Health & Body

Jul
28

Getting Better

by Christine

This mornings’ exercise was riding my bicycle around Central Park. Marty, my exercise buddy, and I headed out about 7:00 AM to beat the heat and the crowds. I enjoy riding my bike in the City as long as it is before 10:00 AM. After that the “strollers” come out to meander along the various bike and walking paths. Strollers are the Sunday drivers of the exercise set. They walk 3 abreast on the pathway oblivious to other walkers or cyclist as they talk through the day’s activities. Other strollers include parents who chat on their cell phones as their six-year-old darts across the roadway on his dirt bike causing near accidents. I prefer the morning ride because serious exercise adherents are out at that time. 

It has become easier for me to exercise at a higher level now that I have a cohort to accompany me. This morning Marty suggested we cycle around Central Park instead of biking along the Westside Highway. I like biking in the Park but the reality is Marty and I tackle the 6.1-mile drive circling the Park differently. Marty is out to master Park Drive; he wants to win! After each ride he declares that it was easier and that he did it faster. I just want to finish and not embarrass myself.  So he heads off as fast as he can and I lag behind where I try not to fall off my bike and avoid getting in the way of other cyclist. 

Central Park was designed and implemented by Frederick Olmsted whose philosophy on parks was to create wide-open spaces where everyone no matter their economic reality could enjoy being out of doors. I love biking in the Park because it allows me to do just that and I see something new everyday. This morning I spotted Still Hunt, a bronze statue of a large panther. Unlike other statues in Central Park, the Still Hunt is not on a pedestal but perched on a massive rock in a natural setting. 

As I was marveling that I had never noticed the bronze panther before I realized that I was breathing easier and making the ride faster. I could now look around at my surrounding instead of continually gasping for breath.  But for those who are unfamiliar with the route, Park Drive at Central Park North is straight up. (That maybe a slight exaggeration but not much.) It is the point in the ride where I start talking to myself.

“You can do this, you can do this”, saying it over and over until I am up the hill. My self-talk is very reminiscent of the little engine that could. 

It can be slightly embarrassing at times as I struggle up the hill. First the cyclist who thinks he is participating in the Tour de France races past me. Next comes the 20 something woman who works out 7 days a week where she alternates between palates and spin classes. Then comes the woman pushing her 6 month old in a jogging stroller and the man jogging with his golden retriever. Finally the old man with his walker rushes past me. (Just kidding about the guy with the walker.)

It is hard to get up that hill but I do it each time. Slowly, sometimes very slowly but I ride up the hill. There are rewards for succeeding. In the spring there are beautiful blooming flowers that mark the top of the hill. In the summer, it is the satisfaction I made it. I feel proud. Only 6% of Americans get 30 minutes of exercise a day. I am in the 6% so I have bragging rights when I get up the hill. 

I continue to strive to live a healthier life and each day I feel I am getting better. 

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Jul
20

Excuses

by Christine

Serious, excessive, dangerous situation, extreme, severe were all adjective being used to describe the temperatures predicted for today. While the weather people reframed shouting Armageddon from the roof top, the message was clear, life as we know it is coming to an end…for at least the next couple of days.  Find the nearest cooling station and hunker down until the all-clear signal is given.

Immediately, the Walt Disney cartoon where Donald Duck comes face-to-face with the Angel Donald and Devil Donald comes to mind as my internal dialogue started.

Devil Christine: Maybe I should skip exercising today? The weather predictors are calling for heat indexes of 100 to 110 degrees.  One day won’t kill me. 

Angel Christine: It is 7:00 AM and it is only 77 degrees. They are calling on four days of excessive heat in the AFTERNOON and four days will have an impact on your program.  

Devil Christine: But you don’t want to get heat stroke or heat exhaustion. 

Angel Christine: Just do it! (Yes, Angel Christine talks in advertising tag lines)

Clearly, I was looking for an excuse. 

But an excuse to do what? Not exercise? I love my morning outings whether at home or on travel. This morning as I briskly walked through the 91st Street Garden along the Hudson River, I was able to enjoy all the blooming trees and plants. Prior to 9:00 AM dogs are allowed to be off their leases so every type of canine was roaming free. Champagne colored poodles, Lassie look-a-likes and other assorted breeds were out enjoying the morning.  It was a fun morning and I almost missed it because…I don’t know why I was about to let the manufactured urgency of the news media deter me from my plan. (Let me say here, I was raised in Florida and I understand and respect the need to be cautious in extreme heat. I know that one should exercise in off hours, stay indoors during peak hours and stay hydrated.) 

