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Fitness

With Deepest Sympathy

“Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.”–Thomas Aquinas

Approximately 8-10 times a day, a young man who has barely cleared puberty sings sweetly to me these words:  “Is it too late now to say ‘sorry?’  ‘Cause I know-oh-oh that I let you down.  Is it too late to say ‘sorry’ now?”

Oh, Beibs.  It’s too late for a lot of things, but saying “sorry” is not one of them.  In fact, the constant presence of your question in my car makes me realize how many people in my circle deserve an apology from me for some transgression.  So, taking a cue from Jimmy Fallon’s hilarious Thank You notes (Sorry I’m lifting your idea, Jimmy.  Please sue me so we can meet.) and my natural inclination to say “Sorry” to everyone for everything (sorry, feminists, for reinforcing the terrible habit of women everywhere to apologize for existing) I’ve put together a few heartfelt condolence messages to those people for whom I have sympathy.

I find it so uncomfortable when a person has to get up in front of a lot of other people to try to garner enthusiasm and participation and it just falls flat.  It’s really hard to work a tough crowd, and so my condolences are extended to Group Fitness Instructors.

richard simmons

Dear Group Fitness Instructor,
In times like these I find it difficult to express my condolences in a meaningful phrase. And, actually, during your class, I find it difficult to express much of anything besides the desire to make it through the next 45 minutes of my life without passing out. Please know that I have the utmost admiration for your enthusiasm surrounding getting us all fit and, in other circumstances, I would probably laugh heartily at your jokes and may even take the opportunity during this awesome song to “get funky.” Especially if it were a little darker in here and vodka was involved. But at the moment, I’m having a hard time forgetting the fact that my legs are about to give out and I can’t keep straight all the instructions regarding when I should breathe in and when I should breathe out and how my shoulder blades should be pinched, and keeping my knees over my heels to be able to also give you an enthusiastic “HUH!” on that kick. You’re a good person, you’re good at what you do, and I’m sure it must be very hard to cast your optimism on such an unresponsive crowd. All I can do is be here for you every Tuesday and Thursday at 9:30. It is my sincere prayer that during this difficult time you can find comfort and peace in your flat abs and perfectly sculpted arms.

Sorrowfully yours,

Sweaty, Red-faced Lady in the Back Right Corner

Oh, teachers.  What would we do without you?  So many things for which I’d like to thank and offer condolences.  You all get a virtual flower arrangement from me.  

Dear Teacher of My Child,
The hurt you are feeling by making the decision to give out your personal cell phone number to the class may seem incurable.  And you are probably right.  But each week, each month, each year, the hurt will fade.  And then, one day, you will look up and remember, perhaps with fondness, that time I called you while you were out to dinner with friends to ask the very important question of whether a pond is a body of water or a land formation. The sharing of your cell phone number was a great help to my family at a time when Google failed us. And your succinct answer, given after your realization that this call was indeed happening resulted in making my daughter very happy to know something that her mother did not. I assure you, she has never forgotten it. Not a single detail of it. We relive it often. Please know our thoughts and prayers are with you.  You will move past this, you will be happy again and one day you will look back at all the calls you received and realize how many people cared for you and the crazy ass random facts kids these days are tested on in school.

Call me anytime (you’re in my phone, so I may or may not answer.  Just leave a message and I’ll get back to you, maybe.  Actually it would be better if you text, you know how it is with kids and all that.),

THAT mom

As long as it’s hair TRIMMING, and not hair REMOVAL, a visit to the salon is my most favorite thing ever.  But I can only imagine the despair people in the beauty business experience when faced with the lump of clay that believes the right defrizzing cream can turn them into a gorgeous vase filled with beautiful flowers.  I’m making you a casserole for your freezer as soon as I can.  

julia in the beauty chair

Dear Sweet Hairdresser,
I am so sorry you are having to go through such a horrible ordeal.  I wish there was some magic spell I could do to relieve you of the pain you must feel every time I come to your salon clutching a picture of  Carrie Underwood, Kelly Ripa, or “that cute girl on that show?  You know the one?  The one with that cute haircut!  You know who I mean.”.  Whenever, however, with whoever you feel most comfortable with, talk, cry and allow yourself to grieve that Pinterest was invented and people like me think that all you need is inspiration from my smartphone to turn me into a supermodel.  My condolences on this hard day that is upon us, a time we have to say goodbye to dreams of hair the good Lord did not see fit to give to me to have and for you to work with.  Please know that I know you are doing the best you can, and your efforts are appreciated.  How you find so many kind ways to say, “You are not Jennifer Aniston and I am not Chris McMillan” is truly an amazement.  Your gentle words of encouragement every 6 weeks are uplifting to me and I am sure many others, and I can only hope to return the favor in some small way.

