Friday, June 19, 2009

The Pursuit of Healthyness

As I've said before, I find it hard to be motivated to eat right and exercise if I focus on weight loss. For one thing, since April, I have been losing and regaining the same 2-3 pounds. I need better motivation than that!

The race is one thing I am using to motivate myself. I'm doing a practice open-water swim tomorrow, and I think I'm going to opt for the longest of the 3 distance options (1600 meters). Today, which was going to be a rest day, was so pretty for a while that I went out for an "easy" 45 minute bike ride with my husband, which turned into a much faster ride than either of us had planned -- I felt like I had it in me. Yesterday I did an hour run.

I'm also thinking a lot about the idea of good health as something to actively pursue for its own sake, and not just something that might accidentally happen on the way to getting thin. I want to be able to live as a healthy, active person for as long as possible. Younger Next Year for Women caught my eye at the bookstore, and even though I'm not in the target age group, I thought I might get a head start on aging well by reading it now. Authors Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D., adapted their bestseller Younger Next Year (presumably for men) to appeal to women by adding some specialized information on menopause, lifelong beauty, and other specifically female concerns. They didn't, unfortunately, bring in a woman to write about these things, which would have improved the book. Chris has a fun, off-the-cuff style, but at times, he gets too carried away talking about all the "beautiful creatures" he encounters on his exercise adventures, and barely mentions his own wife, which I think plays right into many women's fears that they will become invisible and irrelevant as they age. That was the one sour note in the book for me. His attempts to reassure women that they can still be beautiful as they get old were pretty unconvincing to me. A woman might have done a better job. And two guys talking about menopause and vaginal dryness... ick.

Those problems aside, the authors do an incredible job of explaining exactly why we might want to follow Harry's Rules and exercise 6 days a week (4 days of cardio, 2 days of strength training) for the rest of our lives. Harry's clear explanations of the science behind aging and the reason exercise can help slow or even stop it are really engrossing. And Chris tells things from a man-on-the-street perspective that can be really compelling, "You do have to age, but you don't have to rot . . . the weakness, the sore joints, the lousy balance, the feeling crappy. . . 70 percent of that horror can be forestalled almost until the end." Instead of a long, slow decline through middle and old age, Harry and Chris advocate a long plateau of health until just before death at a ripe old age. Sounds appealing, especially with the emphasis on staying fit and healthy, staying connected to other people, staying committed to things you care about. Their basic premise is that the body relentlessly sweeps away muscle if we're not using it, and that vigorous exercise, including strength training, keeps our joints healthy and can even reverse arthritis.

I really do think it was a good idea to start reading the book now, though, because I'm 38 and I have spent the summer working up to exercise equivalent to their Level 2, and I'm not sure when I'll be able to make it to their (optional) Level 3! They do provide a roadmap for getting there, though, even if you're pre-Level 1 right now.

I think the book is definitely worth a read for people who like the geeky details behind good health guidelines and who feel up to the challenge of actively pursuing good health instead of trying to stave off bad health.


  1. This is good information. I'm also 38 and watching my 70 year old mother with her bad knees and hips has really been making me think about what I want my life/body to be like when I'm her age.

    Good job on the tri-training!

  2. I think I'm depressed. I can't imagine myself doing what you are doing now, and you're at Level 2 looking forward to doing more and taking care of yourself. I know I need to be moving more but since every step hurts, it's easy to push it off which, yes, is my own fault and yes, it prolongs the joint pain. I guess the thing to do is to go do it anyway and push through the pain. I'm living the result of not taking care of myself before.

  3. Anne, something I forgot to mention is that they said to clear your exercise plans with a doctor. And to work with a trainer or physical therapist to make sure you keep things at a level that is right for you.

  4. I am working torwards the same thing now - loving the exercise for the health benefits, not for keeping off weight. I think it's possible to get there!


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07