Category: Exercise

A walk in the woods

woods
I am not running right now. My last attempt was a week and a half ago, a long weekend run of 15.5km on a bitterly cold and windy afternoon. The light was thin. My hip cried the entire time. That necessitated a frank assessment of my physical limitations, and a visit to my family doctor, and his request that I refrain from running. For now. I see a sports medicine doctor on Friday and the truth is that I’m holding out hope that his opinion will be otherwise: Go ahead and run! It can’t do any harm! (Hope hurts.)

Meantime, I am getting by with extra yoga classes, which seem to be helping. At the very least, I am strengthening and stretching and practicing my breathing. I am also continuing to swim, though not quite to the distances I’m used to: I stop when it starts to hurt rather than pushing on (the opposite of my usual style). And there’s spin class once a week.

But as mentioned in a previous post, none of those activities gets me outside. I’m missing not just the endorphin magic of a good run. I’m missing the bitter cold, the snow, the wind, the purposeful entry into the elements, even (and maybe especially) into the unpleasant elements. I’ve gone for runs in the dark, in cold rain, in hail, in blazing sunshine, in humidity. I also run in less extreme conditions, but it’s those more adventurous outings that stick with me, that please me most, that seem like tests of will and determination; there is a thrill to just sticking with it, hanging in there, going on. I could see how that sounds psychologically revealing; and not everyone’s cup of tea. And I accept that this injury may teach me many good things that I couldn’t learn otherwise: such as the value of stopping rather than pushing through; and patience. That too.

On Sunday, I went to my daughter’s soccer practice. It was a clear sunshiny afternoon, bright with snow on the ground. I could not run. But I decided not to sit by the sidelines indoors. Instead, I dressed for the weather, took my camera, and went for a hike in the woods. The trails were so familiar, trails I ran on all last summer and fall. And I was able to walk briskly without pain. It wasn’t like a good run, no, but it’s not fair to compare. It was exactly what it was: a walk in the woods.

Many of the photos came out with a melancholy feel (as above; do you agree?). I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the wintry landscape, the bare trees. Or maybe it’s the eye that was seeing the wintry landscape and bare trees. Whatever was captured, melancholy was not what I felt upon returning home. I felt better. Just plain better.

Who begins too much?

branch
Found this German saying in the newspaper this morning: “Who begins too much accomplishes little.”

Uh oh. Is that me? As I woke at 5am, churned away at spin class, got home, ate breakfast, threw laundry in washer, thought about working on the writing project I’m developing, checked email instead, received message on how to use my camera better, spent next hour and a half playing with camera settings and taking random photos around the house, finally sat down at desk to work and started a new blog post. This one.

All the while, this is my morning to work while Kev hangs out with the kids. ie. my time is limited! And what have I done? Is it my habit to dart from project to project, from activity to activity, never fully developing the potential of any?

Maybe my word of the year should be focus. Or choose. Or limits.

Ugh. I don’t want a word like that. I want to do too many things. Not just do them, but master them, become expert at them. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?

(Yes it is, at least all at once, if experience is any guide.)

But everything in me wants to deny it. Wants to embrace the opportunities, chase all interests, learn with a hungry and curious mind.

Look at it this way:

**This morning I challenged my body and put in time and effort toward racing goals this summer.

**This morning I ate breakfast with my kids.

**This morning I learned something new and useful: how to adjust the aperture and shutter speed settings on my camera manually, and what effect these previously mysterious numbers have on the outcome of the photos I take every day.

**This morning I recorded, briefly, where my mind is at.

**This morning I connected with friends in person and via email.

And now I am going to open a word processing file and spend an hour, **this morning, working on The Big Fat Juicy Belly Worm. Yup. My project in development is a story for children. I read the first chapter to my kids last night, and I think they’d like to hear another one. What could be more motivating?

Sorry, German saying. You’re probably right, but I’m going with my manic energy this morning.

***

On a completely different note, this blog post titled “Read and Loved in 2011” by The Keepin’ It Real Book Club reached out of the blue and touched me **this morning. Read it and see for yourself.

Snow falling on resolutions

snow
Resolutions. Do you make them? We went around the table last night and everyone had the chance to make a resolution for 2012. Not all cared to participate, but here’s what we got:

**Albus resolved to finish his Perplexus game (at least it’s not a video game), and buy two new ones and finish those too. (Inspiring … sigh).

