Melting

It’s been happening in small doses lately and it brings me hope! Over the past few days, we’ve been hearing that the weekend could bring the warmest temperatures this year. Keep your fingers crossed! The snow cover is slowly diminishing, but there is still a long ways to go.

20140328Lucy and I haven’t had any regular morning walks in months. There has been too much snow and too much cold. I feared for the well-being of her paws. But with all the talk of a warm weekend, I was determined to get out there again. I didn’t dare say the word to Lucy before it was time. Last night as she was sitting with me in the recliner, I told her, “Tomorrow, we’ll go for a double you!

Her curiosity was piqued and she tipped her head to the side, looking at me with questions in her eyes. “I can’t tell you anymore right now,” I told her. “But I promise. You’ll be happy.”

When morning arrived, even though I knew better, I said the word before my teeth were brushed or my shoes were on. As my electric toothbrush hummed in my mouth, Lucy whined and pranced in the bathroom doorway, wanting me to hurry up and take her on her walk already! When we finally hit the pavement, she was bound and determined to race toward all of those fun smells and sights.

The weather app on my phone said nineteen degrees this morning. I knew the warmer weather wouldn’t show up until later today, but nineteen degrees was better than the single digit and below zero temps that hung around for too many weeks. Lucy and I had the path pretty much to ourselves, save for one ambitious runner who wore a black mask over his mouth and nose and passed us by pretty quickly. We had to weave our way off the path and back again here and there to avoid large patches of ice, but the fresh air and sunshine felt amazing.

See the ice up ahead?

See the ice up ahead?

Also, that annoying kink in my back that I haven’t been able to shake all month feels like it might be gone; Just one of the many perks of outside versus the treadmill. Lucy and I burned off a bunch of cabin fever! Looking forward to many more mornings like this in the coming months (minus the snow and ice!)

Yoga la la la

As the muscle in my lower back slowly continues to heal from the “tweaking” it experienced three weeks ago, I’ve accepted the fact that I can’t resume the high intensity workout I’d been doing. It bums me out too. I had surprised myself by keeping up and progressing to a higher level. Unfortunately, it involved too many moves that would only continue to strain the sore muscles in my back and I haven’t been able to pick it up again. And all this comes so soon after I’d been reminded of what a mental and physical boost a good workout gives me. Exercise for me is such a big part of staying happy!

As I was picking up some necessities at Target last night, I wandered over to the exercise aisle to peruse the workout DVDs. Since I had been contemplating yoga, I was happy to see several DVD options. The only yoga I’ve ever attempted was on the Wii Fit, and I can’t say I was either impressed or very successful at it. I’ve got very limited knowledge and experience with yoga, so when I saw a Jillian Michaels yoga DVD, it seemed like the way to go. After all, I had been thoroughly enjoying her Six Week Six Pack workout until the tweaking.

Early, early this morning, I got up and put on some workout clothes. I put my new DVD in the player and rolled out my yoga mat. With the Christmas tree lights twinkling in the corner of the room, I began to learn what to do. And even though I’m not wise to the ways of yoga, I could tell that this version was a little unconventional. But I liked it! It didn’t produce a hammering heartbeat or profuse sweating like the more intense workout I’d been doing, but it felt good and I was able to do most of the moves. I learned that in yoga, the belief is that there is no such thing as perfection. That’s why they call a yoga workout a “practice.” If you can’t quite achieve a move, you just keep trying time and time again. And the more gentle pace was much easier on my lower back.

yoga-camel-pose-636

Doesn’t look that hard, but I can’t do it. Yet.

There were a few moves that were beyond my ability. As I was following along, I was thinking, “Wow. Some parts of my body are so tight! And not in a good way!” Maybe yoga will make me more flexible and with time, there may be fewer instances of my muscles feeling as if they’ve burst into flames while I’m doing something I always do, like bowling!

When it was all done, I was sweating and felt as if I’d accomplished something good. I didn’t quite have that zen feeling you hear so much about with yoga, but I felt ready to take on the day. Maybe that’s because I was exercising in the glow of the Christmas tree with the sight of snow falling gently outside the window. Maybe zen will come with time. Then again, it’s Jillian Michaels. Maybe zen isn’t included in her version of this exercise. That might be okay. I’m just glad to be doing something good for myself and learning something new.

