A few years back, the hospital where I work asked me to write a short article on what I do to stay healthy. I was nominated for the project by my co-workers who said that my active and healthy lifestyle had been inspirational. I came across the old archive recently and decided to share it here with the LZM community:
Staying healthy has endless benefits. The benefits enrich us on a personal level and the positive energy that it creates has the possibility to reach out to those surrounding us which ultimately leads to healthier communities. To me, being healthy is about preventing disease processes, fulfilling the long-term goals of happiness, being accomplished on a physical level, finding tranquility within ourselves and living a stress-free lifestyle.
Part of my current lifestyle includes running. I am frequently out on the road and chasing the sun at day break while I train for an upcoming marathon. Running is a cross-training activity for me and it has not always come with ease. In the beginning months as a runner, I fought the painful lungs that came with heavy breathing, the shin splints and side cramps that came with every mile and the mental block that was constantly telling me to STOP because going home and eating a second breakfast would be far more enjoyable. As I pushed through the mental and physical barriers in those first few months, I found that running is a simple mantra of placing one foot in front of the other. You need to turn off all the negative input from your brain that is telling you to give up and you need to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. With time my lungs adjusted, my shin splints and side cramps went away, my muscles became stronger and I slowly realized that running was becoming enjoyable and nearly effortless. The key point to remember here is that I had to fight to get to that point… but with time I was rewarded. Running became my chance to let go and free my mind, to decompress from the stresses of everyday life, to release some endorphins and to breathe in the fresh mountain air while getting in an early morning cardiovascular burn. I now love running and can’t imagine taking it away from my training routine.
So running’s my cross training but rock climbing is my ultimate passion. I’ve competed in elite climbing competitions around the country for years and depending on the day I’m either humbled or rewarded by the outcomes. Training for competition climbing has pushed me to new levels and has kept me motivated to continue pursuing the possibilities I have as an athlete. Climbing is also an opportunity for me to travel. I’ve been to the remote Southern Alps of New Zealand, lived at the base of the Apron in Squamish B.C., climbed with the monkeys on the beaches of Thailand and woken up near the hot springs on a snow-kissed morning in the heart of the Sierra Mountain Range. Many people have asked me why I enjoy climbing and throughout the years I’ve found that Chris Sharma summed it up best when he explained: “Climbing is moving meditation. To focus so single-pointedly that the mind melts away and pure awareness, energy and emotion are the only things left remaining.” It’s an amazing experience that pushes the mind and body to new levels and endless satisfaction and learning can be found in these experiences.
You are what you eat. Another important piece of the puzzle that leads to optimal health is nutrition. Included in that notion is hydration. My climbing coach gave me a small piece of enlightenment years ago when he avidly strived to get me to focus on hydration. He explained to me in very simplistic terms that my body was a swamp. It was rotting with pools of stagnant water that have been sitting there for days. What you need, he explained, is to begin reviving it with a fresh flowing waterfall so that the stagnant streams can be flushed out and your body can begin utilizing all of the benefits that water has to offer. His point was simple: for optimal health and performance, drink more water. It will benefit each and every organ system in countless ways by removing toxins and optimizing metabolic processes within your body.
As for nutrition, keep in mind that EVERYTHING we put into our bodies serves either a nutritional purpose or harms us. I have made a conscious effort to eat whole foods that are rich in macro and micro nutrients. I have eliminated added sugars, artificial anything, unhealthy oils and chemical additives from the foods I consume. With the exception of eggs, I have made the personal choice to eat a plant-based diet and I emphasize the importance of nutrient dense foods at every meal. Whenever possible I source organic products. I try to eat slowly and enjoy every bite, being mindful and thankful of the benefits food brings to our being.