Category Archives: Exercise

Essay Writer

I’m packing again. Seems I just got home and here my name is on another plane ticket.

At least my sciatica flare-up is calming down just in time for that five-hour butt-in-seat marathon. It mostly hurts when I do pelvic lifts, so maybe I won’t do them.

Unfortunately, my physical therapist has other ideas. She makes me do thirty of them and hold them for a count of five. To strengthen my lower back and hips, she says.

OK, then.

I tell her it feels as though someone is stabbing me with a knife right in the gluteus maximus every time my behind goes airborne. “Just go as high as you can then,” she says.

So understanding, she is.

Today she had me start on the stationary bike. During the last session, while lying on my side on the table doing leg lifts (she’s big on the lifting) my eyes lit upon the bike parked right next to me. And as I lifted my bent knee toward the ceiling, without letting my hips rotate with the movement and holding my tummy in, I started to drool.

bike

Oh, I wanted that.

As soon as I was done, and before she could say, “Let’s do the standing leg lifts,” I moved toward the bike. “You like that?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said as I slipped my left foot onto the pedal and swung my other leg over the seat. “Let me just see how it feels.”

“Oh, yes,” I breathed as soon as my tush hit the seat. Automatically, my feet began pedaling, telegraphing the message they weren’t going to stop any time soon.

“Do six minutes and then you’re done,” she said, caving.

It sure beat standing at the counter lifting my leg sideways and then backwards for three rounds of ten each.

Today I got out of doing them as well.

“Since you liked the bike so much last time, we’ll start on it,” she said the minute I came in. “Ten minutes.”

I climbed on happily. Oh, yes. I definitely like!

We’re shopping around for this bike since I hate the one I have and rarely use it. I miss my old one, which was similar to this one, but I broke the poor thing. This one is off the charts in price so I will have to do some more copyediting work, write/edit some more essays to help pay for it. And I will, soon as I can sit for long periods again.

Lift, one, two, three . . .

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“What’s Your Donkey?”

A few months ago, I attended a business conference and one of the presenters, a videographer, told a story about filming in a small village whose name I can’t pronounce nor remember. She asked the women what would make life easier for them in that remote village and they said, “A donkey.”

At first she was surprised at such a simple request, but they explained how a donkey would help them till the soil and then carry their produce to market. There were other reasons as to why a donkey would make such a difference in their day-to-day existence so they organized a means to get the village women their donkey.

That talk, in reference to setting up a business and figuring out our needs, made quite an impression on me and it got me to thinking. What’s my donkey?

In my stand-off with RA, there are several inflammation markers I keep track of. As far as I remember, my sed rate has been normal or close to normal. (I am now the proud owner of my medical history for the last nine years. I asked and I received a CD of my chart. I will peruse later.)

The other marker, the one that more closely reflects how I feel physically, is my CRP. That has spiked more often than not over the years. Last fall I was feeling a little crappy and sure enough my CRP was 16. At last month’s visit it was nine. When it’s close to normal (4.9 or less) I feel terrific. Nine is good, awful good.

When my CRP is normal or near normal, I feel 20 years younger and just as spry. A while back we had to replace the water filter on our fridge and without even thinking, I went into a full squat, my tush almost raking the floor by my feet. My husband stood by my side, confident that I could not dislodge the filter from the bottom of the fridge without his muscles.

This is a man who road and mountain bikes, surfs (when there’s a swell, he once got kicked out of a surf spot because he was catching all the good waves. He’s used to Pacific Ocean swells; the Atlantic doesn’t quite cut it) and is younger than me. Since he was annoying me, I ignored him until he cried out, “I can’t do that! Squat like you’re doing now.”

I pressed on the end of the filter and it popped into my hand. I stood up, coolly handed it to him, then left him there, transfixed, with his mouth hanging open. This is also a man who had seen me at my worst, when I thought the fight with RA was lost or would be.

But, I said no, not yet.

And so, that is my RA donkey: a low, or normal, CRP.

And the continued flexibility to do full squats whenever I darn well feel like it.

 

 

Ride

What does it mean when I don’t even feel hot until the 28th minute of my 30-minute workout?

