Sunshine All Over the Place

sit awhile by JerryThis week has been ridiculously busy. The kind of busy that makes me want to shake my fist at the sky and curse the Gods of “Do More Stuff.” Fortunately there is a holiday weekend ahead, because my home needs some love. The grass is getting so long that I’m afraid small children will get lost in there. I have plants that need planting and flower pots that need filling and well, all sorts of things! I also just need to spend some time outside basking in this glorious weather.

Here’s an interesting little thing – I always hated the sun. I don’t really know why except that sun and suntans represented everything I hated in my larger body – running around, being active… sweat. Yuck. Beach bodies and outdoor sports and, well, summer in general – I hated all of it.

I don’t feel that way anymore. I still don’t have any particular urge to slather on some Coppertone oil and challenge the neighborhood to a game of beach volleyball, but I actually like summer. I like the sun. I like being hot. I’ve gotten comfortable with sweating.

 

Photo credit: Jerry via flickr

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I Froze My Face Off!

frost by Joel KramerThat’s right, I am typing this without a face. How? you ask. I am just that good.

The reason I no longer have a face is that I went running before work! It was dark, windy and cold. How cold? 24 degrees Fahrenheit, or -4 Celsius for my non-American friends. Other than the whole face thing, it actually went pretty well.

I got up early and walked the dog, then came home, switched into running gear and went out for a short run. Now because it is cold, and since losing weight I am cold all of the time, (All the time – even now. Yes, right now I am cold.) I wear several layers when I walk the dog. For example, I wear a fleece hooded sweatshirt over a long underwear shirt. I pull up the hood and pull the long sleeves over my hands and use the thumbholes. Over the hood, I wear a hat, and over the sleeves on my hands, I wear heavy gloves. The bottom half is the same way – long underwear, heavy walking pants, ski socks, boots… yeah, I look like I am going on an exhibition every single time I leave the house. I just need a sled and more dogs.

Now, I also wore two layers of clothes when I ran, and I admit, when I got home and had to change out of three layers of clothes (two plus coat) and back into three, I almost gave the whole thing up. It occurred to me that if I am going to do this again (which I will,) I should just wear the running clothes under my walking clothes in place of long underwear. Yes, that will probably bump me up from two layers plus coat to three layers plus coat, (two running layers, one outwear layer) but seeing as we haven’t even really got into the really cold weather, I think I’ll be fine.

The dog walk actually warmed me up nicely, so it wasn’t really that bad, except for my smallest two toes on each foot, my kneecaps and my face. Those were darn cold. I got through it though, and it felt great. I was unsure about keeping up with my running through November, but I’ve pretty much proved to myself that I can do it.

I did do one smart thing though, I set out all the breakfast fixings the night before. The pan and utensils were ready to go, the ingredients for a breakfast ham, cheese, veggie and egg scramble were cut up and on the top shelf of the fridge. When I walked in the door, I popped in the shower for a quick hot wash up and was able to have a good breakfast ready to go in just a few minutes. It was great.

So, until the snow flies, I’m going to keep on keepin’ on.

Photo credit: Joel Kramer on flickr

I Was Mad

"Angry Bear" Yes, exactly.

“Angry Bear” Yes, exactly.

The other night I was mad. It doesn’t really matter what about, the point was, I was heading out shopping and I was mad. The two actually had nothing to do with one another – it was all about timing. I had been planning to go shopping, and just before that, something made me very, very angry.

The people I wanted to vent to about the situation were not available, so as I drove to the mall I vented out loud. I had imaginary arguments, yelled at the top of my lungs and gestured wildly. I must have looked like Jim from Taxi.

You really shouldn’t shop mad, but you are mad enough, you refuse to see it. Angry shopping becomes about “The Principle”. You start thinking things like I WILL find what I want, if I have to scour the earth! It SHALL BE MINE! This is definitely not the best mood to be in while touring through loud, brightly lit stores surrounded by the rest of humanity.

