You still can…

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I spoke to a very charming and gracious woman who, over the course of our call, revealed that she had been playing piano and organ for many years. This was ever since she played for her first wedding, 64 years ago.

While I completed her order, we talked about music… I confided that I’d always wanted to learn an instrument and she said “you sound young, you always can.” I suppose I am. At 35 I don’t feel young anymore. But she ought to know… we spoke of bagpipes and their beauty, and how we’d both wanted to learn them at one point. As I closed the call I thought about what she said.  The book isn’t closed.

You are still young.

You still can.

What skill have you always wanted to learn?

Spirit of St Louis – Chalk drawing

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Here’s a chalk drawing I did of the Spirit of St Louis at night.  The original is very monochrome but I love how the blues came out in the photo.

I’m not one to make Charles Lindbergh into a villain, or an anti-Semite, or anything else he was not.  He was a very intelligent, innovative, multifaceted person who was woefully oversimplified by the media.

This drawing was done on black mattboard with square hard chalks and a little white acrylic paint pen.  Mattboard, by the way, especially the deep black stuff, makes a great surface for chalks.  I was thinking about this quote from his autobiography about the first Atlantic crossing:

 

By day, or on a cloudless night, a pilot may drink the wine of the gods, but it has an earthly taste; he’s a god of the earth, like one of the Grecian deities who lives on worldly mountains and descended for intercourse with men. But at night, over a stratus layer, all sense of the planet may disappear. You know that down below, beneath that heavenly blanket is the earth, factual and hard. But it’s an intellectual knowledge; it’s a knowledge tucked away in the mind; not a feeling that penetrates the body. And if at times you renounce experience and mind’s heavy logic, it seems that the world has rushed along on its orbit, leaving you alone flying above a forgotten cloud bank, somewhere in the solitude of interstellar space.

– Charles Lindbergh, The Spirit of St Louis, 1953

Exercising with a Cat

 

Those pretty exercise videos and slideshows didn’t prepare me for exercising with a cat in the house.  She really wants to be an integral part of my workout routine, often getting in my way at critical moments. I call it ‘agility training.’

Sometimes she joins in by doing yoga, but usually she’s winding around my feet, mostly wanting to be between me and my exercise bands, me and the wall, me and my weights

Someone needs to write a special guide to exercises for people with cats, so I’ll start.  Here are two of my favorites:

Bridge:

Find a clear place on the floor where the cat is not currently sleeping.

Lie down on your back by putting your arms by your sides.

Now bend your knees and raise your hips while maintain your back straight and keeping your feet on the floor. Let the hips be in a straight line with your shoulders and knees.

Hold it there for 30 seconds or until cat walks under your back.

Gently lower your hips back to the initial position.

Kettlebell deadlift:

Wait till the cat is otherwise occupied with catnip, mouse, or nap.

Stand with feet shoulder width apart, toes slightly turned out.

Bell should be placed between your feet or slightly behind ankles, not near cat.

Inhale through your nose, reach around the cat for the bell.

Keep a neutral spine with eyes on the horizon.

Press through floor and stand up.

Watch for cat before setting bell down again…

Don’t lose weight! Win Health!

I’m working on a weight loss program, based on a bunch of research, and it has me thinking.

I think sometimes our inner selves are freaked out by all the ‘loss words.’ Like “lose weight,” “drop pounds,” “lose fat,” etc. With all that losing, might it want to hold on to what it has? Focusing on loss might just sabotage our efforts.

I’ve heard it said that your inner self never hears negative modifiers, so you say ‘I’m not going to eat ice cream,” it thinks “I’m going to eat ice cream,” for example. I don’t know how true that is but I’ve been playing with the idea as a way of reframing my weight loss journey to be more positive.

For example, instead of focusing on losing weight, it might be helpful to think about how you are growing stronger. Instead of thinking about all the cookies you can’t have, you could think about how much better your body feels eating fresh fruit.

It’s so easy to be discouraged when the scale isn’t moving. But there are so many little wins you can focus on, when it comes to becoming healthier. There’s reduced pain, increased flexibility, increased strength, clothes fitting better, the nutrient rush from a healthy meal, the sense of accomplishment from taking care of yourself. This fitness journey isn’t about loss, it’s about winning!

How to win at losing weight

If you want to lose weight and gain health, there are three basic secrets to improve your mindset. Your healthy mindset is your most important ally in this journey. If you lose that, you will most definitely fail.