Before going to work, I went to see the chiropractor for the second week in a row. He asked how I was doing and I told him that today was the first day that I didn’t feel any sharp pains in my lower back and hips, just some minor dull pain. I told him that when it first happened, I thought I’d feel better in a couple of days. I’d been stretching diligently every day and hoping the tightness would loosen up quickly. No way did I expect to still be less than a hundred percent three weeks later. I said that I probably needed to accept the fact that I was getting older.

“No,” he said. “Don’t accept it! Fight it!” That cracked me up. Dr. Dave’s humor is an added bonus to his chiropractic care.

He also said that when you tweak a muscle, it’s already over-extended and aggravated, so deep stretches are really not the best thing for it.

“Oh,” I said. “So I guess maybe I’m responsible for prolonging the problem.”

He said that an aggravated muscle needs time to heal. Give it rest and plenty of ice. And only when I’m feeling about 75% better should I think about doing some light stretching. Light. Stretching. Yep. Wish I’d have known that sooner.

Lesson learned. Also, I shouldn’t have waited two weeks, thinking the muscle would relax on its own before finally making time to see Dr. Dave. He’s a good guy. Even gave me his personal cell phone number and said anytime I needed advice but didn’t necessarily want to make an appointment, I could call or text and he will steer me in the right direction. Dr. Dave is so worth the money I spend to see him!

So, yoga it is!

Getting Stronger

Oh how I hate and love this move!

Oh, Jillian Michaels, how I hate and love this move!

I’ve been really diligent about exercise the past two weeks. I had been in such a slump for most of this year that I didn’t really think I could get back on the bandwagon. But the more I work at it, the more motivated I am to keep it up. I’d forgotten how good it feels to push past my limits and earn that sense of accomplishment for the day. I’d forgotten how the aches that tend to follow are a welcome kind of pain because I know they mean I’m getting stronger again. And the best part isn’t even the numbers on the scale or seeing the promise of the shape in my midsection again, (although I am in no way complaining!) The best part is the mental impact. Strength in the body seems to translate to a feeling that I can handle anything. It permeates into every aspect of the day.

Why was it so easy to forget how good this is for me?

All summer long I set my alarm clock to wake me in time to do some physical activity before I had to get ready for work. As the weeks wore on, that alarm would go off and my body would sleepily protest. My eyes didn’t want to open. More often than not, the weariness inside would win and the alarm would get postponed for another hour. Still, I couldn’t ever seem to get caught up on my sleep. I felt mentally and physically drained so much of the time.

My turnaround came slowly. A couple of months ago, I attended a birthday celebration for my former morning gym buddy. Near the end of her pregnancy, her gym visits had dwindled. After her baby boy arrived, there were a few months when escaping the house at 5:00 am just wasn’t possible. The night of the birthday party, she informed me she was back in routine and was hoping I’d start joining her again. Working out with a friend always makes the work feel so much easier! I started getting out of bed with the alarm and going to the gym to meet my friend a couple of times a week.

A few weeks ago when I began to set weekly goals, exercise was a big one. Just having set the goal and telling others about it went a long way in pushing me to follow through. And seeing my parents’ health issues take their toll is a painful reminder that exercise isn’t just a nice thing to do for myself, it’s necessary to keep the effects of aging from coming on too soon. The more I work out, the more I want to work out, the more I want to eat better, the more I believe I can be healthier. I’m climbing out of the slump and it feels so good.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (plus men in little clothing)

Look at this big guy who was hanging out at the bird feeder on Friday morning! There must have been a shortage of discarded french fries and/or roadkill out on the street!IMG_8481bLucy and I really enjoyed our morning walk today. The air was perfectly comfortable and there was a slight haze in the sky so the sun wasn’t so hard on the eyes. (I hate wearing sunglasses when I’m out walking. They always fall down my nose.) We encountered a few other dogs along the way. They greeted Lucy from their yards and she strained on the leash in an effort to get closer to them. A big man in nothing but his bathrobe stepped down off his front porch to tell “Julie” to stop her barking and go sit up on the porch while we passed. She did as he said, stopping once or twice to turn and yip-yap one more time in Lucy’s direction.

