Running once more

This past week I have just gotten back into my running schedule after a month or so off running. Moving house and a sore ankle were my excuses. They really shouldn’t be. Exercise is of course better done regularly. I was reminded this week after running why it is so good. The more stressed one is the more one should exercise. Its a great stress reliever.

And I am stressed. There just seems to be a million billion things waiting to get done. Europe is in a crisis and who knows what will happen. I wonder if it will be the end of the EU as we know it or not? My European me ( from being educated in a European school with a curriculum that boasted the European ideal of an integrated Europe) , makes me sceptical.
Europe has been working for six decades towards integration. It can’t and shouldn’t end just yet. But who is to say, all good things must come to an end.

And yes, domestically we are having political brawls. Boys in suits.

So I run. Run it all off. Run off all the stress, all that annoys you and all that makes you feel not so good.

It feels great. Although I felt like my legs were killing me, my stomach cramped, my heart pounding on my ribs, and my lazy me rebelling; I wanted to run.

The sweat, the beating heart makes everything feel so much better. Happy chemicals filled my grey cells and I felt like a stone weighing me down had been lifted.

Cheeks blushed I remembered: Yes I have to keep up my running routine. Exercise is good for the soul. It not only makes you feel good but it clears your brain. Ideas and thoughts, all come running out. Next week I will run again, and the week after next and after….

Are you exercising?

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Sleep is good.

I need my sleep but sometimes I wonder, why do we sleep? Do I really need to sleep? If I didn’t sleep I could spend more waking hours doing a million more things.

Why we sleep though is a question that has been asked for centuries and still no one really knows the answer. I do not know why I sleep, but I know that if I do not get enough sleep, the next day becomes a waste of a day. I get headaches, feel groggy and my concentration level is low. This lack of sleep is what scientists have been studying for centuries in an attempt to better understand why we sleep.

Scientists study these various effects of sleep defiency to better understand sleep. Without it, our cognitive skills would be harmed and brain development probably affected. If you think humans sleep to save energy, the BBC article “The Science of Sleep” mentions that for eight hours of sleep, we only save about 50kCal which is very minimal. One piece of my Pepperidge Farm Milano cookie is already 60KCal. A cup of non-fat yogurt is 80KCal. I suppose we don’t sleep to save energy.

According to the article, continued lack of sleep will result in a shut down of part of the brain that controls language, memory, planning and sense of time. Actually going 17 hours without sleep decreases your performance to the equivalent level of if you had drank two glasses of wine.

No wonder my brain feels tired after a long day. Judgements are not as good and people respond slower to situations.

The article also mentions that lack of sleep is detrimental for emotional and physical health. I agree. On days where I did not get enough sleep the previous night, I am more emotional. If I’ve been sleeping little, I also find that my weight gain is faster. This is because hormones and chemicals that control appetite and weight gain are released during sleep.

As the clock is now ticking, I think I shall have to end here and get a good nights sleep. Have a good night dear friends. Enough sleep for a person is “when it is enough not to make you sleepy during the day time”. Some need 4 hours, some need 8 hours. How much do you need? Do you know?

Myth 10: Do not eat after dinner time

I love this myth. This is a myth that says one should not eat after a certain time if one wants to lose weight because food eaten later will turn into fat.  I think at a certain time during my chubby days I too tried this and guess what? I stayed chubby.  I still ate a lot and did not exercise and so yes, I remained chubby no matter what time I ate.

Now the myth works for some people, because they end up eating less.  They tell themselves not to eat after a certain hour, and so mindless snacking is avoided.    Especially if you lived in an apartment like I did, the fridge was just convenient and easy access.  Watching TV, I could see the fridge and when you have nowhere to walk, (because the space is small)  you walk to the fridge.  You open the fridge and peek inside. A snack, a piece of cake, a chocolate catches your eyes and before you know it, it’s in your stomach!

Some say, however, that eating late results in more fat because your metabolism slows down at night and burn less fat.  You therefore end up storing more fat.  While your metabolism does indeed slow down when you are sleeping, it continues to burn and churn food in your stomach.  It might take longer, but it is still burning.    It therefore doesn’t really matter what time you eat. What matters is HOW MUCH you eat.

Now if you end up having a huge dinner, do not skip your next meal in an attempt to lose weight. Skipping a meal will make you go into “starvation mode” and your body will tell you to eat more at the next meal.  What happens is you end up eating more than you otherwise would have.  Even if you’ve had a big meal, have a lighter next meal, but do continue to eat.  Keep your blood sugar balanced!

