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

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Building Slowly

I’m in the process of catching up on my blog reading. I missed a lot while I was out on the road! There were some wonderful articles. I wanted to write about a couple of them that got my mental wheels a’ turnin’. The first one is: Habit – the Real Key to Long-Term Weight Loss Success on gokaleo.com.

I’m going to excerpt a bit of it, but you should really go over there and read the whole thing for yourself.

From gokaleo.com:

Five years ago I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that my body was the result of my lifestyle habits. The way I ate, the way I moved, the way I slept, the way I dealt with stress…all these things worked together to produce the body I had at the time. My body, and my health, were a product of thousands of small, seemingly inconsequential behaviors (both conscious and unconscious) I engaged in on a day to day level. Trying to undertake massive behavioral changes all at once, as I had done so often as I tried fad diet after fad diet, rarely worked in the long term, as those massive behavioral changes gradually gave way to the ingrained habits that had established themselves over the course of decades.

I shifted my focus. Instead of focusing on an aesthetic goal and trying to force my body to that goal, I decided to focus on those small, seemingly inconsequential habits that formed the vast majority of my day to day activity. I identified the habits, the nearly subconscious behaviors that I fell back on automatically, that shaped the body and health I had at the time. And once those habits were identified, I identified new habits that could replace them, and I focused on shaping those new habits, slowly and methodically. The end goal wasn’t ‘weight loss’. The end goal was a new habit, a nearly subconscious behavior that I would fall back on automatically in my day to day life. I believed that with new habits and new behaviors, my body and health would change. I was right. []

That’s the essence of the article, but what I loved was what she wrote about the science behind modifying behavior. I am not going to excerpt that part, (seriously, go read it on the site,) but what really struck me was her idea of creating good solid habits that you can always fall back on when times get rough. I immediately started thinking about how I could start to apply those concepts to my own life… when I realized that I already do! I didn’t have the terminology that she uses, or even really do it consciously, but it is how I have approached my weight loss and fitness. A great example has to do with my goals on being physically active.

As I have said many times, one of the things I do each and every day is walk my dog. We go for a half hour in the morning and a half hour at night. I’ve tried lots of different walk times over the past three years – at one time I was trying for 45 minutes each walk, then I tried three 20 minute walks for a while, I played with a 15 – 20 minute walk in the morning and 40 – 45 minutes at night, and so on. It took a long time to find exactly what works for me. But being able to commit to this daily isn’t just about when to do it, it is also takes other little helpful habits, like keeping dog walking clothes right next to the bed – ready for when my feet hit the floor, having routines for what I do when I walk in the door at night, always knowing where his leash, waste bags and treats are, and having them ready to go. These are all little habits that have formed over time. Now walking my dog is just something I do automatically, I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s so ingrained in me that even when things are bad, never consider not grabbing the leash and heading out.

In fact, it is so much a part of my everyday life, that I just recently set myself a goal to do some kind of physical activity each and every day, without ever even thinking about the fact that I already walk an hour or more a day! It didn’t occur to me. Of course, walking with Hermes is great for a lot of things, but it isn’t enough for me to hit my fitness goals, which is why I am trying to develop this new habit. Like Go Kaleo suggests, I’m starting small. I’m shooting for at least 15 minutes a day of extra activity, and it can be anything at all – running, power walks, extra strength training sessions, time on my bike, my boxing DVD, whatever, as long as I do something.

I’ve got a few things that are helping me stay on track. For one thing, I am trying to look at the calendar and plan out what I am going to do the week before. Nothing is set in stone, but having a plan helps me make sure I have the right clothes, shoes and mindset for the day. I’m trying to use all the times throughout the day I have available – morning, afternoon and evening. For example I do strength training in the morning before work. I try to do it every other day, but if I know I have plans in the evening, that might be a great choice for that day. I also have lunch hours available, if the weather is nice, I can get a great power walk in around my office. It’s located near some really good residential areas for walking. Evenings are good for runs and bike rides (as long as the weather behaves,) but it’s good to know ahead of time when I am going to do that so I can pack my running shoes or throw my bike in the back of my car. I’m also using apps, of course. (I do love my apps.) I track running, walking and biking on RunKeeper and use Lift for daily motivation to keep at it!

Right now my goal is to simply build daily activity into a habit, to get to the point where it doesn’t even occur to me not to take an extra walk or hop on the bike when I have a few minutes. This is all part of a bigger goal, though. I love the weight that I have lost and the fact that I am in the best shape I have ever been in… but it still blows my mind. It feels fragile, like it could all burst like a soap-bubble. In some ways, it still isn’t real. But I want it to be, I want to feel like this (or heck, even better) for the rest of my life. I want to keep challenging myself and my long-held beliefs about who I am, what I look like and what I am capable of doing. I don’t want to jump into unsustainable changes, I want to carefully build and sculpt who I will become, habit by habit.


If you visit Go Kaleo, also check out their guest post: Winning the Fat Loss Lottery (not what you think…) by Sean Flanagan. It really speaks to exactly what I am talking about.