We went out early, while it was still quiet in the neighborhoods. I love how peaceful it is in the early part of the day, before the hustle and bustle of life takes over. Lucy followed the trails of various scents along the way, nose to the ground and sniffing loudly. I admired the way the rain has promoted full, green lawns. They look so manicured after a fresh mowing. Flowers and plants have grown past their budding stages into full, colorful bloom.

When we first moved into our house, the neighborhoods in our area were just being developed. There was always new construction to watch and we would take walks just to see what kind of projects other new homeowners were working on, sometimes taking home ideas to put to use ourselves. These days, the trees are tall and strong, those that weren’t taken down by last week’s storm, anyway. There’s a definite sense of establishment. The storm couldn’t take that away, hard as it tried. As we walked, I admired the different ways people give personality to their yards and homes with colorful flower gardens, decks full of comfy patio furniture,  carefully patterned brick patios and even a few pools here and there. One home had a volleyball net set up in the side yard, and a back yard with a swing set and sandbox, and children’s toys scattered everywhere.

As we neared the corner to turn toward our house, another dog began to greet Lucy. My neighbor, Pat stepped out the door, bare-chested and wearing only a pair of shorts, scolding his dog and pulling him by the leash back inside the house. He waved as we walked by I said, “Hey, Pat!”

A few homes and properties in our neighborhood have fallen into disrepair. I guess that’s normal as a place begins to age. But for the most part it feels comfortable here. It feels settled and most of the time, it feels safe too. I am grateful that this place is where we call home.

Spring Walks

The weather is taking a turn for the warmer. The snow is melting and the neighborhood walking paths are finally clear of packed snow and ice. Lucy and I have been able to get back outside for some real exercise. She can do a good amount of running in the back yard, but she really loves to get out and explore the neighborhood.

As we’ve been out on our walks these last few days, I’ve realized how much easier it is to walk one dog as opposed to two. But I would still give anything to have Bella along on our walks again. She was so cute, the way her body skirted along the ground. And her short little legs kept up with Lucy amazingly well. It’s quieter around the house without her and Lucy has mellowed, not having to fight to be the center of attention. But I sure do miss our little Bella, every single day in a hundred ways.

The walks have been good for both body and spirit, I think. (Speaking for both Lucy and me here!) I never quite realize how oppressing the winter can feel until spring arrives and brings a breath of fresh air. We left the house this morning early enough that we seemed to have the neighborhood all to ourselves. Maybe it was the early hour or maybe it was because the skies looked like rain. Or maybe it was because the people we might normally see are church-goers and had somewhere else to be this morning. I kind of felt like this morning’s walk was my church.

Lucy pulled me along, so anxious to get from one smell to the next that I could barely keep up. We saw so many robins – the true gauge of spring’s arrival! There was a family of geese lounging in a small open area of a still partially frozen pond. They honked and made plenty of noise and I thought of how Dacotah would stand at attention if she could hear them, good hunting dog that she is. But Lucy isn’t a hunter and ducks and geese are so common around here that their calls don’t even hit her radar. There was a pair of ducks that caught Lucy’s attention though. They were resting in someone’s front yard as we were cruising on by and our close proximity probably startled them. As they started to waddle away down the street, Lucy was curious and wanted to follow, but we weren’t going their way so I steered her back to our path.

Back at home, Lucy got some breakfast and as I settled down to read and enjoy my morning coffee, I noticed her doing a funny thing she does sometimes. There’s a heat vent below the kitchen sink and Lucy loves to lay in front of it and warm up on cold mornings. She must have been feeling a bit chilly from our morning walk and she was soaking up the warmth, laying with her paws crossed in front of her in that proper way she has of doing.

Lucy Heat

It’s quieter around here this weekend than it’s been in a few weeks and I’m grateful. I needed time to catch up on things. I have a few chores and errands to finish up and then my only plan for the day is to make a big batch of split pea and ham soup – some for us and some to share with our parents. Mark’s dad has just been hospitalized with yet another case of pneumonia. Pea soup is his favorite thing. Maybe the thought of homemade pea soup waiting for him at home will help promote his recovery.

