Barbara: The delirious pleasure of a new skill

I’ve been promising to talk about my swimming journey since I started here, and I’m going to do that in a minute, but first a moment of illumination.

Collaroy Pool, Northern Beaches, Sydney by Sacha Fernandez

I can’t even remember when I first started getting in a pool. My father was a big, powerful swimmer and loved taking us to the local pools. I took swimming lessons at the Y when I was about five, I guess, but even then, I didn’t like to put my face in the water. When I was about seven or eight, I dove in a pool, cracked my head on the bottom and passed out.  My dad was watching and snatched me up before I drowned (no doubt the lifeguard would have done so in any event), but it scared the living daylights out of me.  Nothing could persuade me to put my face in the water again.

In tenth grade in Colorado, children are required to learn to swim. I dutifully learned every stroke—back, side, breast—but they couldn’t get me to breathe in the water for freestyle. No way.

Thus it remained for decades. I loved swimming, with my kids, on my own. I’m a strong swimmer, too, thanks to all the muscles from gardening.  It’s relaxing and enjoyable and easy.  I can swim back and forth for hours—back, side, breast.

Three years ago, I decided enough was enough. I was going to learn how to swim a proper free-style. I would take lessons and figure it out and practice until I got better, and then, eventually, I would be able to swim a mile without stopping. Even if it took a decade.

I hired a teacher, who was all of seventeen. She could not understand what I meant when I said I didn’t know how to breathe in the water. Continue reading

Barbara: Little things

Fairy Tale Series by

Fairy Tale Series by

Long time, no see!*

Traditionally, we all want to make big sweeping changes in January.  Out with the old, in with the new–so you toss out all the pasta and the cookies and resolve to work out four times a week and walk 500 miles per month.  Anyone who belongs to a gym dreads the January crowds and endures, knowing everything will be back to normal by February at the latest.

One of my spiritual teachers is a Native American healer who advised us to observe nature and follow the wisdom of the natural cycles. In winter, the daylight hours are short, which means we should be sleeping more, resting more, storing up energy for the coming spring.  Because of that natural cycle, it’s quite difficult to actually make big sweeping changes in January.  We want to rest, and we should rest.

This was never an easy thing for me to hear.  I’m a resolutions kind of gal–make plans, set goals, work hard, that’s me. I like having lists and goals and direction. But I do believe in the wisdom of nature. I do believe in the wisdom of the body and the cycles of the year, and I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how to make small, easy changes.  Here are a few I’ve come up with for myself.

1. Sleep more, just until spring. I’m going to aim for a whopping ten hours, because I’ve noticed that my joints feel better, my skin looks clearer, and I’m much more productive when I actually sleep that much. It’s a lot, I know. In America, that’s kind of a lazy amount of sleeping, but I don’t care. My body likes it. In truth, I probably only sleep around 8 1/2 to 9, because I take a book to bed with me and read for a long time before I sleep.

2. Swim more.  I keep saying I’m going to blog about my experiences with swimming and haven’t done it. This is another teaser. I like swimming and it has given Christopher Robin impressive muscles in his chest and shoulders. It doesn’t hurt my knees and feet. It makes me sleep like a lazy log. More swimming. Eventually, someday, I’d like to be able to swim a leisurely mile without stopping.

3. Be consistent with my little changes.  Consistency was a word that showed up for me at the end of last year, and it’s been helpful.  Every long time writer knows that showing up is the real battle, not the actual writing. We learn, early on, to show up and write even when it’s not exactly the thing we’d choose to do right that minute. Same thing with good habits. I might not want to haul myself out in the wind to walk the dog, but I’ve promised myself to be consistent, so I do.

4. Do more of the things I love. We went snowshoeing in Breckenridge last week and I had one of the best days I’ve had in ages (even though I was coughing through my scarf much of the time). I love hiking and snowshoeing and I haven’t been doing enough of them. I’m going to add in a really good hike or snowshoeing day at least once a month, more when summer comes.

