Where we get fit and spin (wool)

Archive for January, 2013

Walking at Night

picture of a snowy nightWhen I was a kid, I wasn’t the most well adjusted. I lived in a place and in a family that didn’t provide many activities. I spent a LOT a time reading and walking. I did go so far as to try and read and walk at the same time, long before people were walking into ponds while texting. I spent a lot of time walking after dark, year round. Of course, here in the northeast, during the winter, walking at night means walking at 5 pm! Walking at night has an extremely romantic feel. It generates the feeling of being the outsider, of being dangerous, of being the “cat who walks by itself”. You walk past the well lit windows, seeing all the cozy, pretty scenes in people’s homes. You feel like the only one enjoying something that others know nothing about, or fear.

The last few days, I got to relive some of that romanticism by snowshoeing and cross country skiing at night. I can’t really say in the dark, what drew me out was a moon so bright that everything cast a shadow. Beyond the moon, we have not had good weather for winter sports in a long time. I work 9-5, or so, making  the time to do these things very limited. Going out there at time when everyone else is settling in to their tv’s and computers rekindled that feeling of becoming  part of a hidden and special world. It was so breathtakingly beautiful. The quiet was awe inspiring, the only noise a far off plane. You don’t get cold while being that active, in fact while skiing I got a bit too warm.

While out enjoying this, I wished I could share it with others. So many people think the only way to “escape” is to turn a box on. Can I make a suggestion? If you aren’t happy with your weight, or your fitness level, add up how many hours you spend a week in front of a screen between your computer, tablet, tv, gameboy, wii, etc., etc. Take 1/2 those hours and just walk. Go to your local park and hike. You don’t even need snowshoes, after a few ‘shoers have been through, it’s all packed down anyway. If it’s dark, take a friend and walk well lit, public places. After that, learn a new physical skill- like snowshoeing. I realize a lot of skills require money, but if you spend money on casinos, eating out, video games and movies, then you have some discretionary income to spend on something good for you. There are so many things you haven’t experienced, take just some of the time you spend watching other people live their lives and do something live, in person. What does your street look like in the rain? In the snow? Pick one new thing to try. If you hate it, drop it and try something else. Check out your local paper. People with passions are eager to share them. You’d be surprised at the number of free events where you can learn and try new things. I learned how to spin at our local art center. Friends of mine lent me the equipment to get started cross country skiing. I learned lots of my skills from the local library. Life is out there, you only get one on this earth, why waste it sitting on your duff, doing nothing?

The next time you look out your window, and the moon is lighting up your yard, go out there and experience it. Just try it. Don’t waste this precious gift of life, living some kind of half life.

The Mind Body Connection

In the world of physical fitness, the mind body connection most often refers to yoga, as if that is one of the few things that bring about a connection between the two. However, there  is no actual disconnect. Your body does nothing without the control of your mind, and you are a result of the million decisions you make each day: what to eat, wear, how much to sleep and every habit you have. What people  are really talking about in the mind body connection is making that connection more conscious and purposeful. Add the dimension of the spirit, and the conversation gets even more murky- where does that fit in? For actual yogis, yoga is a religious practice, not an exercise option.

As someone who has come rather late in life to a cordial relationship with her body, and that through karate, another practice which explores the relationship between mind, body and spirit, I often think about these relationships. As a Christian, I also try and see what the relationship between my heritage and beliefs are, and those of the eastern religions. I’ve written before of how I don’t see a difference between physical discipline and spiritual. Self control is one of the gifts of the spirit, and it leads to others. How can you have peace or joy if you are in the grip of an eating disorder, your finances are out of control, or any other addiction is running your life?

Ga 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 meekness, self-control; against such there is no law.

The main thought I’m striving for in this post is illustrated in 1 John:

1Jo 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen.

The physical is a mirror to the spiritual. I don’t know if there is a spiritual thing you can do that is not also physical, because everything we do is expressed by our physical bodies. even our thoughts come of a chemical and electrical brain. (Don’t bring up hormones    –   just don’t go there.)

Right now, since I am practicing fasting for the first time and it certainly is a discipline, that is the focus of my ruminations (pun intended). It is denying the physical in favor of the spiritual. Adding to my contemplation is the fact that my mother was anorectic, and I flirted dangerously close to it as a teenager. Eating clearly shows this mirror to the spiritual. Balance has to be maintained for optimal health, that either extreme falls out of spiritual/mental/physical health. To be clear, I am being pragmatic about this. I am fasting certain meals and reducing my food intake over all, rather than doing a 100% fast. I do believe in the spiritual benefit, but not at the destruction of the body. I am already at the lower end of body weight, and am very active. If God wants me to sacrifice my body, it will have to be for a far greater cause than an exercise in discipline!

