Ever since my birthday, I’ve been making an effort to be healthier. Not necessarily skinnier, although it’s a nice side bonus, seeing as how the summer clothes I brought were getting a bit tight and it seems like a waste to have packed and brought them all the way here not to be able to wear them. Back in the US I not only had more control over my diet, but I got a lot of exercise as part of my daily life. I walked a lot for work, rode my bike as part of my commute, went to the gym in our apartment complex or to our local pool on a mostly regular basis, and danced the night away at Zumba twice a week at our local rec center. I’m by no means an exercise zealot, but I was in decent shape. Fast forward to Macedonia – my exercise routine came to a dead stop, and I discovered бурек. I was doomed to failure.
I decided to change some of the bad habits I’d developed; I cut back on my бурек intake, started just eating less in general (which is much easier with our current host family than it was with our Baba in Vatasha, who showed her love through massive quantities of food and who I didn’t have the heart or words to say no to), and started exercising again. It also helps that the holiday season has passed so I’m not eating cake every other day.
The exercise routine I’ve settled into is alternating days during the week of running and yoga, and then hiking and biking with Kyle on the weekends. I’ve never really liked running and much prefer group activities like Zumba, but it’s turned into something I’m enjoying more and more over time. I spend the first 20-30 minutes walking fast and listening to a podcast, warming up and letting my inhaler work its magic (yay asthma!).
I usually walk out along a small highway leading out towards Gorobintsi, a village a few miles from town. The challenges of running in Sveti Nikole include being stared at by everyone who passes me, nearly getting run over by trucks and tractors and cars and motorcycles, and being chased by packs of stray dogs (who at least respond well to yelling and threats of being hit with my water bottle). The bonuses of running in Sveti Nikole include beautiful views and roadside goats. Eventually I turn around and run home. When I started back in April, this meant that I ran for about 30 seconds before feeling like I was going to die, but now I can run the entire way home without stopping.
Yesterday when I was running home, I stopped at the town line to check my distance and time. The robotic lady voice of my iPod told me that my current pace was 9:05 per mile! I’m pretty sure I haven’t run an entire mile under 10 minutes since middle school, and usually when I run at the gym I’m proud of myself for a 12 minute mile. And I’d been running at that pace for almost two miles, which for me is a certifiable miracle. The best part was that I definitely didn’t feel like I was going to die – I felt like I could keep going. Running’s still not my favorite form of exercise and I don’t think I’m going to start training for a marathon any time soon, but I’m seeing progress and feeling pretty proud of my body.
A fellow PCV, Kathy, recommended Do Yoga With Me to me a few months ago, and it’s been a great source of exercise as well as a great way to unwind and center myself. I’ve done yoga on and off since high school and have always liked it, but I have a really hard time doing it by myself and I’m not good at timing how long I should hold a pose, so I end up finishing in 15 minutes. I’m sticking to the beginner’s videos, which are mostly focused on stretching with a little core strength and balance thrown in, and I love the feeling of being calm and limber when I’m finished.
Hopefully the fast-approaching hot weather doesn’t throw a complete wrench into my routine, but I’m going to try to keep up with it as best I can. This week we’re headed to Lake Dojran for our in-service language training, and I am so ready to swim and enjoy a little change of pace. When we get home, our host sister and her husband will be here visiting from the US, so we’ll have a full house!