Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fitness for a Horse Fanatic

One of the best things I can do for myself and my horses this winter while I'm waiting for riding weather is to get my body into shape. The last time I rode my 15-hand gelding, he grunted when I mounted him and nickered when I got off. I rarely weighed myself at the time, but suspected I had been gaining weight -- either that or my clothes dryer was shrinking all my clothes.

Anorexics look at their tiny bodies in the mirror and think they are overweight. I believe there may be a condition that is the exact opposite where an overweight person looks in the mirror and thinks she is slim. If that condition exists, I probably have it.

Though I mostly work from home, I have a very demanding career that easily sucks up 10 to 16 hours out of my day. That's 10 to 16 hours of sitting at a desk not exercising. I even eat my meals at my desk. When I drive to my company office and back, I spend 2 to 3 hours on the road just sitting in my truck, not getting any exercise. As far as my eating habits went, I ate whatever I could eat the fastest with little or no preparation time. Because I found that hunger pangs distracted me from my tasks, I filled up my stomach in a manic way so that I could go hours on end without having any hunger pangs. I wasn't eating to ease the hunger pangs of the moment; I was eating to prevent future hunger pangs.

My doctors began commenting that I needed to cut back on my calories and exercise more in order to be in ideal health. I joined a gym, but due to my task load and impossible deadlines, I could rarely take a lunch break, none-the-less drive to a gym that is 15 minutes away, exercise for half an hour and drive back. I think I was averaging one trip to the gym every 4 weeks. As more people signed up for memberships, I found myself wasting time driving in circles looking for a parking spot and waiting in line for equipment, so I canceled the gym membership.

I tried taking walks as one doctor recommended, but that's difficult to do outdoors in the winter months, and downright dangerous all year long. We have no sidewalks or shoulders on the roads around here and there are quite a few blind curves where drivers speed recklessly. I could drive to a local park to walk, but that just meant more time lost while sitting in my truck. I began walking around my property, but drivers would stop me to ask for directions and neighbors would stop me to talk. Before I knew it, my time was up and I hadn't gotten much exercise. We began buying home gym equipment, but I was too stiff in the mornings to move, overwhelmed with work throughout the day, and too exhausted in the evenings to do anything more than crash in bed.

In the meantime my health was going downhill and where I once never even bothered to go in for annual physicals, I now found myself seeing my doctor with some new health complaint every couple of months. I had problems with random nerve pain and was referred to a physical therapist and a neurologist. Both helped tremendously with the nerve pain I had at the time I saw them, however new pains kept cropping up.

The last straw was when the bottoms of my feet began hurting so badly that I chose to crawl around the house rather than walk. My doctor noted that I had gained 10 pounds in the past two months and asked if I had the foot pain two months before. I hadn't. "Lose 10 pounds," he said, "and I guarantee that foot pain will go away."

I lost 10 pounds within 2 weeks of that doctor's appointment, and sure enough, the foot pain went away. As I kept losing weight, I noticed that other bothersome aches and pains began disappearing as well. The extra weight had been putting pressure on my nerves. I am currently on a diet and exercise regimen to keep losing weight and look forward to how my horses respond the next time I sit on their backs.

I am aware it will be slow going to reach my weight loss goal, because I am taking the healthy route of changing my lifestyle rather than starving myself, only to start eating again once I reach my goal, and then gain all that weight back. Diet-wise, I am educating myself on the contents of various foods and weaning myself off those food items that don't help my body in any way. I bought a great software program called the "Nutrition and Exercise Manager" from, and it helps me track what I'm putting into my body and how many calories I'm burning off, in addition to my weight and measurements. Having that software program got me to my first step in losing weight, which is self-awareness.

The next step was to make it clear to my bosses and coworkers that I am not available during my lunch hour. I had to train them not to contact me with urgent assignments in the middle of the day, because I can't hear the phone ring over the noise of my treadmill. After a few times of people not getting their needs met between 12:00 and 1:00 PM, they've learned to check their watches before contacting me.

Buying a treadmill is one of the best things I did for myself. I don't have to drive to it to use it. I don't have to put on make-up and my best sweats in order to look decent around other people when I run on it. Like a loyal dog, it is with me all day and night, ready to serve me. There is no excuse not to use it. Of course, when I had the foot pain, it hurt to walk on it, so I pushed myself up with the bars and walked on the tips of my toes at first. As the pain eased, I walked normally. Eventually, I moved up to a jog, then a run. I am currently increasing the length of time that I run. It feels so good to have my muscles aching instead of my nerves. I find that I'm getting addicted to exercise, and I get grumpy if an extra busy day and tight schedule forces me to cut back.

Now instead of looking in the mirror and admiring my good looks in a delusional way, I pay attention to my aches and pains, step up on a scale once a week, listen to how hard my heart beats, focus on how hard I breathe, trust that my clothes dryer does not shrink clothes, and most of all, listen to my horses when I lower myself into that saddle.


Jackie said...

It's great to hear all of the things you are doing to get healthy! I think the best one, and one of the hardest, is setting boundaries with your work life. It can be so hard not to let work take over, and to say no to people. They really can wait another hour. Congrats!

I too have an office, web-related job, and sitting all day hasn't been good for me physically. Besides healthier eating and working out, volunteering at a therapeutic riding facility has been a great way to get me up and moving. I spend a good hour and a half constantly walking not to mention grooming horses and cleaning stalls. It's fun and good exercise!

Scary said...

Good for you! If you have a cordless phone, another thing you can do when you are on the phone is to get up an pace the room.