Thoughts and prayers to you,
Hausfrau Who Should Probably Just Get a Wig and Be Done with It

 

Well, since I’m all out of virtual stationery at the moment, let’s go ahead and wrap this up.  I offer my sincerest condolences to any of you dear readers who have to put up with situations like these in your every day lives.  Just know that I’m here for you and call me if you need ANYTHING.  As long as it’s not super labor-intensive or terribly inconvenient for me, I’ll be somewhat content to help you get through this.  Good talk.

 

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Marathons are the New Mid-Life Crisis

“Adam and Eve had their midlife crisis when they realized they were older than sin.”
–Jonathan Edward Caldwell (and your new corny joke for the day)

Black balloons.  Signs printed with “Over the Hill!”  An outdated picture of yourself in the newspaper with the caption, “Lordy, Lordy, look who’s 40!!”  This is the way our parents passed the 40th birthday milestone.  Just a few decades ago, turning 40 meant it was time to pack it all in, let the gray show and wait for the grandbabies.

No more, friends.  Now, 40 is FABULOUS and more of a reason than ever to fight back against aging.  Even the mid-life crisis has undergone a facelift.  Maybe it’s because we’re all in denial that 40 could actually be the middle of our lives?  But, as Karen Carpenter sang, “we’ve only just beguuuuuuun…to LIVE!”  How else to explain that the former idea of a mid-life crisis: a man buying a ridiculous sports car and taking up with a woman half his age, has been replaced with something entirely opposite:  extreme fitness.  Also important to note: it wasn’t that long ago that women simply weren’t allowed the luxury of a mid-life crisis.  Ladies just had to down a Prozac and a martini and push past it.  I guess some things never go out of fashion.

Karenwalker

Isn’t it just so ironic?  So many of us spent our 20’s, the physical prime of our lives, systematically destroying our bodies with beer and pizza and late nights and bad decisions.  And now that things are starting to fall apart, we expect our bodies to rise up and give the performance of a lifetime.  It only took us half a lifetime to realize that all that talk about vegetables and daily exercise was actually really good advice.

But for some people, the pendulum has swung WAY over to the other side.  It’s not enough to just add daily exercise and healthy eating into the mix.  Extreme fitness is becoming the new addiction for the nearing- and crossing-40 set.  So, why are so many people trading their Porsches for protein shakes?  What about all the training for months on end to go to a perfectly lovely vacation spot for the sole purpose of running?  ALL DAY?  Why are soccer moms hefting tractor tires across an abandoned warehouse when they should be planning their next spa trip to Arizona?

I’ve taken a very scientific poll of exactly myself, and here are the answers to these burning questions:

1.  Bob from Accounting is a schmuck.
But you know what?  He’s also got an IronMan tattoo on his calf and all these different numbered stickers on the back of his car.  WHA???  Bob did an IronMan??  But he’s such a schmuck!  And this gets you to thinking…  If Bob the Schmuck is an IronMan, I can surely run a marathon, right?  Right.  And so now you’re dropping $15K to take your family to Disney for a week and wearing mouse ears while you run ALL DAY.

Who’s the schmuck now?

2.  You’re trying to cheat death.
Your body is hard wired to run from the Grim Reaper.  If we were cavemen, we would be dead and forgotten by now.  Further proof?  The Western Expansion was not that long ago.  How many 40 year olds do you think made it on the Oregon Trail?  (Umm, by the way, did you know that there’s an Oregon Trail App?  Careful…a “Wagon of Cash” is $49.99; no word yet on how much the cure for dysentery costs.)  It was nothing in those days for your heartless, pragmatic grandkids to leave your ass on the trail because you’re slowing them down.  Really, it only makes sense to train your body to be able to run all day, or carry wagon wheels (tractor tires).  Those are skills that may have saved your life (if only to later die from dysentery).

 Both these women are 32 years old.  Florence Thompson is on the left, in a photo taken in 1930.  Kate Moss is on the right, sometime in the mid-90’s.  The times, they are a-changing, (but denim is always a good choice).

 

3.  You’re Cheating on Your Spouse.
Stop me if you’re heard this one before.  Woman gets married and has a few kids.  Woman decides it’s time to get her life and body back on track.  Woman goes to gym and gets a trainer.  A young, male, fit trainer.  Woman and young, male, fit trainer are found in a very compromising position in the sauna.  Hey, it only becomes a cliché when it happens over and over.