**AppleApple resolved to train for and complete a try-a-tri. Her dad wants to, too. We’ll check age limits, but try-a-tris are short-distance triathlons with lengths I’m certain she could manage.

**In addition to the try-a-tri, Kevin resolved to dance more. He intends to practice with help from a wii game we played on New Year’s Eve called Just Dance (we had a kid-oriented New Year’s; very fun). I’m not sure whether a wii game will make him a better dancer, but it is good exercise. (Fooey said, “The best part is that you don’t even have to have a wii remote–you can just dance!”)

horizon in the snow
“all the little grains of snow,” taken this morning, back porch

Today, I am pretending the holiday is over; Kevin is helping with that. Whenever the kids are off school or home sick, childcare coverage falls to me, and as I start both working more and wanting to take on more work the imbalance becomes more obvious. I’m thankful that Kevin came around to recognizing this himself, and offered, for this coming week, to share childcare and split the days. Today he’s off anyway, so I get the full day. Friday I’d already arranged for babysitting in the morning, so he gets the full day. We’re splitting the other days half and half. I’m already floating the idea of doing this for summer holidays too. Something’s got to change this year.

I don’t usually do resolutions because who knows what will come or how a year will change a person. But I love lists, and this is good place to start.

1. Share the childcare. Take on more work projects. Work more hours.

2. Explore work options. Take risks. Dabble. Whatever I do to fill my hours and earn money, may it be creative, and perhaps surprising.

3. Budget better. Needs no explanation. Kevin and I are already collaborating on this front.

4. Continue early mornings + exercise. On my race list this year (assuming no injuries): the 30km in Hamilton in March; another Olympic-length triathlon; another marathon; and maybe just maybe a half-Ironman triathlon. I’d also like to do another half and another 10km. But racing is expensive. See #3.

4b. (late addition) Stretch!!!! After all exercise. For at least five minutes.

5. Develop book ideas. Apply for grants. Write another book!

6. Promote THE JULIET STORIES.

7. Practice photography. Use my eyes. Use my feet. Find new locations and subjects.

8. Make music. Write songs. Record.

9. Do everything I can do to continue to be “a good model” for my children. Be forgiving. Be kind. Seek to understand. Love.

10. Go bravely forth.

desert in the snow
“Desert in the snow,” taken this morning, back porch.

*note: to see photos in full please click on them

Except for sleep …

I think I’ve got it figured out. Except for sleep. I just don’t seem to get enough of that. Mornings are best when I’m up early, out of the house, doing something — swim, spin, run, yoga. I come home to breakfast and morning madness but my mind is clear. I feel good. I’m more patient than when the kids and I roll out of bed around the same time and grump around together in the same sleepy blur.

But then comes the crash. By 9am, my eyes are heavy and I’m moving slowly. So slowly. I slip into a 20 minute nap, get up, pour that treasured cup of coffee (I only drink one cup a day, but it’s a hefty cup.) But I’m still tired. The nap takes the edge off, but my brain still feels only partially operational.

Yesterday afternoon, a writing day, I lay down on my new office floor (yes — on the tile) and took a quick nap. And then I napped again at yoga class during the opening shavashana. In fact, I went early knowing I would nap, so I could nap longer.

Before bed, no matter how tired I am, I have to read. I’m reading a really good book right now: Half-Blood Blues on a borrowed Kindle. (Read it! Read it!) I rarely turn off the light until my eyes are literally crossed with exhaustion. And then I sleep instantly, and deeply, and often right until the alarm sounds to start the cycle all over again. (Last night I was woken at 1:45am by a little voice across the hall calling “Mama!” When I came, he said, “I need a kiss and a hug.” I didn’t even mind being woken up for that.)

Here’s what happens when I don’t get up early: within a day or two, I’m sleeping less soundly. I’m prone to the 3am wakeful worries. And so I keep getting up early — three or four times a week. And taking naps. And planning to crawl into bed earlier. And not. And sleeping deep. And waking again.

One small note on naps: I keep them short. And I consider them to be part of the creative process. It probably sounds crazy, but I get some deep problem-solving done during naps. The stuff that’s too complex or troublesome or bound up with emotions to figure out by just sitting and thinking or trying to write through it — that’s the stuff that gets treated during a nap. I’ll wake recognizing something I couldn’t before. I’ll wake feeling soothed. I’ll wake with a brand-new angle.

