Several of my running and fitness friends have asked me to try a couple of high-intensity fitness programs, like Crossfit and Insanity. Unfortunately, it would mean casting something less-important to the side...like sleep. Really, I'd love to give it a whirl, but my dog barely recognizes me when I come through the front door as it is right now. Fitness is fleeting in nature, varigated in its forms, and hard-earned, no matter the form. So, as time progresses, and I age, and struggle to maintain the sort of fitness defined by runners and/or multisport athletes, I become less parochial about running. It's a big world, with room for sweat-fiends (friends?) of all sorts, whether they be triathletes, swimmers, cyclists...
...and yes! Even bowlers.
One can eat and enjoy a particular food item - say, pizza - for years, without ever knowing there are varieties of pie. So, when a variation on a theme, or the original article lands in your lap - in keeping with the pizza analogy, genuine Sicilian-style where the toppings are segregated to a single portion of the pie and the cheese and sauce are lightly applied...or Chicago-style deep dish (like Giordano's or Uno), where a single piece can put you down for the count - you get the chance to marvel, stretch your thinking, and even learn something.
A new addition to a training group brings this same thematic variation. One of my newest athletes, Fawn, is no exception to the rule. She comes to my track workouts with a great attitude, an upbeat demeanor, and a history of doing high-intensity gym workouts like Crossfit and Insanity; one of the first evenings she came out she was doing high knee kicks, bending herself into pretzel-like forms, and exerting much energy. After the first set she learned (the hard way, just like I did!) the cardinal rule of running effort-based workouts, especially the way I run them, and my coach ran them, and his coach... Workout durations vary depending on the coach's mood and the athlete's attitude, so pace yourself.
Fawn told me the other day she hadn't run in a week because of a minor injury, having to do with a stand-up paddleboard and an abundance of adult beverages. She felt quite guilty because the time she normally would have filled with Crossfit, Insanity or running she filled with...well, pizza.
Fortunately, she was talking to a compassionate kind of guy, especially when the topics are injuries and pizza.
"I shouldn't have had the pizza. All that stuff is so bad for you," Fawn lamented.
I responded, "Fawn, there are no bad foods, only bad portions. As long as you don't overindulge on any particular food or drink, you are going to be all right." I then described my approach to pizza: white meat, light cheese, lots of good vegetables, and thin crusts. Of course, my challenge is not killing off more than one-quarter of the pizza at a single sitting.
Portion control is difficult in this day in age, when food and drink items at fast food restaurants are "super-sized" three (or more!) times the amount they were when I was a boy. During my business trip to Austin last week, my co-workers and I discussed "snack-food semantics." 'Why is it,' said one of the group, 'that everything which tastes good but considered bad for your health is described in plural? You never hear someone talk about "cookie," or "cupcake," or "donut," or "potato chip," or "french fry..."' We all laughed, as two of our group each devoured a donut the size of a human head. (The laughing stops when the weight numbers, the cholesterol numbers, the blood pressure numbers, etc., go up.)
There's even such a thing as too much exercise, but there aren't that many people indulging in it. There are no bad workouts, only bad trainers. There are no bad activities, only bad approaches.
There are no bad foods, only bad portions: One donut is fine. As long as it's not the size of your head.