Mid-life Without the Crisis

It really isn't the destination, but the journey. May be cliche, but it's true.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why Exercise?

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. ~Confucius

A friend's daughter has had health issues and several surgeries since she was a little girl. She had an appointment with a new doctor this week and he told her she needed to try to lose weight in order to be "pretty and sexy." Now, in my opinion, this doctor isn't worth the paper his diploma is printed on for saying something like that.

Weight is a health issue, not a beauty issue. Obesity is one of the top three causes of preventable deaths in the US (http://harvardscience.harvard.edu/medicine-health/articles/smoking-high-blood-pressure-and-being-overweight-top-three-preventable-caus). Obviously, weight is a serious issue.

But it's not exactly easy to lose weight, either. This particular young lady injured herself quite badly trying to work out and lose weight. I myself have been laid up for weeks at a time from twisted ankles, shin splints, and bad knees just from running a few miles. I keep trying, though, because I want to live a long and healthy life.

What those who are overweight need is understanding, love, help, encouragement, and support, not humiliating and belittling comments, snide remarks, or any other form of abuse.

However, we can't escape the vanity, can we? We're human and it creeps up on us. The society in which we live doesn't help much in that department, either. We are daily bombarded with images that would have us believe we're only beautiful if we're skinny and perfect in every way, and we often forget that those very images have been airbrushed within an inch of their lives.

If you wonder sometimes if you are pretty and/or sexy, I suggest you ask your spouse, significant other, parents, children, and best friend. These are the people who know the true you and can see just how lovely you are. Anyone who doesn't see your beauty is not worth your time or effort. To paraphrase what I told that young lady, "You are beautiful and whoever doesn't think so is an idiot."

A little reminder for you: 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Change is Hard

We would rather be ruined than changed;
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.
~W.H. Auden

My husband and I have been living in the same house for 15 years. In all that time, our trash was always picked up on Mondays. About 3 months ago we changed companies because the new one is less expensive and more flexible on what they will pick up. However, the new company picks up trash on Friday. This past week, for the 4th time, we forgot to put out the trash, only remembering we should have as we heard the trash truck drive by. This after we had even "reminded" ourselves on Thursday morning that we would need to put the trash out later.

Growing up, I was always the kid with her nose in a book. I never played any kind of sport - ever! No softball in the summer, no volleyball in school, no gymnastics in the evenings, nothing. And I didn't care. I didn't want to do sports and I loved my books, so what did it matter?

Now that I'm older, trying to get more fit, and concerned about staying healthy as I age, not having that background in sports makes it so much harder to develop a healthy habit. I've got 40 years experience in being inactive. There are still days, like today, that I can't seem to get up and go for that morning run.

But tomorrow, I'm going to get up and run. I'm also going to put the trash out early.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Focusing on Me

"Stay on the path. It's not your concern. Stay on the path." - Denzel Washington as Eli in The Book of Eli

In the movie The Book of Eli, the main character admonishes himself to stay on the path when he encounters highwaymen attacking a couple. As the movie progresses, we learn that Eli only fights those who refuse to stay out of his way and leave him alone. He was on a mission and he wouldn't let anyone waylay him or keep him from his path.

As I discussed that scene with some friends, I began to think about how often we grow concerned with the paths others are on, rather than focusing on our own path. We see the neighbors drive home in a new car and we go car shopping. We look at a model in a bikini and we weigh ourselves. We see a parent struggle with a screaming child in the store and we pat ourselves on the back that our kids are not like theirs.

We constantly compare ourselves to others and either find ourselves lacking or decide we are better than others. Neither viewpoint is realistic or healthy.

Bob, a psychologist and friend, said he often encounters this kind of thinking in his practice. An alcoholic will admit he has been drinking, but, "not as much as Joe." As Bob says, how much Joe is drinking doesn't affect your liver.

Rather than focusing on the fact that someone else is prettier or smarter or more popular or richer or thinner than me, I need to focus on me. What should I be doing to make sure I'm healthy, happy, and in right relationship with my friends and family? Is what I need to do different from what you need to do? Sure it is, but I need to focus on myself and stay on the path.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Running Newb Part Deux

"Don't Make No Promises (Your Body Can't Keep)" - Scorpions

A few more pointers:

5. Eat right. When I first started running, I read something from a trainer. He said, "If you're on a no/low-carb diet, stop it right now!" Carbs are your fuel source - it's how you build up the glycogen your muscles need to run. Granted, you should eat whole grains and other complex carbs, lean protein, and your fruits and veggies, but don't deprive your body of its number one energy source. You've heard of carb-loading before a race for a reason.

