that's when you go hard. But in the meantime, don't do too much. That's probably the hardest habit to break. 

Where's Goldilocks?

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