Saturday, April 06, 2013

Why Walking Really Matters--Part One

You will hear me talk a lot about walking and how often I use walking as my primary form of cardio exercise.  Although yoga is the foundation and the one exercise I try never to bypass (although there are times I do "let it go" as it were), when it comes to sweating away the pounds my go-to is walking.

I've read research where walking to the rhythm of music helps the elderly who are struggling with balance disorders.  I recently came across similar research results for people living with Parkinson's disease.  The key is that the pace of the music must change so that the person following the rhythm must change with the beat.  I have tried many walking dvds, some that purport to use the music to establish the pace of the walk, and Leslie Sansone is the only teacher who consistently uses rhythm for her walking workouts.  With over 25 years of experience and a library full of exercise dvds, her position as the doyen of walking at home is solid.

With that said, I wanted to give a quick rundown of some of the Leslie Sansone products that have come my way.  If you know someone who has a condition that may be compromising his/her balance, I am writing these reviews specifically with that as my focus.  This is the first of what will be at least five such posts.

3 Mile Slim & Sleek Walk Plus Pilates for Firm Abs
What You Get:
A 3 miles walk with a quirky stretch at the end.
You can always cut the 3 miles walk down to 1 or 2 miles.
This dvd allows you to turn off Leslie Sansone's instructions and just walk to the music however you choose.
A short Pilates inspired ab routine which can be done at the end of the walk or done on its own.

This is perhaps the most challenging of the dvds I've tried.  Sansone typically is very good about offering cues, letting the user anticipate what will come next.  Sure, sometimes she says you'll be switching to a new movement in four steps only to say do four more or she says you'll switch back to walk after one more set only to say "One more set" but that's not as worrisome for me as the occasional changes in this dvd that are not announced beforehand.  They are not so frequent that I would say bypass this dvd.  Rather, I would suggest that it be used with caution.

There is a part of this program in particular where you will need to use your balance by standing on one foot as you move the other leg in a full range of motion.  This can be extremely challenging for anyone with a balance disorder.  Sansone does suggest using a chair/wall for stability.  However, there is nothing on the dvd packaging to suggest you will need something like this so be aware to either have these things ready or just keep walking in place when she begins these leg exercises.

What You Get:
A 3 mile walk that can be cut back to one or two miles.
A bonus 500 step walk.
Suggested recipes which she prepares on camera so you can see how quick and easy it is to eat well.
Enclosed booklet with meal plan

This workout dvd is about par for the course.  Leslie Sansone takes you through the usual paces with a few variations.  A grapevine, a heel down, and a few other modifications to her traditional four basic moves.  This walk does not have a countdown timer so you have to rely on when she announces the mile marks.  However, a half-mile mark does come up during the walk so you’ll know when you’ve reached 1.5 and 2.5 miles.  She manages to be her usual chatty self and talks a little about excuses all the while motivating and encouraging the viewer to keep moving. 

This dvd originally came as part of a kit that would include a pedometer.  If you do not have a pedometer you can still use this dvd and benefit from the workout.  And the meals in the booklet are very simple, easy to make. You’ll even read Sansone’s perky comments about what she loves now and even what meal she loved as a kid.  Her enthusiasm is so infectious.  I often find perky exercise people annoying because I don’t share their enthusiasm.  But I never get annoyed when walking along with Sansone, whether she has other people behind her or she’s there on the screen talking to me and me alone.  I definitely enjoyed this workout. 

These dvds were a gift and a much appreciated one.  
I cannot thank the generous person  enough but I'm trying.  
I truly am!

Friday, April 05, 2013

Birthday Blog Post is Coming

I know you are probably expecting me to write about my birthday.  And I shall.  But first I have to tell you a story from 2000, when Rob and I were dating and he decided to go out and buy me a book. After all, anyone who knows me knows I am a bibliophile.  He figured he could find a book I hadn’t read and, because I was talking about reading books only by women in 2001, he even wanted to find one by a woman.

He did.

He bought me Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  Now, seriously, only Rob could have been so stuck under a rock somewhere that he had  not heard of the Harry Potter books.  But he hadn’t.  So oblivious was he that he didn’t realize he was buying me the fourth in a series of books.  All he knew is that he was buying me the thickest book by a woman he could find.  (Boy oh boy am I glad he didn’t find a book by Jean Auel or Ayn Rand!  But I digress.)

