Something Better Than the Gym
by Michael Lee Howard-Mayhew
I hate gyms!! Yet I knew that with the encroaching age of the big 4-0, I had to start working on what was the best way to keep my body in shape. I had worked very hard on my spiritual, mental and job portions of my life but I needed a way to increase my health stamina.
I would like to say I am not one of those stereotypical gay men that go to the gym religiously and people know if I’m not at work or home that they can find me getting healthier at a gym. That is not me at all!
I am intimidated by gyms and the whole idea of going to a gym and showering and watching everyone doing precise workouts and having amazing bodies while I sweat like a wild man, hoping I just don’t have the extra layer of cake, cider, and hot chocolate around my mid-section.
This led me to a crisis of sorts. How do I get in shape and move and continue to be active while not gymming it?
How it All Began
It was a cold Portland September and I was driving to work thinking,“Look at all these people running … I can do that.” I walked in to work and said… “That’s it! I am running, now I need to know how.”
I instantly began my research, okay let’s be honest… I googled “starting runner” on the inter-webs and my brain just about imploded with all the information. So going onto my trusty Facebook next, I got a few responses from friends of where to start and I picked one. The Couch25K app was what I started using. I swear that first run, I thought I would die and never recover.
Why Goal Setting is a Good Idea
Goal setting was my main objective and I made a lofty goal that I would run a 5k. The main reason for this is because that is what everyone told me was the norm. I had no idea how far it was at the time (by the way, it is 3.1 miles), but I made the decision to run with it (see what I did there). I met and accomplished my goal and then I made the lofty decision by asking myself… “Hey, why don’t I do the local Shamrock Run? I signed up for a 15K and honestly I am sure I wore myself out more than one could ever imagine that sunny March day.
Having started out hap haphazardly, I have begun a whole new regimen with running. I want to share it with you so that you don’t have to suffer by making my mistakes, especially for other running beginners over 40. But, it’s solid advice at any age:
“Michael’s Beginning Guide to Running”:
**First of All, Be Realistic with Your Goal– If you push yourself too hard and too fast you will end up either hurting yourself or failing to reach your goal and in effect beating yourself up.
**Next, Get Good Gear – the best thing you can do is get a good pair of running shoes, shorts and a good running shirt. Always look for deals or find friends that work in discount places. I am fortunate that both my husband and I get Adidas discounts of 50% off at the employee store. It is also a great idea to make sure you get your feet measured to make sure you are wearing the right size.
**Use Modern Technology – The app I started with for running was great but there have been a few others along the way that also work well. Runkeeper This is a great way to stay in touch with your friends that are running. You can also set goals and keep track of your progress. Charity Miles. Look at this… you can run and raise money for a favorite charity for free. Map My Run This is a great app for keeping a map of your route, add friends, know when to change your shoes out. I would suggest checking out getting a fitbit. This is a great way to keep track of your daily steps. I also recommend keeping a running log so you can track your progress You can also do daily challenges, track your sleep, water intake, and food intake. It’s great for people on the go. The only thing with fitbit is that you do have to purchase the equipment whereas all the other options are free. But, it’s well worth the price.
**Have Fun – There is nothing more exhausting than feeling like you are not having fun and that you are dragging along. The truth is that some days you will not want to go and you will have to fight yourself to get out, but I assure you that once you start going, you will feel great with another goal accomplished.
**Stretch & Pace – When running, if you feel like you have to stop and do some stretching … remember our muscles are part of the complex system called our body. Running without any stretching will cause damage as will over doing yourself. It is okay to have a slow day and know that you do have to start somewhere.
**Support – Yes, you will become one of those people who tells others about your time from the last run you did or how you can’t wait to run that 5k or half marathon. That is awesome! The best way to keep your goal alive is to get support and to make friends that are runners as well. Who knows? You may get someone else started on running as well.
The Many Benefits of Running
Whether you are just starting out, just know that there are other running beginners over 40 or people who have never even walked a block let alone have run a marathon–just get yourself out there and get healthy. You deserve to treat yourself right and your body will love and appreciate it. The short-term effects of running are increased mental clarity, a boost in energy, and improved sleep. The long term effects include prevention of strokes, diabetes and heart disease, weight loss, lower blood sugar, and lower cholesterol and this could be your natural remedy for depression!
The best part is all you need is your own body. No gym is required thankfully!
Now go out there and get healthy and you can even run for the meditative aspect of it. A wonderful and insightful book I would recommend would be this one by Sakyong Mipham,
[amazonjs asin=”0307888177″ locale=”US” title=”Running with the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training Body and Mind”]