Fitness

Game, Set, Match

Can you see my bunny mind working?

Can you see my bunny mind dwelling on this blog?

Yesterday my sister sent me this Bunny Buddhism quote from the back cover the book:

What the bunny mind dwells on, the bunny becomes.

A couple weeks ago, my friend Heather convinced me to sign up for tennis lessons with her. Neither one of us had taken a lesson since middle school. With the end of the kids’ school year approaching, it seemed like if we were going to do something for ourselves the perfect time was dwindling quickly. So we signed up for Beginner Tennis 1.0, relieved that they didn’t name the class Beginner Tennis 0.0. Heather suggested that our motivation to complete the class should be earning a darling tennis skirt for future lessons and impromptu games. I liked that idea because it seems pretentious to show up at a court wearing a tennis skirt when you’re incapable of hitting the ball over the net. My real reason for signing up, though, was not clothing related but age related. I believe that we stay young by trying new things. I’m comfortable with aging, but not so comfortable with the idea of becoming old. Tennis lessons and a cute Athleta tennis skirt seemed like a good way to practice being actively alive and in the moment, open to life and its possibilities, and not the least bit fearful of being old.

Of course, as I drove to the lesson this morning, I began to revert to my typical thought patterns. I was becoming nervous. The negative thoughts were creeping into my bunny mind. I have wonderful friends who don’t have this problem. They approach every new adventure with enthusiasm and excitement. They are never disappointed because they don’t take everything seriously. They know how to laugh at themselves and they possess the fortitude to keep on trying even when others might think they are embarrassing themselves. They are my heroes. So today as I drove to class, I centered my thoughts around those friends and that bunny quote. If my thoughts are negative, I am negative and negativity consumes my actions. What if I approached the lesson with a can-do attitude and no fear of failure? What if I housed reality, rather than faulty assumptions, in my back pocket? Reality is that I haven’t taken a lesson in 33 years. There will be foibles, flubs, and faults. I’m going to miss the ball sometimes, but it doesn’t matter because I am a 46-year-old newbie. It’s not only acceptable, it’s expected. I kicked the self-limiting thoughts to the curb and confidently walked toward the indoor tennis courts thinking, My bunny mind dwells on fun.

The instructor wasted no time getting us hitting balls. In the first three balls he tossed to me, I missed two of them. Normally, this would have put a serious chink in my confidence. Today it did not. I’m a beginner, I reminded myself and got back in line to get ready for my next opportunity to take a swipe at the ball. Midway through class, I knew my attitude of fun was working. I was having a good time. I wasn’t hitting every ball, but I was hitting most of them and they were going where they should be for the most part. As the balls were lobbed at me from the machine, I noticed I wasn’t tense or stressed about hitting them. Instead I was focused on my set up and on the finer points of my stroke. I kept my attitude light and shut down my negative self-talk. It worked. Class flew and by the end I honestly felt as if I’d learned something. What was even better was that I wasn’t over thinking or second guessing anything from the past hour. I’d had a great time. That was all I’d set out to accomplish. No need to rehash missed balls or worry about how goofy I looked. I’d tried and I’d enjoyed myself. It’s all good.

What the bunny mind dwells on, the bunny becomes.

I’m going to keep working on this bunny mind thing because initial results confirm that it’s true. Where my thoughts go, I follow. Unchecked, my mind conjures all kinds of ridiculous, untrue assumptions about who I am and what I’m capable of. I’ve got to train my bunny mind to focus on possibility and positivity. When it wanders into clover fields filled with manure, I need to turn my thoughts around, step over the crap, and head back the other way. My goal for this year was to lighten up and have fun. I am working on it each day. If my bunny mind keeps dwelling on it, I’m sure this year will be game, set, and match for me.