I was looking for my rain boots. Now, a sane person would have realized that most stores don’t think this is rain boot season (despite the fact it has rained nearly every day for the last three weeks) and after a store or two, gone home and done the smart thing – settled in with a glass of wine and shopped online. But no, I was mad – so I was not sane. I have no idea how many stores I went to. I did find one cute pair at TJ Maxx, and was excited, until I turned them over and saw they were from Kate Spade and $100. Seriously?! I am not paying that much for rain boots. (I should have waited, Katy at Living the Life had some great ideas where to go, but I didn’t see her comments until after this debacle.)

When a touch of sanity returned, (or maybe I just ran out of stores to try,) and I turned my car towards home a little devil whispered in my ear, “You haven’t had dinner, you could go out to eat!” I was in a perfect part of town restaurant-wise and there were lots of places to go between there and home, so I started thinking through my favorite spots, one by one.

Then the good, calm angel on my other shoulder said, “You don’t need food. You need to go home.” I realized the angel was right. I wasn’t even that hungry, I was thinking about eating… out of spite. Isn’t that silly? Like the people I was mad at would suddenly feel bad that I was going out to eat. As if they would be at home and suddenly feel a disturbance in the universe which was me, enjoying a lovely meal. HA! That’ll show them!

I know that logically that doesn’t make any kind of sense, but I also know it’s something
I’ve done on multiple occasions in the past. I expect food to comfort me, or at least spite my enemies. (Who in this case weren’t even my enemies, they’re colleagues who were just being a bit short sighted.) The truth is, it doesn’t do anyone any good for me to be sitting in a restaurant like a little dark thundercloud. I’m still miserable, my enemies don’t care or even know about it, and I don’t enjoy it. It’s also a big waste of time and money. If I am going to go out, I want to make it worthwhile! The funny thing was I had just had an experience like this a week before, but it didn’t enter my head. I was just too emotionally exhausted to think clearly.

I did end up going home and I prepared myself a wonderful meal. I also ended up doing some things that actually did help: I walked the dog, I made a cup of tea, and I meditated. I was still upset, so I went to bed early and got some rest. In the morning I felt a lot better.

Here’s the point: friends of mine think that I have my weight loss all figured out. I don’t. I still struggle with things like emotional eating and making good decisions for myself. I’m getting better, but like everyone else on this journey, it’s a long, slow climb.

 

Photo credit: Pascal Wiluhn

Rain Boots and Me

rain bootsI rather love rain boots. They are so damn cute. But the thing is, how often can you wear them? I mean, really, how practical are they? Although I’ve been admiring them for years, I’ve never actually owned a pair.

Halloween night I was out walking Hermes. It was raining, of course. (It always rains on Halloween, unless it snows instead.) I saw a girl walking her Husky on the other side of the street. She was wearing adorable polka dot rain boots… and it hit me:

I walk the dog twice a day, every day. You know what? Some of those days, it rains!

In fact, if there is anyone who deserves a pair of rain boots, it’s me! I am forever hunting for waterproof footwear, but buying actual, honest to goodness RAIN BOOTS never occurred to me.

Is it because I am forty? Somewhat, rain boots do seem like something for the young, or young at heart. Neither of which really describes me.

Is it because I am overly practical? Partially, I tend to either buy outdoor gear that is super rugged and durable or really cheap and semi-disposable (like from the thrift store.) Rain boots are outside of both of these categories.

Is it because I am stuffy and uptight and rain boots (especially cute rain boots) seem “undignified”? Ding Ding Ding Ding!!! We have a winner. It occurred to me as I finished the rest of my walk (in hiking boots,) that I have spent a lot of my life with a particular image in my head of how I look and how I dress. I would bet that we all do that, and why not? Can you imagine going to the store with no earthly idea of what you want? (Actually, I can. That just happened to me, but that’s a tale for another post.) The point is, the way we think about ourselves gives us little mental shortcuts. “I hate yellow.” “I never wear turtlenecks.” “I always wear rhinestones.” None of these are true for me, but you get the idea. One of my shortcuts has been, “Rain boots are too cute for me.” But, there comes a time when those mental shortcuts become roadblocks. I think that’s been happening me.

