View From On The Couch

I’m actually lying on the couch writing this.  I tweaked my back about two weeks ago at work, helping up an overweight woman with Down Syndrome.  That night I went to a difficult yoga class and ignored the stiffness, thinking the yoga would take care of it.  It made it worse.  We all have peaks and valleys in our fitness, currently I’m in the valley, contemplating which way to go next.  I was leaning toward getting certified to teach yoga, but now I’m thinking more about helping people with back issues, since I’m currently one of the injured.  I’m not a good patient.  I hate being injured and want an immediate solution.  Today I bought some Aleve.  I purchased Eric Goodman’s second book, True to Form, and have started reading it.  I have re-visited his 12 minute Foundation video on You Tube and have been doing it.  I get improvement but still have pain and stiffness.

I did my 5th triathlon the third weekend in July.  I again was not last, and had fun.  For a short time I thought maybe I was last, because the policeman at the Park entrance paced my run toward the finish line, giving me encouragement.  He was just bored and wishing he was doing the race and trying to be helpful.  I encouraged him to join us next year, and he said he would.

I look forward to running again but will take my own advice and spend a little time on the couch, healing.  Then I know when I am up to it again I will appreciate my health and fitness and work toward a strong healthy back as part of it.

Forward Motion

Six weeks or so until my yearly triathlon.  My training regimen has not changed much, a little here, a little there, focusing on fun and continuing to do a regular strength training routine.  Since my move to this small, gym-free town, I have been thankful for my DVD collection as I take classes with my imaginary friends from the DVD’s.  I keep hoping for more improvement than I get, but still get enough movement and workouts in to be grateful.  I feel much younger than my actual age, except when I get up from extended sitting, when I find myself a little stiff at first, and when I get my hair cut and see an actual twenty something next to me in the mirror.  Today I saw a post from one of my role models and heros, Ernestine Shepherd.  She turned 80.  She is still personal training and inspiring the world.  She didn’t even start exercising until she was 57.

Since moving here, I took a couple of jobs instead of pursuing Personal Training, as I had planned. Hopefully that is still to come, but I’ve been exploring some different paths in the meantime.  One was a part time position in Customer Service at Eastern Mountain Sports.  I was answering phones and trying to resolve issues.  I got to talk to people who were going on amazing trips, and I also got an incredible discount.  I’m now geared up and ready to go somewhere.  Not sure where that will be.  I hope maybe someday to walk the Camino in Spain and maybe to see Machu Pichu.  Still, my favorite spot is Maui.  I go to that happy place from my last vacation when I need to, and plan to get back there again next winter.  For now, working on enjoying my run, biking, and swimming in the beautiful lakes in the area.  Forward motion.

The Joyful Triathlete

I’m very inspired by Ultra Athletes.  When I run and bike, I listen to podcasts or audiobooks.  When I swim, I just get my own thoughts as I have yet to invest in any waterproof electronics, but as someone who thinks they have a short attention span, the fact that I can multi-task makes me enjoy my sports more and look forward to that time. I recently spent yet another week on Maui, where I conducted my own personal triathlon training, just for myself. Here’s how it went. I got up in the morning and had coffee with my sister and my niece. Then, when they got ready for work and school, I went out for a run. I may have mentioned that I am very slow. I can actually be passed by faster walkers. Sometimes, to save myself embarrassment, I stop and stretch so that I will not be running along with people that are walking. I probably run about three miles, and by then the sun would be starting to get hotter. My route included some flat back roads and the walkway along the ocean. Then I get on a bike and also take the scenic route, from one end of Kihei to the other. They have bike paths, and I toodle along, looking at the scenery and bird watch a little, and look to see if any whales are blowing or breeching in the distance. Most mornings are pretty quiet on the whale front, but sometimes I got lucky though they were far away. Then, a visit to the Aquatic Center, which is free and very nice, all outdoors. I usually had a lane to myself or shared with one other person.  I ate lots of fresh salads and home cooked tacos and burritos, a little Maui beef, and simple meals, as well as smoothies in the Vitamix. Renewed and re-charged. All the while listening to tales of people challenging themselves to the max, putting themselves through grueling feats… Hmm. Yoga and stretching… A little snorkeling…

Sure, I know you probably don’t have a sister who lives on Maui, but most cities have parks and beautiful walkways along water.  Rail trails are being developed everywhere. Some hotels have day passes for their pools that can include hot tubs and saunas.