So this Christmas season, don’t eat too much, don’t starve yourself and do allow yourself to eat late for parties galore! The only thing you have to becareful of is HOW MUCH you eat and how much you exercise off!  Happy Holidays!

Myth 3: Always Eat Low Fat

Yes, the flood waters are moving closer to Bangkok.  Everyone is getting a little nervous, me included.  When it rains, I can’t help but wonder if that will mean one more line of defense has broken and that soon the waters will rush into the inner city area.  Let’s pray that there be no more casualties.  When stressed I tend to eat more than I should.  It’s like my brain decides that eating helps relieve stress.  However, it only helps short term for it ends up making me feel worried about having eaten too much.   I end up looking for healthy foods to eat, which brings me to the third myth.  The myth that low fat foods are always good for you.

I’m sorry to have to be the one to break the news to you, but low fat foods are NOT always good for you.

It is important to always read the food labels when you buy food.  Sometimes, the food is indeed low in fat, but extremely high in sodium (salt) and sugars which are  not good for you. What you think are healthy, may be hiding sugars that slow your metabolism and the main reason why your weight just isn’t going down despite all the “low fat” foods.  I have been prey to those “Low fat” high protein energy bars which end up being high in sugars and calories!

In addition, according to Alannah DiBona, who is a nutritionist and wellness counselor, the human body also needs fat in order to absorb a large percentage of nutrients.   We need fats to help our bodies manage cholesterol and aid in weightloss.

This is great news. Yes, some fats you need to eat if you want to lose weight. It’s actually healthier I think to eat everything, just be careful of how much you eat.

Fats that are good are the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which comes from avocadoes, pecans, almonds and other kinds of nuts.  Omega-3 fatty acids which can be found in salmon and other kinds of fatty fish such as mackerel are also good for you.

Avoid transfat which lowers your “good” cholesterol and raises your “bad” cholesterol.  The opposite of what you need for a healthy life.  Transfat can be found in foods which are fried, fast food, or even commercially made baked goods.  Basically, most foods massed produced are not very healthy.

Therefore do not always fall for the “Low Fat” label when shopping.  Read the labels and eat natural,
healthy foods.  The less processed the better!

Love Thyself

Many people think health comes along when you have another “half” another “soul” to be by your side. Some say “love” will make you lose weight, be healthy.  There is some truth to it, but I think that is somewhat oversimplified.  You do not need to have “someone” to get healthy.  The only reason you should get healthy and lose weight is because you dearly want to yourself.  Because you love yourself and you think that you are worthy of the attention.  Once you have found that love for yourself, then love for another comes more easily.

Health is a great cure for the soul. It rejunevates, energizes and gives you strength you previously didn’t know you had.  You can somehow run those few kilometers and walk up flights of stairs without feeling tired. Walks that were once unappealing, now seem like a little walk in the garden.  The hot weather becomes less annoying, and the chair more comfortable. Yes, even just sitting on chairs becomes a more enjoyable experience. One can now twist and turn around in the chair without feeling restricted by its side. (If you’ve been stranded in a small chair, you’d know how uncomfortable it can be)  It feels great to not have to worry nor be tired out by little daily tasks.

Shopping becomes a whole new experience.  Now the question is not whether A or B will fit me, but whether A or B will look better on me?  The choice is limitless.  I no longer have to settle for the shirt that fits, over the style I’d rather be wearing.  It’s a wonderful feeling.  A new found happiness.

To enjoy all these benefits I think are a few of the gifts of good health.  You don’t need any other “incentive” other than a love for yourself.  If you lost weight only when you were in love, and only for other people, does this mean that the rest of the time you will regain that weight and forever remain chubby ?  It’s a vicious cycle.  If even you do not love yourself, who then would love you? Since no one loves you, then you’d eat and gain weight?

So love yourself, love the wonderful person you are and take care of your health.  Have a good health everyone!  Who knows what could happen then? Lightning could strike.

Don’t Think, Just Run

I feel like I’ve somewhat passed a strenuous physical exam after recovering from a super strong strain of flu that had my brain dizzy, muscles sore and made me just collapse into a sleeping beauty every night.  My immune system is now super charged and ready to take on what come.  Now it’s time to get ready for the Bangkok Marathon in November.  This week, I’ve started doing extra long runs at the gym. (Not really that long for a professional runner, but long for me)

I usually run two sets of ten minutes in the mornings, but that is really not far at all.  It takes me only roughly a little over a kilometer.  To make 5km, I’m going to have to keep running and running and running. Running for around 40 minutes non-stop.

