My Java Journal

On Health. Part 1: A Healthy Body

Priority: Health.

Let’s pick up from last week. One thing I have been working to determine are my convictions. I hold certain general truths, but few with firm conviction. This post fleshes out a concept for which I do hold firm conviction, and which keeps me grounded. Here it is:

Health is the foundation to everything else.

Health, I consider a triumvirate: Body, Mind and Soul (or Spirit). I’m not going to qualify this with any reference material because this is just how I’ve come to understand and accept Health, and I know it reflects much reading and exploration. (However, here is a link to a website I am reading more often, and which is aligned with my post today: 7 Habits For A Healthy Mind In A Healthy Body)

I am going to tackle these three aspects of Health independently over the next few posts. We will start here with Body.

A Healthy Body

Body refers to physical health. A strong body promotes a strong mind (and vice versa). For me, I have had to redefine my approach to physical health of late. Growing up I was influenced by bodybuilding. My father was a bodybuilder and weight training was something I was always exposed to. It was not the only influence; hockey, football, road biking, and martial arts were also influences. However, the core influence I think was bodybuilding.

I used to lift weights, but I never really got into it hard. That stated, I have been weight training, to some degree, my whole life. Now, with arthritis and deteriorating joints and discs, I find I just can’t take the load any more. So I focus on body-weight workouts to offset actual weight training. My routine largely revolves around lots of stretching and broomstick exercises, as well as plank, push-ups, pull-ups, chin-ups and basic yoga. I try to do this daily and I also keep a record of my weight.

Aside from this, I run. I love running. I do find I defer to a seasonal routine though. Since picking up barefoot/minimalist running about 10 years ago, I hate running in shoes and have no intentions of going back. As a result, I find running in the winter harder; besides, I ski, a lot, and walk, a lot, throughout the winter.

Born To Run
2013 Disney World Marathon – 26.2 miles in Vibram FiveFingers. (Photo credit. Evelyn Sarault)

I read Born to Run by Chris McDougall in 2010. After a stuttered attempt to transition to barefoot running, by 2011 I was all in. I have since run numerous 5 and 10K races, multiple half-marathons, several each of the Spartan and Tough Mudder obstacle runs and the Disney Marathon. All, either barefoot or wearing Vibram FiveFingers minimalist ‘shoes’. There is no way I am ever going back to shoes.

Tough Mudder. Tampa, 2013. (Photo credit. Evelyn Sarault)

My goal back then was to run a barefoot ultra-marathon, and I had signed up for the Keys100 in Florida back in 2014. Unfortunately, with a move back to Canada and some others factors competing for my attention, I couldn’t pull it off. To be fair, I was only going to do the 50 mile race, but it was still a lofty goal. I did run the Keys100 relay and put about 20 miles in over some 17 hours, but that only served to stimulate my desire to run the race solo. This, I consider unfinished business.

I just finished reading another book on barefoot running and I think I will start this spring again and toughen up the feet to go sans shoes all year. I really don’t like formal races anymore, and aside from agreeing to join my sister and my daughter on another Spartan this summer, I prefer to just run and not worry about placement and competition. It takes away from the experience – in my opinion.

Aside from this I like symmetrical sports. I kayak and mountain bike, and in the winter, I ski. No snowboarding for me. Hiking I enjoy and I hope to do more of, and I also plan to complete the Girl Gone Good Wilderness Challenge. This last challenge I have started but I need to pick up my pace.

It has been suggested that I am lucky and have an active metabolism. Sure. But I like to think that my diet choices and active lifestyle promote this metabolism more so than it being just a matter of luck. I don’t think much on it though. What I do know is that office work was killing me. It has been said that commuting, and specifically sitting is the new smoking. Agreed.

Let me offer this. When I was training for the Disney Marathon I did so over six months, in the summer, while living in Miami. I ran at noon. It was hot. Despite this, and a very regimented workout routine with a United States Marine Corps workout partner, I could not get to my target weight of 165 pounds.

Back in Canada between 2014 and 2018, I worked in an office and commuted an hour and a half to two hours a day. I ran, I worked out, I stayed active, etc, etc. I also maintained the highest levels possible in the military standardized fitness testing throughout those years. Still, I could not bring my weight down.

Since retirement I have met those goals and more. I want to be clear, I do nothing different. My routine is the same, except I have a harder time keeping it now. I do stand to work and skiing helps, but key I think is that I no longer commute, and I do not sit to work. In fact I may even drink a few more beers a week than I did. I firmly believe this is attributed to lifestyle and no longer having to sit on my ass all day. Of course, I recognize that by no longer lifting weights I have lost muscle mass, but this was true before retiring. What I have gained with this new life and health is energy, clarity and vigour.

I offer this only as an examination on physical health and my observations, reflections and realities. I am convinced that health is the priority and aligns with what our bodies were designed to do and be. That is, active, in motion, running. In the spirit of simplicity, following I offer a few tactics I employ everyday.

The Bottom Line

This is how I suppose I would sum my approach to health at its simplest:

  • Walk, often.
  • Drink water.
  • Do something. Everyday.

I guess that would constitute my Big 3 on Physical Health. You may be stuck with the commute or sitting in an office, but be aware of the perils and try to do something for your Health every chance you get. There are some clear facts that I think are irrefutable. Recognizing that you may not be able to control circumstance and lifestyle, knowing the impacts of certain lifestyles and choices relating to physical health may encourage better decisions. That’s my intent anyway.

For what it’s worth. Have a great Sunday!

FYI. I do plan on completing an ultra before I die. I will need a support team when the time comes. Just throwing it out there.

A final photo share. This is one of my happiest moments:

Sharing the Spartan experience with my girls. Miami, probably 2013. (Photo credit. Evelyn Sarault)