Does it mean I should pedal faster, or pedal longer to get the cardio I need, and to lose the dreaded extra pounds? My short-lived goal of ten miles in 30 minutes has been, oh, so met.

I had decided that for the sake of consistency, I would limit the time on my stationary bike to 30 minutes and do it at least three days a week. Once I’m on the bike I revel in it, but it’s the getting on it that sometimes gets lost in the course of the day. There are so many other things to do! So I told myself: It’s only 30 minutes!

But the deal was that I couldn’t just meander through my bike ride enjoying the blue skies and puffy white clouds seen through my patio’s screen enclosure. I had to make it count. I had to make it comparable to my Tai Chi exercise, if not in length, then in sweat equity.

Tai Chi class is an hour and a half long; granted we do break for tea and cookies, and live chatting. And we spend almost half of the rest of the time watching the instructor go through the moves, which we then try to copy. She is poetry in motion; we are discordant verses.

Tai Chi is a real workout even though it’s slo-mo martial arts. By the end of class I’m usually sweating and my legs are crying out for a chair. Any chair. I used to get the same workout reward from my bike. The endorphins would fly as the sweat would pour. It was awesome.

But apparently, the three-minute mile is not good enough to even get a bead unless I do a whole lot more of them. Lately, I’d been having fun just increasing my speed, beating my personal best, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 miles per hour. Whooeee! That was fun; now it’s time to get to work.

I’m feeling good and as usually happens, when I feel good I tend to work out more, or should I say, harder. Which then makes me feel even better, a win/win. For I see exercise as money in the bank. If I put in a little bit each day, or almost every day, I will accumulate a mighty reservoir of health to dip into now and then as I ride this roller coaster called RA.

In So Many Ways

I’ve settled into a Tuesday and Friday Tai Chi class routine. Granted it’s only been one week. But it feels good. I’m renewing friendships and meeting new people. I met the lady who won my Native American Culture themed quilt at the raffle. (See my post, Done!) She was ecstatic and stopped the class to verify I was the quilter. “I love it!” she said. Talk about a shot in the arm, gave me renewed vigor to finish the class.

I’d wondered if my legs would hold up. It’s all a matter of shifting your weight from one leg to the other as you dance your way through the 108 moves. All this weight-bearing helps build bone, something mighty useful to me now. But I needn’t have worried, my legs remembered. They held up admirably, while the rest of me had a harder time remembering some of the hand moves.

Though they started the same week, these classes are independent of each other. That means that on Friday I get to repeat what I learned on Tuesday. This works well as I am a perpetual beginner, having yet to complete all 108 moves. Monday and Wednesday classes start in two weeks and I plan to take those too.  There’s nothing like reinforcement. And camaraderie.

And I have another reason for taking all these 10:00 AM classes. They will help me to structure my day so I can fit the most into it. Freelance editing is occupying more and more of my time, and that’s a good thing. But working from home, I’ve let myself maintain a non-schedule schedule, working all hours of the day or night. There’s been no clock to punch, and no boss but my lenient self. As long as the deadline is met, your client doesn’t care when you work.

But now, I need to adopt a daily discipline so that I can accomplish all I want to do. Such as my own writing (my WIPs won’t write themselves, sigh), and then there’s my quilting. I do want to keep up with it, and I plan to make a bunch of children’s quilts for the homeless shelter our Tai Chi Branch supports. For Christmas.

So you see, Tai Chi to the rescue. In so many ways.

Fluid

It’s been kind of a bad year, health-wise, but life goes on and tomorrow I go back to Tai Chi class.

I didn’t realize how much I’d missed that social interaction until I saw the familiar friendly faces when I stopped at the Center to drop off the quilt I’d made. And how much my body missed the physical poetry that is Tai Chi.

