Slowly Getting Back

saddle

Whoopi-ty-aye-oh

This morning I attempted to go for a run. The weather app on my phone said it was supposed to be fairly mild (high 30s, low 40s), and the ice and snow have pretty much melted off the sidewalks for now. It was supposed to get around 50 degrees (Fahrenheit) later in the day so I thought that might make good running weather. I set out my running gear the night before. In the morning I got up early and donned it under my dog walking clothes.

I didn’t end up running, however. Once I got out with the pooch I realized that the winds were just too strong. We aren’t talking about some little gusts, we’re talking about the kinds of winds that blow over trash cans. Was it likely to blow me over? No, but I could tell it would be miserable. Instead, I pulled up the hood of my winter coat, tightened my scarf and took the dog for an extra long walk.

I was a little disappointed, but also pleased. I did what I set out to do – got up early and was ready for a run. I can’t control the weather, and the fact I bailed didn’t feel like a failure, it felt more like an affirmation. I am taking care of myself, whatever that means at the time. The weather was much milder at lunchtime, so I went for a walk then. Knowing about the wind, I specifically dressed for work in clothes that would keep me warm (tights under my dress pants, layers and a warm sweater.) I got a solid 45 minute walk in.

I read an awesome article about working out and getting older over at Stumptuous.com that reminded me why this is important. It won’t make me invincible, but in the long run, it just might make life a little better.

Advertisements

Winter Messages

The River in winterI’ve been feeling out of sorts lately. As I mentioned Monday, I’ve fallen out of my routines. I seem to have a slight case of the blues. It’s nothing serious, there is nothing really wrong, I just feel like the Gods of Entropy and Apathy have taken notice of me and decided to teach me a little lesson.

I think I know what started it all. The Thursday before Thanksgiving I was in a minor car accident. Really minor – an inattentive driver rear-ended me. Fortunately, it was at a traffic light and I have one of those 5 mph bumpers. Though it felt like a lot more than 5 mph when he hit me, my car was fine – not even a scratch. I did, however, bang my right knee into the steering column. (I drive a stick shift.) That knee has been giving me some grief for a couple of months now, so it took me some time to realize that the new sharp pains came from the accident. There was no visible bruising or swelling, it just hurt like someone was repeatedly hitting me with a ball peen hammer. I thought I must have really messed it up somehow. It hurt to walk the dog and it was impossible to run. Weight lifting, with all the squats, got thrown out the window too. I could have done other things, but that’s when the vindictive nature of the Twin Gods of Little Movement struck.

We all know Newton’s First Law, right?

An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

I seem to be at rest, but I want to be in motion. In order to change my state, I need some kind of force – a lever to pry me free of my inertia. With the holidays and rotten weather, I’ve been spending a lot of time indoors, much of it in front of screens. I decided it was time to get out in nature. I’m out walking the dog every day, of course, but I was feeling called to do something else.

I went for a walk in the woods.

I went on my lunch hour. It was dark, rainy, wet and cold. I was also inappropriately dressed, (since a muddy walk wasn’t my plan when I left for work that morning.) Fortunately I always keep a spare pair of walking shoes in the car. I was about 20 minutes in when I stopped to take a few photos, then walked a little further… and saw what nature wanted me to see: a pileated woodpecker. Many people see signs in every day things, like numbers or colors. I have a deep affection for birds. Some birds, of course, are particularly special. The pileated woodpecker is one of those. There he was, up in an old tree, proudly strutting his stuff.

Like me, my dad was also a bird lover. For many years I gave him books on birds and bird watching for Christmas, especially when he became sick and couldn’t read much anymore, but could still enjoy the pictures. He was amazed by the pileated woodpecker, and I remember him saying “Look at these huge woodpeckers! They are the size of a crow! I want to see one!”

As far as I know, he never did.

But I have, several times since he passed away. They are shy birds and usually found only in heavily wooded areas, like the areas up and around my cabin. Every time I see one, I think of him.

And perhaps that’s the message: Buck up, buttercup! Live large and follow your dreams. Life is a crazy thing, you can die of cancer at 59, so don’t waste it moping about – get out and do something. You’ll be glad you did.

Fair enough.

pileated woodpecker

 

Photo credit of the pileated woodpecker: Matt MacGillivray on flickr

Rain Boots and Snow Pants

Rain boots and Hermes

Hermes admires my new rain boots and snow pants.

The weather here in the Midwest has been… interesting. By interesting, I mean cold, windy and wet. We had thunderstorms, high winds, tornado warnings, and snow, all pretty much at the same time. Sunday night I busted out my brand new snow pants, which are pictured here, with my brand new rain boots.

