Where it began

 I'm incorporating Sharon Salzberg's 28-day guided meditation challenge into my daily workouts - sometimes before as a warm up to a run but often as a cool down either during a walk on the treadmill or outside.

I'm incorporating Sharon Salzberg's 28-day guided meditation challenge into my daily workouts - sometimes before as a warm up to a run but often as a cool down either during a walk on the treadmill or outside.

By last Thursday afternoon I was feeling the effects of the upper body workout I did with Zach Schumaker, my trainer, on Wednesday night. My pecs were so inflamed and sore I wasn't 100 percent convinced I wasn't having a heart attack. In general I welcome delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) because it means I'm placing stress on my muscles, allowing them to adapt.

But then of course I'm forced to change up my training. So on Friday, instead of cross training on the elliptical or swimming, I did walking intervals on the treadmill at a 12 percent incline; no stress on the upper body but I got my heart rate up high enough to feel great getting ready for work and throughout the day.

I was planning to do a long swim Saturday morning but still felt sore. A year ago I would have pushed through but if I've learned anything through all of this it's the value of deloading. So instead, with my head still on my pillow, I smiled.

I'll do an easy run.

It wasn't the run that made me smile, although I enjoy these shakeout runs.

It was the bagel. With peanut butter.

I've been incorporating fasted workouts for months except when I run longer than 3 miles or when I'm doing weights at the gym.

So what a treat to be able to wake up Saturday morning and pop a plain white bagel into the toaster.

While I haven't spent two minutes obsessing about the scale over the past year I'm still working on trying to burn fat, especially around my abdomen. If I cut carbs I feel it in my muscles when I run so I'm careful to ensure I've got these on my plate throughout the week. But that doesn't mean I eat a white bagel or a plate of spaghetti without thinking through how these foods fit in with my weekly exercise routine. 

Zach typically has me do three sets of 200 meters on the rowing machine in under 57 seconds in the middle of our training sessions but a few weeks ago he changed it up.

"This time we're going to go for calorie burn," he said. "Let's shoot for 15 calories."

"15 calories??"

That seemed pointless. I figured I burn 15 calories just walking over to the fridge to grab a chilled eucalyptus-soaked towel.

"It should take about 30-40 seconds," Zach said.

It took me 1 minute and 23 seconds to burn 15 calories.

Nearly 90 seconds of heart-pumping exertion to burn 15 ridiculous calories. I stood up and had to hold on to the rowing machine. I was light-headed.

The image that popped into my head was the time Oprah wheeled 67 pounds of fat onto her TV set in a wagon.

I was talking about this with a trainer I met at the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Maryland state exercise clinic a few weekends ago.

Jori Deininger was telling me that she'll ask her clients to do farmer walks with 20 pound weights in each hand. They can barely move.

"I tell them that's what it's like when your body's carrying around 40 extra pounds," Jori said. "I tell them that's why they're so exhausted or get fatigued so easily." 

In fact I don't think I've struggled with anything more than getting my nutrition right both for carrying a healthy amount of weight on my bones and for fueling my workouts. And while for the past few years I've been eating to exercise, I'm envious of friends who've been exercising for years and exercising to eat. Finding this balance is uniquely individualized, but I think it's worth the effort taking time to figure this out. 

Because by now I'm convinced nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.

Except maybe a toasted plain bagel with peanut butter and a cappuccino. With cinnamon.

On a random Saturday morning.

***

I've just checked off Day 12 of Sharon Salzberg's free guided 28-day meditation challenge. If you're interested in this you can still go to her website and sign up for the meditations. Most of the meditations are about 5 minutes but a few have been longer. In general Sharon assumes you are "sitting" as you meditate but all of the meditations can be done while walking or running - or swimming if you have waterproof bluetooth headphones and can leave your phone by the side of the pool.

Also if you're in NYC Sharon's hosting free weekly gatherings with interesting speakers. All of this is on her website. I've attended two of Sharon's lectures at Kripalu - one during a yoga and running workshop and the other during a weekend trail running workshop. I feel better just hearing her say "welcome back" at the beginning of each guided meditation.

The bottom line here is practicing essential self-care. There are tons of documented benefits of establishing a meditation practice, including developing mindfulness and emotional intelligence.

I am so personally grateful for this and highly recommend it as well as her Metta Hour podcast and books, especially Real Happiness. 

See you next time!