Now that I am a little older and getting a bit more daring, I am starting to challenge many of my old thoughts and beliefs, not just about rain boots, but about all sorts of things. (“I am not athletic,” for example.) Sure, they might have been true once, but are they still true?

I don’t know, but I know this:

It’s raining right now and I am going shopping for some rain boots.

You Can Dance If You Want To…

Dancing skipped a generation by Eirik NewthThere are things that you believe about yourself. Things that define who you are, the decisions you make, and really, how you live your life. Core beliefs, like whether you are good at math, dislike working in groups, hate computers or are great with kids. Though they might seem small, they’re part of how we describe ourselves, and they make a difference in our lives. For example, depending on how you see yourself will determine if you decide to join a friend’s amateur softball league, the church choir, or a coworker’s book club. And who you spend your leisure time with will affect who you are friends with. Or take an example like being bad at math: how you feel about math might affect the college courses you take – or even if you go to college at all.

Here are a few of my core beliefs: I have an artistic eye. I dislike crowds, but am comfortable with public speaking. I enjoy reading and learning how do things with books. Spelling is not my strong suit. I can’t sing, and I am uncoordinated.

My lack of coordination is more than “being a little clumsy”, it is so bad that I frequently quip that “I can’t even spell rhythm.” (Which I can’t. Thank goodness for spell check.) However, an interesting little set of circumstances took place over the last few weeks that has challenged this belief. (In fact, part of it took place over the course of writing this post, but more on that later.)

It started with the hoop class I took the weekend of my birthday. Hooping takes a lot of coordination and rhythm, and I walked in knowing I probably wasn’t going to be very good. However, before the class I made the decision not to care. And sure enough, I wasn’t the best in the class, but more importantly, I had a great time. Afterwards I decided to take another class the next chance I got, irregardless of my lack of skill. I decided I would just have a lot of fun and not worry about the rest. For some reason, we adults always feel like we need to be perfect at everything the first time we try it. We don’t have that expectation for children. When it came to hooping, I decided to go into it like a child – excited to have fun, but not overly worried about being great.

So that has been percolating in the back of brain, and then last week I read an article over on Fit, Feminist and (almost Fifty): On Knowing Yourself, Changing Yourself and Ending the Negativity. Here’s an excerpt:

The other day a friend was asking me about rowing. I talked about how much I was enjoying it. She’s a runner by habit and expressed concern about the technical skills required to row. She asked how much coordination rowing required. My mother smiled and said it couldn’t take that much because I could do, right? And then she looked at me for affirmation.

I smiled back, a bit puzzled, and then realized she’d said that not to be mean, my mother is very kind and gentle, but because I used to describe myself as uncoordinated. It was part of my story of myself as a non athletic book loving person. I’d been calling myself uncoordinated since elementary school.

Yep, that describes me too. I’ve also been calling myself uncoordinated since elementary school. Sam B. goes on to say that rowing takes a lot of coordination and she realized that by being involved in activities that require coordination, she has become coordinated.

That article challenged my world view – something that has been happening a lot lately. Just a year ago I would have never described myself as athletic, yet now I run, bike, weight lift and am learning to box. The “non-athletic” label doesn’t fit the way it once did. Maybe the same can be said about coordination and rhythm.

Maybe the truth is different from what I once believed. Maybe it looks more like this: as a kid, I never liked sports or dance, not just because of my lack of skill, but also for a lot of other complicated kid reasons. Things involving acceptance by peers and kid social hierarchies. Since I didn’t have parents that were particularly interested in physical activities either, I simply never learned how to be coordinated. Sure, maybe coordination and rhythm is something that many people are naturally born with, but they are also skills that can be learned. However, since I had labeled myself a certain way, I never tried to overcome it.

