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Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Put your heart into better health

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Today I took a little time out to show some love to myself. Even with a busy day ahead I spent 30 minutes jogging on our treadmill. Over the past few months I have been working to make physical activity a greater priority. Since we are smack in the middle of Heart Month I thought we should spend a little bit of time talking about healthy activity. Here is the evolution of my personal activity.

The pain of obesity.

It was not so very long ago that climbing a single flight of stairs got my heart pumping and my forehead glistening. My body was in terrible shape and it caused me physical pain to move for very long. Tying my shoes was a tremendous ordeal. There was no way I could bend over or even lean forward and tie both shoes at one time. I had to take a deep breath, lurch toward the first set of laces and tie them quickly while my heart started pounding in my ears and my face tightened from the strain. After a breath or two I repeated the process to tie the second shoe. God forbid a lace get tangled or a knot come loose, in those instances I had to endure a third round of torture.

Any movement is better than none.

I have always enjoyed swimming. At my heaviest I had no problem heading to a public pool and splashing around for a few laps. Between my pale skin and generous circumference I imagine there was a striking resemblance to a manatee. I didn't spend much time thinking about my appearance. I just really enjoyed the reduced pressure on my joints.

You can't out train a poor diet.

There was a brief period that Mr. Second Helpings and I joined a gym together. We would come home from work and head over for an hour on the elliptical machine and do some weight lifting. This was prior to our joining Weight Watchers and we did not do much to alter our eating habits, primarily because we didn't know where to begin. Getting out and exercising was certainly doing us good but without addressing nutrition we were not going to see significant results. After a while we stopped going regularly claiming the gym was not conveniently located and eventually cancelled the membership. I can't recall any change to my body during that time.

The pain to change must be less than the pain to remain the same.

It wasn't that I didn't want to move. I did. I desperately did. I watched how easily people around me went for a quick jog or had a committed workout routine. Before buying our home we lived in a third floor apartment. I wished making two trips to the car after a shopping trip was no big deal. I distinctly remember a evening when Mr. Second Helpings and I went for a walk around Seattle's Green Lake, a very popular spot for all kinds of activity. We began a few blocks away and slowly trekked the 2.7 mile inner track. At the 3/4 mark I could feel the blisters forming. By the time the end of the loop was in sight I was having trouble picking up my feet. When we reached our car my body was in agony. I was soaked with sweat, my legs were prickling, my feet were throbbing, and my heart was pounding. This was not the life I wanted for myself in my mid-20s. This was not the life I wanted for myself EVER.

Make one change and then add another.

Our weight loss began with what we did and didn't put into our mouths. After a few weeks of focused attention we started to get the hang of our new eating habits. By that time we had dropped enough weight to notice an increase in energy and felt better moving around. Our activity increased slowly. We would park a few blocks away from our destination and enjoy the walk, often stopping very literally to smell the roses. We made a point to marvel over each time we noticed an activity becoming easier. If we made it to the top of a flight of stairs with energy to spare we celebrated. If we walked further down the beach and didn't feel sore later we celebrated that too. I don't recall the first time I returned to walk around Green Lake but it has happened many times. I now make a point to add extra distance increasing the walk to a full 5k (3.1 miles) every time. I have even walked/jogged the loop multiple times in a single visit. Last year for my birthday I ran the entire distance for the first time and when I finished I was disappointed that I barely felt tired.

It becomes a lifestyle.

I am no longer on a mission to lose weight. I reached my personal goal weight nearly a year ago but activity plays a big role in my weight maintenance. I have a slightly more relaxed attitude when it comes to my food choices. I like to indulge a little more. I have found the best way to manage those extras is moving. I keep hand weights out as a reminder to use them, I do simple resistance activities like push-ups, lunges, and squats during commercials or for a mid-afternoon energy boost. I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would say it, but it turns out, I enjoy running. It takes some motivation, and I still only go out in fair weather, but on a nice day at a good pace, my heart soars high above my feet.

I don't have a regular routine. I have been trying to maintain a 3 day a week commitment to the treadmill for 45-60 minutes at a time. When the weather perks up a little more I am going to be spending time outdoors shaping up our garden. Gardening is quickly becoming one of my favorite activities.

You can do it!

To bring this all back to the theme of the day - Begin with a small change and then love yourself enough to make another, and another, until you too can begin celebrating your personal victories. Heart healthy activity doesn't have to mean joining a gym and killing it five days a week. Be honest with yourself. Climbing a mountain begins with a single step. A goal of walking to the mailbox and back without losing your breath is a great goal! A goal of strolling once around the mall without stopping is a great goal! A goal of going to the public pool, slipping into your suit, and relishing the feeling of floating in the water without a care for who might notice you - is a really great goal!

Eat mindfully & move happily – Happy Heart Month!

Story tags » HealthFitness

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