Health and fitness

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“Well, I’m back.”

Published March 14, 2014 by livinggraciously

Today, I walked through the door of the house and said, “Well, I’m back.” The last line of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. It made me a little teary. You see, I started on the Walk to Rivendell back at the beginning of 2006, and after 7 years and 2 and a half months, I have completed every step of that journey. I walked the miles with the Fellowship to Rauros, then followed Frodo and Sam to Mount Doom and through their rescue by the eagles. I then “flew back” to Rauros and followed Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas through the final battle. Then once again, flew back and followed Merry and Pippin until they got split after Helm’s Deep, following first Merry and then Pippin. With the Fellowship reunited, I walked and rode the journey back to Hobbiton, and finally the journey to the Gray Havens and back. A total of 8,349 miles.

I’ve kept records throughout all those years. I’ve only counted the miles that were part of exercise, not just walking around for errands or work. The mileage tells the tale of where I’ve been emotionally and physically. In 2006 and 2007, I walked over 1,000 miles. But from 2008-2011 my mileage was minimal–shocking minimal. As little as 282 miles in 2008. Part of that was that in 2007 I was hit by a car on my bike. I wasn’t badly injured, but I lost my nerve for riding. I went from riding over 500 miles to not riding a single mile in 2011.

But at the end of 2011 I took control of my life again. I joined Spark People in September and started working out. In 2012 I completed 2542 miles, and in 2013, 1684. Considering how crisis-filled 2013 was, I am not surprised that my mileage fell off considerably.

And now, I have reached the end of an adventure. The last of the Walk to Rivendell. I’m proud of that accomplishment.

So what’s next? After a short celebration, tomorrow I will head out with Bilbo and the dwarves for the Lonely Mountain. Because there are always adventures to be had in Middle Earth.

Now please excuse me; I have to attend an Unexpected Party at the home of Mr. Bilbo Baggins!

Self-deception for fun and profit

Published March 13, 2014 by livinggraciously

Yesterday’s weather was abysmal. All the schools around us were closed because snow was … not so much falling as being hurled vertically across the landscape like tiny ice bullets. The wind velocity combined with this punishing precipitation inspired me not so much to go to the gym as to climb back into bed, pull the covers over my head, and refuse to come out until April.

Plus, it was a swimming day. Which meant getting WET in a non-home location. It just sounded terrible.

So I promised myself that I could just go to the rec center, climb in the hot tub, and marinate for half an hour. After all, I only committed to going TO the gym every day. Not to working out every day.

Of course I was lying to myself. I knew that when I got there, I would at least get into the pool first and paddle a couple leisurely laps.

That was also a lie. I went, and I swam a mile freestyle, then an additional 5 laps of backstroke just to finish out the hour. Then I finally went and sat in the hot tub for a little while.

It’s useful, at times of low motivation, to break things down into baby steps and to tell ourselves that we only have to do the first step. Right now my kitchen is a mess, and I’m telling myself that when I finish this entry I only have to put the dishes in the sink into the dishwasher and start it. Nothing else.

Sometimes we really do just complete that one baby step. There may well be a day when I go to the gym and just get in the hot tub because I really need a day off. But most of the time, it’s just a little lie, coaxing us on to the next part of what feels like an overwhelming task. Just one mile on the bike, just one time around the track, just one load of laundry, just one errand.

And with a little luck, we will finish the day feeling quite smug about all the things we lied ourselves into accomplishing.

100 days of All The Things: 10%

Published March 10, 2014 by livinggraciously

Well, I promised not to talk about this project all the time, but I am planning to report in every 10%.

Gym: So far, I’m 10 for 10 on getting to the gym, which was the one about which I was most concerned. But it was also my highest priority. I am focusing a lot on swimming because it was my weakest leg in last summer’s triathlons. I am still slow, but I’m getting in the water. As we move into outdoor exercise weather and I start biking and running outside, I will still be going to the gym for strength training on those outdoor days.

Cooking: I’ve cooked, but not every day. I was out of town this weekend and missed Friday-Sunday.

Reading: I’ve read every day.

Practicing Italian: About 50% successful in getting this done.

Journaling: I missed Saturday because I was completely away from the computer, and yesterday because I was just plain tired. So I’m writing two entries today to make up for the missed day.

Crafting: Not. One. Darned. Day. There are only so many balls I can keep in the air. This ball has fallen to the ground and rolled under a table.

