How does she do it? Journalist and triathlete Lara Parpan dishes on what she knows best by sharing tips on pursuing an active, health-conscious lifestyle.
1. Give yourself a gift.
…and that’s your annual medical checkup. It’s surprising that most people don’t bother with an annual until the joints creak or something goes awry with bodily functions. By then it’s too late. There’s immense peace of mind knowing that your body is in good working condition. Schedule it around your birthday.
Lara training at Focus Athletics.
2. Consume everything in moderation.
Every week, I encounter groundbreaking, sometimes controversial, research on diets. One day fat is the culprit. The next day carbs are. It’s easy to go overboard following a diet or food movement that places emphasis on one major food group for “optimum” nutrition. What works for me is striking a balance. On my plate, carbs, protein, veggies, and fat get equal billing. If my plate doesn’t look colorful enough, I’m not getting the right nutrition.
3. Always read nutrition labels.
When the first four fresh food and ingredients of a food product are polysyllabic or sound like chemicals, stay away from it. That’s junk you’re feeding yourself. Remember that you deserve better. There’s no understating the convenience of packaged food, but balance it off with products from the produce section.
4. Drink less sugar.
The research behind the excess consumption of sugary drinks (sodas, fruit juices, sports drinks) as causing weight gain and health problems, including type 2 diabetes (one of the leading illnesses in the Philippines), is incontrovertible. That 12-ounce can of soda you love to guzzle every day has 10 teaspoons of sugar in it. (Yuck.) I drink soda or a sports drink only when I am doing a hard workout or a long race. Water is still the best option.
5. Commit to a workout you really enjoy.
Just because your friends are into triathlons doesn’t mean you have to jump on the Ironman or Challenge bandwagon, too. If slogging out miles on a treadmill bores you to tears, don’t run. If the thought of doing yoga in a heated room makes your skin crawl, ditch it. I love running, swimming, and biking because I can feel the endorphin rush each time I do it. That said, you’ll only know what works for you if you try it out at least once.
Lara doing functional strength training.
6. Work out smarter, not harder.
I don’t buy the excuse that there’s no time for fitness. You make the time. An hour of fitness is just four percent of your day. There are fitness routines that take 60 minutes or less (CrossFit, Zumba, doing run intervals). When I finish late at work and it looks like I won’t make it to training the next day, I modify my workout with something I can do at home—from doing planks and squats to pedaling at different cadences on my bike trainer.
Marinated beef with potato and vegetable salad ("If my plate doesn't look colorful enough, I'm not getting the right nutrition," says Lara).
7. Focus on meaningful long-term goals.
Losing weight in time for your 30th high school jubilee or to get your ex back just doesn’t cut it. I work out because I see how it keeps stress levels and weight down and tones my body. Take note of your routine, your diet, along with your mood and state of health, in a daily journal (easy enough to do on your smartphone or Moleskine). When you look back on it and see positive entries, you’ll realize that the improvement in your quality of life can be a compelling motivator to stay healthy.
Left: Lara with friends Tessa Valdes, Leana Carmona, and Rosan Cruz at the Arc de Triomphe after the Paris Marathon in 2011. Right: Crossing the finish line at the Ironman 70.3 triathlon in 2014.
8. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
So you overindulged on truffle mac and cheese and washed down that slab of steak with three glasses of a good cabernet sauvignon? Purging is so passé. We’re only human. I drink a lot of water after a meal like that and make it a point to eat healthier meals the next day. I also add a few extra minutes to my workout.
Left: Lara brother TJ at Ironman in 2012. Right: On her bike during a triathlon.
9. Harness fitspiration.
On nights when I can sense I’ll be too lazy to get up the next morning to work out, I read my magazine or glance at some Instagram memes (#fitspiration; but I keep my smartphone away from my bed because it’s a time sucker). I lay out my gym clothes on a chair and prepare my sports bag so that there are no excuses when my alarm goes off—plus I get to catch a few more minutes of sleep!
No time to join a class? Try running intervals.
10. Be grateful.
Just being able to wake up, get out of bed, use my arms and legs, and my brain are huge blessings. I end each day thanking my body for what it has done to get me through.
This story was originally published in the February 2014 issue of Town&Country.