Set Goals – Know Why You Want It

There are two kinds of goals that are important – a big goal and many small ones. Your big goal is your vision. It’s what keeps you moving. It’s something you need to really, really want, because it is going to remind you of why you are doing all this, at times when you’re low and cravings are kicking your butt. For example, my big goal is that I want to be 150 pounds by age 40. I have 3 years to do it in. I have about 75 pounds to lose. I want to be fit, strong, able to bench a fair amount, and have awesome shoulders and arms. That’s the vision that keeps me going. Maybe your goal is a marathon, or to hike the Appalachian Trail.

Your small goals are critical too, they are the stepping stones that will get you to your big goal. For example, you might say “I will lose two pounds in two weeks.” Or “I will walk around the block without getting out of breath.” Every time you meet a goal, give yourself a pat on the back – that success will help you go farther.


Stay Positive – Focus on the Journey

If you can be mindful of all the little things there are to love about being healthy, and being on this journey, you will be more likely to continue. Even though weight can be slow to come off, there are a million good things that happen between each one pound mark. If you made a really tasty salad, savor every bite. If you feel good after walking, take a moment to enjoy it. If you feel your abs tighten more than usual, or notice a little more strength, celebrate it! Really focus on the good times.

If you learn to appreciate the process and each tiny victory, the lifelong changes you need to make will have a better chance to take hold.

Make it Easy for Yourself

The more convenient you can make your healthy habits, and the more inconvenient you can make your unhealthy ones, the better. So make sure your walking shoes are by the door, make sure you keep junk food out of the house, prepare healthy lunches on the weekend ahead of time, keep vegetables and nuts or whatever you want to use for snacks at hand. Where you can, buy colorful, appealing foods that attract the eye. Find exercise that you really enjoy, or at least that is tolerable. For instance, I like weight lifting so I do that more than I’ll run on a treadmill. Keep reminders of your goal around you, such as pictures of that race you want to run, or that trail you want to hike, or that bike you will buy when you meet your goal.

If you take a moment to make your healthy snacks and healthy activities more convenient, you will be less likely to grab junk food as you hurry to work.

STDs and magical thinking

I have mentioned before that I help out sometimes at advice websites. I’ve noticed something. Some people seem to fixate on STDs and pregnancy almost as if it’s a great “boogeyman” that can defeat the laws of physics. Their concern over the consequences of getting pregnant, or getting a disease (seen by many as about the same thing, by the way) overrides all rationality.

I’ll get questions about HIV, for example, things like “I hugged someone, could I get HIV?” I understand ignorance, but often the questions will come up after they have already been told that HIV is a very delicate virus that doesn’t survive for more than a minute ore two (AT MOST) outside the body, and requires blood to blood contact or sexual fluid to blood contact. Even so, the fear and emotional impact bypasses any kind of logic.

I’ve seen people ask if they could get pregnant if had taken a shower with someone and kissed them in the shower. Sorry! It doesn’t work that way! Though they do know where babies come from, superstition reigns supreme. I’ll keep out of explicit territory of course, but it’s really amazing how many misconceptions I see that persist even after proper education has been given! Instead of thinking of the way things really work, people who are afraid often start thinking symbolically, as if viruses can defeat the laws of physics.

Fear is a powerful emotion but it’s sad when it overcomes people’s reason.

What I learned about health from smokers

My partner was a smoker for decades, and finally quit.  We were discussing the habit the other day, and I had some realizations about smoking itself.  I don’t smoke, but I noticed a few things that non smokers would do well to emulate.

Along with the nicotine and other substances, smokers also get a few other things with each cigarette. In the case of people who work outside the home, they get a few minutes outside, rain or shine.

They also get a few minutes of breathing deeply. And they get a calming ritual that is connected with relief of stress and comfort in their minds. They also are sure to do it every few hours at least, no matter what.

They also often get some social interaction and a sense of solidarity. That can be underrated in this rather disconnected world we live in.

Non smokers could reap the same benefits. At times, I have taken an ‘air break’ where I have just gone outside to see the sky and breathe. Wouldn’t it be good if non smokers always went outside every few hours, breathed deeply, and practiced some small calming ritual?

So many of us are overloaded with stress. Perhaps we could do a few low-key stretches, even a simple back stretch, while we breathe deeply and think about whatever the weather happens to be? This would connect us not only to the outside world, but to our own bodies. And the few extra steps needed to get outside would count toward our daily exercise.

Small bits of meditation peppered throughout the day could have untold benefits. Why not give it a try?