 

 

 

I Want To Be Photobombed By A Lllama

The beautiful free gym I share with everyone else in Denver

The beautiful free gym I share with everyone else in Denver…here is the top set of 190 stairs above the stage

This summer hubby and I are taking the trip of a lifetime. We’re going to hike the Inca Trail in Peru. The hike covers roughly 27 miles in three days and at its highest point reaches almost 14,000 feet. One of the ways I’ve been training for this trek is by climbing stairs because the Inca Trail is loaded with them. If you’ve ever done stair training on the machine in the gym, the one with the actual moving steps, you know how badly that sucks. To avoid that, I’ve been taking my stair workout outside. The beauty of living in Colorado is that we have a fantastic natural venue for exercise, which is probably why we’re continually listed as the fittest state. I like to climb my stairs at Red Rocks Amphitheater, arguably one of the most beautiful pieces of workout equipment in the country.

A couple times a week for the past month, I’ve been driving the 20 minutes from my house to Red Rocks, donning a lightweight pack, and trudging myself from the bottom of the stairs beneath the stage all the way to the top of the amphitheater. It’s a solid workout, especially with 10-pounds on my back, and I’m definitely getting some stair practice in, which is great. But as much as I do, I feel it’s not very impressive. On any day of the week, Red Rocks is a haven for crazy cross-fit insanity. There are always people running up the stairs. I mean, running. Full on hauling butt as they barrel past me. And as I continue doggedly trekking up the outer stairs, I look into the amphitheater and see the fitness junkies who are jumping the inner steps two at a time or doing burpees or push ups or crunches on the benches inside. It’s downright discouraging. Even though I am more fit at nearly 46 than I was at 26, I usually end up leaving Red Rocks thinking my effort was lackluster at best.

Today, though, I did something I’ve never done before. I counted the steps as I climbed. From the parking lot beneath the amphitheater to the place where I take my first break on the level of the stage, there are 196 steps. From stage level to the top, there are another 190 stairs. Doing some quick math in my head, I realized that each trek up is 386 stairs. I pulled out my iPhone and did some more calculations. My standard hike up is the rough equivalent of climbing up 24 flights of stairs in a high-rise building. Then I turn around on my tired legs and walk back to the bottom where I start again. On my shortest workout days, I do three full sets. That equates to 2,316 stairs in a half an hour while wearing a weighted pack and without using handrails or walking sticks to assist me. Did I mention that Red Rocks is 6,000 feet above sea level? Even more awesome is that at the end of the day back at home I can still walk up my stairs carrying a basket of laundry without any struggle or discomfort. Sometimes I even go to yoga afterwards.

One of the first quotes I read in Bunny Buddhism is one of my favorites and it is appropriate to my discovery today:

The wise bunny knows we rarely see things as they are; we see things as we believe them to be.

I’ve been looking at my workout and seeing only what I believed, which is that it is weak by comparison to what others are doing. And that may be true. There are some nauseatingly fit Coloradans. But, you know what? Most of the folks in the amphitheater today weren’t in their mid 40s, and most weren’t carrying any additional weight. And while I don’t look like the 20-year-old girls proudly displaying their flawless, six-pack abs, I’m out there. I may be flop sweating like a farm hand on a midsummer’s day in Georgia but I’m there and I’m busting it out in my own way, which is a lot more than many other people can say.

I’m not exactly sure how much this training will help me this July over the long days in the Andes after nights spent sleeping in a tent, but it can’t hurt. What I do know, however, is that when we reach the apex of our trek and I am standing in the ruins at Machu Picchu, I’m going to take a moment to make sure I am seeing things as they really are. I’m going to soak in my realized dream and be grateful for the body that brought me there. And then I’m going to look around and see if I can find a llama willing to pose for a photo with me because that’s what life’s all about.

I Was So Hungry I Ate My Words

A mile from the top of Vail Pass

Finishing the most difficult part of the climb

Colorado is filled with extreme sports enthusiasts — marathoners, triathletes, cyclocross racers, river kayakers, rock climbers, mogul skiers, and myriad other endorphin junkies. Intrepid Coloradans trek up our 14,000 feet peaks each and every summer weekend because, well, they’re there. And everyday, run-of-the-mill, “normal” people take on day-long rides like the Triple Bypass where they cycle over 3 mountain passes, 120 miles with over 10,000 feet of elevation gain just to say they did it. What’s crazier than that? How about that people choose to do that same ride in reverse the following day to complete the Double Triple Bypass? With these things in mind, please understand that what I am about to relay regarding my adventure yesterday is not extraordinary at all. Oodles of people can tell the same story, so I am not being modest when I say that this is not a big deal at all. Except that it is…to me.