Below is my blog post from August, 2011, called In The Zone.
My goal is to recapture the fluidity I had then.

~~~

Standing tall, I take a deep breath as I raise my arms straight out to shoulder height. My open fingers mimicking a falling rain, I lower my hands to waist level. They float toward each other, palms down. My right hand then slices the air like the flat of a blade leading me to pivot on my right heel in that direction. The left foot adjusts its angle and I “drop” into position, bending at the hip and flexing my right knee.

Poised in a protective stance, I sense strong energy pushing back on my extended right hand, pressing against my outward facing palm.  I am holding it back away from me, keeping it at bay. My left hand, palm down, hangs low in front of me, guarding my center, shielding my core. I hold this position for a moment, letting the opposing force know I am ready and prepared for it. I am invulnerable.

Standing tall again, my right arm gravitates down while my left arm rises towards it; they cross at the forearm, as though suspending something in front of me, something round. I visualize a delicate sphere, it is my world; I am hugging my world. I am the unbroken shell surrounding it. No harm will come to it as long as I cradle it, making it invincible.

My weight resting on my right leg, I lift the left foot and step out on the diagonal, advancing against the unseen force. The motion is fluid, my left hand leads; my body follows, turning to confront that which comes at me from yet another direction. I allow my body to flow with the motion. I concentrate and think of nothing but continuing with the synchronized moves. I am part of a formation, a phalanx, performing a silent ballet. I am in the zone, the Tai Chi zone.

The dance progresses; the right hand moves up by the left shoulder and forms a fist. The left hand retracts against the body gathering energy then pushes back as the fist lashes out. The fist continues its momentum coming to rest by the right hip; the body follows its arc, swinging to the right, back foot pivoting on the toe. I am now crouched and ready to strike. I push that invisible force back once more and step forward with purpose, delivering my right-handed thrust.

I do not fight any one person in these pseudo matches, though I do face an enemy. Locked in a pitched battle against my personified disease, I withstand and do not cower. It is a contest I engage in daily, this struggle to gain and maintain my equilibrium, to meet the challenge of life’s burdens and its inequities.

When I practice Tai Chi, I achieve a level of serenity and all around peace no other form of exercise can give me. My worries succumb; my stressors evaporate. The poetry of the motion is beautiful and graceful, the camaraderie of performing it with others comforting and soothing. Performing it in solitude becomes meditation in motion. I withdraw to my innermost self and find medicine for my soul.

~~~

tai chi

In case anyone wants to join us!

tai chi

We are the largest Branch in the country and the most diverse. For our 20th anniversary, I printed out flags for all the different countries represented in our Chapter. I then had to figure out how to place them on the cake. The answer came to me at the party store. Swizzle sticks!

Shoes, etc.

I did ten miles on my stationary bike today. I decided, while I was pedaling, that I would keep track of mileage as well as time. That way I could take an imaginary trip around the world while I engage in this endeavor. Though I do hope I don’t have to go all the way around the world to lose the extra pounds I have on board.

To document my origination point, I weighed myself this morning. It kind of hurt, but I’m a big girl (!) I can take it. Once the numbers stopped fluctuating on the scale readout, it settled at 149. According to my BMI, I should weigh no more than 136 for my height of 5’ 2”. But, I felt fine and looked fine, so I was told, when I was at 138. So that is where I’m headed.

And since ten miles is the distance I used to travel taking my youngest to school and that was south of me, I guess my “circumnavigation” will commence in that direction. Hopefully, I’ll hit my target weight before I “reach” the South Pole.

If I were truly headed down there, my gear would be a top concern. But since I will only be biking and walking in South Florida weather, I don’t need a parka, et al, just good shoes. After spending almost 30 years on my feet during my nursing career, I am especially conscious of good, supportive footwear.

SAS were my shoes of choice; they cushioned my feet and were worth every penny. I had my last pair for over five years, but then I began working out in earnest and wore them out within eighteen months. I meant to replace them, but then I found these.

Bought them at Macy's. They are Clarks shoes.

Bought them at Macy’s. They are Clarks shoes.

Love these shoes! They feel like I'm walking on air. Hope they hold up to the workouts I'll be putting them through. Hope I hold up!

Love these shoes! They feel like I’m walking on air. Hope they hold up to the workouts I’ll be putting them through. Hope I hold up!

And of course, my vehicle. It's a little dusty and rusty. Just like me.

And of course, my vehicle. It’s a little dusty and rusty. But then, so am I.