As a result of his ignorance and generosity, I ended up having to buy myself the first three books.  And then came the frustration.  You see, once upon a time, back when I was a teenager, I read a trilogy of books by Stephen R Donaldson.  They were great.  I loved them.  So you can imagine how thrilled I was to learn that there would be a second trilogy.  I immediately bought the first book in the trilogy when it was published.  Unfortunately, unlike the first trilogy, the second trilogy was one continuous story and so the ending of the first book was a cliff-hanger.  It drove me nuts, waiting for that second book to come out and then to repeat the whole process for the third book.

(If you don't understand what I mean and you have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the former trilogy could stand alone, as does The Hobbit while TLotR is really one single ongoing story.  Likewise, The Hunger Games can and does stand alone but Catching Fire clearly has a cliff-hanger ending that leads immediately into Mockingjay.)

Way back then I swore I would never ever put myself through that again.

Then came Rob with Harry Potter and I suffered years of agony waiting for that seventh book, snatching up book 5 and 6 as soon as they were released.  (Yes, I went to the midnight releases for these things, pre-ordering them from my local bookstore.)

But this is why I started the Wheel of Time books and stopped reading them.  Not because I wasn’t enjoying them because I really was.  No. I simply found I was reading them too fast or they were not being published fast enough.  Either way, I figured the best thing to do was to stop myself before I read any further.  I’m probably going to start rereading them soon, when I have more free time to read.  

All of this is leading up to what Rob did to me yesterday on my birthday because there was this box sitting on the kitchen table when I came out of my office to take a shower.  I opened it and there they were . . .  books 1 through 4 of The Song of Ice and Fire series by George R R MartinDidn’t I just blog about how I was going to resist the urge to read thefourth book?  Do you know how much harder that will be now that I have a copy of my very own that I can read whenever I please?  How could he do this to me?

And it gets worse because, as many of you probably know, the series is still being written and published.  So far only five of the books have been published and the sixth (out of seven) is being written.  Which is why I stood there so excited, literally caressing the boxed set of books and looked at him, demanding to know, “How could you do this to me again?” 

“I didn’t do it again. See? I gave you books 1, 2, 3, and 4.  Not just the fourth book.  You don't have to buy the first three books.  I already gave them to you.  This is nothing like Harry Potter.”

I exploded in laughter and told him I love him and I even managed to stop fondling the books long enough to give him a kiss and hug.

The bastard.  He can be such an imp at times.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

They Say It's My Birthday

Today I turn 51 years old!
I’ve been studying.

Now one of the first rules of writing is to write about what you know.  You know what I know? I know that I don’t want to write about my studying.  And when you have a blog, you can either write about other things, give your opinion on matters that are of no concern to you (like criticize the actions of celebrities) or you can write about your life.

Unless of course your life is made up of incredibly boring details like did you know that there’s a bacteria that lives on your skin and thrives on your sweat?  I mean, seriously, unless you’re going to become an expert on the integumentary system, do you really want to know this stuff and/or have me blog about it?

I could tell you more things that will have you running to take a shower.  But that sort of defeats the whole blogging purpose, doesn’t it?  (Unless of course you’re in the habit of reading my blog while taking a shower.  In that case, have at it.)  All of this, however, explains why I haven’t been blogging because most of what I would say is stuff like this:
  • I read and reviewed a chapter in my book yesterday.
  • I had hoped to read through more today but a friend called and needed a shoulder to cry on so I made her needs a priority over my wants.
  • I would have read more today but Rob woke up late and we exercised late which sort of upset the whole rhythm of my day.
  • When will I ever feel like I understand this material enough to pass the exam?
  • I really hope all of this work results in my getting a job because I miss having an income.

One of the other rules of writing is to write what you would want to read and, frankly, if I don’t find something interesting enough to put it into words then I can’t imagine why anyone would want to read it.  Can you?  Of course not.   Hence the silence.  