So why was I looking for an excuse to get off plan? Boredom. Possibly. I have been exercising daily and working on maintaining a healthy diet. It is not always easy. It requires sticking to a routine and I think this morning I didn’t want to follow the routine. Unfortunately, given the heat wave hitting New York City, I couldn’t shift my exercise period to another time because of the severe heat. It was in morning or not at all. So the Angle Christine was correct, Just Do It! or miss your opportunity. 

Over the course of my life, I have learned the difference between an excuse and a reason. An excuse is an effort to remove blame such as “it is not my fault that I can’t walk today because the heat index is going to be 110 this afternoon”. A reason is a rational ground such as “I broke my ankle and I can’t walk on it until it heals”.  I had no rational motive for not walking today; I was looking for an excuse. 

I have a goal to run a 10K and to reach that goal. I must lose weight and get my body in shape. I have lost 10.5 pounds and I can now climb the subway stairs without feeling I am holding up the folks behind me. The hard part is staying the course. I have declared my goal, I have developed the plan, I have started working the plan but the hard part is upon me; the day-in and day-out effort to happily maintain the routine or mix it up when possible. Or when it is not possible to happily maintain the routine then I must just push through the boredom. 

I ask you, what is keeping you from accomplishing your goals? Who is whispering in your ear…the excuse devil or the angel of reason?

 

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May
31

Fair Weather Commitments

by Christine

On February 15th I committed to starting a regime that would result in better health and running a 10K. Little did I know that the New York area was still two months away from the joys of spring as well as snow free streets and sidewalks! At first I road my stationary bike in front of the TV but that only lasted a couple of weeks before boredom set in. If I could not go outside to exercise, I just wasn’t interested. I had truly made a fair weather commitment.

Now that the fair weather is here, I have no excuse. Today, at 5:49 AM I hit the pavement but this time not in New York but in Las Vegas…America’s Adult Playground. I personally have a love hate relationship with Vegas and can only spend about 3 days in the City of Excess before I get antsy to go home.

Part of my love for Vegas is that it is filled with characters, home grown and imported. The cab drivers as well as others in the burgling Vegas service industry have a story and are willing to share it. So it should come as no surprise that my favorite part of the day in Vegas is early morning when the real characters of Vegas are up and out.

As I head towards the revolving front door of the Hilton, I must walk pass the casino. Mind you it is 5:49 in the morning so it seems surreal to see 20 people gathered around the Craps table all focused on the next toss of the dice. This was a subdued bunch appearing tired but just unable to call it a night. This is not to say that Craps isn’t an exciting game at 5:00 in the morning. It can be. Years ago my early morning walk took me passed a Craps table at the Paris Hotel and I was startled to see the table crowded with people yelling, clapping and jumping up and down as the excitement of the roll of the dice over took them.

Outside there was a glorious blue sky, moderate temperature and silence. Silence, is a rare commodity in Vegas. At all times of the day, Frank, Elvis or Barry sings along to the sounds of the slot machines. But I was out the door and off! As I started down the sidewalk towards the mountains, I noticed a man who was opening the doors of a series of magazine vending machines. While I was not really paying attention to him, the thought did cross my mind that he worked for the local paper and was refilling the vending machines with the morning paper. But as I jogged passed him he said sheepishly to me, “I am taking these back home to show…”

Now I was curious. When I looked at the magazines, I realized they were the naked girls fliers and magazines that litter Vegas. I amusingly thought, “Yeah right, your are taking them to show the others back home what it is like in America. I’m not your mother. You don’t owe me an explanation.” I could go on and tell you how I spent several minutes trying to sort out the origin of his accent…India or Pakistan or whether I thought it was appropriate to take material
one found personally disgusting home to corrupt friends and family. But now I am passing a man in an Armani suit, loafers and wearing a pair of Ray Bans. I spent several minutes trying to figure out who he was. I am sure he was an actor but try as I might; I could not remember his name. With the Wynn on my left I jogged up the street where I came upon a neo orange flower growing wild next to a barren apartment parking lot. I tried to follow the sidewalk but it took me into the parking lot of a large church. I noticed in Vegas that sidewalk easily merge into the entrances of shops, casinos and other establishments and then out again.

