My grandfather is eighty-seven years old and swims a mile every morning. He and my grandmother have a much better quality of life than anyone else their age, and as a matter of fact, better than many people I’ve met who are half their age. I’ve been a gym rat since I was a teenager, so getting back into taekwondo wasn’t as much a shock to my system as it might be for someone else, but it still required me to re-evaluate how I care for myself so I can participate in the sport safely and at the best of my body’s capability.
My fitness needs have evolved over time as my interests, work-life demands, and body have changed. Several years ago I got into long-distance running, so of course my training focused on running with swimming and yoga for recovery. After three successful half-marathons running started to feel more like work than fun, so I “retired.” I didn’t like the toll it was starting to take on my joints…not that taekwondo is exactly gentle on your joints either. After that I was going to wear a strapless dress for my brother’s wedding so my training shifted to sculpting my upper body through swimming and weightlifting, otherwise known as Operation Gun Show. It’s all about priorities.
For many years I got up around four AM to swim, jog, or lift weights at the gym. I’m an early bird and hate the crowded chaos of the gym in the evenings, so this worked well for me. Then I hit thirty-five and suddenly needed seven to nine hours of sleep to function rather than the typical five to six I’d relied on for years. I miss my morning gym treks but have learned to listen to my body when it needs more sleep. Having taekwondo three times a week has picked up the slack for my gym absences, although I’d really like to squeeze in another swim or two during the week on my off days.
On weekdays if I wake up early enough I do some gentle sun salutations while I wait for the water for my tea to boil. Then I do about fifteen minutes of Pilates then run through my forms. I go to an intense vinyasa yoga class two to three times a week and on the weekend will swim in the mornings and add a light weights workout and do the elliptical or a short run. Between a chaturanga-happy yoga instructor and a push-up-happy taekwondo instructor plus having inherited my father’s swimmer shoulders and back I don’t have to do much for my upper body. A few push-ups or bicep curls and I’m ready for summer sleeveless dresses. I spend more time focusing on my legs and core. I probably should be doing more pointed training exercises like jumping rope, sprints, and box jumps to help with my short-term stamina, but doing box jumps scares me way more than sparring a six-foot long-legged man.
As for nutrition I’ve learned that super-restrictive diets tend to backfire at some point, so I eat a balanced diet of whole foods most of the time with some treats thrown in. I’ll go on sprees following my intuition: for a while I craved hummus and could not get enough of it. Now my desire has shifted to avocados. Processed foods and fast food have become less and less appealing over the years. Barring holidays or special occasions here’s what I typically eat during the day:
Breakfast: oatmeal with soy milk, a spoonful of ground flax, and blueberries, green juice
Snack: banana and some nuts or a spoonful of peanut butter
Lunch: roasted vegetables with brown rice, a hard boiled egg, a piece of fruit, and maybe a small salad if I’m extra hungry, dark chocolate (I can’t overeat dark chocolate; it gets kind of sickening after a piece or two)
Snack: Greek yogurt or a Larabar
Dinner: shredded chicken mixed together with a mashed up avocado. Sometimes after really rough tkd classes I’m too nauseated to eat so I just guzzle water, eat a banana (or don’t eat at all, which is not ideal for recovery but sometimes I just can’t stomach it), and go to bed.
I’ll indulge a little more on the weekends, but overall keep it light. I made a plate of homemade stuffed shells last night since I was craving some childhood Italian comfort food and still clocked in at 114 pounds this morning so I think I’m doing OK. I do like alcohol, but I drink it sparingly: (1) Nothing productive gets done after I have a drink (2) it makes me want to eat everything in sight (3) I sleep terribly if I have even a little too much. A smooth glass of red wine, an occasional ice cold beer on a summer night, or a tiny shot of Jack Daniels is good enough for me once or twice a week. I usually avoid alcohol after tkd class since it is dehydrating although my old running training partners swore that beer is a great recovery drink.
This morning just like my Grandpa I swam a mile. For a treat I followed it up with a cinnamon roll from my neighborhood donut shop. I figure if I log more swims than cinnamon rolls I’ll be fine. Training and diet will get more intense the closer I get to the fall black belt test, but rest assured there will always be room for chocolate.