5. Be loving toward my tender, lovely body. Feed it as if it were my toddler grandchild–good food, healthy food, nourishing food, and a few little treats. I sometimes give up wine and beer for January or February, and I’m doing that this month.  Clean eating and drinking.

That’s it for my resolves for this month.  This year, I’m trying something new by taking the seasons one at a time, seeing how it goes, listening, and making the next ones.

Can you come up with a few minor things to try this month? Maybe adding something like sleep or some new sweet habit that makes you feel happy? 

*Sorry to be so absent. I was knocked absolutely sideways by a flu that has been very hard to kick, followed by the Christmas joy/madness. Just now getting back on my feet. Promise to be here every other week for the coming season.

Barbara: Taking Care

I finally managed to log 10,000 steps today—the first time in almost a week.  It’s been frigidly cold and icy, which means two things: I have not been walking my IMG_5979darling dog at all. He’s had two major knee surgeries, and I can slip on stakes for my shoes, but he doesn’t understand that ice can make you fall down.

Plus, eh, it was windy. Bitter wind, down to 12 degrees….icy roads and walks. No.

I also haven’t been out much, since I chose to buy a Mini instead of something sensible last year.  How often do I need it? How often do I love my Mini? (All the freaking time, every minute I’m in it, and sometimes when I just catch a glimpse of somebody else’s Mini.)  We got out to tai chi Saturday (and yes, Mary Stella, it’s Taoist) which felt great, and I paddled around in the water while Christopher Robin swam laps the other day.

Here’s the thing: my knees were not hurting this morning. That’s quite a surprise. Have I had it wrong all this time? Is all the exercise hurting me, not helping?  After I walked, my hips and knees were both bugging me, but it was also a lot of snow, which is uneven, and the odd bit of ice, so I was careful and tense.

I don’t know. I’ve decided to go with super easy exercise, daily, for awhile and see how that feels. Still aiming for my 10K steps (I’ve been averaging about 4K) per day, but only swimming, walking, tai chi for maybe a month.  Just to see….

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  What are your plans for feasting, enjoying, but also taking care of yourself?  I give myself the pleasure of really feasting on the day, though it’s better than it used to be because I don’t eat any of the meat products and that means a lot less fat by the end of the day.  I do love pie, and asked my sister to bring pecan. But I’ll get a walk in early in the day, and on Friday, I’ll get to the gym for a swim or something.  We’ll eat oatmeal for breakfast every day to limit fats & sugars, and I’ll probably make of a pot lentil soup with veggies to have for lunches. Since I am vegetarian and my son (who is staying for 5 days) is a vegan, we don’t have the turkey leftovers, so I can get back to “normal” eating fairly quickly.  (I will say, however, that of all meat things, I miss roast turkey the most.  Both on the day and the turkey sandwiches the next couple of days.  My mouth is watering, just thinking of it….)

What’s up with you? What’s your plan for Thanksgiving?  I’m so grateful to know you all, to share this space with you….big hugs all around. 

Move It Wednesdays, Barbara: Listening to the BODY, not the mind

photo-81Two weeks ago on Saturday, I was really in the mood to blow off some stress with hard physical exercise. It was a long work week. We walked the dog a couple of miles, as is our Saturday morning habit.  We had plans to attend an introduction to Tai Chi in the afternoon, but that would be mellow and a little behind on my step count, so I went to Zumba.  It was a great, great class.  My favorite teacher.  A vigorous routine. And in the end, as a cool down song, we danced to Royals, my current favorite song (song of the book for Book 2 in my NA series), using a lot of Nia* steps, though I was probably the only one in the class who knew it and knows that the teacher used to be a Nia teacher at the Y.  I was sweaty and happy at the end, although I’d sort of ignored my knees a bit and had a feeling I’d pay.  My spirit soared, my mind was calm.

