Starting Over

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Frog Yogi looks after me in my studio.

Frog Yogi looks after me in my studio.

I rarely get as much exercise in the summer as I do in the winter. This summer was no exception. WhenVirginia dog days set in and the temperatures and humidity rise, I get lazy. And even though I have a vintage cross-trainer in my studio along with air conditioning, I regularly avoid movement as much as possible. Of course, it could have something to do with aging, but still the longer I go without taking a good long walk or spend at least 30 minutes on my machine and another 30 minutes stretching, the more my body aches. My joints continue to stiffen as I promise that tomorrow I will get on the cross-trainer. But even crossing my heart and hoping to die, doesn’t change a thing. Even doing it once or twice a week during a heat wave, and feeling better for it, doesn’t change my attitude. I keep telling myself that I’ll do it tomorrow along with the million and half other things I’ve been promising to do. Hah! Sure!

I walk Sam and Max early every morning before I have breakfast and though it isn’t more than a ten or fifteen minute walk around the block with stops at every interesting smelling shrub, it helps me wake up. Later if I walk by myself and get some speed going or get on that gadget that takes up too much room in my studio, I do feel great. And for those like me who hold tension and anxiety in their bodies, movement helps me relax. I think of walking as my morning meditation. There is nothing but me moving. If I get sidetracked I simply go back to my breath and the one-two-three pattern of walking that helps to keep me physically balanced.

Over the last month or so, I’ve been kicking myself in the butt most days because I haven’t been keeping my promises to myself. I still do Pilates on Monday afternoon and Yoga on Friday morning, but the solo, out-of-breath work went down the tubes.

When the Olympics started two weeks ago, I was delighted spending my evenings being inspired by all of the athletes. I was especially moved by those who didn’t win, knew they wouldn’t, but did it anyway. Just like them, in my dreams I flew through the air,  twisted around, and landed perfectly upright on my feet.  I swam fast,  as though a shark was after me,  and dove into the pool, as gracefully as a any diving bird. I thought about all of the work it took to train and the passion one must have in order to participate in such an event.

My inner critic piped up every now and then to say, “Hey what’s wrong with you? You’re just a rotten couch potato.” Then pointing her finger at me, she’d say, “Well you are getting old. It’s time to quit that exercise stuff. It’s a waste of time. I’m sure that rocking chair in the window down at the furniture store is looking pretty good to you, huh?”

All I need is a challenge. So I’ve started over. It’s still mighty hot. The air is hazy and humid. But I’ve worked out on my cross trainer every day this past week. Yesterday a cold front came through. The morning was deliciously cool. I took  a good long walk in the morning chill and finished the day with my Pilates session.  No more excuses like I don’t have time, so I’ll do it tomorrow. I don’t need or want a medal. All I want and need is for my mind and body to feel good and the time to take care of myself. I suppose there may come a day when I can no longer walk, so as long as I can, I will.

Life is all about starting over again. Each morning we wake up to a new day and have an opportunity to keep the promises we made to ourselves. There will be days when we really don’t have time to do what we said we would do. There will be days when good or bad things happen and it just isn’t possible to cross things off our to-do lists. The point is that every moment, every hour, every day, we have the chance to  start over.

My use of sugar has been rising and as a sugar addict, I’m only hurting myself and possibly bringing on something that will cause other problems. So that will be my next restart. No more kicking myself in the butt.  I may slip once in a while but I will keep in mind I can start over again at any time!

What are you starting over?

Look for me tomorrow over at Dorothy Sander’s Voices of Wisdom series.

On Friday you will find me over at The Care Giver Space, where they are featuring an excerpt from my memoir, SCATTERING ASHES,
A Memoir of Letting Go.


  1. Joan, this came at a perfect time for me as I negotiate increasing my activity with myself. It takes great discipline but I agree, I always feel so much better when I take the time to get some exercise. You are absolutely right, we need to keep moving so we can continue to keep moving. It is far too ready to become deconditioned. Thanks for being my drill sargeant today. I think I’ll go out for a walk!