Life is Good – 2/2/2013

Life is GoodIt’s that time of year that I knew would inevitably come, when winter feels as if it’s been here long enough already and there’s no end in sight. This kind of winter is what I know, gray days and bone chilling cold at times. It’s not the season itself that really bothers me so much. It’s what I let it do to me. When I can’t seem to stay warm, I slow down. I stay inside, doing still and quiet things, like reading books or watching movies. My motivation  to get these muscles moving fades away. I can’t seem to get enough sleep.

These aren’t bad things, when I allow them in moderation. And lucky for me, I always seem to recognize when enough is enough. And this has been that week.

I’ve been guiltily joking about falling off the exercise bandwagon lately. Sure, there were contributing factors in the past couple of months – varying illnesses and a back strain that left a weeks-long ache in my hamstring muscle. But those things have long subsided. I said I couldn’t run outside. It was either too cold, too icy or too snowy. And as for the treadmill in the nice warm gym, it was getting boring. And the gym was packed with new bodies anyway. I felt crowded by all of those enthusiastic exercisers hell-bent on honoring their new year’s resolutions. And each day that’s gone by without any attempt by me to keep my body strong has gradually added to my pile of guilt. The guilt became too much this week, but I knew I needed something new, something to make me enthusiastic again.

I’m exploring the world of yoga! Thank you, Cable T.V. for your on-demand fitness programs that are tailored for everyone from beginner to advanced. I am once again starting the day in a healthy way. And don’t worry. I’m not giving up running – just taking a little break.

The good mojo seems to have worked its way into my work life this week too. I’ve found myself steadily busy and productive, just the way I like it. There’s been no word from the CEO about the headline contest, but he did send me another assignment yesterday. Seems he wanted a press release for a new product that’s up and coming. He gathered all of his thoughts and ideas on the subject and spewed them into an email which he then sent to me. He asked me to give it a good work over and “tighten it up” and I found myself with company approved time to just sit and write.

Brad Diploma 2Things are all good with the family. Our winter laziness has at least inspired Mark and me to do a good amount of home cooking, which feeds right into my ongoing goal to eat better.

Brad received his college diploma this week and sent me a text message to let me know. “Turns out I graduated after all,” he said. The day of graduation, he was joking that he might be cutting it close and wouldn’t know for sure until days or weeks after the graduation ceremony. I never doubted it though, and I told him so.

Kacey texted me several times this week from school. Once was to let me know that two of her friends had mentioned they were craving some soup that I’ve made on several occasions. It’s nice to know that my cooking skills are adequate enough to generate requests for a repeat performance.

Kacey also texted me to let me know she and her friends have signed up to do the Polar Bear Plunge – a fundraiser to support Special Olympics Minnesota athletes. Kacey and her team will be gathering pledges and in order to collect on them, they’ll be taking a plunge into Lake Calhoun on March 2nd – which means they’ll be taking a plunge into a hole cut into the ice and dipping into the frigid water! I think they are brave, and I am proud!

And I actually saw Jake this week and spent time with him for about an hour, while he was wide awake and in good spirits. He’s been working a lot, so time with him is often hard to come by.

And this morning, after a long, dreary, cold week… it is still cold, one degree outside as I write this. It was snowing as I left work yesterday afternoon, big, fluffy, lazy drifting flakes. The snow continued into the evening and left the landscape clean and fresh. It’s the weekend and the sun is shining.

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Temperatures are predicted to rise up into the teens today. It’s better than single digits. I’ll take it. Life is good!

Off to a Decent Start

Two days into January and I’m happy to report that I’m making good on all of my resolutions so far this year! I only hit the snooze on the alarm clock one time this morning. Resisting the temptation to give in to the desire for an extra hour of sleep, I ventured out from under a pile of warm blankets and warm dogs and braced myself for the cold morning air. I got dressed in my workout clothes, pulled up my hair, grabbed the iPhone and some ear-buds and drove off to the gym.

There is typically only a handful of vehicles in the gym parking lot when I arrive at 5 am. Today there were many more cars than usual. Normally, I recognize the same familiar faces during my early morning gym visits. Today there were new and ambitious faces. Said my friend Scott, who chats with me for ten minutes or so while he warms up on an elliptical near my treadmill before he heads off to the weights area, “It will be interesting to see how many of these people come back tomorrow or even next week.”