As I jogged around the curve in the sidewalk, I was startled to see a man in an orange hat passed out on the lawn. Unlike New York where the homeless sleep on the subway trains or in doorways, the homeless in Las Vegas sleep on grassy patches out in the open. Just before departing for Las Vegas I was in Washington, DC. I was queued up in the cab line at Union Station; a stately building that evokes a grander time. A raggedly dress woman was pacing, yelling at an imaginary companion who appeared not to be listening. Again this morning I wondered about “living on the streets” and the fine line between a delusion and a fantasy.

Now I was passing others as they were out running, jogging and walking. One man had on gloves, which caused me to wonder how early he started his run to make gloves necessary. A women with spiked brown hair, piercings and tattoos covering her arms, gave me a hearty good morning as she ran by me. She was a local and her good morning said, “you are one of us”. What group that is, I am not sure but for that moment, I was one of her people!

As I jogged passed the Riviera Hotel, I laughed at the 3 dimensional brass plated advertisement for the Crazy Girls Sexiest Topless Revue. The copy reads No “IFS” “ANDS” or and underneath are naked backsides of 7 shapely bronzed women interlocking arms.

I am having such a good time I wonder how much longer I can stay out before I need to head back and get ready for work. Finally I must return to the Hilton and as I am waiting for the light to change, I hear the crash of glass on the sidewalk. I turn to see two young black boys standing over a broken bottle. “Oh %*#&” blurted the taller boy. I can’t believe that I spent $20 dollars on that bottle. He turned to me and said, “Did you see me break that bottle?” I responded accurately, “no, but I heard it”.

By now the smell of alcohol filled the air, we went our separate ways. As they carried their pizza down the road, I looked at them one last time and was grateful that I did not have to raise my children in Vegas. Often people will say that running is mindless and boring. My suggestion to you is, get off the treadmill and go outside.

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Feb
17

Getting Started

by Christine

Since November 19th I have done nothing physical as I was waited for my ankle and inner ear to heal. Prior to that I had started a daily routine that included a 4-mile morning speed walk that was invigorating and set the pace for the rest of my day. It also had the added benefit of allowing me bragging rights as I had joined the elite club of the 5% of Americans who vigorously exercise. My body and self-esteem were getting in shape.

 After the accident on the 19th, all activity stopped and a series of comfort foods became my companion. Now I must regain the ground lost by inactivity and a poor diet. I needed help in devising a plan so I went to the source of all information today, the Internet.  I hit gold immediately.

 Coolrunning.com is a runner's website created by people who love running. How do I know; there are more words than the pictures on this site? Yes, they have pictures of runners actually running but more than that they are talking about how to run, improving your run and where to run. This site is not about splashy photo layouts of professional athlete making it look easy, it is about real runners who love running. I hope one day that I can be me.

Imagine my relief when I hit the training tab and found “The Couch-to-5K Running Plan”. http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_3/index.shtml This group is speaking to me! They are going to help me “transform” from a couch potato to running a 5K in just two months. As I read the plan, I was a bit disappointed because they suggested I start out with 3 workouts a week of only 30 minutes at each session. I actually like being outside and was up to 45 minutes 7 days a week before the accident.

I decided to follow their plan for two reasons. It has been months since I had any real physical activity and the last time I started to jog my knees give me a hard time at the beginning. I will listen to the professional and see if I don’t have a less painful experience this time.

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Feb
15

Just do it!

by Christine

Perfect inspirational tag line and motivating words when you need to get off the sofa and clean the kitchen, finish a homework assignment, go to the grocery store or complete any other task that is less than appealing. But what about those activities that we say we want to do but never put any energy into to it? How does the “I would love to do that SOMEDAY” desires become the TODAY commitments. We just do it? I just do it?

 Okay, here goes. I want to run a 10K. There, just like Footsteps contributor Karen Graves encouraged, I said it out loud. Now what? A serious plan for success because I am quite certain that while the heart may be willing the knees will scream in terror when I head out the front door.

 As part of the plan, I will call up the additional element of what Footsteps contributor Carl de Prado calls peer pressure. While I want to do this, need to do this, I know that to make time for it to happen I must organize and be disciplined with my time. This will be difficult with running a company, a home and a life. So I am going to harness the positive aspects of peer pressure to help me stay on task and on target. Telling you that I am committing to running a 10K is integral to my success. Candidly, in life I work diligently to avoid public humiliation so it will be easier to run then to reveal just how out of shape I am. 

 I will be posting the plan and my progress, as I walk, no run this journey. Can I make this happen? I truly don’t know but what I do know is that I don’t want one more year to go by with me saying, I would love to do that and nothing happens. 

 

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