In all, I’m pretty happy. Not perfect, but I’m getting a lot more done. We’ll see how the next 10 days go!

Hypersensitive, or legitimately irked?

Published March 7, 2014 by livinggraciously

Lifted at the gym yesterday. I’m a little miffed. I was using the cross-cable machine, and had just switched to an exercise that only required one side when one of the personal trainers came in and started using the other side with his client without asking if they were interrupting me. I didn’t say anything, but a little while later he went back to it when a man was using it. He stopped to check in with the man that they weren’t interrupting his routine. Now, it might be that he was just concentrating the first time and realized his gaff afterward, which is why I didn’t make a deal out of it. But if it happens again, you can bet that I will speak up!

The thing is, I know that dismissive treatment happens to women in gyms, particularly around the weight room. It’s not that unusual to see some guy’s eyebrow go up when I skip by the small, pastel-colored dumbbells and reach for the regular weights. And to be honest, not many women are putting in much time in the weight room there. Which is a pity, because lifting is so good for women.

I don’t like feeling paranoid. But if this trainer treats me in the same way again, he and the management are all going to experience a “teachable moment.”

My insanity: let me show you it

Published February 28, 2014 by livinggraciously

I am about to embark on a completely crazy project, and the only way to do it properly is to put it out to the world so that I have nailed my trousers to the mast (“don’t you mean your colors to the mast?” “No, trousers; that way I can’t crawl back down”)*

I am starting a project that I’m calling “100 Days of All The Things.” From March 1 until June 8, I am committing myself to:

  • Go to the gym daily
  • Cook healthy meals (except for days when we are specifically going out or doing something that takes me away from the kitchen, but no, “Eh, don’t wanna cook; let’s get Chinese.”)
  • Read
  • Practice Italian
  • Journal (and not endlessly about this experience; actual, substantive journaling)
  • Do something crafty

I fully expect that by day 2 I will be wondering what the hell I was thinking. But if I can do this, I hope that I will develop some good habits that will stick. I feel like I’m doing too much “drifting” through my days. I want to live more intentionally. I will also continue working, and keeping house, and having time with Ferrett, and walking my dog, throughout this.

And now y’all know. So you can help keep me honest. Wish me luck.

*Extra Brownie Points of Extremely Impressed-ness for anyone who knows the original source of that slightly-rewritten exchange!

Looking back; looking forward

Published December 28, 2012 by livinggraciously

Christmas Day is, in some ways, the last day of the old year. Yes, there is another week left of the year, but it is a fallow time in which we finish up the last bits of the dying year and begin to look at and plan for the coming year. Some say that there is no good reason for this divide, that one day is just the same as another. I don’t think that’s true. Our lives are marked out by meetings and partings, by ritual and expectation, and I think the new year is one of those marks by which we measure and in which we can find inspiration.

Over the last few days, I’ve found myself reflecting. The last year was on the whole successful for me. I lost 50 pounds, biked over 2000 miles, and began taking the first steps toward running right at the end of the year. I made a lot of delicious bread and other food, I spent quality time with family and friends, and I did some good fundraising for an excellent cause.

There were some parts of the year that weren’t as successful. There were people I love with whom I didn’t get spend nearly enough time. I spent way too much time on the computer and didn’t read nearly enough books. I let my yard and garden run to wild. I didn’t get a single quilt or piece of jewelry made. I barely practiced juggling, or spinning poi, both skills I want to learn/improve. I feel like I handled the basics but let a lot of time slip by me around the edges that could have been put to much more fruitful use.

So my biggest resolution for the coming year is to take back my life from the computer. It’s a wonderful tool, and I don’t intend to abandon social networking and all the support it’s given me. The reality, however, is that I haven’t even been using this tool very well. I’ve barely journaled at all, one of the things I seriously regret. I mostly sit refreshing Facebook and Spark People and not actually accomplishing much. There are too many evening hours spent just frittering away my time, time I could be making something creative and beautiful, or tending to my garden, or practicing, or reading a book.

I’ve known this was an issue for a while, and I’ve tried to change it without much success. This time I need to take it more seriously. I need to set a timer to limit my social networking, and when it goes off I need to get off the computer and on to something more productive. I’m going to have to experiment a bit with determining how much time I should spend online.

And then I have to get offline. My life doesn’t need to be lived electronically. I have better things to do with it.