I wrote about wanting rain boots awhile ago, but it took me awhile to find the right pair. I stopped at every store I could think of in town, (including following up on some suggestions from people who commented on my blog,) but without any luck. Then I found the perfect pair on Amazon. They were everything I wanted, and in the right price range. The only problem was that the design I wanted ended up being backordered. Curses! A couple of days later, I was wandering through our local mega-grocery store and lo! they had rain boots! They were the same brand I had picked out on Amazon, but a different pattern. They were on sale, so I picked them up. This way I can see how much I love them, and when I wear them out (I am really tough on footwear,) I can order the other pair.

I also recently bought snow pants. I wasn’t actually looking for snow pants when I bought these, I was looking for water-resistant pants. However, the only thing I could find with water-resistant layers were snow/ski pants – and all of them were expensive. I finally lucked out with a pair of Columbia ones I found at TJ Maxx. These will do nicely. (I also bought some water-resistant spray on coating, and I plan on making my own lighter pair.)

With the crazy weather, I’ve needed both. The snow pants are super warm and I went and splashed in several big puddles and found the rain boots are doing the trick for keeping me dry. That’s all good, winter is coming and Hermes and I have many, many more miles to go.

I apparently really, really like this pattern. Note all the water on the pants. It was pouring!

I apparently really, really like this pattern. (The rug and the boots were not bought at the same time.) Note all the water on my pants. It was pouring that night!

Step By Step

walking“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.”

 – Ellen DeGeneres

It’s been a month since I started using the Lift app to try and build some daily habits. Over the next couple of days, I thought I would update you on how things are going.

I really like using Lift. [A quick recap: the concept behind Lift is simple, you select your daily goals and when you do them, you check in. Other folks on Lift who are working on their own goals can see what you’ve done and give you “props” for your achievements. It’s fairly simple and it’s a free app.] I find it motivating and it’s helping me get on track, especially with exercise.

I’ve been exercising fairly regularly for awhile, but I haven’t had much of a set schedule. My goal this summer was strength training three times a week and two to three runs a week, with anything else I could fit in between. As it got colder, and is now pitch dark by the time I get out of work, I was becoming less motivated. So, I set myself a simple goal, fifteen minutes a day. It doesn’t matter what I do, my goal is to make sure that I get at least 15 minutes of extra exercise in a day. (I say “extra” because this means above and beyond my normal twice a day dog walks.) Before I would sometimes do my weight lifting on the same day as a run, but nothing the next day and so on; now I wanted to be more deliberate about it.

The main reason? Entropy. “A gradual decline into disorder.” I was afraid that a few days off would lead to a week off, which would lead to a lack of motivation to get out there at all. Setting a 15 minute a day goal is my way to make sure that Old Man Winter doesn’t derail my fitness plans.

What I’m finding is that I am doing a lot more walking. Squeezing extra time in my morning and evenings can be tough, but during the week I always have a lunch hour. One of the ways I’ve been hitting my 15 minute goal is by power walking on my lunch hour. While technically I could just go for 15 minutes, I never do. If I head out, it’s always for at least a half hour and up to an hour, depending on the weather and how fast I can eat my lunch. (If work is slow I can eat at my desk while working, if things are busy, it’s best I take a complete break.) I’ve been enjoying it so much that I even walk on my lunch hour if I’ve already run or did my weight training in the morning! On perfect days I walk for forty minutes and then sit in my car for twenty while listening to a meditation podcast. It gets me out of the office, in the fresh air, and some time to just sit and be still before going back to work.

The weather does make the whole thing tricky though. I live in the Midwest, the weather changes on a dime. I’ve added warmer socks, a fleece headband and a hat to the gear I carry in my car. (I already had an extra pair of running shoes, gloves and a jacket.) I’ve started wearing tights under my work pants and if I am wearing a long skirt to work, I bring along a pair of fleece leggings. It sounds like a lot of work, but really it’s just planning. Like a Boy Scout, I like to be prepared!

On the weekends I love to get in runs when I can, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. My solution? More walking. I just tack on extra time to my dog walks! I’ll go an extra 10 in the morning and 5 at night or some other combination to get my 15 minutes in.

All this was why I really glad to read this article on gokaleo.com: Walking for Health and Fitness. Yes Walking. She’s got some great ideas in here, and I am intrigued by the idea of adding some weight. Maybe not for lunch hour walks, but perhaps to the daily dog walks? Still working it all out, but I’m pretty happy so far with the way things are going!

