Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Wheels Go Around

Most of the time, I am in favor of baby steps, the small, incremental gains that come from regular practice and achieving little victories.  Sometimes, however, going for the giant step makes the journey more interesting and fun.  Admittedly, the big steps scare the pants off me, but in a good way (no, not because I end up without pants afterwards—that would be bad).

The weekend after next I will be riding my first century.  One hundred seven miles in one day.  I’m not sure I can do it.  My previous best distance in one day is 80 miles, after which I promised to kill the friend who told me I could do it.  She said I’d have to catch her first, which means she is still alive and well.

I’m training.  I have a purpose with my spin classes and rides.  It turns out that when I give myself the challenge to go farther and faster, I find out that all that incremental stuff has paid off.  I can do it.

We can all use the knowledge that our work is, well, working.  Let’s rise to our challenges!  After all, if I go 81 miles, I have still gone farther than ever before.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Duck's Weekend

Duck needed a cold beverage on the way to So. Cal.

And then, of course, Duck needed a pit stop.

He had to stop at the bank for party funds.

Aaah... at last!  The pool!

But wait!  Duck's partner in crime needed a suit!

Duck!  You know what happens when you drink!  You start checking out the girls!

...And then you head out to find a place to party!

Duck likes Frank Sinatra!

In the morning, Duck woke up feeling like Godzilla.  So he headed to the golf course to devour some golfers!

By afternoon, he felt like relaxing some more by the pool.

After the drive home, Duck visited the car wash.

 All tucked in for a good night's sleep!  Great weekend, Duck!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bend and stretch. Also Duck begins an adventure!

Remember the sit and reach test?  It was one of the yearly tortures of the President’s Physical Fitness Test (discontinued after the 2012-2013 school year apparently, and replaced with a new program with healthy living goals).  That may have been the last time we were actually evaluated on our flexibility.  Peeking around at the other people in yoga class doesn’t count; that is not an objective measurement (or helpful). 

Many people find working on flexibility to be about as fun as grocery shopping with a screaming toddler, if not as loud.  The good news is that toddlers eventually stop screaming, and so do our muscles when we get used to stretching them.

The better news is that flexibility helps us keep range of motion so that we will still be able to tie our shoes, walk, and scrub our own backs when we are old.  There is some evidence that flexibility helps prevent injury, but it isn’t conclusive.  Relieving tension, however, is always a good goal and stretching does help with that.

So even when we are pressed for time, we need to remind ourselves to do at least a little stretching.  Our bodies will appreciate it.

In other news, my duck has decided to go on vacation with one of my clients.  Here he is planning his trip to Palm Springs:

And here he is trying to find the car keys:

Monday, March 23, 2015

Rolling along

Sometimes it seems like it is all going wrong.  We catch a cold.  We miss a workout or two.  We want macaroni and cheese more than anything else.  It is okay.  It is temporary.

Every morning we get a chance to start again.  Maybe it takes until afternoon, for some of us, but every good choice we make builds our power to make more good choices.  We can do it, just maybe not all at once.

Breathe.  And then choose the next good thing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I no longer need to find 7-Eleven in Sweden or anywhere else

When I was a kid, I thought crutches were incredibly cool.  I was not the only one.  Anyone who had a pair and happened to be sitting was besieged with requests to try them.  We would take turns swinging and hopping around on them.  Then I ripped the ligaments in my right ankle and got my own pair.  Not so fun or cool then, navigating stairs, having to wear both straps of my backpack (which was Not Done at my school), chafing under my armpits.  At home, I did a lot of hopping without them, choosing to crawl up and down the stairs.

Crutches are temporary necessities.  We do not want to use them all the time.  I am, of course, talking now about our metaphorical crutches, the caffeine, the cigarettes, the secret brownies, the second drink, the fourth hour of television.  It is not easy to give them up, even if we are better.  When my cast came off, I had an atrophied calf and an ankle I was afraid to put weight on.  The crutches kept me from the pain of walking, but to truly heal, I had to stop using them and go through the discomfort of rebuilding muscle and balance.

I recently gave up caffeine, again.  I always joke about Coke and Diet Coke (we call them crack and diet crack at my house) being easier to get than sleep.  I’ve spent the last week realizing how sleep-deprived I really have been and giving my body the chance to heal.  Now that the caffeine headaches are gone and I’ve taken several million naps, I feel much better.

Let’s always be on the lookout for our crutches.  Let’s ask if we really need them or if we are choosing not to grow or heal by using them.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hoppin' down the bunny trail...