I went home renewed and relaxed, feeling like a million dollars. There is no wrong strategy, other than inactivity. Train for a walk, a 5K, or an ultra run. If the grueling feats are not your style, try the scenic route.

Maui Revisited

Thanksgiving brought another trip to Maui.  My mother is 85, and has sometimes been alone at holidays.  We all try to take turns getting there, but there have been occasional Thanksgivings and Christmases that no one has been able to go.  My sister lives on Maui, and we went last year. The trip was such a success that I suggested we do it again, and she loved the idea.  The convincing factor for me was that both of my sons could get the time off this year and get there.  My youngest now lives in Montana, and is not easy to visit.  Last year getting a week there with my older son was the highlight of my year, as usually we might just get a lunch together a few times a year, it seems like, and this was quality time.

Last year I wrote about asking for a sign from the Universe about whether or not to quit my job.  The sign I asked for was to see five red Mustangs in the same day.  I had seen three one day and the challenge to the Universe popped into my head. I grew increasingly anxious to leave the job and gave notice without seeing the sign.  When my family and I went to Lahaina the day after Thanksgiving, red Mustangs were everywhere.  I counted 26. I was practically dodging them as there were some circling the park in the center of town, by the banyon tree. This trip I went into Lahaina with my brother, my Mom, and one of my sons.  I wondered how many I would see, as I had thought it was such a funny coincidence that it is a popular rental car there.  Guess what, this year I saw one before Lahaina and one after. That was it.

Maui is a wonderful place to step away from life and re-evaluate.  It is a tough flight from the east coast, but always worth it. I don’t know what’s ahead for me but somehow I think there will be a sign or two.

Vegan Vs Paleo, Batman Vs Superman

First let me say that I am a meat-eater, so you know which camp I am actually in.  I’m not trying to surprise anyone.  But you never know, on either side, when you may switch teams.  We need to be working together to help improve our health and our planet, right?  Not fighting each other and making everyone else who is happily eating fast food, twinkies, and soda think we are crazy?

I was a vegetarian back in my 20’s, off and on.  I had Laurel’s Kitchen, Moosewood, and Diet for a Small Planet.  My gums receded and I got on the blood sugar roller coaster, and got more and more tired.  I feel much better now that I lean toward Paleo.  Weston Price was a dentist (if you don’t know about the Weston Price movement, it’s worth googling).  But I drove by a moose the other day that was hanging upside down from a tree, and I definitely felt a serious pang for that moose.  The hunter had proudly hung it by the road.  I would have given anything to have helped it escape that fate…  When I started college I took Animal Science (because I loved animals).  We learned all the best ways to raise meat and poultry to get the most out of the space, in other words cram more animals into small spaces to cut costs. I stopped eating veal that semester. I was known to occasionally give a little speech about the cruelty of veal, how the baby cows would cry for their mothers, and they were actually put into dark boxes.  Please do not eat veal unless you know it is from a happy farm.  I was also happy to see California pass the law against raising geese for Pate, though I think it was repealed, and I buy the best quality eggs I can find, usually the Pete and Gerry’s or Nellie’s.  I want to send a message to my grocery store that people will pay for cruelty free eggs, not to mention pastured eggs are much more nutritious.

