Did you ever have a gerbil or hamster as a kid? Did you ever wonder why and how they could run for hours and hours on their little exercise wheel?
Not too long ago, I thought that maybe little critters kept in cages like hamsters and gerbils ran on their wheels out of boredom. I mean, they don’t have hamster jobs to go to; no SeaHamster football team to cheer for; nor TV, Youtube, or Pinterest to look at all day so why else would they run on their wheel except out of sheer boredom?
Now that I have been eating a ketogenic diet for 15 weeks, I understand that they likely run for a different reason: their diet is optimized for their metabolism.
After my car accident in the spring of 2014, I was not able to do much activity at all due to physical injuries. I spent at least 6 months nearly bedridden over a year and a half’s time, and my muscles were very weak. Additionally, prior to keto, I had almost no energy for activity because of the level of adrenal fatigue I was experiencing from the trauma. Even walking was too much exertion. And even in the ten years before that, I liked to exercise and knew it was “healthy” for me, but it was low on my priority list. Although I would happily join friends for hiking and backpacking excursions (and there was that one summer I did some a group bicycle training), I had little desire or drive to do any activity on my own, or on a regular basis.
About week 6 of keto, my energy noticeably improved. (Most people experience improved energy sooner, but I think mine took longer because of adrenal fatigue.) At that point, seemingly suddenly, I had drive and desire to get out and move. I found myself compelled to walk daily. This was an urge that I’d never experienced before in my life. It felt magical! This was not a brain “should” type of desire; it was a body “need” type of desire. My body had energy and lots of it and it wanted to move, move, move. If I had had a running wheel in my house, I probably would have jumped on it and walked for hours. I started out slowly, about 15 – 20 minutes per day of walking, but quickly progressed to 30 – 40 minutes daily. It was easy and enjoyable.
Now, my son has been begging me for months (actually, years) to join him at his gym for weight training workouts. I was still experiencing a lot of dizziness and lightheadedness, so I did not feel comfortable in adding this type of workout yet, but I assured him that once this symptom decreased, I would join him. So in the last week, I started a trial membership at my son’s gym. We have arranged specific days that we will go together, based on days and times that sync up on our calendars. In the past, I would have never gone to the gym by myself, so I was glad to have a workout buddy to keep me accountable. But an interesting things has happened. Just like my desire to walk and be active, I find myself compelled to go to the gym now, by myself. And today I did just that.
This story needs more explanation though, and some background info. Last week my car radiator blew out (old car) and I’m awaiting the replacement before it can get fixed. Which means that I don’t have a car right now. I was contemplating walking to the gym today (about 30 minute walk each way), since my son had to work, but there was a deluge of rain happening this morning (unseasonable early September storm in the Pacific Northwest). My son offered to drop me off on his way to work, and I could take a bus home if it was still raining. I liked this idea a lot, but he was leaving immediately, which meant I had to change quickly and leave, without breakfast, or even finishing my normal morning coffee. In the past, I would have declined the offer, finding an easy excuse in the rain (and no car) to not go work out. In the past, it was easy to not be active. In the past, my body did not want to be active. In the past, I was not eating a diet that was optimal for my metabolism. In the past, my body worked hard to conserve all my energy because it was storing all that it could, with little left over for extra activity. In the past, it made sense that I had no desire to exercise.
But this morning, I hesitate only for a millisecond and quickly grabbed what I needed and headed out the door. I knew that on my keto diet, I would have plenty of energy to work out without breakfast or coffee. Once I was at the gym, I did some core strengthening exercises plus some weight training for my upper body, which took about 20 minutes. Then I moved on to do some cardio on an elliptical machine. My original goal was 30 minutes of cardio, however I found that I had so much energy and desire to keep going, that I prolonged my cardio to 45 minutes. This has NEVER happened in the past. Before, I would have found any excuse to cut my session short, probably only putting in 20 minutes. Again, a magical feeling. After my cardio, I had planned to take the bus home, since I had already got 45 minutes in. But the rain had let up, so I decided to walk the 1.3 miles home. And it was a snap. I had tons of energy. I could have kept walking and walking, too. In fact, I found myself daydreaming on the way home about walking the rest of the way into town (another 1.5 miles) for a leisurely day of shopping after a quick stop at home for a shower.
And now I’m at home, sipping the remainder of my coffee. Contemplating breakfast/lunch options. And wondering what I will do next with all the energy I have available today. What would a hamster do?