Friday, July 10, 2009

Quick Fixes

My phone chimed, indicating new e-mail, just as I arrived back at my front door from this morning's run. I checked my e-mail and it was a message from someone that had posted a comment to this blog. I gave a little cheer (I love when people comment) until I read the comment and saw that it was just spam. At least I'm pretty sure it was just spam: Ostensibly, it was from a young overweight person unhappy with their appearance and interested in learning how to start running. Then they gave a link to some diet pills. I decided to disapprove the comment for posting (the first time I've ever had to moderate anything), but to talk about it here on the off-chance that the commenter was sincere. And even if it was just spam, it was still a good question, right?

So here's my answer:

If you are interested in running, I highly recommend Couch to 5k as a good way to ease yourself into a more active life-style. The difficulty curve is very shallow. (Pet peeve: "a steep learning curve" should mean that you go from "not getting it" to "getting it" quickly. Right? People always use that expression the wrong way, I think). Before you start the program, or any exercise routine, you should get yourself checked out at your doctor to get cleared to exercise. Trust me: getting off the couch in an effort to start getting healthy only to keel over dead shortly thereafter is counter-productive. The nice thing about C25k (and running in general) is that you can do it pretty much anywhere, without fancy equipment, at any time that's convenient to you.

Speaking of fancy equipment, there is one thing you should spend some money on: if you are going to run then you should get running shoes that fit properly and that are appropriate for your gait. Visit a running store (not a shoe store in a mall - a real store for runners - they exist and there's probably one near you) and have them analyze your stride. They'll do it for free. Then have them recommend a running shoe that's appropriate for you. It'll make a huge difference and potentially spare you later injury. This I know from experience.

If weight loss is important to you, know that diet and exercise are both important. By 'diet' I don't mean fad dieting, and I certainly don't recommend diet pills. I mean portion control and eating healthy foods. If you don't know what is healthy and what is not, take some time to learn. Otherwise, you'll just be sabotaging yourself. I've completed C25k twice before (by no means do I think this makes me an expert on anything, but I've got the conch and I'm using it for the moment). The first time through, I watched what I ate and wound up losing about 30 pounds by the time I graduated. The second time through, I didn't alter my diet to eat more healthy. By the time I graduated my endurance was better (I was back to being able to run 30 minutes uninterrupted), but I hadn't lost any weight. This time through, I'm eating healthy again. I'm on Week 6, and I've lost about 12 pounds off my start-weight. Running 30 minutes a day, every other day, is a great way to start getting healthy, but you're not going to shed pounds doing it unless you make sure that your caloric intake does not exceed your caloric expenditure. In plain English: burn more calories than you consume. But it's also important not to starve yourself: your body needs fuel in order to function properly. If you under-consume, you may find that your metabolism slows in response, making it even more difficult to lose weight.

Most important: once you start running, make sure you like it. If you don't like it, you're not going to stick with it. If it's not for you, find something else. But, whatever you do, don't fall for any diet pill spam, thinking it is real. Even if it is marketed by the deposed Prince of Nigeria.

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