|The tools of my running habit - water belt, energy supplements, hat, sunglasses and a Garmin wrist watch to track time, distance and speed.|
If you are not currently active, I encourage you to read the last part of the above sentence again - being able to move through each day with vitality and contentment. I know of no other way to ensure that I will receive a flood of feel-good chemicals than to break a sweat doing something active I enjoy. Being physically active is much, much more than its own reward for me at this point in my life, and I would love nothing more than for others to discover same, regardless of how old, young, thin or heavy. It's never too late to reap the benefits of being active, and trust me on this, the rewards for doing so begin immediately.
When I first began working out, after the birth of my first daughter almost 30 years ago, I did it primarily to get my pre-pregnancy shape back. Along the way, though, I discovered that it also left me feel pretty darn good. Slowly over the ensuing decades, the physical benefits of being active began to take a backseat to the emotional benefits I was receiving. No matter how stressed, how grumpy, how tired, how cruddy I might be feeling, heading out the door for a sweat inducing activity came with a 100% guarantee that I would return feeling 100% better. And in 30 years of being active, not once, not one single time, has it failed to deliver.
Being active is also a wonderful way to structure a day. It's generally inexpensive, it can take up a major portion of the day, and it leaves me with a glow that carries me through the remainder of my day. Oh, and it also allows me to sleep each night like those proverbial logs!
How intense we are in our activity varies, depending on the day or the goal being worked on. This last week in Lake Casitas, as an example, our intensity during our 25 mile bike ride probably varied from 60 - 70%. We alternated between putting the pedal to the metal, and slowing to enjoy a particularly scenic vista.
This immediate past weekend however, my intensity was closer to a sustained 80%. My daughter and I met at the beach to do a 12 mile training run for a half marathon we are signed up to run together in two weeks. I felt fantastic for the first 10 miles of the run, and closer to exhausted for the last two, when I was probably closer to a 90% output. But regardless, the moment we finished, a cloud of exhilaration descended on me, and stayed there for the rest of the day.
It's important to note that my 80%, 12-mile run may be somebody else's 80%, 3 mile race walk. The distance isn't significant, nor really is the specific activity. What's important is that whatever you do, you do it at a level that makes you reach a bit beyond your comfort level, and break into a sustained sweat. Because, assuming there are no health issues indicating otherwise, you need to sweat. Being active doesn't deliver cardiovascular fitness benefits until you do so at a sustained level of 70% or greater. How do you know you are at 70%? Generally you are there if you're sweating lightly, and can talk while doing your activity, but you'd really rather not. You'd really rather just concentrate on your activity, and on breathing through it.
My experience with intensity levels is that the higher they are, the greater the release of feel-good chemicals I receive in return. And at this point in our lives, that really is what it's all about for my husband and I.