Last Look and Eating Badly

My favorite view from the easily accessible overlooks at Cloudland Canyon

My favorite view from the easily accessible overlooks at Cloudland Canyon

These are the last of the photos I will share from a week ago when we went to Cloudland Canyon (I promise).  The sad truth is that that was the last time we did anything physical.  Well, other than my Friday morning yoga class and walking Tisen–the last vestiges of exercise in my life at the moment.

Tisen poses pretty well for me for the 2nd time in the same day

Tisen poses pretty well for me for the 2nd time in the same day

I was thinking about an article I read a long time ago where health researchers looked at evidence from anthropology findings about the life style of hunter-gatherers.  The theory went that since humans were hunter-gatherers for the majority of our history, our bodies are most likely geared towards that type of lifestyle and, therefore, for optimal health, we should emulate the variety in diet and level of exercise from that time in our history.  The one key difference was that they speculated that while there were periods of famine for our ancestors, the findings (based on other studies) suggested that our bodies response to starvation, while allowing us to survive, is contrary to long-term health, but that’s another discussion.

The canyon walls on the other side of the creek

The canyon walls on the other side of the creek

The point I am (slowly) getting to is that research suggested that hunter-gatherers spent most of the daylight hours walking, climbing, picking, and, well, gathering.  There were occasional springs and jogs, but most of the time our ancestors were in gentle motion.  I compare this to my lifestyle of spending 10-12 hours in front of a computer at a desk five days a week.  The only thing that could possibly be further from our ancestors lifestyle would be to sleep for 20 years straight, Rip Van Winkle style.

Closer look at the end of the canyon ridge

Closer look at the end of the canyon ridge

It strikes me as rather ironic that through all our progress and technology, we have jobs that keep us from doing what makes us healthy and we struggle to find time to get the exercise we need because we’re so busy working, but if we spent our day gathering food instead of making money to buy food, we’d get all the exercise we need.  Mind you, I’m not suggesting I want to go back to a hunter-gatherer world.  I’m not that fond of famine, ice ages, disease, and all the other things that kept life expectancy down to something like 30.  I guess that’s the big flaw in assuming that our bodies are honed to that lifestyle–the hunter-gatherers didn’t life long enough to have a lot of the diseases we struggle with today.

Vertical view

Vertical view

I contemplated all of this, of course, as I was eating a large hunk of a baguette slathered in about two tablespoons of Irish butter.  I found myself wondering why I am able to still tell myself “tomorrow I’ll eat better” and shove a week’s worth of saturated fat into my belly and think it’s OK.  The thought crossed my mind that it’s like committing suicide slowly.  I did a little googling, but I couldn’t find any “I’m about to eat badly” hotline numbers.  Then I went and dished up some ice cream.

 

iPhone panoramic from the second overlook

iPhone panoramic from the second overlook

Welcoming 2013

Interesting clouds over Chattanooga

Interesting clouds over Chattanooga

Having embarrassed myself yet again by writing my blog post way too late at night, I thought I would try writing at a decent hour tonight.

In honor of the new year, it seems only appropriate to think about what I’d like 2013 to be like.  As some of you may recall from last year, I am a bit of a resolution-phobe.  But, it is always good to reflect on a year past and thinking about what things should come forward and which things I’d like to leave behind.

Unreleasable Prairie Falcon in Oregon

Unreleasable Prairie Falcon in Oregon

First, I have enjoyed exploring the world through a camera regularly over the past year and a half.  I don’t think I’ve gone more than 2 weeks without shooting in 2012.  This has provided me with a new way of looking at the world that I can only describe as a sense of careful observation combined with vast appreciation.  I notice things I have not noticed in the past.  I wait for things to unfold with a patience I have trouble finding without a camera.  I work at getting better with both acceptance that I am imperfect and faith that I can improve.  All in all, photography gives me joy and hope.  This is something I want to keep in 2013.