 

Photo credit: Megan Ann on flickr

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

Cold Weather Runs

bagaball

It’s coming…

Interestingly, I kind of like running in terrible weather. Saturday was windy, cold and kind of miserable. It was a far better run than Sunday, which was still cold, but more breezy and almost (but not quite) sunny. The lousy weather on Saturday gave me something to think about, and I felt tough for getting out there and running anyway. Sunday didn’t have those advantages.

One thing I finally figured out was to not fight nature. My route has some sloping hills and it occurred to me to run so that I was going down hill against the wind and up hill with the wind. Before I’ve tried to run against the wind uphill, and that just sucks.

My goal is try to get in at least two runs a week through November. Some of this is going to depend on the weather, but since actually do better in foul weather, I really have no excuses. Once December hits, I’ll just have to see how it goes. I don’t mind running in snow, but I will not run on slippery or un-shoveled sidewalks. I’m doing this for my health, after all, and it’s kind of hard to run with a twisted ankle!

I am happy about the double runs though, it would have been so easy to stay inside, in my comfy clothes, with a cup of tea, so regardless of run times or anything else, I can be happy I just got out there.

Photo credit: bagaball on flickr

A Weekend Hike

I thought about going up to the cabin this weekend. It was one of my few weekends that was completely free before the onslaught of holiday busyness kicks in. What stopped me? Daylight Savings. Since Daylight Savings last weekend, sunset is at 5:30pm. By the time I got up there on Saturday, there would only be a few hours left. Then I would have to come back early on Sunday to avoid driving in the dark. (It’s fall, which means the deer are moving and there are a lot of deer by my cabin. I try to avoid driving in the dark up there this time of year if I can.)

So I stayed in town and had a “cabin weekend” at home. I did all the things I love to do “Up North”: I slept in, read books and took naps. I also went for a couple of runs and a hike in the woods.

The “woods”, in this case, is a park near where I grew up. It’s also near the cemetery where my father is buried. After he first past away, I would go visit his gravesite then follow it up with a hike. I haven’t been out there in fall though, it was a little different. Once all the leaves came down, the trails are harder to spot. You have to kind of trust your instincts and not look too close. If you concentrate too hard it’s easy to lose your way, but if you trust your gut, you’re fine. The other tricky thing was the tree roots. In the summer someone goes out and spray paints the ones that stick up out of the path so you can see them. In the fall, those helpful signs are covered in leaves. It pays not to get too cocky when you walk.

It was a lovely though. It was a cloudy day and Hermes and I were there about an hour before sunset, so we had the trails to ourselves. (He, of course, was in dog heaven.)

Ah, Nature

The woods at dusk 1 by A quiverful of fotosI managed to slip in another run the other night. Sadly, it made me realize that my week night trail running is over until spring. I made it fine, but at the end it was getting mighty, mighty dark. It was beautiful, however. A white tailed doe ran along with me for awhile, and when I ran by the river, a great blue heron flew overhead.

From now on though, it will have to be lighted locations after work, or at least at places not deep in the woods. I wasn’t afraid of predators (two legged or otherwise) but the thought of twisting my ankle in the dark crossed my mind a time or two. I do love trail running, so I’ll try to head out on the weekends still. Oddly, one of the things I love about being out in the woods is the hills.

Yes, the hills.

Not big hills, but little steep dirt bike style hills. You know what I mean? The super sharp kind that you can run up in less than a dozen steps. I feel like superhero going up those! There is nothing like that in the paved places I run.

In other news, Hermes and I got sprayed by a skunk. Normally I keep an eye out for critters when he and I are out on patrol, but it was raining fairly hard and I had my head down. We were in a residential neighborhood and the skunk was in the middle of someone’s lawn. I see skunks fairly regularly, (especially this time of year,) but usually they hear us coming and take off. I also try to give them a wide berth. This one though was in a mood, because he was turned and ready to go. He got us both. It wasn’t too bad for me since I was wearing rain gear, but Hermes pretty much got a direct shot. We both got baths as soon as I got home, but I have a feeling my pooch will be aromatic for awhile. Here’s the bright side – I pretty much have no sense of smell, and really, skunk isn’t a scent I usually pick up. So, as far as I am concerned, it’s not all that bad. (My coworkers might tell you another story, however!)

 

Photo credit: A Quiverful of Fotos on flickr

Autumn Running

Fall by Rocky Mountain High

What’s that you say? How’s the running going?

In a word?

It isn’t.

October has been a rough month for me running. It’s been cold, dark, gray, rainy, wet and windy. It’s the kind of weather that makes you want to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea, not pull on your running shoes and sports bra. Of course, it is also getting dark much earlier, and is dark much later in the morning, which completely removes all my motivation. There really is no good reason I can’t run in the dark, (I have several times,) but when it is also cold, wet and windy, I just don’t want to.