It’s April.  And today is my birthday.  And yes, my life is pretty boring but I think I can find something interesting to say every now and again.  I mean, I’m reading books more slowly (because most of my reading time is spent studying) but I can write about the books I’m reading, right?  Maybe I can even say something about what Rob and I are watching on television.  (Wanna hear what we think of Game of Thrones?  How about Nurse JackieWalking Dead just finished a season and we watch that show together too.)

Okay.  I never could get into writing about television shows although I swear I’ve tried.  The thing is, I simply got out of the habit of writing here regularly and the end result is that I am now trying to get back in the habit.  You’ve already seen evidence or this in my posting for four days in a row. (At least I hope you've noticed.  Boy, am I going to feel silly for saying you have when you might not have.  Good thing I'm way over here living in my blissful ignorance.)  Four days in a row is a good start.

I won’t be able to keep this up for too much longer because . . . well, reasons.  (That’s what my daughter says when I ask her why about things.  Me:  Why?  She:  Reasons.)  But with a new season and a new year and all the new things happening right now, now is a good time to make some positive changes.

Truth is, there are things happening all around me and I can either choose to write about them or sink into my studies.  And in case you haven't noticed, my studies are pretty boring, so I really really want to get this habit re-established.  I hope you want me to too.

Happy Birthday From Bigelow Tea

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Went and Cut It All Off

Between the plumber being here all day (and interrupting my 3 mile walk, thank you very much!) and not having any water, it is a miracle I accomplished anything yesterday.  Actually, I only accomplished one significant thing and that was to get my waist long hair cut off. 

Yep.  The other day Mary and I went out to lunch and she mentioned she had a friend who was working on getting certified and he needed to do some particular haircuts.  One seemed to be a good fit for me and my features and I haven’t had my hair cut in ages.  I contacted him and he contacted me and yesterday at 5pm I was at Toni & Guy’s to get my hair done.

The haircut took over 3 hours because the stylist had to make frequent stops to have the manager check to ensure that he was not making any mistakes.   This explains why it took so long.  I will say that hearing the trainer telling the trainee that he had gone too short was a bit nerve wracking.  I mean, when you’re getting a short haircut, there isn’t a lot of forgiveness and if you start off too short . . . but I just reminded myself that hair grows and too short will be long enough in a few weeks so does it really matter, in the scheme of things?

Before he started cutting, more than one of the employees commented on how short I was going.  After all, my hair was down to my waist but I’ve had short cuts before and was not the least bit concerned.  I told them I was fine and there would be no remorse.  As they began cutting it all off, binding and bagging it so I could take it home, they also decided not to do the layering, saying it wouldn’t do anything to enhance the overall appearance of the style. 

When I came out of the salon, Rob’s first words:  You look great.  No wonder I love this man!  We were out so late, I was exhausted by the time we made it home, but we made it home to two highly excited and hungry dogs.  This is the exhausted picture I took of myself in profile.  

The funny thing is that I’m still not used to not having really long hair so when I pull a shirt over my head, I reach up to lift my hair out from my shirt even though I obviously don’t have to do this.  It’s going to take me a few days to get back into the habit of having shorter hair.  But I’m glad I went as short as I did because I am able to send my hair to Locks of Love.

And here I am, the morning after getting my haircut, and still quite happy with what I have. 

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

How This Middle-Aged Woman Works Out

In January, Rob and I began exercising fairly regularly.  It took a few weeks for us to get into a rhythm but, once we got going, it fell into a part of our routine.  M-W-F we do strength training and some cardio; T-Th-Sa we do cardio.

That’s the core of the plan, anyway.

My day begins earlier than Rob’s (by choice) and I do a morning yoga practice almost every day.  The morning yoga is the foundation for my day and I love it when my body surprises me by letting me do virabhadra.  It happens so rarely, it will probably remain a surprise for the rest of my life.  LOL!  And there are days when utthita trikonasana is difficult. 

But every morning I have this opportunity to pause, to reconnect with my body, and to really listen to what it has to say to me today.  It is amazing how each and every day it is a little different.

