Staying Healthy (text of a talk on injury prevention)

I’m here today to talk about injury prevention.

That fact might lead you to believe that I’m going to be going on and on about the benefits of stretching after exercise, building core strength, making a fitness plan and practicing good running form.

I could do that. All those things help prevent injury.

We all know stretching, strengthening, planning and form can make the difference between succeeding right off or having to take time off due to injury.

In our five weeks together in the running pre-rEVOLUTION, we will begin building our cores, fitness plans, stretching regimen and best running form. There are also articles in your material that discuss all these issues in greater depth.

No need to belabor it. Those points are covered.

So, tonight I’m going to talk about three ways to stay healthy…or become healthier…while beginning a new regimen that aren’t as obvious as strengthening, stretching, planning and form.

They aren’t obvious, but I believe they are the workhorses of change. Together they decide how much you are able to do and how well you will be able to do it. They are the things that will fuel you to take the obvious strides to uncover the athlete within.

And believe me, there is an athlete within. You might not call her that. But she is there. She is waiting. Perhaps she never wants to ever hear a starter’s pistol, but she does want your body to move and flow and keep you healthy for a lifetime of adventures.

So let’s get started.

This first thing I’m going to tell you will be very difficult to achieve. Do not think I expect that when you hear it, it will spontaneously happen. But if you keep it forward in your mind, contemplate it when stuck in traffic or the checkout line, wrestle with it like an angel, you will be blessed with a changed outlook when you succeed.

Are you ready? Here is the first thing to do: Love yourself as you are this very moment in time.

Yeah, that is a toughy. Let me repeat it. Love yourself as you are this very moment in time.

The moment you try to do it, I bet your brain screams out lists of the deficiencies you perceive. Shouting that you cannot love yourself because there is so much wrong. So much to change. Excuse me, but that is bullpuckie.

We are taught to find fault and look for cures by a culture based on our staying insecure so that we will buy the things it sells.

Some of those things we need. Some of those things we purchase because we are insecure and grasping to feel full.

As you learn to love yourself in the moment you are in, you will begin to feel full. In fact, you will begin to feel overflowing. You will feel so good that you will want to help others. You will feel so good, you’ll even want to go shopping for something you do need…like a great outfit to show off your loveliness.

Since this first task is not easy, I’m going to give you an exercise to begin pondering that may help.

It is true that we are hardest on ourselves. Think of your very best friend. Are the first words or images that come your mind ones of negative attributes or the unforgiveable sin of not meeting an imaginary cultural ideal of perfection?

When I think about my best friend, I see her beautiful smile that has been there for me in times of strife and joy. I see a mind that is quick and subtle and loving and always willing to be employed to help when I am in distress…or play along when I am being silly. I see her resilience and endurance in being the hub of her family. And I have a feeling of safety because I know even if she were a galaxy away she would defend my honor or spaceship-jack means of transport to be with me if I needed her by my side.

What my mind does not conjure about my friend is anything that Cosmo or Shape or even Redbook would tell me to be concerned about in finding a a best bud. I see a friend and I love her.

It is easy to love our friends.

Now that your brain is functioning in this positive manner…seeing others through the eyes of love and depth of character, turn those same eyes on yourself. Begin to try to see yourself as your best friend sees you. Notice the heart that is expansive enough to hold everyone. The body that does the impossible daily to keep the household running. The mind that – even when exhausted – will still make time for someone in need.

If you begin seeing, appreciating and believing the beauty others see in you, you will stop listening to that stupid, stupid, stupid voice that clamors on about the number of pounds you should lose or how your jeans should fit or if your hair is perfect. It will be perfect because it belongs to you…a vital, caring individual who – I guarantee you – is the world to someone.

Why is loving yourself as you are, wherever you are, important for injury prevention? That brings me to my second point.

I believe that many injuries happen for three reasons.

1. We are trying to punish ourselves for our perceived weaknesses and deficiencies and because of that mindset, we push our bodies too hard too soon.

2. Once we decide to go forward with a fitness plan, we think of it as an attack on the things that are “wrong” with us, rather than as a reward or lifeline for the athlete inside who just wants us to be healthy.

3. At the first steps of recovery, our egos grab for the wheel. They remember what we could do in the past or flog us with what we believe we should be able to do now. Our overtaxed bodies send messages to slow down such as our hearts beating at levels beyond recommended rates. Our weakest joints cry our to the brain with their pain. Our body feels depleted of energy. But when ego is driving, it just cranks up the stereo to drown out the complaints and puts the pedal to the metal.

Each of these assaults on fitness will lead to injury.

If we love ourselves as we are, our workouts will not be punishments, battles or eg

One of my sculptures

One of my sculptures

o trips. Our workouts will merely be one more good thing that we do to makes our lives more rich and fun.

From this perspective of self-care, here is the second thing to do:

Craft a realistic and achievable workout plan. Make certain to build in multiple short-term and long-range goals to keep you going.

No worries, we will be having a separate discussion on making your workout plan over the next three weeks. But for now, I want to give you three assignments.

1. Start thinking about your workouts as an exercise in love of self rather than a punishment.

2. Begin really asking yourself what is possible for your body right now. Know that we all have to push our comfort zone a little to improve. But don’t think that a body which – perhaps hasn’t been maintained at a peak level over the years – will perform at peak levels until it is conditioned to do so over time…real time, not Rocky montage getting ready for the big fight time.