Ten years ago, we were driving back from a trip to Aspen and along the highway heading east over Vail Pass we spied some road cyclists struggling their way up the pass adjacent to the speeding cars on the highway. I remember hauling up the pass in our Jetta and remarking that those riders were insane. There is no way I would ever do that, I told my husband. Then, just five years ago, the darling man bought me a road bike. I went into the bike store dragging my heels because I was certain I was not a cyclist. Still I went along with it because I was 40 and I needed a decent form of exercise, one that hopefully would not tear up my knees or hips like running might. That year when we passed cyclists huffing and puffing their way up and over Vail Pass I said I could never do that. Simply putting in 15-20 miles was difficult enough. I didn’t think I’d survive a trek up a mountain pass. It seemed an insurmountable task. I had no intention of ever being that certifiable about exercise. Period.

Yesterday the unthinkable became reality. With three friends from our MS150 bike team, Steve and I rode from our hotel room in west Vail up to and then over Vail Pass and down into Copper Mountain before turning around and riding back up over the pass and eventually back to our hotel room. It was a 47 mile trek where we climbed over 4,000 feet in elevation in less than 4.5 hours. At times during our ride, the grade of the path hit a wicked 18%. That’s steep enough that even in my easiest bike gear I needed to stand up like a Tour de France racer to power my bike up the hill. I’ve never had to do that before. It was both annoying and awesome. We started our ride at 8,000 feet in elevation and climbed to over 10,600 feet so the air we were sucking was thin too. It was my longest ride of the season so far and the most challenging ride I have ever done.

At the top and geared up for the cold ride down to Copper

At the top and geared up for the cold ride down to Copper Mountain

As we flew down the last big descent of the day and my bike hit 34 miles an hour despite the headwind, I had a cheerful refrain echoing in my head. (It sounded exactly like this.) When we finally returned to our starting point at the Vail Cascade Resort I was Queen of the Freaking World. It is true. I had to chew up and swallow whole those things I’d uttered in the past about would never or could never. And while I normally don’t enjoy eating my words, yesterday I had no problem with it. Maybe it was simply because I was so hungry? I had burned over 2500 calories in 4 hours, right? Truth is, though, I have rarely felt as strong as I did when I clipped out of my pedals at the end of that ride. Not only had I done something I previously believed I physically and mentally could not do but I did it less than a week after turning 45. I never had to get off and walk my bike. The altitude never got to me. I fought the urge to give up when my quadriceps were screaming at me and I stuck it out. I rode my bicycle like a cheap, show pony. And while I may not be better, faster, stronger, or in any way more impressive than any other Coloradan who completes that identical ride, I do not care. I did it. I earned the right to eat my words and I still had enough room left over for a post-ride celebratory dinner at Terra Bistro. Suck it, 45!

Destination Unknown

My lunch today...tropical smoothie with kale.

My lunch today…tropical smoothie with kale.

Fitness is 20% exercise and 80% nutrition. You can’t outrun your fork.”                         ~Anonymous

A friend asked me the other day how my book writing is coming along. And I was forced to tell her the sad truth. It’s not. I really haven’t done anything substantive toward completing a book since I stopped the daily writing on my blog back in January. It was hard for me to admit that to my friend, but what’s harder still is resisting the urge to make elaborate excuses for my written inactivity. So rather than lying to you about some monumental personal obstacles I’ve encountered that have restricted me from writing, I am simply going to tell you the embarrassing truth. Like a dog that stops everything when it notices a squirrel running across the top of the fence, I got distracted by something. That something is food.