That doesn’t mean I am not working out. I’m still strength training every other day. I am also using the Lift app to build a daily habit of exercising. My goal is simple: at least 15 minutes a day doing anything I want. The strength training days are easy. My routine is a little over a half an hour. On the alternate days I’ve been doing a lot of walking.

Since it has been so miserable out in the evenings, usually the best time of the day to get outside is while I am at work. I’ve been packing my lunch, eating at my desk, then putting on my spare pair of sneakers and hitting the sidewalks. I can’t run (my office doesn’t have showers or a changing area,) but I can power walk the neighborhoods around my office. I am almost always out at least 20 minutes, but I usually go 30-45, and occasionally I go the whole lunch hour. It just depends on how I feel.

On the weekends, or when I can’t quite get out of the office, I’ve just tacked on at least 15 minutes to my daily dog walks, which is something my little hound appreciates! The nice thing about walking is that I feel more comfortable knowing how to dress for the weather. Running is tricky because I heat up so much. With walking, I can dress in layers and take off my hat or gloves and shove them in my pockets. That’s harder to do while on the run.

I haven’t given up running all together though! I still have a goal to do 100 miles by December 1, and I have toughly 25 miles to go. Friday we had a rare day of almost sunshine, so I went trail running. Trail running is my favorite. I promised myself I that’s where I would go in order to make it more enticing. The trail was absolutely gorgeous. It might be a bit nasty here weather-wise, but the Midwest is gorgeous in the fall. I was slow, partially because I was out of condition, partially because of all the tree roots hidden under layers of wet leaves, but I had a wonderful time. I even had three white-tailed deer running alongside me for a bit!

Even though I don’t enjoy running as much as I would like, I really love what it does for me. I like feeling strong and having stamina in a way I never had before. I am going to keep at it. I am not giving up!

…but there may be a few less running posts over the next few months.

Photo credit: Rocky Mountain High on flickr

Is It Still Working Out When You Are Relaxing?

turkey vultures

A good reminder why it pays to stay healthy!

As I wrote yesterday, I spent last weekend up at my cabin. It was wonderful! The cabin helps me to reset and recharge. It’s always been a place of journal writing, reading, taking long naps, and cooking elaborate meals. It’s still that, but nowadays, I also find myself getting in a lot of exercise. It is the kind of exercise I like best, but is the hardest to get: unplanned and out in nature. The weather was gorgeous, so I took long walks with the dog, kayaked around the lake, did a whole bunch of yard work, and even went for an unplanned run.

The roads near my cabin are mostly long gravel lanes or country highways. There are no short blocks, so my morning and evening dog walks stretched out to an hour or more. When I have the time, this is my favorite way to walk. Hermes and I both enjoy it. He pretty much keeps his hound dog nose to the ground, but I saw deer, rabbits and lots of birds – including a large flock of turkey vultures. No worries, they weren’t interested in me! I’m not dead yet!

On Saturday, after a long nap, I popped up, threw on my shoes, and went out for a three mile run. It didn’t go as well as my last run, but I didn’t really expect it to. It was more about just getting out and keeping up with my running than it was about any specific times. When I got back, sweaty and tired, I sat on my picnic table for a few minutes catching my breath, then finished cooling off out on the lake! (My run, and the couple hours I spent doing yard work and raking, were good calorie burners, which made me feel a little bit better about my multiple glasses of evening wine!)

By far my favorite cabin exercise, though, is kayaking. At this time I don’t have a way to transport it, so where my kayak is, is where I kayak. So, when I am at the cabin I go out as much as my arms will allow. I went out twice each day on Saturday and Sunday. (I would have gone out Friday night too, except it was dark by the time I got there. Fall is coming way too fast!) I like to start with a morning trip around the lake around 9:00 AM. It’s after the fishermen have left the lake, but too early for the weekenders. These morning paddles are fairly leisurely. I look for fish, turtles, frogs and water birds. I saw several nice sized bass – bigger than I have seen there before. (Which gives me hope that my little lake hasn’t been fished out yet.) I also spotted birds in a rainbow of colors: purple martins, blue herons, green herons, yellow finch, orange orioles and, of course, cardinals; plus gulls, geese, kingfishers and hawks. My afternoon rides are more… focused. There is usually a lot of motorized watercraft out by then, so the wildlife goes to quieter places. I just concentrate on joy of being out on the water.

When I got back to town on Monday, I was pretty tired. I could feel it in my bones. Good thing I had to go back to work – I had to take a rest day from my relaxation!