  2. Joan Rough says:

    Hah! I love it, Kathy! I went out after I published this post and has another great walk and my body is grateful for it. My old inner critic walked with me repeating over and over again that she was getting tired!

  3. Joan, I am right there with you about exercise in the summer. Two years ago, I would hope on my bike regularly and take a several-mile spin. I love the feeling of skimming along on those two wheels. But do you think I was motivated this summer to stay with it? Not at all. We’ve had a summer that rivals Charlottesville summers, so you’d find me in front of my computer on most days. At least I’m writing, but still, moving my body is at a minimum.

    I think your inner critic should step aside and let your inner coach congratulate you for doing Pilates, yoga, and taking those morning walks. That all sounds pretty healthy to me!

    As for cutting down on sugar… I tried that for YEARS, all to no avail. Then several months ago, I started a gluten-free diet, and suddenly my sugar intake went way down… no more bread or baked goods, no more pancakes…. all the things I craved. And you know what? Once I was gluten free for a week, my cravings for all that went away. And I FEEL so much better! Besides solving one of the problems that comes from being a woman in middle age, I don’t feel hunger pangs, and it’s easy to stay away from baked goods because I don’t crave them! Originally I did this, thinking I could reduce my weight (which it hasn’t by much), and then I discovered how much better I feel, and that was all the reward I needed.

    I have not cut out sugar altogether. I still have a teaspoon of sugar in my tea and homemade granola with vanilla yogurt in the mornings, and I have a few bites of chocolate in the afternoons, and occasionally a bowl of ice cream. But all this is so much more balanced compared to when I had to try to resist those cravings for crackers, baked goods, and such.

    One of the things I’ve noticed about myself is how I try to be good all at once, and yet I find that integrating a new good habit into my life is better than failing at all my good intentions. Now that the summer humidity is broken here, perhaps I will hop on my bike this evening and go for a spin. Maybe that will be so much fun that I’ll do it again tomorrow…

    Thanks for inspiring the rest of us to remember to take care of ourselves. And congratulations on the good workouts!

    • Joan Rough says:

      Saloma, At the moment my Inner coach seems to be in control. She told hissy Inner Critic to get lost and quit being “trumpish.” That’s a new word I’ve coined for those who are being idiots including myself at time.

      I have been on a gluten free diet for three years now and it’s great. I went off of sugar completely two years ago for a time and lost lots of weight. Then I started putting a tsp. of honey in my tea and making gluten free muffins which have a bit of maple syrup in them. Then I started eating ice-cream again. So the weight is creeping up again. So I’m gently weening myself off again. I won’t make muffins for a while, ice-cream is for a special occasion and I’ll start adding less honey to my tea. I feel better already.

      Have fun on your bike rides. I had a bike for a while but sold it because we have too much traffic here and few bike lanes.

  4. Yesterday afternoon missing the step as I walked into the garage, I fell down, skidded a time or two, and ended up in a pretzel form. What flashed through my mind after the moment of impact were the words to the commercial for MedicAlert: Oh, no, I fell down and I can’t get up!

    Well, I caught my breath and eased up v e r y slowly. Yay! On top of that I was able to walk. Double yay! Except for the angry bruises that look as though I’ve been whipped five times with a lash, I’m doing fine. My nurse sister came by for lunch today and suggested an ice pack and ibuprofen. If I discover nothing worse has happened, I’ll attribute this “luck” to my Pilates and Power Pump classes. And moving – all those contortions to transfer files and reach shelves.

    What am I starting over? Picking up my memoir after weeks away and wondering how to proceed. Will I start fresh with a new draft or doctor up what I have?

    • Joan Rough says:

      Ouch, Marian. I hope the bruises are gone and you’re feeling better. I believe that getting exercise prevents us from getting badly injured when we fall. So that’s another reason to keep at it. The exercise you got moving was also a huge help in keeping you minimally hurt.

