One Month

I’ve made it through one month of strength training.

Eleven sessions in four weeks. Not quite the three per week that is ideal, but not bad either. It’s a start to rebuilding the bone I lost when I had my little ones.

But now to stick with it.

See, I hate strength training. I don’t like the feel of heavy weights in my hands. I don’t enjoy the feel of a bar across my back or the burn in my legs as I squat. I just don’t.

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I hear “do something you love” all the time. I get that I’m much more likely to stick with an exercise I love.

Sadly, that’s not easy either. See,  I don’t love much exercise. Reading. Yup. Writing. Mostly. You’ll notice neither of those are exactly physical activities.

I loved tennis in my youth. There was something about chasing the little fuzzy ball that kept me entertained. I’d spend hours hitting the ball against a backboard to force my backhand to improve. I even found lighted courts so I could play at night.

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I learned to ignore the bats that came out to eat the bugs the lighted courts drew. I found ways to practice even in the winter. I loved the sport.

But, in my very early twenties, I learned I had a genetically bad back. The twisting motion from tennis was aggravating it, and I had to stop.

So I did.

Was years before I took up walking with my husband. We started small, but soon, we were traipsing around the neighborhood. Everyone knew us as “that couple we see walking”.

We’d literally walk for an hour or two every night after work. We’d talk about our day, hopes, wishes, dreams. Then, we started playing an RPG, and we started talking about characters.

That’s when the walks got really long.

We loved making characters. Seeing what they would do in different scenarios. It was a fabulously creative way to spend the evenings. We both dabbled with our writing, but neither of us had really taken it seriously at that point. After all, I was finishing graduate school while working full time, and after that, we were planning to start a family.

And start a family we did.

Complications in the pregnancy made us give up walking, but eventually, we had an amazing little one.

We just didn’t realize we’d never be able to have a grown-up conversation again. At least not while she was awake.

Once we were able to take walks again, talking about anything that did not directly involve her was impossible. She started talking at 11 months, and hasn’t stopped since.

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We bought and elliptical machine and treadmill and plopped them in front of a 60 inch TV. We thought we could watch a movie or catch up on a few shows while we worked out.

You already know how that went for us. DD1 was not tolerating being left upstairs while one of us went to the basement. Sure, we could’ve ignored her tears, but I get two hours with her a day. Less, if you include that part of that time I’m making dinner.

Gotta say, Sesame Street and My Little Ponies are NOT conducive to a strong workout. Even with an audio book playing, I still can’t concentrate on it with the sound and motion.

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For me, working out consistently for a month is an accomplishment. May not be for most other people. But I’m not them. I’m me. I have to compare me to me. And, I’m giving myself kudos for making it a month.

If I make it another month, I’m rewarding myself with a massage. I may not like exercise, but I can like the rewards that come with it.

 

How about you? Do you love exercise? Hate it? Find it boring? How do you motivate yourself to do it, especially if it’s not one of your favorite things? Any treats you give yourself, or maybe something else?

Sidewalks?

Why are people walking in the road when there is a perfectly good sidewalk?

No, this is not a rhetorical question.

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I see this all the time.  Just the other night, a man in dark colors was walking his dog on the road. Three feet next to him was a perfectly good sidewalk. A sidewalk we’re all required to shovel and otherwise maintain. Only reason I saw him was his the white on his black and white dog.

I know, I know, in the frozen tundra, sometimes not everyone clears off their sidewalk perfectly. But climate change has seen us with the warmest February on record! March has been much the same. There was literally no snow anywhere. So why would you risk walking on the road, during rush hour, rather than on the sidewalk?

Or, if you really hate the sidewalks, why not go to the dog park that’s a mile away? Or, the park that’s at the end of the block?

I’ve heard it said if you’re training for a marathon or 10k and taking it very seriously, roads are smoother and less prone to cracks. Except, of course, for the cars on them. Which, at an average of 4,000 pounds or so, seems like a perfectly safe thing to challenge. Because tired drivers coming home after dark during rush hour are always able to see you in your dark clothes and quickly respond. Especially if you slip, lose your footing, or trip on a rock.

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There is one gentleman that runs in our neighborhood who is a serious marathoner. He runs here because we have A LOT of hills, many that are very steep. He wears a lighted vest that flashes on both the front and the back. Very easy to see. I appreciate that.

Still wish he wasn’t on the road, but I can easily see and avoid him.

Not sure why others aren’t using the special trails by us dedicated to bicycles and pedestrians. We have parks. We have waterfronts. Why the street? Can’t be the view, certainly.

Look, I know walkers and cyclists are supposed to have equal rights. I know that some are very dedicated to their sports and want to train.