In January, after months of knowing it was the right thing to do and yet ignoring my better judgment, I finally decided it was time to jettison the artificial sweeteners in my diet. No more skinny lattes containing sugar-free syrups and no more diet sodas laden with aspartame. I switched to water. Round about that same time, curious about the Paleo diet some of my friends swear by, I decided to do some more research into what I should be eating. Over the years I would occasionally try a diet to lose a few pounds I had packed on. This time I was looking for a lifestyle change diet, something I could live with and maintain. My Type A personality went into high gear and I began reading, watching documentaries and Ted presentations, and doing my research. Then I officially went off the deep end head first. I tossed out everything in my house that was hiding MSG (and all of its pseudonyms). I cleared the refrigerator of food dyes. I decided against Frankenfood and set about a mass reduction in the amount of GM foods we eat. I tossed out packages of foods whose ingredients read like a foreign language. I bought a freaking juicer. And I decided to get downright personal with our food.

Along the way, we had many family discussions before mutually agreeing we would work toward a whole food, plant-based diet. We cut way back on meat. I reduced the portion of dairy in my diet from approximately 30% to 5%. We cancelled our milk delivery. We started buying more organic produce. We decided that it matters to us what the cows and chickens we include in our diet consume. We stopped eating out as often. We greatly reduced our consumption of sugar, caffeine, and processed foods. We started making fresh juices and vitamin-laden smoothies to get more fruits and vegetables in our diet. We decided to stick to heart-healthy oils and plant-based fats. I began work on my gluten-free baking. Our unbelievably picky eater, Luke, willingly began experimenting with new foods. Our dinners are now comprised of ingredients that we can pronounce. And we feel better. We sleep better. Our skin and nails are healthier. Our immunity seems to have improved. We don’t count calories. We just eat food that makes sense, food that we understand. And we eat as much of it as we want.

I didn’t truly intend to spend much time walking down this path. It began as a curiosity and morphed into something much larger. Each day I take another few steps away from what I thought was important toward what I now believe truly is. The more I’ve learned about the complexity of our food (gained through years of industrialization, scientific research and experimentation, and a lack of appropriate governmental oversight), the more I know that this is where I need to be focusing my energy right now. This is what I am being called to. Who knows? Maybe somewhere along this journey I will find my raison d’être? Maybe in the midst of all of this I will find my book? Maybe not.

I know there is the whole eat-right-and-exercise-and-die-anyway philosophy. I think about that sometimes and wonder if I’m diverting my energy into something that in the end won’t really matter. Then I read another article linking some health issue to our food supply and I remember that I’ve never been the type to sit back and wait to see what happens. My mother taught me that if you aren’t happy with something, you should fix it. So that’s where I’m headed…to improve my health and the health of the ones I love. Perhaps something will stop me in my tracks early and I won’t live to be the vibrant 90 year old I know I’m capable of becoming. I only know one thing. I want to live as many of my days here on this earth free of pain, feeling good in my skin, and knowing that I’m doing the best I can for my family, myself, and this blue planet. So, for now, I have to keep walking this road to see where it leads. I’m pretty sure that it leads somewhere good.

Find Your Bliss Any Way You Can

Guess which set belongs to the lone female in this family.

At least I will be easy to spot.

“If you want to reach a state of bliss, then go beyond your ego and the internal dialogue. Make a decision to relinquish the need to control, the need to be approved, and the need to judge.”      – Deepak Chopra

Yesterday, in the peaceful falling snow of an early evening in January, the UPS delivery truck stopped in front of our house. As it pulled away, it left behind a box filled with things not meant for the snow at all. The large box contained snorkel gear for our entire family. I laugh at the absurdity of our family purchasing snorkel gear when we live in the middle of an already landlocked state, 1o00 miles away from the nearest beach which is a nearly 17-hour drive away in Malibu, California. We selected the gear while we were in snowy Steamboat Springs a week and a half ago. In spite of the wintery landscape there, we were absorbed with the notion that in two months we will be in Hawaii. So, in between cross-country skiing and trekking through a castle made entirely of ice, in front of a glowing fireplace we perused travel books and made mental notes of beaches we wanted to stand on. And, we ordered snorkel gear.

This morning, after an icy drive to deliver the boys at school, I took the next step in preparing for our upcoming spring break trip. I stopped to try on swimsuits. Buoyed by weeks of relentless work in yoga class, I felt fairly confident about my chances swimsuit shopping. I have a little less than two months left to finish whipping myself into vacation shape, and a swimsuit is exactly the motivation I need to keep my eye on the prize. I know it will be a bit odd to have it secured into place on the door of our stainless steel refrigerator in the middle of winter, but you do what you have to. For me, it’s yoga, fruit, and the fear of the suit.