Parking lot in Portland, OR

Parking lot in Portland, OR

Second, during some parts of 2012, I managed to strike a balance between the things I love to do and the things I have to do.  I lost that balance and now I want it back.  Taking time out to bike, row, hike, do yoga, and bird/teach keeps me feeling happy and makes me better at everything else I do.  I don’t have to do any of them really well, I just have to set aside all the things worrying me and go enjoy some time on my bike, on the river, on the mountain, on the mat, or with the birds.  It’s a simple formula that requires making room in my schedule.  This is something I want to regain in 2013 and I don’t want to wait for the weather to get warmer.

Assisting at a Wings to Awareness educational program for 3rd graders

Assisting at a Wings to Awareness educational program for 3rd graders

Third, I really enjoy the time we spend with family and friends.  Living remotely from many of the folks in those categories makes that tough.  For 2013, I’d like to have more contact with more people I feel close to whether it’s over the phone, in person, or via FaceTime, these are the people who keep me grounded.

Sharing Point Park with family last summer

Sharing Point Park with family last summer

Finally, I have occasionally written about finding peace and, through finding it internally, creating it externally.  That’s really what the previous 3 things are about–creating a sense of internal peace that help contribute to more happiness in the world.  It seems like a small contribution, but as the Dali Lama said:  “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”  Besides, a small contribution towards happiness is better than a small contribution towards anguish.  A compassionate, peaceful life.  That’s what I look forward to in 2013.

Enjoying a well-earned view after a 5-mile hike on Lookout Mountain

Enjoying a well-earned view after a 5-mile hike on Lookout Mountain

Getting onto the water not quite gracefully

Getting onto the water not quite gracefully

Sleepless Dog Names

I am tired.  And it’s Tisen’s fault.  We’ve been talking about renaming him.  Does “Sleep Deprivation” make a good dog name?  I think back to when we innocently coaxed him onto our bed, even getting out Squirrel to entice him.  All because I thought I would sleep better not having to listen to the noises a dog in a crate in an “industrial loft” (aka, echo chamber) style apartment makes, even when being good.

At first I was right.  I did sleep better.  Tisen curled up quietly in the middle of the bed and didn’t move all night long.  But then Tisen started hogging the blankets.  Pat suggested we let him sleep on the floor two nights ago, so I put his bed in the corner, piled up blankets and squeaky toys, and assumed he would happily sleep there.  But as soon as I laid down, he jumped up and laid beside me, trapping me under the covers.

Last night, I decided I would put him back in the middle, but he collapsed on the bed before I got under the covers and it was all I could do to get enough blanket free to cover half of me.  I was warm enough when I first went to sleep, but I woke up cold later.

He seemed to need to nuzzle up beside me whenever there was any space between us–maybe he knew I was cold.  At some point, I woke up to discover he was pawing at me.  When I opened my eyes, he was on his back, waiting for a belly rub and my torso was covered with a small dog blanket.  It’s more probable I got up and got it in my sleep than that Tisen covered me, right?

I woke up every 15 minutes from that point onward.  It was a long night.  I fell into a sound sleep sometime between 5:30 and 6AM–my alarm went off at 6AM.

After rushing out with the dog, I grabbed a cup of coffee and got to work.  It was one of those 12-hour days with no breaks, so I was grateful when a conference call ended early around noon, giving me 15 minutes to take Tisen out.  I was even more grateful when my husband showed up around 2PM with food from a local barbecue.

Tisen slept like a baby through most of my work day–maybe that’s the problem!  At one point, he was laying with his paws looking like a basket weave.  I had to snap a quick picture with the iPhone.  Maybe “Weaver” could be a dog name?

So far, the list of suggested names I am considering is:  George, Lucky, and Rudy.  I haven’t come up with any ideas myself.  I guess I’ve gone through too many dog names already.  Is he a Sneezy?  A Grumpy?  A Happy?  A Stinky?  (Was that one of the dwarves?)  Pat thinks we should just stick with Tisen.  What do you think?

January Spring

I take Tisen, our new foster dog, for a walk.  I leave my jacket at home because it’s 61 degrees.  The birds are in full-on spring mode.  Even the insects seem to have hatched.  I don’t know if 61 degrees in Chattanooga in January is normal, but it’s nice.  I’m disappointed when the sun starts to set at 6PM as if the warmer weather brought longer days.