Later, when Rob is awake, whether he is working or not, there is P90.  Now, for those of you who have watched the P90X commercials, you know something about the person who created this particular dvd but this one is a milder version.  The workout is only about 30 minutes long.  It’s actually the exercise plan recommended as a starting point for those who hope to “graduate” to the far more difficult P90X.  On days when Rob is working, I am on my own with the dvds.  And when we started, I was using 3 and 5 lbs weights.  Now I look forward to the days when Rob is working so I can grab his 8 lbs weight.  There are even a couple of moves where I can use the 12 lbs weights.  Shhhh . . . don’t tell Rob.  That’ll be our little secret.

The thing is, I see progress in the weights I am using which is a good thing because I sure don’t see it anywhere else.  Since the beginning of the year, I’ve gained weight.  I had been doing Body by You by Mark Lauren consistently but I didn’t feel it was very challenging.  If you have not done a lot (or any) strength training in a while, you may want to look into his programs because you can easily do the four simple exercises in a few minutes a day and be done.   Although I didn’t find it very challenging, it did keep me consistent while Rob and I were still trying to work on being mutually consistent.  Once Rob and I were working out regularly together, I honestly didn’t think that this book added any real benefit to what I was already doing. 

That was back in February, towards the end of the month.

On most days, I would also do some extra cardio.  Yes, even on the days when Rob and I were supposed to do the cardio dvd in the P90 program, I would do something else.  I would use the bike or do a walking dvd.  Erin actually bought a Leslie Sansone dvd set and let me borrow it.  I’ll be writing more about it sometime soon.  I am into the second week of this 21 day dvd set and it’s about what you would expect from any of the Walk at Home series—simple, uncomplicated, and easy to use.  Sometimes, Rob and I go for a walk around the neighborhood.   On Saturdays, I walk with Kanika on the nearby trail. 

That’s practically daily.  I think there is a day or two each month where I do not do anything but my morning yoga, and there is a day a week when I replace the cardio dvd on P90 with either a longer walking dvd or the bike.  The truth is, some of the stuff on the dvd is terribly challenging for my balance (kicking, for instance) and I would rather walk or bike for 45 minutes than bobble through 30 minutes of the other.  Plus, let’s face it, 45 mins and 10 miles later, I can read more than a few pages in a book as well which feels like a bonus given that exercising is supposed to be a reward in and of itself.  And I can't read a book while following along with the P90 dvd.

So add this up.  I do about 45 minutes of yoga daily.  With or without Rob I do about 30 minutes of P90 4-5 days a week.  Almost every day I do an additional 30-45 minutes of either walking or bicycling 6 days a week.  At least I can say that has been my exercise routine since about mid-February.  It took a while to get into a rhythm and build it into something that works.  Now that it is all in place . . . well, after three months of exercising one would hope to see results.  I have.  Just not the results I was working so very hard to achieve. 

And still I press on.  Today, due to anticipated disruptions and having to shower in someone else’s home, I’ll be cutting back to only a 3 mile cardio workout and the P90 abs routine.  Only an hour of exercise today because I don’t want to have an interrupted morning yoga practice.  Between Rob’s dental appointment and our knowing the plumber will be here but not knowing when, I am just going to do what I can do and shrug off the rest.  And in my world, saying I’m only going to do an hour of exercise is taking it easy.  Ha!

Monday, April 01, 2013

You Can Feel It In the Air--Spring

March was a month of plumbing woes. 

The plumbing problems, which have continued full force and with a vengeance into April, had a domino effect on everything else.  The entire month was one of playing catch-up.  Interrupted studying, writing, cleaning, etc.  A flood here.  The plumber arriving there.  The weather complicating an already complicated situation.  It just would not stop.

I did.  I stopped often. Stopped trying to do things because as soon as I would start, something would stop or something would become stopped up, and I had no choice but to laugh it off and try to reboot with new intentions. 

Is it just me or is life easier when you can get a rhythm and build momentum? 

Two steps forward and one step back or a feeling of constantly running in place set the tone for much of March.  

Today begins a new month and it feels like Spring has finally taken hold.  As I type this, I await some photographs that I plan on sharing.  Tomorrow some things are happening that will bring more excuses for more photographs. 

It’s going to be a busy month, one in which I try to make up for the counter-productive month of March.  And it all begins here, with this post.