And, as I stood in the fitting room today staring at my half-naked figure in the mirror, for the first time I faced the truth. My body is what it is, and what it is is a vessel that carried two children. It is strong and healthy. With nearly 45 years behind it and with a steady exercise routine, it endures more and is more flexible and balanced than it has ever been. It does things now that it couldn’t do a decade or two ago, like push ups. My body is powerful and capable. What it is not, however, is 20 years old. No matter how hard I work or how well I eat, I will never look the way I used to. Evolving over time, enduring childbirth and abdominal surgeries, my body has morphed to become something entirely different. It’s not bad. It’s simply not the same.

On the way home, I battled the negative self-talk that was bullying me into believing that I’m too old for the bikini I had just purchased. I told myself that as old as I am, I will never be this young again. And, if I am going to Hawaii for the first time and want to swim and snorkel in a two-piece suit, well…the rest of the world can suck it. I want to find bliss, and I will never find it if I’m judging myself or worrying about what others judge in me. I have only so much control over how the aging process will affect my body. Despite my best efforts, things will pucker and wrinkle and head in a southern direction. It’s inevitable. But, if cleaning grains of sand out of my navel makes me feel alive and happy, then that is what I must do. With each passing year I’m closer to peace and self-acceptance than I have yet been in my life. Maybe it’s blissfully naive of me to assume it’s not positively gauche for a woman of my mature age to appear in public in a bikini. At this point, though, I’ll take my bliss any way I can get it.

Keep Your Hands Inside The Ride At All Times

You could eat out of this pantry without being poisoned. No more canned goods from 2003!

You could eat out of this pantry without being poisoned. No more canned goods from 2003!

I’m a strange beast. For most of the year, I operate at breakneck speed. I can’t stand to be bored. You likely won’t catch me growing mold as I fester on the couch, not even during the winter months. I’m busy, and I like it that way. But, for three weeks, three glorious weeks beginning mid-December and running through the first full week of January, I shut down and become Slothstine rather than Justine. In all likelihood exhausted from 49 straight weeks of running headlong into my future, I quit moving. I don’t work out. I only go out when absolutely necessary (apparently Christmas with the family is compulsory). I lounge in bed reading, surfing Al Gore’s Internet, playing games on my iPhone, and going into some sort of trance while busting through episode after episode of my latest television show du jour. It is decidedly, uncharacteristically, not at all like me.

There are pluses and minuses about this annual holiday shutdown. On the bad side, without my usual workouts and time on my yoga mat, I often resurface during the second week of January only to find a random Hot Tamale candy stuck in my hair and tell-tale orange fingerprints on my clothes from excessive Cheetos consumption. And, it’s right about that time that I step on the scale and hear it whimper. My house is a pit because it’s hard to clean a bathroom when your butt hasn’t moved out of bed. My husband, like a dog whose repeated enthusiastic requests for a nice walk have gone unanswered, stops barking at my door. Of course, that might have more to do with my slovenly state than with ego-bruise gained from the repeated times I smacked him on the nose with the rolled up newspaper when he asked if I wanted to go for a long, winter’s walk with him. My kids. Well…where are my kids, anyway? I have no idea. And, at the end of this three week period of sloth and gluttony, a time during which the only real accomplishment I can note is my OCD completion of three puzzles (2500 individual pieces, thank you very much), I’m usually ready to hit the ground running as soon as the kids start back to school after Christmas break. If I can find them, that is.

Just as Punxsutawney Phil emerges after a long, shadowless winter, I too am ready for spring. Yes. Spring is still over two months away. I know this. But, I’m well-rested after my three weeks of hibernation. To that end, in the past four days I’ve picked up the pace. I’ve done insane things, like wash light fixtures, clean out our pantry, and scrub the laundry room floor on my hands and knees. I finally made it back to yoga today, and they’re having a promotion that coincides with my fitness goals. If I complete 20 classes in 30 days I’ll get a retail credit for new yoga clothes, so that’s a win-win, right? I registered for the Tubbs Romp to Stomp 5k snowshoe event in Frisco, the 7k Running of the Green (which, knowing me, will be more like a Walking of the Green), and my annual MS150 ride. Yesterday I whipped out 16 handmade greeting cards so I won’t miss birthdays during the first quarter of 2013. I think I’m finally back on track.