Biking to Death

Published July 6, 2012 by livinggraciously

How has more than a month passed since I last wrote in this journal? Time flies.

It’s been kind of crazy busy, and a lot of that has to do with the biking. I’m closing in on 1,000 miles for the year–assuming this weekend goes as planned, I will surpass that mark. And now I have a riding companion. My older daughter, Erin, is living with us temporarily while she is getting resettled here in Cleveland, and she has taken to this biking thing like the proverbial merganser to a lake. We are a well-matched team, and companionably putting in the miles.

July 4 was a bit of a challenge, though. Patti’s Paladin’s had a breakfast training ride, for which I assumed we would ride our usual 20-mile path. This is the path that is 5 miles steadily uphill, 10 miles of rollercoaster hills, then a 5 miles cruise back to Patti and Mike’s.

The predicted heat index for July 4 was 104 degrees.

So I was already steeling myself for this ride–though not really prepping myself, in that Ferrett’s birthday party was the night before and I didn’t actually get to bed until after 3am. And I had to get up at 6:30 in order to finish the fresh bagels I was making to take to the breakfast. (Which went over with great success, and many people being gobsmacked at the notion that anyone would make bagels at home!) So I wasn’t exactly rested and refreshed for the ride.

Then Mike informed us that the ride would be to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and back. Which meant that all the downhill was at the beginning of the ride. And we would have to climb back up the cliff face that is the climb back up to Cleveland Heights. At the end of the ride. In the mounting heat.

Gulp.

Erin and I started out with the rest of the pack. The rest of the pack consisted of 9 men who have a combined body fat of about 12 pounds, and that crazed look that says “25 miles an hour is an okay average speed, if you’re really not up to more” We were pedaling hard to keep up. On the downhill portion of the ride. Once we flattened out and headed west along the shoreway, I have to confess that I abandoned Erin to the tender mercies of one fellow rider who had stayed back to help her along. Mostly because I knew that if I slowed down to accommodate her, I would lose far too much momentum and we would just fall further and further behind. I had to just concentrate on the slowly receding rider in front of me and try to keep that distance from increasing.

By the time we pulled up under the trees at the Rock Hall, the temperature was 91, the heat index was 100, and I was vaguely nauseated. Erin pulled up behind me and said, “I think I hate you a little bit right now.”

It was all right, though; I hated me a little bit just then, too.

I could not imagine biking uphill all the way back to Mike and Patti’s. And I realized that we didn’t have to: we were already halfway to home, where Ferrett was still waiting for us to let him know we’d finished the ride and was planning to drive over for the post-ride picnic. Our house is at a much lower elevation. There would not be a steady, uphill ride with a big cliff in the middle!

Now, my friends on either coast will laugh at me for my struggle against this relatively minor elevation change. And I fully acknowledge that back when I lived in Alaska I used to bike up and down mountains. But I have to say this in my defense: I’m old and fat! Also, humidity is a bitch, and so is heat. If it had been in the 70s, I would have attempted the ride back.

With weather that felt like 100 degrees? No. Bloody. Way.

So Erin and I continued west, accompanied briefly by this collection of bike warriors. We biked along the shoreway and through shaded neighborhoods, and that part was good.

Then we got back out into the sun, and things began to go pear-shaped. Neither of us is good with heat, and the sun was beating down on us with mid-day intensity. We were still drinking water, and still moving forward, but our pace was going off and we were starting to get leg cramps. By the time we were 3 miles from home, I was genuinely worried about heat exhaustion.

Did I mention that there was a Severe Heat Warning in effect?

Fortunately, I remembered that there was a McDonald’s nearby and steered us toward those golden arches. I never imagined that I would find myself this grateful for the existence of fast food. We locked up our bikes and staggered into the blessed air conditioning. Erin was trembling. We ordered large drinks and grabbed packets of salt and sat for 20 minutes in the cool, gulping down iced beverages and eating salt straight from the packets. Recovered, we were able to finish the ride back to the house, showered, and went back for food and companionship. But it honestly took most of yesterday for us to really feel recovered. I honestly think we were on the edge of being in serious trouble. And I hope this heat breaks soon, because I can’t imagine going through this for 75 miles.

Oh, and I also made the next bread in the BBA challenge, cranberry celebration bread. I was just as unimpressed with it as I expected to be, but at least it’s over now!

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