Then came the clincher. Saturday morning I was jotting down ideas for this post and trying to put it into words, and I wrote this paragraph:

All my life I have I have felt uncoordinated and clumsy. I’ve never had rhythm or grace. Don’t get me wrong, I can hold myself perfectly well, I have good carriage, but I’m not much on the dance floor.

That day we attended a friend’s wedding. I hadn’t finished the post, but parts of it were still floating around in my head, because I was determined to get on the dance floor at the reception. I decided to let go a bit, have fun. Julian is a wonderful dancer, so all I had to do is relax. So, I did.

Now I hadn’t told him anything about all this, but when we got back from the wedding that night, Julian mentioned over and over how good he thought I looked on the dance floor. He kept saying how much fun I looked like I was having – that it showed that I was enjoying my new shape. He told me I was sexy!

So, perhaps I’ve been getting in my own way this whole time. Not that all it takes is changing the way you think and suddenly you’re Ginger Rodgers, but that many of these things that I have been saying “aren’t me” are just that way because I haven’t tried – let alone practiced. Maybe I can learn coordination by learning more about how my body moves… and removing the chains of “you can’t do this.” In fact since we’ve been together, Julian has mentioned taking dance class or a martial arts class several times, and I have always turned him down.

Sunday night he brought up taking a couples dance class again. This time I said, “Sure! That sounds like fun.”

 

Photo credit: Eirik Newth on flickr

New Goals and a New App

LiftI’ve been using a new behavioral app. Yes, I have a “thing” for these kinds of apps. What can I say? They work for me. Though sometimes I wonder if that’s a good thing. Of all my awesome and amazing friends, I seem to be the only one with whom behavioral apps work well. I have talked a number of friends into trying MyFitnessPal and no one else seems to love it the way I do. These are seriously cool people! Am I not cool?? Sigh… it’s silly to think about, I know, but I do anyway.

So yeah… a new app. You know I use MyFitnessPal to track food, and I use RunKeeper to track runs, bike rides and dog walks. My newest app is Lift. The idea is fairly simple. Lift helps you start and maintain daily habits. They can be simple things like flossing your teeth every day, getting to bed on time or telling your spouse that you love them. They can be fitness goals or even things like trying to “listen more and talk less.” The way the app works is: you create an account, select the things you want to work on, and when you do them, you click a big green check box to check in.

Now, there are lots of other people trying to do the same thing, so when you check in you see everyone else check ins – some that are doing something for the first time, some that are on their 168th time. You can click a little icon to give them “props” for what they did. You know what? I like seeing those little props from others popping up on my phone. Sure enough – it motivates me. (There is a great article about the science behind Lift here.)

Here are the things I am working on:

  • Exercise: By this I mean anything other than walking the dog. (That I do every day, twice a day, already.) What I want to do is make sure that I am getting additional exercise in every day, or as often as I can. It can be power walks on my lunch, bike rides, learning boxing, strength training, going for a run or whatever I want.
  • Write a Blog Post: That is for you, dear readers! Also, writing makes me happy.
  • Inbox Zero: Someday…. someday. I’m working on it, and got both of my big email inboxes down to under 50, but I want to see them both at zero.
  • Sleep at least 8 hours: I love sleep. I need sleep.
  • Unclutter: This part of what I was writing about earlier. I am trying to get rid of junk I don’t need. Get out of my life, junk!
  • Meditate: I’ve been meditating on and off since my senior year in high school. I have had years where I have a strong practice and sit daily… and years where I forget what sitting quietly even looks like. I’ve been wanting to get back to it for awhile. I’d like to get back to making it part of every day.

So, that’s it – what I am working on right now. As I am sure you can guess I have a lot to say about all of them. Good thing I am planning on trying to blog daily!

If you use Lift, feel free to find me. I am there under first name: LongView last name: Hill.