As I watch Tisen prance along (if he were a horse, he’d be a Lipazzaner), looking more full of himself after 36 hours of being spoiled silly.  A runner passes us going the opposite direction.  He didn’t react to her at all yesterday–it’s the same woman.  But today, he lunges at her, growling a low warning.  Either the spring weather has him feeling his oats or he’s decided I’m someone he needs to protect from mysterious people running at us.

He reacts the same way 10 minutes later when two men run on a path that curves around and runs into ours.  Yet, they’re running away from us.  What makes runners look so threatening to dogs?  Even our gentle Bogart was not happy if a runner didn’t make a wide enough berth when they were coming towards me.

The spring weather has runners out in droves.  I don’t know if they’ve been running on treadmills and are thrilled for the change in temperature or if they have been waiting to start running since the New Year and the weather removed their last excuse.  Whatever it is, I have been walking these paths daily and I can tell you there are more runners out today than there have been since we moved here last August.

This is the “way up” phenomena, I suppose.  The “way up” phenomena in temperature changes plays out about the same as the “way down” phenomena in weight changes.  When the temperature is on the “way up,” it feels extra warm by comparison to the cold temperatures and so we suddenly feel inspired to don less clothing and exercise out doors even though, if the temperature were on the “way down,” we would be wearing layers at the same temperature.

Similarly, the “way down” phenomena in weight loss inspires us to think we look much better when we’ve lost a few pounds and to dress in clothing that, when we were on the “way up,” we would not have been caught dead in at the same exact weight.  Maybe that should be called the “weigh down” phenomena?

Tisen and I stop in our favorite store, Bone Appetite, for the third day in a row and pick up the oatmeal shampoo they were out of.  Tisen’s skin is getting less flaky and his coat is getting more shiny, but he still has red, irritated areas that he licks and chews at.  Between switching him to a high quality food, feeding him fish oil, bathing him in oatmeal, and treating him with “Nu Stock,” I’m hoping he’ll stop itching soon.

Grocery Therapy

Well, dear readers, in response to requests from some of my geographically distant friends who would like to read my blog but just don’t have time, I am going to see if I can keep my entries to under 500 words for a while (not counting this paragraph, of course :-)).  Here I go . . .

I wake up with such an ache in my neck I feel nauseous (or maybe it’s the realization it’s Monday that upsets my stomach?).  I walk around with the weight of my head in my hands, trying to prevent a major spasm.

Throughout the day, no matter how much I keep my head propped on my headrest, the pain increases as I work.  I take a break in the early afternoon to lay on the floor and try to get my muscles to relax.  Then, I try sitting on the couch, which makes every muscle go nuts all over again.

I remember seeing a sign in the window of a local yoga studio advertising some type of therapy I’ve never heard of before.  I go to their website.  It’s called Ortho-Bionomy.  It sounds pretty logical as an approach, so I call and make an appointment.  Unfortunately, I will not be able to get in until tomorrow.  Jann, the therapist, suggests ice and anti-inflammatories in the interim.  I’ve been trying to only take the anti-inflammatories at night so I’m not taking too much of them, but I decide I should take Jann’s advice.  I take aspirin and prop an ice pack on my neck while I work.

I make it to the end of the day, and even manage to get all my online Christmas shopping done before I have to get away from the computer.

It’s late and we have no food.  I walk to the grocery store alone since Pat is preoccupied.  I plan to only pick up enough for dinner, but I end up getting milk and soy milk and yogurt and coffee and . . . I have only 2 grocery bags with me, figuring I can balance the load for the walk home to avoid irritating my neck further.

I look at the full cart and worry I’m going to be in agonizing pain walking the block home.  However, the aspirin, ice, and the walk over here seemed to have helped quite a bit–my neck feels better than it felt all day.  I decide to risk it.

I pay for the groceries–can I just ask, why is GreenLife/Whole Foods so freaking expensive?  Aren’t they supposed to be sourcing directly from local farmers?  Shouldn’t that make their groceries less expensive?

