Sustainable Fitness: Thinking Holistically

>> Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I've observed a trend in my own exercise cycles, the successful and the failed, that's worth noting. When I treat myself well -- mind, body, soul -- my running/exercise falls into place. When I treat myself poorly, my activity level stalls and everything falls apart. And, on the flip side, when running is going well, I'm much more able to keep the whole cycle going.

It makes perfect sense. How we treat ourselves when we're not moving is just as important as following training plans to stay active and achieve big goals. This information isn't anything new. It's what we hear or read or gather around all the time.

So, why is it such difficult advice to heed?

The whole "taking care of yourself" phrase can surely take on a lot of different meanings depending on your stage of life, your motivation, your usual habits, etc. Surely in my early 20s I could ignore a lot of my health and still keep moving at lightning speed. Age 30 isn't old by any stretch, but it's crazy how things change physically -- and fast!

If you're looking to make fitness/exercise a sustainable part of your routine for life and all its many seasons, consider focusing on the following areas:


I get on kicks from time to time with different ways of eating. Diets or just modifications, whatever it is -- it usually derails my training if I'm not eating enough. "Enough" doesn't just apply to quantity of food, but also to quality and contents. Whereas I used to be able to run on candy and crap, I'm finding my body far less responsive these days -- and for good reason.

There are a lot of fads that come and go with diets. Truth is, your unique body has unique nutritional needs for its unique habits and activities. If you're struggling, experiment with whole foods (here are some that are specifically good for runners!) or seek out some advice from a professional. There's no one-size-fits-all approach no matter how many books or blogs or television doctors may promote one.

My best piece of advice? Eat a well-balanced, healthy breakfast to set the tone each day. Regardless of how you ate the night before, starting fresh can happen on the daily. Or if you need more instant gratification, drink a tall glass of water, take a deep breath, and step away from the candy pile.

I sometimes toss in a silent, "healthy foods nurture a healthy, active body" for good measure.


We all thrive on a different number of hours per night, and for me that magic number is 8.5. On a good night, I get a broken 7, but -- that's pretty good -- it's been far worse! Regardless of your circumstances, creating steady, reliable sleep habits is a job worth your while.

Whether or not you have total control over your sleep schedule, going to bed even a half hour to an hour early can help. (Or sleeping later, but I know very few people who have this option.)

Getting more rest means more time for your body and mind to repair + replenish. I've heard people boast about how little sleep they can go on, but I don't think it's anything worth bragging about. Then again, I don't drink coffee (it gives me headaches, how's THAT for weird) . . . so maybe I just don't get it!

Here are some articles you might want to check out:


We can't perform well or expect to engage in regular exercise if we aren't generally in good health. I see too many people -- including my former self -- dragging through chest colds, the flu, or worse. Along these same lines, I see too many people -- including my former self -- ignoring injury warning signs, and neglecting any other health concerns just to get in miles/workouts.

No bueno.

At heart, running/exercise should serve to promote and enhance health. But if you're reaching the point of abusing your body to get in those sessions (which is easy to do when you're motivated to reach a goal, I promise you!), it's certainly going to catch up to you eventually . . . in a bad way.

Finding a balance is up to you, but I'll just put out there that I'm relatively conservative about it, and my training and race times haven't suffered as a result.


Matters of the mind are indeed part of general health, but they are trickier than identifying a cough, cold, or sore IT-band. (Weird selfie, but I had titled this one "funk," so I thought it was fitting!) But mental health is an aspect of the whole package that we often neglect, runner or not. Keeping our bodies healthy involves the mind, there's no doubt about it.

Very generally, if you notice a lack of motivation that just won't shake no matter what, consider looking to see if it extends to other areas in your life. Depression or other issues crop up in a variety of different ways and can be hard to identify in the daily grind. A lack of motivation or interest in hobbies is a sign.

Alternatively, if taking even a single day off from exercise makes your skin crawl, that's another warning sign.

If you're catching up:

#1: Sustainable Fitness: Assessing Your Unique Situation
#2: Sustainable Fitness: Redefining Success

Automatic Healthy Eating Tips:
#1: Stock up on frozen veggies 
#2: Buy greens and actually USE them 
#3: Create simple, go-to meals
#4: Learn to love alternatives
#5: Prep, Make, and Store
#6: Add In: Convenience to your advantage
#7: Eliminate Food Waste
* 20 Ideas for Make-Ahead Meals

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