 

Repost – 80 Thoughts on 40 from Stumptuous.com

I just read a fun post on Stumptuous.com. Check out these thoughts from someone else with their 40th birthday in September:

Rant 68: 80 Thoughts on 40

“When I turned 40, I realized I no longer had to give a shit. About ANYTHING.”
Sandra Shamas

Well, it’s September 2013. I’ve clung with my fingernails to this sticky ball we call Earth for 40 vertigo-inducing trips around the sun.

Now, I shall pass my wisdom on to you.

  1. Like what you like. Fuck the haters.
  2. Don’t like what you don’t like. Fuck the shoulds.
  3. But stay open to liking what you thought you didn’t like. Hey, maybe you need to cook it better. Or put a hat on it. Or try it 5 times. Or experience it with someone who can talk you through it. Or maybe — it’s what you really need. Cough cough posterior chain work shoulder mobility.
  4. Say no when you mean no.
  5. Say yes when you mean yes.
  6. In general, cut the bullshit. Think of bullshit as the smog of social interaction: omnipresent, neither wanted nor needed, and ultimately polluting.
  7. Learn to Say Difficult Things. Better to feel guilty yet relieved than resentful and blocked.
  8. 99 Problems and 86 Scenarios95% of your stress is about other people. Shoulds, expectations, “rules”, worries about what So-and-so might think, trying to live up to imaginary standards… Write down all the stuff you are stressed about, and for each one, ask yourself: Does this represent a genuine threat to my life, actual safety, and/or health? Or is this a threat to my ego, my sense of perceived security and “rightness”, and/or social order? If the latter, congratulations! You’ve found something NOT to be stressed about! When I turned 40, I vowed to no longer give a shit about most things. Guess what — nothing happened, except I felt about a million times more awesome.
  9. Think less, feel more. Put down the spreadsheet and rulebook, and sense in.
  10. Be IN your body rather than a floating head. What are your feet doing right now? What about deep in your belly? What is stuck in your throat? How are you breathing? What’s going on with your entire physical situation? Don’t let your mind answer this one. Wait for your body to tell you. []

Now click over and read the 70 other awesome thoughts in the full article on stumptuous.com. (Note: my favorites were #55 and #73)

This Month, I Turn 40…

Health Today

There are no promises, of course. We’ve all heard about the young, super healthy runner who had a heart attack mid-run, or the fitness instructor who had a stroke. Nature, red in tooth and claw* does what it will. A good fitness regime or an eating plan is no guarantee of longevity. Sometimes even the opposite is true. A dear friend of mine passed recently. He was known for his ever present cigarette. He never drank water, instead preferred Guinness or whiskey. The last time I saw him, we drank red wine out of Styrofoam cups in his hospital room. He was 80 years old.

So, while I hope eating well and working out improves my long term health, I know its a craps shoot. But what I do know is this – since losing weight and starting running, kayaking and lifting weights, I am happier, less stressed and have a lot more energy. I am in the best shape I have been in, in my entire life – and it just keeps getting better.

40? Bring it on!

 

* Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)

Do’s and Don’ts

I ran across this somewhere on the web and tucked it away as a good reminder:Dos_and_Donts

What I love about it is that it has some good points without being focused on one particular fitness path. For example, while there are several points about eating, the phrase Eat Clean doesn’t appear. (I wrote about why that phrase gets makes me clench my teeth awhile back.) I have heard some conflicting advice about drinking that much water, but considering it is August and high summer in the U.S., if you’re going to be working out outside, it seems like a good plan to me.

I really like the don’s side – especially #1) don’t skip rest days and #4) don’t forget to reward yourself. I think those get forgotten a lot. Since I try to alternate weight training and running, it is really easy for me to skip rest days. (That’s why I don’t get too down on myself when I have a busy week. I just figure they are unplanned rest days.) As for rewards, so far, the results have been their own reward. Then again, taking the time to sit for a while by the river after a long run is an awfully good reward.

Sitting at the river's edge after my run.

Sitting at the river’s edge after my run.