I watched Cowspiracy, and started to watch Vegucated.  Vegucated lost me pretty quickly when she told her participants it was fine to eat pancakes and double stuffed oreos, because they are vegan. Really?  Really?!  I feel that type of eating causes diabetes and disease, and that is very expensive, not to mention painful for the families going through it. Cowspiracy made me think, and made me want to do more.  I do think they calculate the amount of water used by cows on cows that eat GMO corn, and we want our cows eating water rich grass right from the earth.  To me, not using grassland to convert grass to meat through grazing animals is wasteful.  There is a lot of land that is not appropriate for forests or crops.  I felt in Cowspiracy they were quick to generalize, very black and white.  If there is not enough grazing land to produce half a pound of beef a day for everyone on the planet, that does not mean we should all be vegans.  But we can all eat real food, and we can all move toward cruelty free food.  Imagine if Batman and Superman worked together for good!

Thirty Days of Running

I challenged myself to run every day in September.  I started running (again) four years ago when I had made the decision to try a triathlon.  I had been given a free two week membership at a local pool, and remembered how much I liked to swim.  I’ve always liked to ride bikes, since I was six years old anyway.  And the year before that I had been in my first 5K post childbearing, though I had just walked fast, doing it with a friend for a cause we were both involved in.  So I knew I could at the very least walk through the 5K part of the triathlon, but I wanted to run it.  It has been a slow and choppy process to get back into it, and with very little improvement.  In fact, the first time I went to a track to run, I couldn’t believe how long it took me to get around it.  At first I thought it must be a longer than normal track.  No, I’m not kidding, though I quickly realized how ridiculous if was that I thought that.  I just couldn’t believe how slow I was. I was a slow runner in my twenties, with a nine or ten minute per mile pace. So in my mid-fifties apparently it was taking me about 15 minutes to run a mile.  When I started running in 5K’s, it was an effort to stay ahead of the walkers, and I only did to try to keep from being too embarrassed.  Otherwise, I would have happily run along as they walked at the same pace.  Well, as anyone who runs these days does, just about, I have taken up listening to podcasts as I run.  Through my years of hitting the gym, I downloaded Hay House Radio shows on my little mp3 player. But their website changed, and my little mp3 players all eventually broke, and I have a new phone.  Listening one day to the Rich Roll Podcast, I heard Mishka Shubaly talk about learning to run by doing a 30 day running challenge after being challenged by a friend. I wondered if that would make a difference for me.  i started a Tri Club in the spring, before I moved, and we had a Chi Running  Coach come out and give us some pointers.  I was still trying to incorporate his tips, and it was a little like patting my head and rubbing my stomach and chewing gum at the same time.  It wasn’t entirely coming together.  I ran every day for the month of September.  Often just two miles, sometimes three or four.  One day even longer, though I didn’t map it so I’m not sure how far.  Some changes happened.  After the first week it felt easier.  Less choppy.  Still I wasn’t Chi Running.  About the beginning of the fourth week though, there was some type of a breakthrough where I was leaning forward more like the running coach suggested.  I am still slow.  Yesterday was the last day.  It poured rain.  I almost talked myself out of going. Finally it stopped to a very light drizzle, and by the time I got out it had stopped.  The foliage here, by the way, is beautiful.  I’m in the Northeast.  Now that the challenge to myself is over, I plan to cut back to three days a week, with two short runs and one long.  So I didn’t go today.  And guess what. I miss it.

