Archive for the ‘fitness’ Category

One of the most important rites of spring is the first bike ride of the year.  On Saturday I  attached  the older sister’s former bike rack to the back of my car and I headed off to my favorite trail head.

There are a lot of things I love about living near the lake, but riding bikes isn’t one of them.  The streets in our little subdivision are way too steep for me and I firmly believe you would have to be suicidal to go out on the two lane highway on a bike.  So bike rides always begin with a car trip.  Luckily for me, Rogers is in the process of building a really great set of bike trails.

Back in the day I would have scoffed at bike trails.  I prided myself on riding in traffic. I remember telling people, it was really just a mind game.  You had to pretend to be a car and just go for it. Luckily my young self never spoke to my children.  By the time I was telling them about bike riding I was very much over pretending to be a car.

But I remember what it was like.  My love affair with bicycles started long ago and hasn’t ended yet. 

I bought the blue Schwinn “racing” bike at the Schwinn store in East Providence when I was in college.  I was actually replacing another fairly new Schwinn that was a little heavier and didn’t have the racing handlebars. I couldn’t really afford to trade in that fairly new bike, but I wanted a racing bike badly so I managed to talk my mother into buying the older one and paying too much.  She was easy that way when she knew I really wanted something. 

I loved the racer!  And I loved riding it around Providence.  When my car blew up, I rode the bike exclusively even to the self-service gas station where I worked. Between me and the gas station was a hill of Arkansas proportions.  I could never make it up that hill, but I kept trying.  I’d end up pushing my racing bike up the last few yards, panting and sweating and there was always an old woman working in her yard at the top of the hill and every day she’d call to me, “You’re going to give yourself a heart attack.”  I was only 20 years old and in decent shape.  I didn’t really understand her concern.

The best ride was going downtown.  They’ve changed the roads around Providence since then and I suspect the rotary is long gone, but back then I had to use the rotary at the bottom of the big hill next to the Rhode Island state house.  Rotaries are traffic circles, of course.  There’s usually a couple of lanes of traffic, headed in the same direction around the circle, the problem is that in order to stay in the rotary and not go shooting out one of the exits you had to move across at least one lane of fast-moving traffic.  I would use the momentum from the big hill to get up to speed and go flying into the rotary just as if I was driving an actual car.  If I saw one of my kids doing what I used to do, I’d kill them.  But somehow it worked both me and my blue Schwinn racing bike survived. 

My next stop on my biking adventure was the Kentucky years when I learned exactly how narrow a two lane road can be if you’re riding a bike and an oversized load comes up beside you.  I also had to dodge cows on occasion, but I kept trying to ride my bike.  After we were married, I tried hard to convert my husband.  I even bought him a bike of his own, but I couldn’t afford a second Schwinn and the inexpensive bike I found seemed to self destruct each time he rode it.

When the kids were little, I found a second blue Schwinn racing bike at a garage sale and we added baby seats. 

My bike had a baby seat for years because our youngest child refused to give it up.  I remember when she was in kindergarten and all her friends were giving up their training wheels, she was still in the seat behind me.  It lasted until she got so heavy,t he seat started sinking down onto the tire and then we took it off.  By then we were living here by the lake.

The youngest still doesn’t like bike riding, but the older two have taken up where I left off.  Some day we’ll do a long ride together – maybe the Katy trail in Missouri.  I have to work on my endurance and I have to get over the mental image of an overweight, middle-aged woman on slim blue racing bike. 

My rite of spring ride was only a few miles long and it left me pretty sore, but I’ll keep trying and one of these days, we’ll do that trail.