To do that, this week I’ve been doing running stretches of 20 minutes.  Knowing that my brain would want to give up after ten minutes, I eased myself into running 20 minutes by lowering the speed slightly, but keeping the incline at 1% (so that the treadmill will resemble the outdoor a bit more).

I also had to stop thinking.  Yes, don’t think when you run.

If I think, I always end up stopping.  So I had to keep telling my brain to just ignore the thought process for awhile and kill off the voices from the lazy me inside.  Every five minutes, my lazy me would go through the cycle of trying to talk itself into stopping.

“Five minutes is a nice round number, yes let’s stop here for a bit.”  At this point, my lazy me is smiling and making the stop seem so pleasant.

“No, I’d reply.  Another five minutes then we can stop”  Yes, I trick myself every five minutes to run another five minutes. (I say I’d stop, but actually I won’t, because I’d trick myself again later.)

This self tricking involves not looking at the timer on the treadmill when the seconds count down from 4.56 mins to 4.57mins  to 4.58mins then 4.59mins.  My heart gives a big thump.  I must not give in, no I won’t and so I ignore this awful timer and instead try to look around the room at the other people running and exercising. I look out the window, watch the flickering TV screen and note to myself that the grandpa on the other treadmill seems fitter than me.  By the time I look again it becomes 5.10mins and then I say to myself,

“Haha!! you passed the round number, might as well run to the next round number. You know you are going to feel like a better person for having finished the entire run than giving up on yourself halfway.”

When I finish the run, it is indeed a feeling of accomplishment.  Even though how little the accomplishment, I think it’s a great way to start the day.  You won over yourself and ran a full 20 minutes. You killed the lazy voices, put them in coma.  Next week it’s going to have to start being 25 minute runs.

Yes, lets all stop thinking and just run!  RUN for your health, run for yourself, run for a new life.

Health Check Results

I just got my health check results today.  It’s always a bit nerve-racking when you receive the results in a sealed package and have to open it.  It makes you wonder what will be written inside.  How will my cholesterol be this year? Am I going to have high triglyceride levels?   It’s a time when you cannot run away from reality and the numbers are either telling you good or not so good news.  Getting the health check result is like getting a reality check.

A reality check that tells you how well, or not well, you have been treating your body.

A few years ago when I was at my “peak” (in terms of being overweight and unhealthy, not peak fitness level!), I never liked the health check results.  It was always had the same phrases on them:  “Lose some weight, eat healthier, exercise, cholesterol levels are high, avoid fatty foods and dairy products.”

Yes, I remember them all. It was always there and I read them year after year.  It became something predictable.  I’d start exercising for a few months and then somehow the effects of the reality check would subside. I’d forget the results, forget the exercise and go back to my unhealthy habits.  “So what?” I thought to myself, “it’s not that serious.  I’m not in any high risk level.  Just slightly overweight.”

It takes awhile for all the bad habits and unhealthy lifestyle to readjust and find its footing.

I think it was the body composition test that hit me hard. I was composed of roughly 40 percent of fat. (Yes, I still have the results with me) “Gosh, I’m a walking 40 percent blob of fat.” I thought to myself.  I was “almost” in the “obese” category.  A scary thought.  Just a few grams more and I would have been I think.

I lost 15 kg by the end of 2009. Started running.  In mid year 2010, my health check showed a slight improvement in cholesterol levels, but it was still above the 200 recommended level.

Now finally almost 2 years since I started running, my cholesterol level has gone below the 200 level.  It went down 10 from last year.  I’m esctatic.  I’m delighted.  It’s even lower than when I was 29 years old.  (That’s the oldest health report I could find).  Other blood test results have turned up better too.

All that exercise and running is definitely worth it.  Yes, I will probably have to keep running the rest of my life, but I love the fact now that I get tired a lot less.  I can withstand the heat more and walk without feeling tired.

Let’s all exercise regularly and take care of our bodies.  It’s the only one we have (for this lifetime anyways)  Cherish it more than anything else, for without good health, you don’t have anything in this world.  Imagine, you might not even be able to walk or go see your favorite movie… Here’s to good health!