You Can Transform Your Life

My world was shaken last week when I read that Wayne Dyer had unexpectedly passed away.  From what I know, he had a heart attack in his sleep at his home in Maui.  I listened to his Hay House Radio Show, especially when I travel, and actually I have listened to him for 24 years.  Here’s the story.  My son Sam was a toddler, I guess he was two and a half if I remember correctly, and I had a new baby as well (my son Denny).  Sam had recurrent ear infections.  He was cranky and we were constantly taking him to the doctor for antibiotics, and he also had a few instances of asthma, plus he was difficult and hyperactive.  The doctor was talking about tubes in his ears.  One especially difficult day, I was exhausted and turned to prayer.  I was not especially religious in those days, in fact I had mostly given up going to church, as it was not easy with the kids.  I gave up completely somewhere around this time, after the local minister gave a sermon about how you had to spank your kids and I think he was directing at me.  Anyway, I had one of those moments where I gave up and told God I needed some help.  I went out to the mailbox, and just before I went out there I heard a guest on the TV show I was watching, who was the allergist Dr. Doris Rapp, suggest parents take their kids off milk products if they have repeated ear infections.  Then I got to the mailbox and I had an offer from Nightingale Conant for a free cassette tape by Wayne Dyer, called “You Can Transform Your Life.”  I sent for it.  I have enjoyed his calm voice and his wisdom ever since.  I saw him once in Boston at a Hay House talk, and was too star struck in the moment to even say hello.   That happened again last year in Maui, when I’m pretty sure I saw him that day in Lahaina when I was there with my family.  On his latest radio shows he talked a lot about the steps he was taking for good health.  I do remember him saying that he believed that your time is up when it’s up, but it does still upset me that he did that popular cleanse, with the maple syrup and cayenne, because I can’t help feeling that that probably weakened his heart.  He did it for a long time. Folks, don’t starve yourself.  Cleanse by eating real food.  And enjoy every moment that you can because when your time is up it’s up.

Tri Tri Again

Last weekend was Give Peace a Tri, my fourth triathlon.  Two friends and my boyfriend, John, did it with me.  We were very successfully not near last.  Our motto is “We are not doing this again,” but hopefully we really will do it again next year.  It is less than a Sprint distance, and because of that it is a great newbie tri and everyone is friendly and non-competetive (except when they are swimming or passing you).  My friend, Colleen, even insisted that I go before her through the finish line, and my instinct was to say “No, you go!” but I didn’t think it was the time or place for a debate so I just went through.

Flashback a few years ago.  John and I had been dating since Christmas, and he had been running in 5K’s.  He thought it was great that I had been in my first triathlon and wanted to do one too.  He picked a Sprint distance race that was known to have a hilly bike course.  To be supportive, I agreed to do it.  I would be riding my used mountain bike, since unfortunately my old 10 speed needed too many repairs, and a real road bike was out of the question financially with the non-profit job I had at the time.  When we arrived, John gallantly pumped up my tires.  All the air went out of one of them and we couldn’t get it filled.  I was devastated, but secretly a little bit hoping that I would have to sit this one out.  I asked a passing athlete if he could help, and we got it remedied.  As the real triathlete looked at my old dry-rotted mountain bike tire, he looked at me with  some pity and skepticism, but then he said brightly, “Hey, you gotta start somewhere.”

After the swim, as I headed out on the bike, I remembered that we had meant to raise the seat a little bit, but of course forgot.  It was fine on the flat rail trails where we toodled along enjoying the peace of the New Hampshire woods and small towns, but it was too low.  As I went up the first hill, seventy year old ladies in great gear went by me.  At least this year I had an outfit that I could wear through all three events.  The first year I did it I put shorts on over my swimsuit after the swim, and later wanted to stop at Dunkins for a giant iced tea, and had to go through the drive through because it looked like I had wet my pants. Ok, back to the hill story.  My heart began to feel like it would explode as I tried to get up the steep hills.  I had to get off and walk to the top of 3 or 4 hills.  Just about everyone passed me quickly.  There was one older man that was sometimes in front of me and sometimes behind.  I think he was about 80. At one point a police car was behind me.  “That’s annoying,”  I thought, then “Oh, that’s because I’m last.”  Crushing.  I passed the older man when he stopped to talk on the phone.  “Game on.”

When I got to the transition area, I couldn’t get my bike to stay on the rack.  I tried twice, then put down the kickstand.  A man was walking by.  Let’s just call him D Bag. He whined “Your stuff is right in my way.”  I started to go back to move my bike, then just said “Move it” and headed out to run.  I’m sure D Bag didn’t realize that I was second to last and hadn’t yet run.  People still cheered me on (as they were leaving).  When I finished, most of the food and water was gone.  There was still orange juice and it tasted amazing.  John had eaten a pancake breakfast, but I don’t like pancakes so I didn’t mind that there weren’t any left.  With only one person behind me, I still felt pride in my accomplishment, along with my embarrassment.