In any case, I divide the groceries carefully, distributing the weight evenly between the two bags.  I carry one bag on each shoulder and then walk home.  Amazingly, the weight of the bags pulling my shoulders down actually feels really good.  As long as I don’t turn my head, it helps.

When I get home, I heat up the stuffed pasta shells I bought and feed me and Pat.  It’s hot and good.  My neck is feeling more functional than I would have thought possible just an hour earlier.  Maybe I shouldn’t complain about the prices at Whole Foods since buying groceries turned out to be physical therapy as well?

Do Nomads Need Personal Trainers?

 

The Hill

I imagine trying to explain the concept of a personal trainer to a nomad. Where would I start? How would I explain that if I don’t make time for exercise, I don’t get any to someone who spends most of their day on their feet?  Then, how would I convince them that it makes perfect sense to pay someone to appoint a time and place for us to meet so s/he can tell me what to do? How crazy would it seem that I am so far removed from the physical activity of my ancestors that I have to learn how to stay fit? As crazy as it may seem to our ancestors, the reality of mainstream life is that many of us spend most of our waking hours sitting at a computer.  For me, while I manage to work walking, biking, and yoga into my routine, I have a harder time with strength training. So, I embrace my mainstream-self and sign up for a three month personal training package.

It’s a funny thing about working out. When I first worked out with a trainer, it was all about the weights. Then, circa 2002, more holistic body movements came into fashion, returning us to childhood gym classes with medicine balls, balancing balls, pulleys, and a wide assortment of other torture devices. Today, trainers seem to have shifted even more towards using your own body weight and have added bursts of cardio into each workout.

Here in Chattanooga, the trainer took me out to do hill runs between strength exercises. I’ve never actually done hill runs. Maybe because I grew up in Columbus, OH? Thankfully, it was a short hill. He prodded me to “sprint” up the hill. I was breathing too hard to explain that I was sprinting; I flashed back to playing co-rec softball and running for first base with my teammates yelling encouragements like, “Drop the piano!” And that was on a flat surface. I can run fast, actually. Even very fast for short distances. What I can’t do is accelerate from a stop. I’m a slow accelerator. This is a mystery to me. It’s like my legs are too long and my brain loses track of where they went. If I get into a rhythm for a while, something in my brain clicks and it knows where my feet are again and knows how to tell them to move faster. Of course, getting into a rhythm and running are not two things that occur in the same sentence for me very often–I would far rather get my cardio with a set of wheels taking all the abuse.

But, today, I run. The heat and gravity push against me like a wall. I keep pushing back, knowing the hill will end soon. My breath accelerates faster than my legs. I reach the top before I give out. I take a moment to breathe deeply, trying to restore my heart rate to something that simulates normal. I look at my trainer who laughs at me. I ponder briefly why I am spending money to have someone make me do things I don’t want to do. Then, I bounce awkwardly back down the hill backwards (another twist of modern training), giggling to myself as I experience a flash of the childhood silliness that goes with skipping backwards down a hill. I realize this is fun. Then I do push ups at the bottom and feel pride that I am strong enough to do them well.

Fitness is a funny thing. I’ve learned over many years of vacillating between couch-potatoeness and obsessive (if clumsy) althetic-ness that black-and-white thinking does not allow me to sustain fitness. Killing myself in the gym leads to pain and exhaustion, which leads to sitting on the couch for stretches that can reach months. Working exercise into my life sustainably has now given me a lot of years of moderate fitness. Realizing that I will never be a good athlete was a break-through moment for me. Accepting my limitations (which I am grateful are just a lack of coordination and desire) and allowing just a little regular exercise to be enough maintains my health. Ultimately, health is my goal–I accept that I will never again look like I did when I was 25 or 28 or 32 . . .

In moments (of which there were recently many) when I can do things like lift a heavy box and carry it confidently, I congratulate myself for finding this balance. There is something empowering about knowing I can do something. It opens doors to taking on tasks that would otherwise seem daunting. It allows for possibilities like hang gliding, bike tours, backpacking, and even just taking the stairs. This precarious balance between stressing myself and reducing stress creates a daily experience of can-do versus wish-I-could-do. I run that hill not because I want to but because I want to know that possibility is open to me, too.