I knew he was probably right in his expectations but I secretly hoped that the New Years Resolutioners would stick it out. I remember how hard it was for me to keep going back at first. Some sort of encouragement would have made it a lot easier. I think everyone should have a friend at the gym to help keep them motivated. Maybe there should be an online service to match people up with a gym buddy. You know, you never feel as awkward trying to figure out how to adjust a foreign piece of weight training equipment when you have someone there to feel dumb with you or to laugh with you as you give it a go and realize just how out-of-shape certain muscles are.

 

I'm here to PUMP you UP!

I’m here to PUMP you UP!

 

I didn’t run today since I’m still nursing a pinched nerve or muscle strain or whatever it is in my back that I am impatiently waiting to move on. So far the ache has only moved down the back of my leg. But it felt good to move while I was moving, even if it felt tight and painful again as soon as I stopped. I hope I’ll be running again soon. And since I’ve yet to try out my new racquetball racquet, and since my pal, Lori just got one for Christmas, we’re both anxious to get back to our new sport.

As for doing more reading, I read a good bunch of a new book before going to sleep last night. My blog pal, Kimberly McKay recently published her second book, Facing Redemption and kindly sent me a copy to read. So far, I’m loving it and plan to post a review here when I’ve finished reading it.

And I cooked! Well, technically I cooked. As we drove home from our joint chiropractor appointments this evening and spying the golden arches, Mark said, “Should we just swing through McDonald’s and grab something to eat?”

“Eh,” I said as he turned the corner.

“Do you want McDonald’s,” he asked?

“Not really,” I replied and so he drove on by.

At home, without a meal plan and it already being dinner time, I offered to make pancakes. He turned me down. I offered to make omelets. He turned me down. (All this turning me down and yet he offers up no suggestions as to what he would actually like to eat. Typical. And what is wrong with breakfast for supper? I love breakfast any time of the day!)

But since Mark was turning up his nose at all my ideas, I went to the downstairs freezer to browse the selection of foods within. I spied a container of White Chili that I’d made and frozen a while ago. I hollered to Mark, “Do you want chili?”

“I would eat chili,” he agreed.

“You’d better,” I warned him! And so I cooked heated up the chili, sprinkled on some shredded cheese and added some heat and eat dinner rolls smeared with butter on the side. And it was way better than McDonald’s, I’ll just say.

Two days down. Only 363 to go!

Smashing into Walls

Lori and I had another racquetball lesson tonight. There was still the occasional episode of cowering in corner in a corner in  fear and one interminable stretch when I kept running and running, trying desperately to get out of the way of another player or racquet. But I dare say we’re getting better! We’re learning to anticipate where to meet the ball and getting a better idea of how to hit the ball to our best advantage.

Bill warned us he was going to hit the ball short tonight. He said he wanted to get us off the back wall and make us learn to chase it to the front of the court. This was a challenge. We laughed a lot and Bill’s patience persisted. I told him that I knew where I was supposed to go, it’s just that the signals from my brain seemed to be traveling too slowly to my feet. Every movement seemed like an afterthought. I wondered if I am just too old to be starting to learn this game now.

But eventually, my feet began to catch on. In fact, they got a little over-enthusiastic a time or two. While running to where I expected to meet the ball, I was looking back over my shoulder. I had the ball in sight! I was almost there! I was going to get it! I could see where the ball and my racquet were going to connect! And then…

BOOM!

That wasn’t the sound of my racket hitting the ball. That was the sound of my body hitting the wall. My elbow kind of hurt.

Ouch!

It may not look like much right now, but I’m telling you, there’s going to be a bruise there tomorrow!

Did I mention how after our last lesson, at work the next day, Lori and I were talking at my desk. She was complaining about her fat lip. I was complaining about how the whole side of my body hurt (from my first meeting with the wall!) The woman who sits behind me peeked around the wall of her cubicle and eyed us curiously.

“Did you two get in a fight or something?”

“Nope. We’re just learning to play racquetball,” we told her, laughing.

“Oh, FUN,” she encouraged us! “John and I have racquets we will probably never use again. Let me know if you want me to bring them in for you.”

In spite of the slow feet and smashing into the wall, I think I’m going to take her up on her offer. We are having a lot of fun! And even if Lori and I never get good at this game, we’ll still burn calories chasing that little ball around the court and laughing at ourselves!