And that’s why I like Give Peace a Tri.  Oh, and this year I wasn’t even sore.

Mad Men

I watched Mad Men for the first time.  Just the first episode.  It was interesting.  I don’t think I’m hooked.  It struck me, though, which no one could miss, that the cigarette industry of that time is like the food industry of today.  If you haven’t seen it, there is a haze of smoke throughout the episode and it is the theme of the show.  The cigarette industry guys are really mad that people think there could be a health risk to smoking.  Later on Hulu I saw a commercial for Raison Bran cereal claiming to be heart healthy.  Well, if you have tuned in to any of the podcasts that I like to listen to, you will know that it is grains and sugars that produce insulin in the body.  This is actually what is causing damage to arteries, and clearly contributing to the inflammation that is leading to heart disease.  We cannot rely on the food industry to police itself, because like the cigarette companies of a few decades ago, they really don’t want to believe that their products are hurting anyone.

I was very surprised not long ago to listen to Nina Teicholz, who wrote “The Big, Fat Surprise.”  She talked about how the American Heart Association expanded beyond being a handful of cardiologists to a leading educational group after a large grant from Proctor and Gamble, because they wanted to get people to switch to Crisco.  Our parents used this stuff forever to make piecrust and fry chicken in, until not too many years ago when we realized that Trans Fats were one of the nastiest things we could eat.  Because of the dietary guidelines, we all switched to vegetable oils, which are now suspected of causing a variety of inflammatory processes in the body.  I have switched to good butter, olive oil, and coconut oil.

If you walk through any grocery store today, you will see fruit, vegetables and meat labelled “Gluten Free.”  Since gluten is a component of grains, why do you think these labels are out there?  Educate yourself, because you will not get much help from food labels or commercials.  There are Mad Men coming up with this stuff.

Relax Into Fitness

My attitude around fitness is very different than most personal trainers.  Maybe that’s why my abs are not showing, although that is partly due to the decade I recently spent in a cubicle before finally making the leap out of it.  I don’t believe in “No Pain, No Gain.”  I believe you can work up gradually to fitness, and actually I think for those of us that are not young, it’s kind of important to do that.  I also believe that you can love exercise, and if you do not resonate with Boot Camp style military torture workouts, you can do something fun.  For me, Zumba and dance type exercises are fun.  I love swimming and bike riding.  I have only recently become a proficient skier even though I’ve actually been skiing for quite a while.  Some of us take longer than others to learn certain sports, but eventually you can get it!  Maybe not enough to get to the Olympics, but enough to enjoy it.  I have actually enjoyed the skiing all along, but something finally clicked last year that now I feel at home in my skis, like they are just an extension of my feet.  That took a while!  I really am not an expert or fast at any of the sports I participate in, but I enjoy them, and it has resulted in good health and the enjoyment of having a body that can move through life in a fun way.  I actually am a little embarrassed because I’ll be going to meet some trainer friends and I imagine I will be the least fit.  My abs are not washboard by any means and I will be hiding them as best I can due to the very tiny bit of a competitive nature that usually doesn’t even come out in me.  In my biking group I have been trailing behind. I have not yet purchased the superhero outfit that my new friends have.  But it is bringing out the joy of riding a bike that I had in childhood that is amazing.  Swimming is like a meditation, and it also triggers happiness. There is a feeling in the water that is hard to describe, and after showering off and putting on dry clothes, there is a wonderful sensation that is something like the feeling of having been to a spa. Some people actually love the military boot camps, probably due to the feeling of accomplishment after. Once you develop a certain degree of ability in running, it also becomes something you enjoy and look forward to.  Let’s put “No Pain, No Gain” to rest and relax into fitness by trying something fun.