I asked for an elliptical machine for Christmas and put it in my den where I cannot ignore it. Right after Christmas I began using it heavily. It felt great for a while, but then my knees (2 knee surgeries in my past and I'm quite sure more in my future) began to really hurt. I was doing it too often and for too long, I think. I had to stop for a while and try something else. I tried going to the gym and doing other things, but not with the regularity that would make a real difference.
The other lifestyle change that I have made during this time is a simple one. My husband and I now eat the biggest meal of our day at lunch. We aren't really dieting, but we are conscious of what we eat and try to be good (most days). But what we have for supper is usually fruits, cottage cheese, good cheeses and crackers, nuts, fruit/yogurt parfaits, salad from our garden...things of this nature. I think having the heavier meal in the middle of the day has played a huge role in how much better we are feeling. Both of us have lost weight without really trying. These lifestyle changes are something that aren't painful but are things that we can sustain for a long time, I believe.
I have also learned how to eat (and how NOT to eat) before and during hikes. On April 18, I was hiking up Mt. Sterling and down Swallowfork Trail in the Big Creek/Cataloochee area of the park. It was only about a 13-mile hike, but I made a huge mistake, nutritionally, the night before and was mostly miserable the entire day. I was trying to honor our pact to eat light at night, right? So I created a salad at Whole Foods (we had been shopping at REI right next door) and ate that for dinner. What a mistake that was! I ran out of energy about half way up Mt. Sterling and never got it back. We also exacerbated the problem by not stopping to eat anything until we were only a couple miles from the end of our day. As the heavier person hiking with two skinny women, you don't really want to stop them and say, "Hey, I'm hungry and need to eat something!" So, I didn't. I was miserable that whole hike, and it took me a couple days to really feel better again.
So, now, I have a different routine beginning the night before a hike. I make sure that I get some pasta the night before--either homemade or from a restaurant. I also make sure to have some protein at that meal as well. (I'll put in a plug right here for Anthony's Restaurant in Bryson City and their yummy Chicken Marsala! I've eaten that twice now before big hikes out of Bryson City and felt GREAT the next day!) This is the only time we break our pact to have our heavier meal of the day at lunch. I have found though, that I don't eat nearly as much even on those nights, but I do make sure there are some carbs and protein in that meal.
On the morning OF the hike, I will try to have a biscuit/egg/sausage combo or English muffin/egg/bacon combo followed by a banana just as we are approaching the parking lot for the trailhead. That seems to provide me enough sustained energy to get off to a good start. Then, when I start to feel my stomach growl or begin to feel the least bit loss of energy, I will either eat a protein bar or snack on yogurt-covered cherries and/or chocolate covered almonds from Publix. Just a couple of either of those gets my energy back up. I keep a Ziploc snack back of the almonds and cherries in the side pouch of my daypack or backpack. I can pull a couple out while continuing to hike and eat them quickly with ease. If it's a long hike and we will actually stop for lunch, I have been making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich out of a Thomas' Light Wheat English Muffin and packing that in for lunch. The muffin holds up better than bread in my pack, it seems. The protein and sugars from the PBJ seem to provide my body with just what it needs to walk on. In the summer, I also pack in a Gatorade or Propel drink to supplement the water I carry in my hydration bladder.
As a result of these changes, I have lost 20 pounds and the scale is still moving in the right direction, slowly but surely, almost of its own accord. I am able to hike further and faster. My aches and pains have diminished considerably, and my recovery time after a hike is small or nonexistent. After our recent 3-day backpacking trip, I wasn't even sore or stiff! I have had others ask me what I do nutritionally to prepare for hiking, so I thought a post about my preparation might benefit someone else. I do not profess to be a nutritional or fitness guru, in fact, I am the exact opposite. But, I have finally learned enough about my body and how it hikes on best that someone else might benefit from my mistakes and successes.
Have nutritional or training tips you'd like to share? I'd love to hear your ideas and what works for you. I am always looking for ways to improve. Please post in the comments below!