Now that it is daylight savings time, we can call it spring.  Spring means daffodils (yay!), afternoon bike rides (yay!), and spring cleaning (less yay!).  Guess what I’m going to talk about.

Actual spring cleaning of our houses is good for the soul, making space for new activities and pursuits, but let’s do some spring cleaning of our fitness routines.  There are fewer bags to carry to the trash or drop at Goodwill this way.

If we’ve been doing the same exercise routines for months now, it’s a good time to switch them up.  We don’t need to be stuck inside the gym in the nice weather—we can bike or swim or hike or surf or bungee jump (is that exercise?) or climb trees and rocks instead.  Even if we swap a zumba class for a circuit class it can wake us up and inspire our bodies to new levels of fitness.

Then there is food.  I happened to be at a farmer’s market last Saturday and I have an important announcement:  strawberries!  New foods are coming into season.  With warmer weather, the need for soup and stew is diminishing.  We can lighten up our eating.  If we want to get really crazy, we can think about ditching sugar, or dairy, or wheat, or that secret binge food, whatever it is, and see what happens.

If we must spring forward, let’s spring as far as possible!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Brow crinkles are not a real exercise

Exercise anxiety comes in lots of forms.

Take, for example, anxiety that comes from bringing our not-entirely-culturally-ideal bodies to the gym.  We all have it.  We all can work through it, and not by avoiding all mirrors everywhere forever (the mirror is form’s best friend because it shows that we might be mistaken when we think our knees are staying in line with our toes in a squat or that our back is straight in a plank…).  We can focus on what we are doing, not on what we look like doing it.  Maybe our bodies are not what we want them to be yet, but here we are in the gym working toward our goals.  Also, we are not so important that everyone is looking at us.  The rest of the world is focused on their own issues, and only jerks (a.k.a. violators of my Rule 1) will scoff at our imperfections.  Do we really want to let the jerks control our behavior?  Nope.  Further, we can laugh.  I think that Zumba was invented for just this reason.  I laugh at myself all the time, sometimes for singing along with the radio, or for dancing in the kitchen, or for getting caught doing those things, or for making grimaces at myself in the mirror when I am lifting weights.  It is hard to be anxious and laughing at the same time.

Then there is performance anxiety.  Who are we to think we can do this hard workout?  We are awesome people attempting the impossible and we darn well might do it, buddy.  As I say all the time, we are approximating our way to greatness and we will get there.  Maybe today we won’t lift that big old barbell, but we’ll be closer than if we don’t try.  It is not our fault if the barbell refuses to cooperate with our brilliant plans.  Some day soon, it will be more compliant because we will keep trying until we get there.

We are not racing.  We can pause whenever we need rest.  We can keep breathing and keep coming back.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

It's growing season!

I did two spin classes in a row yesterday.  I’m not bragging:  I know lots of people who can kick my behind, literally and figuratively.  It was twice as many spin classes in one day than I’d ever done before, however, so I feel happy.  I moved up a notch.

Those notches are important.  We measure our growth with notches, just like we measure our kids with marks up the wall.  And, just like with kids, if the measurement doesn’t move, something is not right.

Challenge is where growth happens.  We can keep lifting the exact same weights, doing the exact same cardio, stretching the same old way, or we can mix it up and see what happens.  We might be pleasantly surprised to find ourselves capable of more than we expect.  Or unpleasantly surprised to discover that maybe we need to work on some other skills.  Either way, growth.

What new thing can we try today?

Monday, March 2, 2015

A reading from the label of...

Liking to cook is a good thing when it comes to eating for fitness.

Over the weekend, I went to the store for the weekly shopping.  I pay fairly good attention to labels, but this time I paid strict attention.  Sugar is added to pretty much every prepared food.  It was hiding in the spaghetti sauce.  It lurked in the beef jerky my husband likes for snacks and in his favorite peanut butter.  I already knew that all the fruity yogurts were out, as well as the packaged cereals.  The salad dressing I like best:  sugar’s in there.

But here’s the deal:  I like to cook.  I’m obviously not going to whip up any beef jerky any time soon, but I can make my own salad dressing.  I can eat actual fruit instead of sugary fruity yogurt, or I can mix that same real fruit into plain yogurt.  It doesn’t take that much time and it is worth it to begin to combat the sugar addiction that is rampant at my house.

Ours isn’t the only house made of gingerbread, so to speak.  Culturally, sugar consumption keeps rising along with our obesity rates.  Fight the power:  cook your own food.