I’ve often wondered if they know just how dangerous it is to ride in traffic without a bike lane. Maybe even with a bike lane. Especially with impatient drivers that want to get around you when you can’t do the speed limit.

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This may be an unpopular thing to say, but I’m not entirely sure why it is okay to ride a bike or walk on any road with a speed limit above 25 MPH.  It seems like a disaster waiting to happen at the worst, or a traffic jam at the best.

Yes, yes, I know. Not very environmentally friendly of me. Or very sharing. But honestly,  sharing the street with others who are not in a car scares the living daylights out of me. I’m terrified I might hit them, and that would be on my conscience for the rest of my life. And, of course, I get frustrated when I have to do 15 MPH because I got stuck behind a bike in a 40 MPH zone.

Yes, I am trying to be more empathetic, but this isn’t about just me and the cyclist. This is about me, the cyclist, and the six people now lined up behind me all angry as they try swerve around me to get to work.

Maybe I’m more worried than the average driver about trying to get around a cyclist or pedestrian. My mother’s friend buried her nineteen-year-old daughter two years ago. See, the woman’s college cycling team was riding down a state road when she and two other members of her team were hit by a mid-sized truck.

None of them survived.

Her father happened to be assisting the coach of the team, and he watched his daughter die. He hasn’t been the same.

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The truck driver was fine, and the accident did little more than scratch the paint on his vehicle. Maybe, because of this, I’ve over-exaggerated the danger in my mind. Maybe not.

I’m glad that people are outside and improving their fitness. What I don’t understand is why anyone would want to be on the road with a 4,000 pound car unless they were in one, too.

 

How about you? Do you ever cycle or walk in the street rather than the sidewalk? Why? Perhaps you’ve seen this phenomena and have more insight into it than I do, especially those walking in the street.

10 Ways to Conquer Stress and Bring Back Your Creativity

We know stress kills creativity. And, given what most of experience in modern life, stress isn’t going anywhere.

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Me during the height of budgeting

So, what can we do about it? How do we tame the stress and let our muse come back from vacation to help inspire us once again?

First, I think it’s important to know what stress is. In a nutshell, stress is a physical response. Your body thinks it’s under attack and goes into fight or flight mode. Your body releases a whole bunch of hormones preparing you for physical action.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. During our hunter-gatherer days, this helped us escape from predators or defend ourselves and our tribes.

Where the issue comes is that our bodies haven’t adapted to modern life. A boss with an impossible deadline triggers the same fight or flight mode, instead of a focused calm so we can at least try to make the deadline.

What this means is that we don’t have the opportunity to burn off those stress hormones. This is what causes the jittery feelings and racing heartbeat.

So, how do we deal with it?

I’ve read a bit on this, and here is what the “experts” say:

  1. Get enough sleep – because it’s so easy to sleep when you’re already stressed
  2. Eat Well-Balance meals – Already doing this. It hasn’t helped, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt.
  3. Limit Alcohol and Caffeine – Gave up both when I was pregnant, never took up either since. Very liberating to not need that cup of coffee in the morning.
  4. Count to 10 (or 20) – This has helped me when dealing with my children, but not for the bigger things like when those children are ill.
  5. Take deep breaths – Okay…
  6. Take a time-out. Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head. Because I totally have time for this!
  7. Learn what triggers your anxiety. – Impossible goals like trying to balance work, children, a spouse and writing.
  8. Maintain a positive attitude.
  9. Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress. – Which gets back to my time issue . . .
  10. Welcome humor. A good laugh goes a long way. – Clearly what some of these coping strategies are. For me, anyway.

 

I could go on, but the one thing that’s helped me the most is learning that it’s a hormonal response. These hormones need to burned off, and I’ve started doing that by walking. I try for at least a 30 minute walk at lunch, and this has helped tremendously. I burn off all my pent up stress hormones and come back to the afternoon more focused.

Sometimes, this isn’t enough, and I take a brisk walk through the halls. Other times I’ll walk out to the shop floor and back. Something to get me up, get me moving, and burn those stress hormones.

Now that I know stress is physiological in nature, it helps me deal with it.

My bigger issue is when I don’t have an outlet. It is dark when I get up in the morning, it is dark when I come home from work at night.

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This means walking before work or in the evenings is a no-go.

I’m still trying to figure something out, especially with the kids. I have a treadmill and an elliptical in our finished basement, but it’s an act of Congress to get down there. Including the negotiating, pleading, and filibustering.

What do you do to deal with stress? Any of these tips more helpful for you? Do you find it easier to burn off the stress hormones with physical activity?