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The Healthy Conspiracy · 27 August 2012

God is conspiring against me.


I know that sounds strange coming from a Christian, but I believe it is true. The coincidences are adding up too neatly for it to be anything but a conspiracy. Of course, the conspiracy is a good thing. After all, God is conspiring to make me a healthy runner.


Naturally, I am supposed to write about the whole experience. There is a bit of a conspiracy there too. I sometimes write private stuff and I keep a spiritual journal as I read through and study the Bible, but I never imagined that I might journal for the whole world to see. After all, I do like to put a little polish on what I put out there. (Those of you who read my MediocreMan.com blog should be nodding your heads up and down now instead of laughing.)


So why do I think that God is conspiring to make me into a healthy runner? Or for that matter to write about it? The answers are somewhat complicated, but I will try to make it clear.


First of all, why would anybody think that God was conspiring against him in the first place? Perhaps the best answer is that I should not be using the word “conspire.” He has a plan. For me. For you. For everybody. Unfortunately, we are not all in a place to see that plan or we have not opened our hearts and minds to that plan yet. This is true whether we believe in God or not. Maybe that is why I like to think of the whole thing as a conspiracy. God likes to put people and situations into our lives to get us to think of or at least open our minds to Him. And for those of us who are true believers, He likes to challenge us or get us to see His divine plan for our lives.


Part of God’s plan for my life is for me to write about life. My life and the lives of others. I have been doing so for several years with my blog at MediocreMan.com. As a matter of fact, that was where the writing conspiracy started.


Writing

One of my pesky friends, Tim, came into my life as the teacher down the hall. We collaborate and work together well. We also have a shared interest in writing. This shared interest was what convinced Tim that I needed to have a website. Or two. I had already been writing some short pieces that got published in the local newspaper. In fact, I was writing and submitting each week and getting published almost as often. So with Tim’s help, I launched MediocreMan.com and MichaelTMiyoshi.com.


I have been writing a weekly column/blog at MediocreMan.com for over five years now and enjoy a loyal readership. It is a great gig and occasionally a piece makes it into the local newspaper. But the payoff has been that I have become disciplined enough to write each week. And now, I have a body of published work. I try to put out quality and usually do, but I have made it my goal to get something out for my readers each and every week. Even when I am on vacation. And even if the piece is not the greatest quality.


But what about the conspiracy? The conspiracy is that I now have a forum and audience for my latest foray into writing. Instead of just writing about being an average guy, MediocreMan, I am ready to write about being a healthy, if mediocre runner. I know it does not sound like much of a conspiracy, but the writing is just part of the total healthy conspiracy.


Being Healthy

I want to be in shape, but life always seems to give me plenty of excuses to not exercise. Oh sure, I do push ups, pulls ups, and/or ab work in the mornings as part of my normal routine, but that and a winter basketball league are not enough to really keep me in very good physical condition. Each year when I go to my physical, the doctor tells me that I need to exercise a little more to lower my cholesterol levels instead of keeping them around the high side of normal, but that I am pretty healthy overall. He actually went so far as to tell me that my health was good enough that I really only needed to see him every other year instead of yearly.


This year like always, we had a great conversation about being healthy and keeping away from medications. I did not realize it until later, but my good doctor was part of God’s healthy conspiracy. Even though all he did was tell me to watch a movie.


Before I tell you what movie my doctor told me to watch, I need to tell you about the other parts of the conspiracy.


Running

I have never been much of a runner. Mostly, because I hated it. I did run Bloomsday once as an eighth grader with my classmates, but only because our PE teacher made us do it. Though the years since then, I have tried to jog because I know it has health benefits, but I have never been able to sustain anything. For some reason, I think I may be able to do so now.


For the past few years, I have actually felt an urge to run. It has seemed an unnatural urge. After all, as you just read, I hated to run. In reality, I do like to sprint. I like to play games like basketball where you do more than just run. I like to be active, but I do not always have the time or resources to participate. If I want to play basketball, I do not always have other players to get a game. But I do have my feet and legs so I can always run. Which was probably why I was thinking I should start. It was probably why I was getting that urge to run.


The problem with running was that it hurt.


While my body was telling me to run, it was also telling me I should not run. It was as if my heart was arguing the case for running, while my legs and back were arguing the case against. In the end, my legs and back won and I did not run. But I still wanted to.


Running Gurus

When God puts together a conspiracy, he is very thorough. There were other pieces that just kept getting placed in the puzzle.


If you have been reading my blog, you know that three spring seasons ago, I was scraped from the bottom of the barrel to coach track and field at the high school where I teach. I have enjoyed every minute of it, but it was a huge part of the conspiracy because I get to hang around a couple of running gurus, Bruce and Dean.


Bruce and Dean are amazing coaches. They love the kids and they are great runners. Even though he does not know it, Bruce has given me inspiration for running by running the Boston Marathon last year. I have no real aspirations to follow in his footsteps, so to speak, but I like the idea of being in good enough shape to do it. I do not like the idea of beating my body up like he did though.


Dean is Bruce’s training partner and coach. He helps Bruce set up workouts and of course, they run together. Dean and I have been talking about running technique and other stuff about sports physiology even before I started coaching with him. So when we talked about shoes and posture and running, I was confident in his expertise. But if he and Bruce were getting hurt training for and running in marathons, there had to be something even they were missing.


Barefoot Running

We had a family reunion in the summer of 2011. (This was before Bruce ran in Boston and I saw how the miles ravaged his body, but it fits better afterward.) My cousin, Bob, and I were talking about life and he mentioned he had started barefoot running. I could not believe it. Now, Bob has always been in great shape as far back as I can remember. I figured it was at least part genetics since Uncle Johnny, his dad, always looks good too. But I never thought Bob was a crazy barefoot runner.