3. This week go online or browse a book shop or magazine rack and begin acquainting yourself with realistic workout plans. Runners’ World and many other sites have great plans that accommodate emerging as well as elite athletes. Read the plans. Think about how they are structured. Read the fitness pre-requisites. Look for a plan devised for you fitness level. Print out one or a few. Think about how they could be merged or altered to fit what you want to achieve, while keeping their intensity and integrity. Bring the plans and any modified plans with to our next meetings. We’ll use them in creating your own 12-week exercise plan.

Once you have a plan, stick to it. When ego tries to drop the hammer, when self-hatred tries to punish you, when instant gratification goblins taunt you to go faster, tell them to get lost. Think about the things you like about yourself. Think about how you are making yourself stronger to allow you to do more for others. Think about your plan and do not accelerate it until you really know your body again. Listen to the messages sent to you by your body. If pain messages get sent, honor them. Sometimes it is essential to take a longer track to the same destination. Let someone pass you, and don’t give a fig! There is no loss of honor or momentum to slow down if necessary. I promise you, there will be a loss of momentum if you push past your current physical conditioning before your muscles and cardiovascular system has a chance to get strong enough to support the effort.

The third and final thing I’d like to talk about that will help avoid injury is diet. Please do not ask me to endorse any diet you are currently on or pondering. As a personal trainer friend of mine says, “The only diet I advocate is a healthy diet.”

The bulk of quick-fix diet plans count on our belief in a magic bullet. There is no magic bullet. There is only personal responsibility and sustained effort. Diets may seem to work in the short term, but most diets cannot be sustained. Further, the limited nutritional content of many diets can compromise one or several of our bodily systems.

Growing stronger, burning fat and building muscle is not easy. Diets geared toward deprivation do not provide the nutrition you will need to become strong. They just claim to make it easy to lose weight rapidly. Believe me, you are too strong to choose easy. And if you choose easy, you likely will undermine that strength. To paraphrase a line from the Princess Bride, Change is difficult, princess, “anyone who says differently is selling something.”

Let’s remove the “die” from diet and think about eating differently.

What you eat is not about deprivation or wasting away. It is about sustaining, maintaining and growing. Traditional diet mentality leads to physical abuses. Eating a healthy diet leads to physical strength and properly functioning systems.

You are becoming athletes. Your body needs fuel. Will it run on Cheetos? Yes, it will. But it will run better on foods closer to the vine, tree, bush, root, branch, hoof, stock…you get my point? Absolutely, it will.

I’d like you to begin thinking of your body as a furnace. It needs fuel to burn to help you not only last through your workouts, but also to sustain a strong effort. Your furnace can burn a Pop-tart during a workout. But your furnace can do more with some real fruit, some protein and perhaps a bowl of high-grain cereal. Think of the Pop-tart as a pine log and fruit, protein and cereal as a log of hickory. The harder hickory burns longer and hotter than the pine. That’s just the way it is.

To sustain and maintain itself, our bodies must build proteins from non-essential and essential amino acids.  Non-essential means that our bodies – functioning within norms – can produce these amino acids, so it is not essential that they be present in the food we ingest. Essential amino acids we must get through our diet, or the functions they support in our bodies will go untended.

There are nine essential and two semi-essential amino acids we must consume that are responsible for numerous bodily functions including healing, developing muscle, breaking down of fat and the producing hemoglobin.

We would not run long with any level of health without consuming the proper levels of essential amino acids.

Nearly all the diet books that make the New York Times bestseller lists will not tell you this important fact. We need food, the right food and at the right times to stay healthy.

I realize that this is too much to worry about right now. I will be handing out information on amino acids and their functions, please don’t get bogged down in it right now. Just remember that starving your body while asking it perform – or even remain healthy – is crazy.

Begin instead by making better choices each day. Begin learning what your body needs and when. You don’t have to know it all today. Just find out one thing, make it part of your eating. Then find out another thing. In not much time at all, your body will thank you by showing you increased return on your workouts, greater endurance, heightened energy and better moods.

If your body is receiving what it needs, it will not only perform better, it will keep you healthier. Injuries and illnesses will be less likely to overtake you. And if they do, you will recover from them more quickly.

Slightly off point, but included in the concept of giving the body what it needs to repair itself, I’d like to mention sleep. Your body needs down time to get its work done. If you get less sleep than your body needs, it will not be able to keep up with the demands of physical repair and growth.

Let’s get one thing straight for the record. Injuries are part of being an athlete. Ask any person who pushes their body to perform. We are strong machines, but not perfect or impervious. Parts of our bodies can break and underperform.

To stay in the game, we fix them and move on without getting all bent about it. This is one reason we cross-train. Say I injure my heel jogging. If I have cross-trained, it is likely I will still be able to ride a bike, lift weights, do lunges and other exercise regimens that continue my physical improvement journey without interruption while my heel heals.

I am not claiming that making an exercise plan, eating right and learning to love yourself as you are will allow you to avoid injury entirely. But I am saying that doing these things…coupled with the physical training protocols of stretching, strengthening, planning and form we will be learning…can prevent setbacks that could make the difference between this attempt at self-improvement through exercise going the distance or going bust.

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