Good Health is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Oh, hey. It’s been a while. Sorry. I have about a dozen half-written posts and I PROMISE I have TOTALLY been considering writing them, and have been thinking about you guys and your fitnessing, but I also have been real busy starting a new exciting venture, which I will tell you all about in the next post. Right now, though, we got some business to take care of.

So, right around now is when magazines and commercials start pummeling you with “Shape Up For Summer,” and “Get a Hot Swimsuit Bod” and “You Need To Look Better Real Soon Cause It’s Getting Hot Out” headlines. This can make it really tempting to go into crash diet mode and Get Fit Now, but there are a few things you should consider.

  1. Summer, while fun, is no big deal. This is not the most important 3 months of your life. Additionally, looking hot is not the most important thing about these 3 months of your life. So, while making some sort of Keri Russell (The Americans Keri Russell, not Felicity Keri Russell) entrance at a sweet pool party might be a super cool moment, this is not what life is all about. This is something important to keep in mind.
  2. Drastic diets have negative long-term affects. Any sort of crash diet, or drastic change in your calorie intake, can lower your metabolism in the long run. So, a couple years of doing “super summer bod crash courses” will reduce your basal metabolic rate (BMR), meaning the calories you require to power your vital organs. This has nothing to do with the amount you exercise; it’s just what’s needed to power your body to be alive. You can increase your BMR by increasing your fat-free-mass (read: muscle), which means you burn more calories JUST EXISTING. However, yo-yo dieting can permanently lower your BMR, making it even harder to maintain a healthy weight you want.
  3. Your body needs actual nutrients. Making changes in your diet can be a really great way to be healthy, have more energy, and drop some pounds. But it’s important to remember that a lot of “diet” foods are processed beyond nutrition. You might getting really good at minimizing calories, but can become deficient in some important vitamins and minerals. The best way to change your diet is to eat a variety of foods, mostly from whole food sources (meaning, unprocessed — usually a single ingredient). Lot of vegetables, whole grains, lean protein from legumes, chicken, or fish, and fruits will pretty much ensure you’re getting everything your body needs — and you’ll be able to toss your daily multivitamin too. Eating Real Food (not something made in a lab or factory) is the best thing you can do for your body, both short-term and long-term.
  4. You will still need your body after the summer. Once summer is over, you’re still going to need your strong, healthy body to do stuff. In fact, in like 10 summers, you’ll still need it. Even 20, or 30, or 60 (I have no idea how long you plan on living). And you’ll probably still want to do cool stuff with it, like go swimming, and walk for a really long time without hurting, and take wild vacations to places that don’t have a masseuse in the hotel. Which means you have to take really good care of it now, by making sure you’re getting enough nutrients to keep your bones healthy and strong, and working out enough to build strong muscles.

I know this goes against pretty much every bit of media you will consume over the next month, but don’t give in to the summertime panic. If you want to get in better shape, make some awesome workout goals, eat things that are good for your body (in an amount that is respectable), and sometimes have wine with blue cheese crostini, and don’t freak out about it. This is real life, you aren’t trying to get crazy ripped for some magazine cover, you’re trying to enjoy life and feel good about yourself. Which means your regimen has to be sustainable, in the very long term. Not just in your 20s and 30s. You don’t sprint all out in your first mile of a marathon, because if you did, you’d screw yourself for the last 10 miles. The same should go for your overall fitness and health. Don’t go crash-dieting and over-exerting (read: injuring) yourself for 6 weeks just to burn out, hate fitnessing, and eat bullshit as soon as summer is over. Make long term goals that will challenge you physically, and eat healthy whole foods. That’s all. No special panic skinny times, no crazy fast weight loss, just steady, constant self-improvement.