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O.K. it’s official. I’m too old to shovel snow. It’s something I’ve done all my life, but living in Arkansas for the past 12 years, my shoveling skills aren’t necessary very often. I’ve gotten rusty.
This past month has been dedicated to health and I thought I was doing pretty well. I’ve stayed on my low carb, high protein diet and I’ve been using the elliptical in the basement (until today). I even found some five pound weights and I’ve been using those too. The old Yoga mat was been laid out on the living room floor for crunches. I was pretty proud of myself, but now I know the sad truth. I should have done a lot more crunches and maybe found some heavier weights. My health program is no match for snow.
My husband and I have never agreed about shoveling snow. I grew up in the northeast and every time it snowed, all three of us kids were sent out in it to clear the driveway and the path for the mailman, as well as a path across the grassy yard so my grandfather could make his way over from the house next door. We never really questioned it. We just trusted that it was necessary to move the snow so the grownups could drive.
My husband grew up in California. I didn’t realize we disagreed about snow shoveling when we lived in Kentucky. We didn’t have very much snow, but when we did we agreed on a hands off policy. Our gravel driveway was a quarter mile long and there was just no way to shovel it. Sometimes it would get icy and I came up with the method to clear that ice.
Our house in Kentucky was heated by a wood stove and that meant ashes had to be emptied regularly. I used to empty then directly onto the ice in the driveway and that helped a lot. The embers would first melt the ice a little and then when they cooled, they provided a little bit of traction. I’m not sure why it took us so long to realize the connection between the ashes, which sometimes contained old nails from the wood pallets we burned, and the flat tires we were suddenly dealing with on a regular basis.
Eventually we left rural Kentucky and found ourselves in suburban Indiana. The suburbs of Indiana were a lot like the suburbs where I grew up in Rhode Island, so I knew that snow had to be shoveled. I knew that shoveling the driveway was much easier if you did it before you drove a car over the snow and packed it down. We lived in Indiana eight years and we had our share of snow storms, but in all that time my husband never once shoveled the driveway.
“Sooner or later it will melt,” he said and then he drove over it.
Everyone else cleared their driveway. Most of them owned snow blowers or even little plows that went on the front of their yard tractors. We had snow shovels and we only had those because I went out and bought them. I also used them, although that was never my first choice. I remember enlisting one of his male friends to try and talk to him about shoveling, but even that didn’t work. Although the friend would sometimes come down with his yard tractor and plow our driveway himself.
I tried to get the kids involved, but the oldest daughter took her Dad’s side and waited for melting. Luckily the younger brother used to help me even though he was too small to be very effective. I think he felt some sort of male responsibility that had skipped his dad’s generation.
Since we have lived in Arkansas, snow shoveling has become much less necessary. His melting claim was ridiculous in Indiana, but it works most of the time here in Arkansas. I didn’t think it would work this time. We had about six inches of snow on our driveway last week along with two small cars not suited well to winter driving.
And the truth is, I was little bored being cooped up in the house. I wanted to get outside and what can you do when you don’t have any kids home to play with?
I tried walking the dogs, but they didn’t really enjoy it very much. The little dog’s stomach was actually dragging in the snow which she found both undignified and cold. I thought about bringing out the camera and adding to my large collection of winter photos but I just couldn’t see any way to improve on last year’s series. Finally, I went and found the snow shovel.
By that night I was so sore that I went and found the vibrating back massager that had been a Christmas gift years ago. I spent the evening watching television with the back massager and taking every over the counter pain pill we had. If only we had had prescription pain killers! I think it was the pain killers that caused the upset stomach.
So once again, he wins. I will never shovel snow again. It’s gonna melt anyway.

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For me, the New Year always begins the first Monday after Jan first and it always begins the same way – with a new diet and exercise routine. Well, actually, I long ago ran out of “new” diets so I have to repeat the old ones. So this year I’m returning to the “Salad and Chicken” diet.
The Salad and Chicken diet is a variation of the Low Carb diet. I’ve been “low carbing” on and off for the last couple of years. It’s a great excuse to eat cheese and steak and regular hamburger instead of diet lean. What’s not to like? Well, actually, I don’t really lose much weight doing low carb. I’m almost afraid to say that because low carb people take their plan very seriously. I’ve been on some message boards where a statement like mine would be fighting words, but it’s the truth. There were other benefits – I felt better and I wasn’t starving all the time, but I needed a faster weight loss so I had to adjust. I call my plan the Salad and Chicken diet because it’s low carb without a lot of the high fat meats like bacon and sausage. It worked for a while last year.
It worked way better than Weight Watchers which I’ve tried five or six times over the years. Some people have a lot of success with Weight Watchers, but spending all that time looking up points and adding, subtracting, substituting and cheating left me completely food obsessed but no lighter. I especially hated the meetings where dozens of middle aged women sat around and talked about the best way to make something taste like something else. I’d leave those meetings so hungry, my car would drive itself to the nearest drive-thru.
I didn’t have any luck with calorie counting either. It seems like it has to work. If you consume X amount of calories and your body needs X+Y to function, you have to lose weight, right? I wish.
One time I ignored calories and counted fat grams, but that was no better.
It’s always the same pattern. You start out all gung ho and count and figure and drink your water and the first week is great! You lose six pounds, maybe. The second week is fine – you lose four or five more pounds. By the third week, it’s harder to stay on plan, but you force yourself. Of course, by the third week, you’re no longer losing. That makes it easier to cheat on the fourth week when you’re sick to death of the diet and it’s not working anyway. I seldom get past the fourth week.
And those ten or 12 pounds I lost those first two weeks. I’d find them immediately when the diet ends. Finally I gave up dieting and just ate a reasonably healthy diet without any special plans. I gained about ten pounds eating healthy.
I’ve tried all the diet foods and all the magic diet cures. I remember when rice cakes were new and tasted even more like Styrofoam. I remember diet candy that was actually called “Ayds.” I think they changed the name when it became a disease. One time I ate nothing but Lean Cuisine dinners to “retrain” my appetite and get used to the tiny portions. I also ate the boxes they came in. Another time I took fiber pills. You were supposed to take five with a glass of water before a meal. They expanded in your stomach so you didn’t have room for food. One time I got one stuck in my throat and I was sure it was going to expand and suffocate me. I couldn’t take anymore.
I have a library of diet books written by doctors like Stillman, Atkins and Dr. Phil. I sent away for a copy of “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and I have half a dozen paperbacks to look up the numbers of calories, fat grams and carbs.
So here it is 2011 and there’s no sense buying anything new. I’m recycling the Salad and Chicken Diet and my traditional New Year’s Resolution. I will lose weight, exercise, and clean my closets. For at least four weeks.

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