      I’m glad you’ll start working on your memoir again. I think time off can often help us figure out where to go next with our writing.


  5. Joan — “… every moment, every hour, every day, we have the chance to start over.”

    Amen siSTAR!

  6. Joan Rough says:

    You Got That Right!! Thanks, Laurie!

  7. Good for you, Joan!
    I tell myself I’m going to take walks on beautiful days, but I don’t, unless it’s an outing somewhere.
    I DO go to the gym almost every day though–and I take classes there because I won’t do a good workout on my own. So I “spin” and do bootcamp classes. Even though it cuts into my work time (because I’m such a morning person that I want to do everything then), I feel like it’s something I need to do for my well being, physical and emotional.

  8. Joan Rough says:

    Sounds like you’re doing great Merril. I used to belong to a gym but have found more recently that I really like working out on my own. I’m a morning person, too. It’s when I do my best work. As long as the sun rises early, I’m up early and try to fit in my workouts before I write, but sometimes it doesn’t work, because I want to write.

  9. Try not to beat yourself up. It’s not necessarily healthy to exercise in hot, humid conditions. Do you ever do yoga at home? Great practice on a hot day.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Kim. Yes I know it isn’t necessarily healthy to exercise in hot weather, at my age I need to keep my body flexible and my heart healthy. Yes, I do yoga at home and pilates also, but there is part of me that needs to sweat, so that’s when I try to get on my cross-trainer for a while. It improves my mood as well as keeping my heart healthy.

  10. I love your attitude and this post Joan. Sometimes we have to have enough tension so it propels us into a step in the right direction. I too have avoided walking in the heat, but I have also scheduled extra yoga classes to teach and promised my middle doggie ( who has excess energy to burn off) that she will have long walks

  11. Joan Rough says:

    Thanks, Val. We do what we have to do. Every day is different both inside of our heads and outside of our heads. At the moment, I’m psyched to get back into my exercise routine. Next week it may get hot again and I may fall off the wagon, once more. Then I’ll probably get back on when the time is right. It’s a balancing act.

  12. I get it. I was a nutritionist and exercise trainer for years with a focus on bone health and strength while aging, I trained people at Kendal, a lifelong residence in my area. Some were in their 80s and quite frail. If they practiced a few times a week and pushed a tiny bit, but not too much,, they were delighted when they got stronger. So, if I could train them, I can train myself. I can find plenty of excuses. It’s harder without my husband and exercise partner. We encouraged each other and had fun being fit. I still have fun being strong. And guess what? I’ve been back to lifting weights twice a week along with longer walks that include a short bout of uphill walking. Some stretching, too. Guess what? I’m getting stronger and I’m empowered. Why do we resist? No need to answer that.

    • Joan Rough says:

      Even exercise trainers fall off the wagon! Good for you that you are going back to lifting weights. Anything we do helps. One of my trainers once told me even if you don’t want to, MOVE! DO SOMETHING EVEN IF IT’S FOR ONLY FIVE MINUTES!! It’s always been amazing to me how 5 minutes can stretch into 10, then 20, then 30, then an hour! Thanks for stopping by, Elaine!

  13. Joan, I like the way you talk to your trumpish, hissy inner critic. 🙂

    What am I starting over? Exactly 50 years after I moved to Virginia to attend college, I’m about to move to Minnesota to do the same thing again! With a few differences.

  14. Joan Rough says:

    Thanks, Shirley. You are going to have a wonderful time in Minnesota, but trust you will be back!!

  15. You’re right, Joan. You have to move. I’ve been attending Silver Sneakers classes at the Y now for over three years and I’m in better shape than I was in my 40s . . . which is good as I’m leaving in two weeks for Nepal and will be doing some hiking. I love to travel so staying in shape is a necessity. Onward and upward . . .