If I could feel grass under my feet maybe it would really feel like barefoot running

My right foot has been bothering me off and on recently. I didn’t think much of it. Every so often, my feet bother me but not so much that I look for the cause. I usually assume that I spend too much time in flip-flops. But this pain was persistent. I started wondering if it was due to my running shoes.

I kept running in the old shoes even after the foot pain became an obvious thing. My foot kept hurting off and on to varying degrees. I took a stretch of days off from running recently. Then I ran last Monday and again last Wednesday. On Friday, I wanted to run but my foot hurt so much that I didn’t run. On Saturday my foot hurt so much that I was limping. It felt like there were sharp somethings pressing into the bones in the ball of my foot.

On Sunday I decided that the pain was probably due to my old shoes. I would buy a new pair of shoes. Encouraged by some other runners I know, I looked at the “minimalist” shoes. I tried on a couple of pairs. I liked how these felt.

The Nike Free Run +3. I have no idea what the + 3 means.

I picked these out because they were advertised as providing a “barefoot running experience.” I’ve heard a lot about the barefoot running experience. I’m currently reading the book. I was ready to drink the barefoot Kool-Aide. Maybe it would make me a “serious” runner. Not likely, but I still wanted the new shoes because laying in bed in the morning instead of exercising felt like a step in the wrong direction.

I ran in my new shoes on Monday. My foot didn’t hurt during or afterwards and it still feels okay. It may be too soon to tell if the shoes are the miracle cure for my foot but they surely worked some muscles that weren’t used to working. I can’t say that it felt like I was actually running barefoot. I could still feel a shoe surrounding my foot and I could still feel the cushion under my heel. But afterwards there was a new ache in my calf muscles. No worries, though. It was a good kind of ache; the kind that reminds me it is worth getting up before the sun even when I feel like going back to sleep for another hour because that ache means things are getting stronger.

So I’m motivated, both by the new ache and the fact that I went out and spent money on new shoes so I’d better use them. I’ll have to get back to you on that serious runner thing though.

Dorks Playing Raquetball

I had my first racquetball lesson tonight. It was good!

My friend, Bill plays racquetball. My friend and coworker, Lori had suggested a while ago that we give the game a try – you know, for a change of pace from the fitness classes and running and stuff. Bill said he would be happy to provide instruction.

Leaving work tonight, I asked Lori, “So what are you going to wear for racquetball tonight?”

“Oh my gosh, I was just going to ask you the same thing,” Lori said.

I don’t know why we were concerned about what to wear. I see guys playing racquetball at the gym. They’re not concerned with their attire. As it turns out, I wore a tank and capris. I should have worn shorts. I sweated more than I thought I would.

First Bill passed out racquets and safety goggles. Then he talked us through the basics, like where to stand when you serve, and when and where to hit the ball. Then we started playing. He showed us how to hit short balls and how to deal with the long ones. During the two hours we played, we started to get the hang of it.

And we also missed a lot of balls! I mean a lot! Lori said she thought there was a hole in her racquet.

When the ball was in the back of the court, we’d be in the front.

When the ball was in the front of the court, we’d be in the back.

Bill remained patient and maintained a sense of humor.

I rolled my ankle and fell flat on the floor. When I opened to my eyes to see if Lori and Bill were laughing hysterically at me, I saw that Lori was on the floor too. I’m not sure how she got there. Bill told me he fell on the floor once or twice before too.

I slammed my body into the side wall. My right shoulder and elbow are going to hurt tomorrow.

And Bill had to keep reminding us that when the ball is coming hard and fast, you’re not supposed to cower in the corner in fear of getting hit. You’re supposed to watch the ball and attack it! He also had to remind us not to be so polite because if we both step back so the other can play, then no one is going to hit the ball.

Google Images

But I managed to get the hang of a serve that just rolls back along the side wall where it’s really hard for someone to hit it back. And we hit a lot of balls. And Lori is really good at the back hand. And we laughed our butts off – which felt SO good because it has been a very long, very trying week.

And to anyone outside the court looking in, I’m quite positive we looked like newbie dorks with no clue how to play this game. But Bill is willing to commit to another lesson. And we had fun. So we’re gonna do it again!