6. Appropriate gear. The main things to start off with here are good shoes, a good sports bra, and comfortable outerwear. Your shoes should be made for running and should feel comfortable as soon as you buy them. Shoes should NEVER have to be broken in to be comfortable. (If you want to go shoeless, the new trend, do it only indoors for short distances until your feet are calloused enough to handle more.) A sports bra should restrict movement as much as possible. Gravity is doing its darndest to get us - don't give it any help. Your outerwear should be what is comfortable to you. I love my tank top with the pocket for my cell phone and my shorts with a Velcro-close pocket for my car key. Moisture-wicking materials are a major bonus, too.

7. Forgive yourself for lapses. Okay, so you missed a day...or a week...or a month of work-outs. That doesn't mean you stop for good. You circle a date on the calendar that you're getting back out there, and when that day arrives, you do the best you can. Do your best, celebrate small victories, keep trying, repeat.

8. Have fun! There are lots of ways to make running fun. Run with a friend, join a running club, sign up for your favorite charity's 5K, load your MP3 player with all your beloved up-beat tunes, form a team and train for an Urban Adventure Race, set a goal and give it your all. Whatever you do, just enjoy that you are doing something good for yourself.

I love running. I don't always like the way my legs or lungs feel while I'm running, but I love the feeling of accomplishment. I love the solitude. I love the time to think without interruptions. I hope you will come to love it, too, but if you don't, that's okay. You can still apply these tips to your favorite exercise routine, and to your life in general.

Here are two more links for you:



Thursday, June 24, 2010

Running Newb

"I don't know what I'm doing. All I know is I don't wanna stop. All fired up, I'm gonna go till I drop." - I Don't Wanna Stop by Ozzy Osbourne

People are often surprised and amazed to find out I have run a half marathon. Heck, I'm surprised and amazed! I'm not exactly thin or in the best shape, but my goal is to get stronger and healthier doing one of the few "sports" that I really enjoy - running. With any luck, I'll be running my second half marathon in Nashville in September.

The idea of strapping on running shoes and pounding the pavement is intimidating to many, so here are the things I learned, and am still learning, in order to have success.

1. Start slow. Mix jogging with walking for as long as you need to, but push the amount of jogging a little longer each day, and try to go faster gradually. Going too hard or too fast hurts! You can get shin splints from training too hard, too fast. They are actually little micro-fractures. Don't go there.

2. Find a trail or route you like. I really don't like running in my neighborhood. Too many barking dogs, no sidewalks, lots of people sitting on their porches staring at me, people driving by yelling at me. Ugh. So I go to a park that has a 1-mile track that I can safely run. Plus it's a pretty park thanks to the city horticulturalist.

3. Hydrate. If you run less than an hour, water should be good enough. But if you run for more than an hour or if you sweat profusely, be sure to drink a sports drink to properly hydrate. I didn't get enough of that yesterday, plus it was really hot, and I ended up dehydrated and dizzy and was unable to run this morning. :(

4. Stretch. Walk for about 5 minutes, then stop (I have a bench on my trail at exactly the right spot) and take a few minutes to stretch your legs thoroughly. Then, when you're done with your run, stretch some more. You'll be so much less sore the next day. In fact, if you do it right, you won't be sore at all. Sometimes, if I feel fairly tight after getting home, I'll pop in a yoga DVD and do that to make sure I'm completely stretched and relaxed.

I'll give you some more of my own tips tomorrow. In the meantime, here are a couple of links with advice for beginners.



Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Good Advice

"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble. - Helen Keller"

I went with my mom to visit some relatives on Monday. We were at my Aunt Rita's lovely country home and I noticed that a small cross-stitch I'd done for her was hanging in her kitchen. When asked if I did much cross-stitching now I explained that I always felt like I needed to be making something for someone else in order to work on cross-stitch projects. "No, no, no! You've got to do one for yourself."