4.  You’re NOT Cheating on Your Spouse.
But you don’t want to go home.  It’s the end of a long, hard day at work, but there’s still plenty of long, hard day left at home.  How can you get out of going back there and having to pitch in during the “witching hour?”  Wait!  What if you had to do something that’s on your “bucket list,” something that’s healthy, self-affirming and life-changing and makes you a better person overall?  No one could argue with that, right?

Stay-at-home parents and caregivers, take heart.  Your care partners recognize how hard your day is and they’d rather run until their feet bleed or throw heavy ropes around until they throw up than come home and do your job.  Carry on, warrior.

5.  You’re Cheating on Your Diet
Remember that bit about how if you were a caveman you’d be dead by now?  That’s partly because your tribe would have started denying you food about the time you turned 25. Evolution has streamlined your system to run off nothing but bird bones and partially digested nuts and seeds.  Sure, it’s efficient, but it also means that if you take your meals anywhere other than beneath your bird feeder, you’re going to end up with some excess jiggle.  And the jiggle is there to stay.  Incidentally, do you remember what a good friend your metabolism was back in your 20’s?  Kinda makes you wish you hadn’t been such a jerk to it, and maybe it wouldn’t be holding such a grudge.  My friends and I could decide to tone up for Spring Break maybe 3-4 weeks ahead of time.  That’s including 1.5 weeks worth of bitching and moaning about how fat we are, and can we just order a pizza, I promise this is the last one, and I mean, what are carbs anyway, and when are we going to find time to exercise, ok 9:00 pm works for me, and does your card key work at the gym and this is so HARD.  Then we’d do the Cindy Crawford workout video 5 times and we were READY.  Let’s order a pizza to celebrate!  Now, if I just give a somewhat meaningful glance to a Pop Tart, my jeans won’t button.  Ergo, you’re running to eat.  You’re literally running for your life.

6.  You need something to post on Facebook.
Seriously?  Map My Run?  Stop being a schmuck.

7.  It’s Now or Never.
You might be on to something here.  As much as we’re all laughing about our new aches and pains and various deficiencies, that’s just it: we’re laughing.  Soon, it’s not going to be so funny.  If you’ve made it this far, you know that chances to do great things don’t just keep presenting themselves.  (However, chances to do crappy stuff come up all the time.  Why is that?)

This guy wishes he could stop running, but he just really loves wine and Oreos.

old marathoner

Fauja Singh, the world’s oldest marathoner, at 101.

I’m not 40 yet, but it’s so close I can taste it.  I currently have ZERO desire to run a marathon and I only exercise in climate controlled venues (and often while watching TV or reading a book).  But I’ve gone back on so many “I will never, ever” statements that I can’t say that once my odometer turns over that I won’t also get the urge to undertake some extreme fitness.

And if I do, I’m totally getting a sweat turban like Fauja’s.

 

The FitCuff is BullBit…or is it?

“We are all just prisoners here; of our own device.”  The Eagles–Hotel California

One of the more popular gifts for people that want to spend a noticeable amount of money, but don’t know what to buy other people this year has been the fitness tracker.  I don’t know the stats on how many of these babies were gifted, but from the looks of my social media feed, it’s been a trending bauble under the tree.  Congrats on your latest Badge, buddy.

I, myself, entered the world of fitness tracking about two years ago, also the roundabout result of a gift.  I gifted a FitBit to my husband right before we went on a Disney cruise.  I thought it would be interesting to see how much we walked, and possibly prevent us from lounging by the buffet too much.  It served its purpose.  We were so proud of ourselves and how many steps we walked and how ACTIVE we were!  No sedentary vacationers were we!  Heavens, we were probably LOSING weight as we circled the buffet.  Amazing.  The fun continued at home, when my husband wore it to work and saw how many steps he would log.  He’d come home from work, and I would say, “How was your day?”  He’d answer with, “Busy!  I got my 10,000 steps in before lunchtime!”

Oh, so active!

But after a few months, as I predicted it would, the newness wore off and the husband no longer wore the FitBit.  It laid, unused, in our laundry room for a few weeks before I asked him about it. He said he’d had trouble with it charging.  I am not one to let a product that I’ve spent someone else’s hard earned money on go to waste, so I adopted it, figuring I would crush that 10,000 step goal most days.  I mean, I am on my feet all day.  I exercise 5 days a week.  I’m almost always exhausted, even when I first get up in the morning.  Surely I would meet what is considered the minimum fitness requirement as set by…Who?  Who sets this requirement?  I don’t know, but I’m here to tell you that 10,000 steps a day is a lofty goal.  Actually, it’s 5 miles.  And if you think you walk 5 miles a day in your house fetching laundry, you are sadly mistaken.