I used to feel bad about this rollercoaster ride I’m on. I would berate myself for falling off the wagon and losing myself to Christmas cookies and movie theater popcorn. I don’t anymore. The way I have it figured I’m merely one of those people who needs something to motivate her. And, nothing motivates me more than the chance to let go and fall apart occasionally. After a quick, exhilarating downhill slide, my coaster car is back on the platform and about to begin its next ascent up the highest peak on the coaster. I’m a lifelong coaster rider, and I’m ready for another go around. There will be plenty of time to relax again when I head down the big hill next December, arms in the air, smile on my face. It’s all good.

 

 

 

 

Squirrel!

This is a Rocky Mountain Sheep I saw while hiking with my friend Celeste today. Squirrel!

Sometimes I wonder how I get anything done. Ever. I take the most circuitous routes when I begin a task. I guess I’m too easily distractible. I’m kind of like Dug, the dog in Up. I start out doing one thing and then somehow…SQUIRREL! So, that is what happened to me again tonight and that is why it is late in the evening and I am once again staring at my self-imposed deadline, which is less than an hour from right now, and shaking my head. The Squirrel effect seems to worsen at night and when I’m hungry and when I’m procrastinating and when I’m sleep-deprived and occasionally when I’m over caffeinated. Now that I think about it, it’s truly miraculous that I ever complete a task successfully. But, I digress.

Tonight I began researching airfare for our now decided upon Spring Break trip. We bid on and won a vacation rental last Saturday at the boys’ school auction. Now I have to figure out how to get us to our destination with the least expensive airfare. It’s all very exciting. And, while I should be focused on filling out paperwork so we can schedule all the testing we need to have done to get IEPs and/or 504s set up for the boys for next school year, researching vacation travel is a far less odious task so that has taken priority.

I began on Expedia, but as I was looking at the ludicrous cost of airfare for this trip the wind kicked up outside. We get a lot of high winds here in November and December so I immediately began wondering if tonight would be really windy. So, I buzzed on over to the site for the NBC news affiliate here in Denver to check our weather conditions. I was pleased to note that although we’re in for a cool down tomorrow, no high winds are predicted tonight. Dodged that bullet. But, while I was on the NBC site, I started wondering what the heck has been going on in the world since I’ve been checked out this week. Off to Fox News I went to figure out what is being reported on currently. I perused the headlines as I had planned but then, at the bottom of the front page in the Latest News section, a story caught my eye about some folks in the Florida panhandle who poached their neighbor’s pet turkey for their own Thanksgiving dinner. From that story, I noticed a link to the best and worst swimsuit photos from Hollywood. That seemed like an adequate distraction, so I went off to check those out. After deciding that most people over the age of 50 look sad and droopy at the beach (yes…I mean you David Hasselhoff and Ivana Trump), I was feeling discouraged about being just 5.5 years from that dreaded physical cliff (I can’t bring myself to care about the fiscal cliff because there’s nothing I can do about that cluster). In a desperate attempt to elevate my spirits, I texted with my friend Heather for a while. At which point, Heather reminded me that it won’t matter what I look like in a swimsuit at the beach in March because I’ll be at the beach in a swimsuit in MARCH. Well played, Heather. And, so I put my phone down and decided to get back to Expedia because I still have not booked any travel yet.

At some point in the next few weeks I will break down and actually commit to a flight itinerary…probably not without a massive mental meltdown as my shaking fingers attempt to input the credit card number I have memorized. But, I will do it because I have paperwork to fill out and I can’t get to that task until I have something really incredible to look forward to as a reward for all my hard work. And now, as I sit in bed and finish this blog, I’m wondering how I will be able to get the house cleaned, the table set, and the meal cooked for dinner at 4 p.m. because I am sure there will be myriad distractions tomorrow. Distractions are the thing that….wait…do we actually own enough napkin rings for 12 place settings?