Rita is a quilter. She makes quilts for her grand-daughters' graduations, for new babies, for charities, for auctions, you name it, she's made a quilt for it. I treasure a quilt that she, another aunt, and my grandmother made for a family reunion back in 1979.

Aunt Rita explained to me that she once had a similar outlook about her quilting - only making quilts for other people. But one day she realized that she should have samples of her handiwork in her own home, and now it is decorated with lovely quilts and quilted wall hangings.

So I'm taking my aunt's advice to heart and I'm going to cross-stitch the quote above to hang in my home office. It's a favorite and has hung on cork boards in my classrooms for years, but only in simple copied-from-a-book form. Now I'll have a nice cross-stitched version.

Unless you're the oldest person on the planet, I think it's safe to say that there are probably older, more experienced people around. Be sure to listen to your elders - you just might learn something.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Book of the Month

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. ~Henry Ford"

I didn't read Alice in Wonderland or Anne of Green Gables or Little Women when I was young. I was too busy reading about Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, Nero Wolfe and Perry Mason. Yes, I'm a mystery fan from way back. Oh, sure, I ventured into other genres on occasion, but mysteries were always my main source of reading enjoyment.

Then one day when my daughter was in high school, she suggested I read a book she had recently read and loved called The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I read it and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Then I started reading other books she and her friends were reading: The Kite Runner, The Life of Pi, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Blindness.

Now I enjoy lots of different genres and some of my favorite books are those not starring an arm chair detective who stumbles upon a corpse. I even joined several book clubs, both online and in the "real" world, to discuss these exciting new finds. However, most of these book clubs have devolved into gossip sessions because the members didn't read the book.

So I thought it might be fun to do a book club here! I'll pick a book the first of the month to read and at the end of the month, we'll discuss it. Even if I'm the only one who reads it and I just write a blog about it, that will be fine with me, because at least I'll get to have my say about the book.

Be sure to stop by on July 1st to find out what the selection will be. In the meantime, go try something you wouldn't normally read.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

"Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone. ~Jim Fiebig"

It's 102 degrees outside today. It's Father's Day. I think I'm going to go read a book by the air conditioner, drink some ice cold tea, and maybe go out for ice cream later with my wonderful hubby.

Stay cool, and if you have a great father in your life, yours or your child's, be thankful, tell him you are, and be extra kind to him today.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Chasing Your Dreams

"A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams." - John Barrymore

It's 1986, a Saturday, and my college roommate and I had run out of funds and ideas of how to spend our afternoon. We were sitting in the dormitory lounge flipping through channels when we came across the Ironman Triathlon. We watched the race with interest and I remember thinking, "Man, I wish I was strong enough for that."

Fast forward 22 years. On the boards of my favorite trivia site someone asked, "What's on your bucket list?" I wrote out my list and there it was, staring me in the face. "Finish a triathlon." "Well, J.R.," I said to myself, "considering you're 41 years old, you might want to get started on that."

So I bought some good running shoes and started running. Okay, that's an exaggeration. I began sprinkling walks with short bouts of jogging. But it wasn't too long until I could run for a solid 15 minutes. I stretched out my times longer and longer and eventually, I was able to run 3 miles. I remember the first time I was able to do that. I was at the gym with my daughter and I ran 3 miles in a very slow 45 minutes, but I had done it. My daughter was proud of me. I was proud of me. And in April of 2009, I ran my first half marathon, a small step on the way to achieving a long-held and long-deferred dream.

So let me ask you this. What's on your bucket list? What are you doing about it?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Beginning the Journey

"The key to successful aging is to pay as little attention to it as possible. ~Judith Regan"

I'm discovering that it's not always easy to pay little attention to aging. It creeps up on you while you're sleeping, settles into your joints and your brain, and whispers to you, "You can't do that. You're too old to start something new."

But we have to fight it. Not with Botox and face lifts, but with energy, enthusiasm and the desire to learn something new. I once heard that every time you learn something, you create a wrinkle in your brain as it "expands" to accommodate that new knowledge. I don't know if that's true, but if so, I prefer creating brain wrinkles to ones elsewhere.

So I'm writing this blog to discover and share ways to create brain wrinkles, fight aging, and thrive after 40, an age that many of us never expected to arrive so quickly. I hope you'll join me on the journey.