Starting Over

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.

Kickin’ Granny Out Of Her Chair

My Cross Trainer, Zelda. I bought her second hand five years ago and she’s saved me a fortune in fitness membership fees. I spend time with her when the weather is too hot, too cold, raining heavily or snowing. I have no excuses if I can’t get to the gym.

I’ve been noticing an increase in my aches and pains as summer has progressed.  One reason might be that I move less in the summertime.  I can’t stand the heat and humidity and have much less energy during July and August, when I typically spend more time sitting around and complaining about the weather, than I do moving.  My favorite place to be is outdoors, but the hottest months find me inside my air-conditioned home.  And though I’m grateful to have it, I feel guilty using it because it uses too many natural resources. I always feel much better physically and emotionally in the great outdoors, than I do when I spend my time in an artificially cooled environment, but when it’s really hot, I need it.

Another reason for my sore shoulders, creaky back and stiff hips might be that I’m getting older.  I’ll be seventy in November.  I hear from other aging people, including a few health care providers, that aches and pains are just a sign of  old age.  “Get used to it,” they  tell me. “It’s the way it’s going to be from now on.”  Others, who are older and more active than I am, tell me, “The more you move, the better you feel.”

I personally believe in the “the more, the better” theory, as in, “Use it or lose it.”  I  know that I can work through many of my aches and pains by walking, swimming or using my cross trainer on a regular basis.  And I know that if I spend too much time sitting around, I feel stiffer and in more pain.

I’ve also been told by my massage therapist and my Pilates teacher that my pain could be connected to old trauma that I’m working through as I write my memoir. They both know I’ve been struggling through some aspects of the writing and if I tell them I’m in pain, they’ll ask me what I’m writing about. Nine times out of ten, it is usually something terribly dark. When I’m working through those difficult passages my back and hip pain does seem to get worse.  I push through it, however, hoping that once I’ve finished the writing, I’ll be feeling much better.  In the meantime, I’m taking breaks from writing every hour or so to stretch the tension out of my body. It really helps.

I very much dislike the image that often appears in my head when I put the words, grandmother and aging together.  In the picture, I see an old white-haired lady, sitting in a rocking chair, on her front porch, watching the rest of the world go by.  That is not what I want for myself so I’m going to do my very best to make my last days anything but that.

I’m kickin’ myself out of my chair.  There will be no rocker for me.  There will be more stretching, which I’ve let go a bit over the summer because I wasn’t losing my “winter belly” fast enough.  I spent way too much time worried about my image in the mirror, rather than paying attention to what my body was trying to tell me.  All those times she yelling, “Stretch,” I wasn’t listening.

To make sure that all is well, I’ve recently had my yearly physical, a mammogram, a bone scan and had my teeth cleaned.  No cavities!  I met with my Oncologist last week and she once again declared that I am cancer free. I had my eyes checked as well and they are fine.  My glasses need only a tiny tweak, so I’ll  keep using the old ones till I can’t see anymore.  I’m happy and feeling great emotionally. Getting my story down on paper has been healing for me and sometimes I wish I’d been ready to do it a long time ago.

To stay as healthy as I can, my plan is to continue my exercise routine, but ramp it up a bit.  Gentle Yoga twice a week. Pilates once a week.  In between I walk what I call the “Big Hill” as often as I can and use my cross trainer, when the weather is too hot or nasty. I’ve just gotten myself a membership at one of the city’s pools and hope to add a swim session at least twice a week.  I’ll try one of their water aerobics classes to start.

I think I’ve lost most of my winter belly, now that fall is on it’s way, but intend to be more mindful about the amount food I’m ingesting.  And it’s time to think about foods that don’t make me feel so good. I very much enjoy a mostly plant-based diet, have recently cut out most of the dairy I was consuming and have now decided to go gluten-free.

I just finished reading, Wheat Belly, by William Davis, MD, and found it mind-blowing. We need to get used to the idea that over time, through hybridizing, we’ve come up with a new kind of wheat that is not good for us.  It may be more drought resistant and produce more grain per acre, but our bodies are telling many of us that they don’t like it.  Several people I know who have stopped consuming wheat have told me that their aches and pains are gone. Many also claim an almost instant loss in weight, which sounds great.  Two days ago I jumped off the cliff. I haven’t had gluten in three days and I’m feeling terrific.  My energy levels have been good and my back pain is  gone … at least for the moment.  I’m convinced I need to leave wheat behind.

Sugar has always been my worst enemy, but I seem to have it under control at the moment.  If I need to sweeten something I’ll use a natural product like raw honey or maple syrup. They’re still sugar, but at least they aren’t highly processed. I do not like stevia, which for some does the trick. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to give sugar up entirely, but at this moment I seem to be handling using less well.

I do not consider that I am on a diet.  I simply know that leaving some foods off the table and out of my belly, makes me feel a lot better.  I am overweight and losing some of that fat stored around my belly would be a good thing.

My biggest inspiration is my daughter, Lisa, who through diet change and exercise, has lost a huge amount of weight and recently finished her first Triathlon. She’s now an assistant running coach at her daughter’s (Zoe) school. And she will be leading The Wild Woman’s Wellness Tribe, next spring. Click here for more information.

My other inspiration is a woman I heard about while visiting Yellowstone National Park one winter. In her mid-eighties, she went snowshoeing every winter morning, as she had most of her life.  One morning she didn’t return.  Her family found her out on the trail, laying in the snow, with a smile on her face.  She died moving and engaged in something that she’d enjoyed doing all of her life.  That sounds like a pretty good way to go if you ask me!

I’ll likely slip and slide along the way, cheating from time to time. I’m in no way perfect and when I walk by Ben and Jerry’s, I may just have to stop by occasionally for one of my favorite treats:  Peanut Butter-Banana Frozen Greek Yogurt.  It can’t hurt once in a while, as long as I keep moderation in mind.