And thus began an obsession.  If you challenge me to a marathon, I am not the least bit daunted.  I don’t have a dog in that fight, so it doesn’t even phase me that that is a goal I will never reach.  Because I’ll never set that goal.  But put me up to a challenge that supposedly every Joe Blow is supposed to be able to complete, and I will become determined to meet it.

I began tapping that little black bracelet like it was my job.  How close?  How many more steps?  It seemed like many of my regular activities were not counting as “steps,” so I changed my routine to include more walking.  I stopped doing household duties efficiently (putting laundry away ONE PIECE AT A TIME), so I could get more steps in.  Often, in the evening, I’d be close to the goal, but not quite there, so I would do laps around the island in my kitchen.  Conversely, if I didn’t have the FitBit on, I wouldn’t do anything.  If the FitBit wasn’t counting the steps, then they just didn’t count at all.  I was content to sit my happy ass on the couch and wait for the thing to charge so I could get credit.

After a while, I started to get suspicious of the tracker itself.  Once, I went for a walk with a friend.  She got almost 2,000 more steps than I did!   I then started noticing that there were a lot of places I was getting shafted.  For instance, any “walk” under about 15 steps was not counted.  All that time “on my feet” was just being wasted!  The stationery bike?  No steps.  The elliptical?  Maybe half the real steps.  An hour and a half of tennis?  Only 200 steps.  Stairs?  No steps.  Homework with children?  Maximum frustration; ZERO STEPS.  All the things I do that keep me active and supposedly fit, did not count to my FitBit tracker.

And that is some BullBit, people.

Of course, there was always the idea in the back of my mind that maybe I actually do not STEP, but GLIDE, a motion that cannot be detected by such a primitive device.  <eye roll>

So, here I am, with this fitness tracker that I can choose each day whether or not to wear.  A device that, through it’s ingenious “Friends” feature on the App, shows me consistently falling behind my peers, despite the fact that I’m literally HOOFING it.  An unattractive rubber handcuff that I suspect is compromised in the way it works, but is pretty much running my day for me.

What do I do with this?  Throw it out and rely on my own self-worth and knowledge that I exercise more than most and that should be enough to classify myself as “active?”

Of course not.  I say, “Thank you, sir, can I have another?”

And that is how a new FitBit Charge found its way under my tree.  It was a gift from my husband.  Sort of.  The truth is that it was a “gift” that I researched, selected, bought, wrapped, put under the tree and handed to myself so that my husband wouldn’t feel bad when it came time to open presents and Mom had NOTHING.  Which, looking back, that might have backfired.  I mean, anyone paying attention might think that only a man with a death wish would give his wife a fitness tracker for Christmas.  But whatever.  I can’t do all the gifting AND manage the response to the gift.  It’s just too much.  (In his defense, we did state that we wouldn’t give each other gifts this year, so it’s not like he completely dropped the ball.)

I’ve been tracking my steps with the new FitBit for about 3 days now, and I can already confidently say that my old one was a piece of crap.  This new one counts a lot more of my steps (trips to the refrigerator count, YAY!), and it also counts floors I’ve climbed and keeps track of my heart rate at all times.  I find this feature very handy.  I have ready proof of when the kids or the dog are stressing me out (“Y’all need to settle down, my heart rate’s up to 120 and climbing!”).

In the end, I don’t know if we can classify fitness trackers as Good or Bad, but I do think we’ll be seeing a lot more of them.  Just a couple of months ago, at Seester’s wedding, I looked out over the dance floor and saw what I thought must be a rebellious cousin sporting an ankle monitoring device.  Nope, it was just a regular wedding guest, not wanting to ruin her accessories by having the FitBit on her wrist, but also not wanting to miss out on the credit for steps she got during the electric slide.  A FitBit anklet must have seemed like an ingenious solution for her.  And just like I was getting cheated by my old tracker, users are finding ways to beat the system.  One friend confided to me that she’s started drying her hair with larger arm motions, which counts as steps.  Another friend said that sometimes she straps it onto her kid to get credit for their steps.  And remember that earlier question about who decided 10,000 steps was the magic number?  Like most things in life, once the bar is set and reached, it just moves further away.  Someone told me that Jessica Simpson’s trainer says that 10,000 steps is NOT an adequate goal and that really we should all be shooting for 14,000 steps.  Hrmph.

As for me, I’m pleased with the gift (thanks, dear, you did so good; it was just what I wanted), and I’m trying to keep my obsession in check.  It helps that I think it’s a more accurate tracking tool this time around.  The truth is, we all need to move more, and if something like this helps us be more cognizant of how long we stay sitting, then I’m on board!  I’m considering using the food tracker on the app.  But I think it’s a little buggy.  Every time I go to enter cookies, it somehow shows up as carrots.  Maybe an auto-correct issue…

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