Within an hour, my knees said, “What the eff?” I sat in my favorite chair and iced them, as I often do. It usually calms them down. Continue reading

Barbara: Consistency, how’s it going on your wellness front(s)?  Some of you have friended me on FitBit and I think maybe a couple of others might have asked but I didn’t know who you were.  If so, send me an email to that same address and I’ll friend you.

I’m feeling happy about this little tool.  I’ve been slowly adding more steps to the weekly total, though not always every day is up there. I’m still clocking in around 9K per day, average, which is great, but I’d like to crack ten most days.  All that means is that I’m showing up for that dog walk every day, day in and day out.  I do the whole walk every day, too, instead of sometimes taking the short cut.  It adds up.  The other day I went to Zumba and got a hella lot of steps for the class (over 6K!).  FitBit is helping increase my consistency.

It also means I’m not beating myself for not being all things to all people and following Every Single Rule Exactly Right.   Continue reading

Barbara: How to change–clone the good


Let’s get back to our exercise discussion. A couple of days ago, I read an article about creating positive change that was very wise.  How to Change When Change is Hard.   It’s an excellent article all the way through, citing some intriguing examples.

Find a bright spot and clone it.

That’s the first step to fixing everything from addiction to corporate malaise to malnutrition. A problem may look hopelessly complex. But there’s a game plan that can yield movement on even the toughest issues. And it starts with locating a bright spot — a ray of hope.

How does this apply to exercise? We all know we need more of it.  It seems hard. It seems like a lot of trouble–and frankly, it sometimes is.  If you want to get to a class, you have to plan ahead, carve out time, have clothes ready, maybe special equipment. If you swim, you need to know the hours of the pool or when there are lap lanes available, or you need to get to the lake or the ocean.  With a swimming suit, preferably. I have to have goggles to swim.  If I hike, I need my good shoes and a Camelback and heavy-duty sunglasses, and a companion.
So, yeah, time and planning, when life seems complicated and overwhelming enough as it is, right?  Instead, maybe we need to look for bright spots in our exercise routines. What has worked for even a minute? What is something that makes you feel good? What seems like it might be a bright spot?
What might be a way you are exercising that doesn’t feel hard or overwhelming?
I was thinking about Jenny’s house rennovations. That’s a lot of exercise. Bending, twisting, carrying moving from one end of the room or house to the other, hammering, painting, sawing. It’s a great workout!
Lately, I haven’t been exercising as much as I usually do.  I’ve had a very full schedule and I really need to finish the book rushing through me before I leave on a trip to the UK in eight days. I’m feeling anxious about that “lack of exercise” because it’s my magic bullet in terms of eating what I want. If I don’t exercise, I have to cut calories, and I HATE cutting calories.
What are my brights spots? I like to walk in the morning with my dog. We do this six days a week.  It’s pleasant if not particularly aerobic. It gets my brain into gear.   If I cloned that, what would it look like?
Maybe once or twice a week, I could walk by myself in the evening. I used to do that quite a bit. There are some gorgeous places to walk around here. Garden of the Gods, anyone?  I could even walk around my own neighborhood in the evenings, at least until the time change. I love doing that! Love walking alone, with my thoughts.  Sometimes, I used to walk for ten miles on a trail that runs along the Front Range, with my music and my Camelback.  Yes, that would be a good clone.
Another bright spot: I love my trainer.  But I don’t want to pay him for 2 sessions a week.  Too expensive.  I could work out with weights on my own….but the truth is, I won’t. I don’t find it enjoyable enough without the company of another person.
Bright spot #3–Zumba.  I never liked aerobics classes. They made me feel uncoordinated and strange, but I really really really love dancing, and Zumba is an absolute blast. I go on Saturday mornings.  They have about 20 other classes each week.  I bet I could find one more that would suit me.  Yes, that would be a good clone, too.
What are some of your bright spots? What might you do to clone them to get more exercise into your week?