In any case, eating occupies a unique place in our life, It is one of the basic human needs we can temporarily abstain from, but one of the few pleasures that can slide into abuse that we cannot refrain from. Our alimentary canal cannot be ignored, it derails the most spiritually minded, bringing them back to earth. We may think we’re too cool for school, till we burp or fart, or just the funny noises our stomach makes in the quietest times. God obviously cares about our food, as I’ve posted about before, there are 163 verses mentioning feast, and 140 with the word food in. Fasting is about penitence, mourning, seeking, a reaching out to God. Feasting is about celebrating and enjoying communion with Him. God would like us to do both, in season. Now that we know how important our digestive tract is to our overall health, it makes even more sense why God is so concerned with our eating. One of the first things he tells Adam and Eve is what to eat.

The symbolic and cultural importance of food cannot be ignored either.  Watch a gathering of people with and without food. With food, people linger longer, relax quicker, act more sociable. Without it, they quickly get their business done and disperse.  Food encourages socialization. To willingly abstain from food puts a person at odds with the society at large. To have a unique diet does the same, but nowadays, that seems to be a popular trend. In the face of the overabundance we have now, people are selectively shrinking their choices, in order to regain control of their eating.

Sorry, this post rambled a bit. It’s hard to quantify some thoughts. Thanks for bearing with me.

Forgive my Political Rant

the white houseEvery so often, what goes on in our governments makes me crazy, and I have to vent. So if you don’t want to hear it, here’s your fair warning.

I’ll start with the federal government, since it is such a big, soft target. I listen to Jay Carney sit there and say it is irresponsible of the Republicans to either let us default or play politics with that possibility. I agree that all this is  playing politics, but how do we get into this situation? By not making any of the difficult decisions that would keep us on some kind of balanced, planned course. How about instead of castigating your rivals for a current situation, you’all sit down and MAKE A BUDGET. Jay CarneyOne that MAKES SENSE, and doesn’t bankrupt our country. This congress is like someone who has a broken leg and doesn’t want to go to the doctor, afraid of the pain of getting it set. It’s just going to hurt all the time till you do that. This has to be the weasliest pack of politicians ever. What I wouldn’t give for 5 real grownups in Washington! Both the debt ceiling and the fiscal cliff would be non issues if we had budgets passed for the last 4 years. I think the biggest problem is having a government that doesn’t have to follow it’s own laws.


That brings me to the State. I live in New York. Much like the federal government, it’s about as dysfunctional as it gets, and apparently always has been. I was listening to a NPR story about how the Tappenzee bridge got put where it was, not because it was the best place to put it, but so it would be outside the jurisdiction of the port authority. If you harbor any illusions about the innate goodness of humans, politics will cure you quick.

Angry andrew

Anyway, most of you know, Andrew Cuomo, our fearless leader, created a huge uproar with his “sweeping gun legislation” passed in the middle of the night. ( How brave!) I won’t comment on that here, enough is being said by others. I will say, does anyone else think he’s starting to look like one of Fred Gynn’s relatives? Herman MunsterWhat I wanted to comment on was something else he announced in his “State of the State” address. He wants to build non-Indian casinos all over New York State, since they are not getting along with the Indians, and revenues are not being handed over like they would like.  Now, if any of you “poo-poo” the slippery slope phenomena, it hasn’t taken us long to get from “no gambling, period” to “well, lotteries help the children” to “We’re not allowing gambling, it’s on Native territories”.  It just drives me nuts when it’s wrong until they need the money. And why do they need the money? Because just like the Feds, they can’t say no and make a smaller budget.

Ok, time to wipe the spittle off my lips from sputtering in anger. I’m better now. Till the next outrage.


prayer and fasting

Double Minded?

I do enjoy irony, even when I am the source of it. I was just trying to convince a girl at the gym to eat more on Wednesday, and today I am making preparations to join our church on a fast. It did bring to mind that the same activity can have totally different meanings, depending on your purpose.

Fasting is one of those very complex disciplines. It is physical, but has been practiced for spiritual reasons throughout human history. Most, if not all major religions use it to allow their adherents to get their minds off of earthly things and focus on the spirit. Eating is one of our most basic needs, yet it is the one we can do without. You can’t stop breathing for more than a few seconds, and without shelter, hypothermia and exposure can kill us quickly. Fasting is a way of saying there are some things that are more important than even our physical needs.

Eating, or not eating, is the focus of much of our attention each day. We usually eat many times a day, and then there is the planing, shopping, cooking, and cleaning up after. Taking all of that time and devoting it to meditation and contemplation of the spiritual is very beneficial. The bible says:

De 8:3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.

By fasting, we can take God off of the “back burner” and make him the center of our lives.