Before talking to Bob, I had read one or two articles about barefoot running. I figured it was a crazy thing, but it did make sense from a certain standpoint. I could not imagine doing it myself though. Until Bob told me about it.


After the reunion and before Bruce ran Boston, I had a couple students wearing the Vibram FiveFingers shoes. They seemed like a novelty, but I thought they were what could get me to run. I have had several false starts running in the past few years. On my last attempt, I tried to run like a barefoot person, but it was hard to do with “normal” running shoes. So I could not sustain the effort. My calves and Achilles tendons, not to mention my feet, were too sore.


After mulling over barefoot running and seeing Bruce run Boston, I decided that I needed to get going. I wanted to get some FiveFingers, but I did not know if they would fit my weird feet. And I was not sure they were for me anyway. It took all the way until a year after my conversation with my cousin to finally get some shoes that, while they did not look like feet, made it seem that I was barefoot. Or close. Even so, I was not quite ready for my healthy makeover. I was not quite ready to run.


Books

Books have always had an impact on people’s lives. The two most influential books on my health are the Bible (naturally) and Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. Another book, Flat Belly Diet by Liz Vaccariello, and a movie, Forks Over Knives, have also been big helps.


Flat Belly Diet is geared toward women, but (even though I am not finished with it yet) it showed me that my eating was not right. I know I should have already known that, but the food practically glared at me after reading just a couple chapters.


Believe it or not, I have been trying to find the right way to eat for many years. I have read and followed Atkins and other eating systems, but they all left something to be desired. Mainly calories. Like most dieters, I simply gave up on these systems because I was too hungry. I am not even completely sure the Flat Belly Diet is the way to go, but it has gotten me to thinking more about staying out of the middle aisles of the grocery store and eating whole foods. I have known that for a long time too, but I am more committed now after reading the book. And watching the movie my doctor recommended.


The Movie

I actually like to go to my physical examinations each year (or so). Like I said, I usually know the things Dr. Chisholm will tell me – eat right and exercise. This year, I asked him about his exercise. I knew he was a runner and triathlete, so I asked him whether he was doing much training. He told me that his family was growing and so he was just running around keeping up with his little ones. But since I asked about his exercise and health, he reminded me he was vegan.


Now I respect Dr. Chisholm. He has been a good doctor for me. He is fit and he respects the fact that I will do whatever it takes to keep away from diabetes and taking medication. But I was not ready to hear again that he was a vegan. He was not saying that I should become one, even though was probably thinking it. I am sure that was why he recommended I watch the movie, Forks Over Knives.


Forks Over Knives was the last part of the conspiracy puzzle (even though I did not yet talk about the next to last piece). It was a documentary that said over and over to eat whole plant-based foods. I have always known that sugar and other processed foods were just empty calories, but I did not really get it until watching the movie. Nor did I understand that we could get all our nutrients from plant-based foods. Meat, dairy, and eggs are totally unnecessary. I should have known this already. After all, Adam and Even only had the garden in the beginning and they had all they needed for life there (God said so in Genesis 1:29). To make a long story just a little shorter, I am about ready to give up dairy and meat. At the very least, I am ready to drastically reduce them.


Eating

One of the reasons I may not completely give up on meat is because I like the way it tastes. At least right now. I may change my mind down the road, but who knows.


The other reason I am not totally ready to give up meat is because of my influential books. In the Bible, people do eat meat, but it was probably not the main course of the meal like we think it ought to be now. And in the book, Born to Run, there are both vegan and meat eaters who are excellent runners. For now, the healthy conspiracy is leading me to eat little meat and only really as a very small portion of my diet. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and as little processed foods as possible are what I want to eat. And I will try to just graze.


Grazing is also a sound part of an eating system as long as you graze the right things. In Born to Run, the author says that the real runners eat enough so that they can be on the move right away. They do not load themselves up with lots of food like the carnivores do. They are always ready to go out and have a little or even big run even after a small meal. While Born to Run confirmed that I needed to change my eating habits, it was the piece of the conspiracy that told me God wants me to be a runner.


Running

I only see myself running a marathon in my dreams, but it is really not something I want to do. I just want to be healthy enough to live well and not have my doctor scold me. The problem with that is that Born to Run says just what its title implies. We really were born to run. I am not sure that all the reasons given exactly fit with my view of things, but I know there are examples outside the book that fit the author’s reasoning, including a couple stories from the Bible that I keep coming back to.


The first story comes from 2 Samual 2 where two enemy soldiers, Asahel and Abner, were running all day. “Asahel was as swift-footed as one of the gazelles which is in the field.” He pursued Abner. I have always assumed they were on foot because of the reference to Asahel’s speed and proximity. Plus, they had to be close for Abner to strike Asahel with the butt end of his spear.


The other Biblical story about running also comes from 2 Samuel. Two messengers, a Cushite and Ahimaaz, raced to tell King David the news about the quelled rebellion and the death of his son Absalom (2 Samuel 18). They must have run at least a fair distance from the forest of Ephraim to the city of Mahanaim because they took different routes. Ahimaaz left after the Cushite because he had to convince his commander that he ought to run. Even taking a slightly different route, the run must have been some distance since Ahimaaz overtook the Cushite and appeared to be alone when he was spotted from the city.


I used to marvel at these two running references, but not anymore. Now, I truly believe that God made us to run. And run. And run.


The Beginning

I really do believe that God has conspired to make me a healthy runner. I am just starting the journey and hope to take at least a few readers along with me. My plan is to write about this journey six days a week. These posts will not necessarily be long or polished, but they will be about my thoughts and feelings as I eat and run. And get healthier. Hopefully, you will enjoy reading and running (and getting healthier) alongside me.

© 2012 Michael T. Miyoshi

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