A life well lived. I’ve been thinking about that phrase a lot lately. Countless bloggers, authors, journalists and priests have all managed to explain it in a different way, citing things like happiness and spiritual wellness, career success and weight loss.
Confusing, right? What’s the answer? What’s the ticket to living your best life possible?
While I probably can’t define it for you (and I don’t think anyone really can), if there’s one thing I do know for certain, it’s that there’s definitely no one-size-fits-all model.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve really been reflecting on the things that make me happiest. The things that fill me up and re-energize me to face the tough days. The things that are a constant reminder of why this life is so special, so unique.
While there are other important things in life that “fill me up,” I’ve been dealing a lot with fitness & exercise lately. Mainly because I was training for a 10K, but also because I’ve started learning a few things. Things that have been mentioned to me before, but have never made as much sense as they do now.
First and foremost, I’ve learned that working out feels really good…
… and I don’t just mean physically! When I get out of bed and hit the gym in the morning (at 5:30!), I feel better all day long and have so much more energy. I feel productive and proud of myself, and that usually translates to a better attitude and thus a better day at work. I also love when I can feel my muscles tense up, and especially when I’m a bit sore.
Above all else, I love waking up and making time for myself. For that 45-minutes, I get to enjoy the way my body moves, think about whatever I want to think about, and spend a few solitary minutes in prayer. And that’s priceless.
Sticking to a routine may actually sabotage weight loss.
So while I’m not officially on a “diet,” per se, I have been watching my food choices lately and trying to maximize workouts for a bit of healthy weight loss. And because I like doing my research, I’ve been reading a lot about mixing up a fitness routine and adding more strength training than I initially felt comfortable with.
I’m a cardio person, so I put in my fair share of time on the elliptical, bike and treadmill (and now, running outdoors!), but I’ve also made it a goal to commit at least 15 minutes of every workout, if not more, to strength and ab conditioning. And I’m really starting to see results! I not only feel stronger during my cardio workouts, but I’m definitely starting to see + feel gradual muscle definition and toning. (And… I’m also learning how to look less awkward on the machines that usually only guys touch!).
The bottom line of this rule, is that it pays to mix it up. Even if you’re doing the same exercises in a different order, you’ll still see more results than simply doing the same exact thing every day. For me, that looks like different combinations of running, lifting, yoga/stretching, and elliptical/bike workouts every week. (Also a plus.. it’s actually fun to be spontaneous!).
I took this photo during one of my night runs — one of many attempts to mix it up!
Proper fueling is really important.
Unlike most, I like to eat breakfast first thing in the morning. It’s another happy point in my day, and I’m usually starved by the time I get up anyway. This, coincidentally, has been one of my biggest challenges since I’ve started working out in the early mornings. If I eat too much before I head to the gym, which I usually do, I tend to feel heavy and slow, and my workout falls flat. If I eat yogurt before a long run, my stomach gets really upset.
In other words, it’s tough to figure out the best way to fuel up! I’m working on limiting my pre-workout meal to a small amount of carbs/proteins (usually whole grain bread w/ peanut butter) and then allowing myself a snack around 10am in the office. It’s usually just what I need to tide me over until lunch.
Listening to your body is #1.
I’ve been really lucky over the past few months to avoid injury. Since I had knee problems in the past, I was shocked to make it through even a mile without extreme soreness or pulling a muscle. I later learned from my running coach how important it is to take it at your own pace (which still means you can push yourself, but know your boundaries!). If your body is craving a rest day, give it rest. (Rest is just as important as getting a regular workout in!). If your body says, you can go faster… try going faster. Bottom line, listen to what your body needs and is capable of, but also don’t be afraid to push yourself beyond what you think you’re capable of.
Cute clothes might make you run faster(!)
Okay, so maybe not a scientific fact… but I’ve got a secret. Every time I hit a milestone in my 10K training (i.e. finished another long run or ran further than ever before), I’d treat myself to a new piece of running gear. They weren’t extravagant gifts, by any means, but I always felt a little more confident in the gym rocking something new and well-fitted.
And what girl doesn’t like to show off new clothing!?
It’s a lifestyle change, not a part-time commitment.
Aside from the fact that my gym membership bill motivates me to make it to the gym, I’ve also learned recently how important it is to make fitness and working out part of my life (meaning I even schedule time for it in my calendar!). I won’t lie when I say it feels good to “check it off” later in the morning at work. But really, the only way you’re going to see results is if you commit to living a more active lifestyle all of the time, not just one or two days a week. Make it important, and it’ll become part of your life that you just can’t give up.
Most importantly, fitness is about far more than numbers, or miles, or weight loss, or putting in enough hours at the gym. Fitness, for me, is about appreciating what your body can handle, and growing a deeper respect for that body by pushing yourself in new and interesting ways.