But I’m still tired. My nap hasn’t figured out a solution for that.

What I did this morning: Hamilton marathon

Before.
Oh man, I look nervous. This is a totally unconvincing smile. You can see it in my eyes: Do I really want to do this?
Someone stop me, please.

Hours later, only 200m left to go. Fooey removes lollipop to cheer her mother’s approach. Her mother is feeling, oh, a million bajillion times better than she did in the previous picture.

There I go down the homestretch. A huge feeling of wow. Forty-two point two kilometres completed. Time on the clock: 3:42:13.

“I still can’t believe you ran a marathon today, Mom.” – AppleApple

Yeah. Me neither, kid.

(For the completely and totally unabridged version, please visit my triathlon training blog.)

Green Dreams: where ideal meets grumpy

Yesterday morning, I carried my three-year-old to nursery school, nearly one kilometre away, in the rain. Why? Well, he wasn’t in a walking mood, that’s why he was on my back. But the reason I was walking was bare bones basic: I didn’t have a car at my disposal; Kevin had an early appointment to which he needed to drive. About six months ago, as part of our family’s Green Dream plan, we downsized to one vehicle. Are we a greener family than before? Yes, mostly because having fewer options forces us to make different choices.

Such as carrying a kid on my back in the rain to nursery school.

Listen, if I could have driven, I would have. I’d been up early swimming, I’d gotten four kids fed and organized and three of them out the door. That left one little guy, and he couldn’t get to school by himself. I wanted my quick restorative morning nap. It was too wet to fire up the bike stroller. If there had been a vehicle in the driveway, would I have chosen to walk? Not a chance. So the omission of the vehicle itself is feeding into the success of our Green Dreams. It’s so easy to take the easy route when it’s easily available.

Sometimes, I’m grumpy about it. If you see a bedraggled woman, surrounded by a pile of kids in raincoats, shaking her fist at you as you drive by, think of me. In fact, hey, that is me! And yes, I just cursed you and your car for blocking my family’s passage across the street. Or maybe just for being inside a warm dry moving vehicle. Sorry. It’s wet out here. And we’re moving so slowly.

I am not a naturally patient person, but do subscribe to the notion that by walking (or biking) rather than whisking along inside the sealed world of the car, I am experiencing life differently. Out here, I know the weather. I know the seasons. I know the geography. Plus, I have to leave on time, or I’ll definitely be late. There is no such thing as breaking the speed limit when walking with four children.

But here’s my confession: you’ll still see me in a car pretty frequently these days (maybe that was you shaking your fist at me.) We do have ONE after all and I can’t imagine life without it. Well, I can, but life would include a whole lot less soccer. There are no direct bus lines to either of the two sports facilities that draw members of our family upwards of nine times a week. One is 5.5km away, the other is 9km. In other words, not terribly far, and probably biking distance (though not for short legs on tiny bicycles); but in addition to there being no direct bus routes, there is also no safe bike path to either place (not to mention, as the season changes, we’d be biking after dark.)

It’s one thing to complain about this, but another to ask: Would we choose to bike or ride public transit if it were an option? And truthfully, I think we would not. Not unless we had to. Because we’re usually in a hurry. We’re dropping one kid here, and racing to get another there. We’re cutting corners, juggling schedules, trying to cheat time. Having a car allows us to schedule our lives in a way that cannot be transposed into a car-free life.

So, I’m resigned to carrying some Green Guilt. In fact, our family’s increasingly busy sports schedule also means we consume more water than we used to. I’m telling you. The laundry. Wash those socks as quickly as possible! I hang everything to dry, with the exception of giant loads of towels, which tend to go in the drier. But still. Green, it ain’t.

Maybe it was the Green Guilt over the car and the sports that led me to introduce our latest experiment: we’ve gone vegetarian at home. We are neither buying nor cooking meat (with the exception of seafood, on occasion). The kids are missing ham on their sandwiches, and I am constantly brainstorming ways to get more protein into all of us (like starting the day with eggs for breakfast). And if a grandparent invites us for a meal that includes meat, we’re happy to eat it up. But at home, we’re meat-free. It’s been about a month, and I’m sticking to it, despite the odd complaint, because a meatless diet is one sure-fire way to shrink a family’s ecological footprint. And we’ve got such a big (sweaty) one. We’ve got to try.

Even if it means grumpy walks in the rain. And children fantasizing about summer sausage.

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