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)

Repost from Reembody.me: The 6 Most Shockingly Irresponsible “Fitspiration” Photos

You know when you read something that is so good you immediately have to share? That was my reaction on reading this post on reembody.me this morning. Even before I completely finished the article I knew I needed to repost. I’m going to put an excerpt here, but really, you need to click over and read the whole thing yourself on their blog.

You know that I enjoy most motivational fitness photos, but some do make me uncomfortable. Kevin Moor explains it perfectly, far better than I could have. Warning: there is some foul language, (but it’s totally worth it:)

THE 6 MOST SHOCKINGLY IRRESPONSIBLE “FITSPIRATION” PHOTOS

Join me now, as we stare in shocked incredulity at the worst of the worst:

#1. Your Body is the Enemy

What They Think They Are Saying:

“Don’t give up! You may think you’ve given all you have, but you have so much more! You can make it if you just grit your teeth and push!”

Why It’s Bullshit:

Getting mad at your own limbs sounds less like the behavior of an olympian and more like the crazy-eyed hobo who lives behind my building’s dumpster. Really look at the guy in that picture: that’s the face of a man more likely to have a restraining order than an NASM certification.

It is absolutely true that, if your muscles finally reach the point of failure, an emotional response like fear or anger triggers the release of adrenaline, which can keep you going. It’s called the fight or flight response and it’s been attributed to everything from moms lifting cars off kids to soldiers who refuse to lay down and die.

It’s also not something to fuck around with.

Central heating is for quitters! FITNESS!!

Central heating is for quitters! FITNESS!!

Pushing your body’s limits just because you want bigger biceps is sort of like setting your house on fire because you’re cold.

Routinely stressing your body’s physical capacity is called overtraining, and it’s a massive problem in the fitness industry. It is linked to everything from joint degeneration, ligament tears and bone spurs to depression and—no joke—post traumatic stress disorder. The fight or flight response only kicks during moments of impending danger precisely because the response itself is potentially dangerous. It’s a calculated risk on the part of your own biochemistry: turn it up to 11 and risk the joint damage or become food for a cave bear. When invoking that kind of biochemical gambit becomes less of a do-or-die, last-ditch effort to survive and more of a “Tuesday-at-the-gym-is-chest-day” scenario, you’re inviting in a whole mess of future problems.

Now, go read about the other six “fitspiration” photos on Reembody.me! And thanks so much to Kevin Moor for this great piece. Great work with a ton of good points. I love fitness writing like this.

Finding Happiness

Quote

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

John Lennon, 1940-1980

 

 

 

Just a Quick Update

EVEN IF ALL YOUR TROUBLES SEEMED SO FAR AWAYYY

I needed this today. (From wewanderandwonder.com)

I still feel like I am still recovering from my week with the sick pooch (plus a few other random stresses,) so I am not completely on my game. I am still here though, and I love reading all your blog posts! You guys make my day.

Even though I’ve been indulging in some emotional eating, things are still going pretty okay. It’s been hard not being able to walk Hermes like I am used to, though. He is able to get around okay but is still on rest for the next week – until the staples from his surgery come out. We’ve been doing some short (sloooow) walks. They let him do what he needs to do, but don’t do much for me. Normally, I love our walks because they let me work off stress, get some “walking meditation” time in, and burn some calories all at the same time. These little 20 minute jaunts down the block just don’t have the same effect.

Fortunately, the strength training is still going well. I’m loving The New Rules of Lifting for Women, and I’ve kept to my every other day routine. I finally admitted to myself that the Swiss Ball I bought was defective and returned it for a new one. That one inflated beautifully. While I was at the store I also picked up a few more weight plates, and I am ever slowly working my way towards a home gym.

Hermes' "Welcome Home" present from his girlfriends. He doesn't normally get cheese, but when he does, he's a happy pup!

Hermes’ “Welcome Home” present from his girlfriends. He doesn’t normally get cheese, but when he does, he’s a happy pup!

After a pretty decent week of running, I am on a bit of a hiatus. I was going to go yesterday morning, but: 1) I had a small blister on the back of my foot from my work heels. Nothing major, but the equivalent of a paper cut, small but ridiculously painful., 2) it was raining, 3) my raincoat has lost much of its waterproofness and needs a respray, 4) I was super low on sleep on account of Julian and I having not seen each other much lately and spending the previous evening talking. It was much needed time together, but I was really bleary eyed in the morning. Any one or two of these things wouldn’t have kept me from going out, but when I piled them all up… yeah. I threw some Neosporin on my blister, put a good bandaid on it, and crawled back into bed. There is a line between excuses and darn good reasons, and this time it felt like staying home was the smart move.

I’ve got a busy couple of weeks ahead. It’s the last of my summer freelance work and I’ll be wrapping things up. So, I’ll be laboring away on Labor Day, but I am still hoping to get a few runs or maybe some good, strong walks in anyway. It’s too bad Hermes can’t join me, but hopefully he’ll be back at it in full strength in a week or two. Now it is time to shake off this post-stress malaise and get back to looking ahead!