Most of the time, I’m not a big fan of fasting. My mother was anorectic, which contributed to her early demise. I have seen what eating disorders do, and how they develop. I am a big fan of being as strong and healthy as possible, which requires adequate nutrition. I think people who fast to lose weight are setting themselves up for failure, since it isn’t teaching them to eat properly.

The activity of fasting can either be a tremendous spiritual journey, or a carnal nightmare, as tied up to messed up body images and earthly desires as anything you can think of. Fasting is NOT about punishing your body, or beating it into submission. It is almost impossible to separate the physical from the spiritual, since weight loss is a result of fasting, so even if you are fasting for right reason, you will have physical result that you may desire. I suppose it isn’t a bad thing to have a physical benefit to a spiritual practice. I just think if those two motivations are too closely linked, it can blur your focus, or twist a positive into a negative. I think the biggest deliminator is prayer. Prayer takes fasting out of the physical and moves it to the spiritual. It allows you to pay attention to your motivation and stay on track.

My final statement on this is that I am only doing a complete fast one day a week. During the week I will be fasting certain items, to pare my eating down to what is essential, but I am extremely active, and a complete fast could be detrimental to my health. I have enough trouble holding weight. You can fast in all kinds of ways, by denying yourself earthly pleasures.  Whatever you fast, sweets, meat, or favorite activities, it is prayer that takes it from simple self denial to a spiritual discipline.

Personal Resbonsibility, What’s Yours?

Mea Culpa

I’m a big fan of personal responsibility. I don’t think we can clean up the world, unless we are cleaning our own house. However, I caught myself thinking something today that made me wonder about my own attitudes. I was cleaning the cat box. I use the clumping cat litter, and I was wondering if it is bad for the environment. My next thought was “They wouldn’t be allowed to make it if it wasn’t”. Outside of how ridiculous that thought is (can anyone say “superfund”?), it was an obvious dodge of personal responsibility. In this case, I want to dodge it, as I love this stuff. It makes keeping three cats easy, neat and not stinky. How often do we avoid considering personal responsibility because we don’t want to change?

The Tie In

I live in New York state. Often called the “Nanny state”, since we seem to have more “it’s bad for you” laws than any other state, other than California. Most of us poo-poo those laws, citing personal responsibility. The cat box this morning made me reconsider that. How many of won’t change until forced to, because we like the thing that might not be good for us? They don’t have to ban clumping cat litter for me to stop using it, but the negative qualities would have to be dramatically and forcefully shown to me in order for me to change.

I can’t say I quit smoking because of the indoor smoking ban, but it certainly helped. Going through the mini- withdrawals I had to endure each time I spent time in a public building was an added incentive to quitting. Make it easy to do the right thing, hard to do the wrong is the basis of behavior change. Is it wrong to have our governments to participate in these efforts? What if a company doesn’t exercise personal responsibility and makes a product that hurts people? Is our only recourse tort law? Of course, bringing up tort law reminds us that anything that can be used for good purpose can be used for bad, 10 times over!

That, of course, is the whole reason people are against the government getting involved in areas that should be relegated to personal responsibility, since  governmental laws ALWAYS have unintended consequences. One law does not fit all circumstances. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg has gotten much criticism and praise for banning trans fat, supersized drinks and making it a law that calories had to be posted in menus. Are people only angry because they don’t like being told what to do? Is there a threat to trying to eliminate unhealthy things? To further complicate things, since we are already in the process of socialized medicine, do you have the right to do what you want, if I have to pay for it? Do I have the right to tell you what to eat if you weigh 250 and are a type II diabetic, and that is costing my tax money to pay for?

Let me know what you think. I don’t know for sure. I don’t want laws that stop me from doing what I like, but I can’t see the harm in guiding behavior in healthier lines, since we have companies doing so much to affect us psychologically and emotionally to buy their products that don’t help us at all. Can we educate everyone and inoculate them mentally to resist? Or do we legislate that companies cannot put certain things in their products, or use certain tactics to sell the items. Does knowing better actually lead to better behavior? I can attest that knowledge alone does not create change.

Happy New Year!

Is weight loss in your New Year’s resolution?

I found this really great website for encouragement, the National weight control registry. It’s a site for people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off.

Considering some of the sobering statistics on the obesity epidemic, it is really important that we take control of our personal situations and keep on top of the weight situation.

The CDC is a good site to get more information. So is myplate.gov. One of my favorites is myfitnesspal.com, especially since it is also an app. Ok, just one more, since the more I look, the more I find. This is from fitsugar.com

That’s all I really have to say for now. Make a plan, make small changes you can stick to, have long and short term goals, and try and make it as fun as possible.

Tell me your favorite tips and sites, the more we share, the easier it gets.

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