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(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

I don’t know why, but I am always ready to work out hard in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s not even a conscious decision to do so to avoid holiday weight gain, although this year the yoga instructor asked our classes if we wanted to try to lose five pounds during this period and most of us said, “yes”—that is until we encountered her higher energy level classes. Ah well, we’re stuck with them for now, right?

But, actually there’s something peaceful about exercising in December before the new people show up who made some sort of resolution—and who may or may not come back in February. The classes now are full of people who really choose to be there, for whatever reason.

I also like having a really good outlet for any holiday stress or tension. Better to sweat off my frustration than to make other people sweat because I am so cranky!

After one Pilates and one ZUMBA class, two yoga classes, as well as three baby-step runs since Sunday, I’m just a little exhausted. Only halfway through this week, I’m looking forward to getting some good sleep tonight. (Guess who’s getting older??!!)

I’m going to blame some of that fatigue on trying to get my lungs up-to-speed for running. Darn, how their lack of aerobic fitness is holding me back! And all these long months without any hill-running are showing up on my mandatory neighborhood hill climb (yes, I can change my routes, but unless I want to cross busy Broadway, any other way I cut it, I have to run downhill first and finish coming uphill).

Over the years, every time I return to running, I am reminded that running is so much more fun once you are in shape for it! Am I having fun yet? Well, intellectually I’m pretty excited about getting back out there. In fact, with these incredibly-warm-for-the-season days, I practically itch to get outside and use those running shoes. Now for my fitness level to grow to match my enthusiasm . . .

Which, if I keep lacing up those shoes, will happen. I can still report that none of my old, chronic aches and pains has returned with my return to the roads. And, if the weather finally becomes true-to-the-season, my rec card is even loaded up to allow me easy access to the (not-so-great) indoor running track.

This season ‘tis my season to hit exercise hard—and unlike last year at this time—the only protest I’m getting is from my energy level. So I’ll try to increase my energy level with some protein—and, I’m just going to admit—with a little holiday chocolate.

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(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert (Trina: after working out at the Englewood Recreation Center)

You know, the term recreation center doesn’t work that well for me. Maybe that’s because I consider recreation more of an optional thing, but I don’t consider exercise optional at all. I don’t know, when I’m skiing or hiking, that’s recreation, but yoga or Pilates are work—although work I choose to do. Though the term recreation center doesn’t work for me, however, the recreation center itself does work for me.

I remember when my hometown built a recreation center when I was in junior high. Suddenly there was some place to go and do physical things, even if it was too cold and/or icy to run outside—you know like when the temperature dropped below ten degrees and the wind chill below zero—I could at least run around the gym. Oh, the center didn’t have all the bells and whistles today’s centers have, but I could lift weights, play racquetball, or meet friends in the swimming pool (did I mention I’m not enough of a swimmer to swim for fitness?)

Truth is, even in metro Denver, I’ve mostly stuck with recreation centers. I just feel more comfortable there—something about the term “club” just seems a little too high-brow for all the sweating I do when I exercise. These days I think of myself as a gym rat, even though I don’t go to the local recreation center to lift weights or use the equipment. Instead I attend classes there at least four times a week.

Signing up for scheduled classes means I will exercise because I am too cheap to pay for classes and not go. We all have to have our motivators, right? I’m just sure that if paid by the month or year or whatever that I wouldn’t stay as committed as I do by taking specific classes at a specific time. Because, like I said, exercise isn’t always recreation for me.

Still, I don’t want you to think I don’t enjoy exercise—it’s just I don’t always enjoy all of the activities in my classes. I mean, I am never going to be a fan of the Pilates “100s” or that one particular yoga position that resembles being a prisoner chained to the wall in a castle dungeon (sorry, I don’t know the technical term for that one!) or even dancing to any country song routines in ZUMBA.

Yet if you look in my gratitude journal, my trips to the rec center are among my top entries. No, my local recreation center does not have a catchy (or annoying!) song such as the YMCA does, but I still think it’s fun to work out there anyway. After all, once I split the word “recreate” into re-create, I start to understand the term recreation center after all. There’s no denying that all those Downward Dogs and planks have re-created me into a much, much better version of me.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Warning: this is not a happy little holiday post; in fact, it’s not even a happy little everyday post. No, it’s the post that should I get it out of my head might yet lead me to be able to sleep tonight.

However, this is not about sleeping tonight. No, I keep thinking that if I can just get the dining room table cleared during the daylight hours tomorrow, somehow I’ll find a way to salvage what’s left of 2011 and get myself ready to shed this year for the possibility of 2012. If you’re like me and have ADD and you’ve been through a lot of recent loss, you might understand how something as mundane as a bunch of random items on a table or any similar space can grow to appear as a physical manifestation of the condition of your heart and mind.

Yes, a year ago today began my mother’s last month on this earth. I can’t even tell you that was a bad thing because of the Alzheimer’s that had ravaged her mind as well as her body. But it was a very hard thing to watch her go in that way, to know that her brain kept everything—from her thoughts to her vocal cords to her feet—from working as they were used to doing. And to know that as inadequate as I felt, it was my job to hold her hand on that final journey.

I understood that the start of the new year would bring the end for my mother, which was really a kindness to both her and anyone who knew her previously. That part I accepted, as much as anyone really can. One day, after three years of daily concern for her—whether or not other capable hands cared for her—she was gone.

The thing is the losses kept mounting. My uncle died six weeks later and a few days later we lost our dog whose cancer had appeared as my mother was leaving. Sherman and I have been to too many funerals for friends’ parents over the last sixteen months, none more agonizing for me than those for people who were destroyed in the same way my mother had been. Even though our other dog’s life ended at a somewhat expected time, the timing in the midst of this year was hard to accept.

Of all the things I did to soothe my soul, exercise and maintaining my body’s strength brought me the most moments of calm and peacefulness. I had no idea that the other great joy—welcoming a puppy (and another dog) into our home—would negate much of what exercise could do for me. If I had known that that fateful long road trip to bring home our pup would take away so much of my strength for so long, I would have found another way to get him here.

That I am regaining some of my former energy does not make up for the months without it. I am so discovering that I crave using my energy for more exciting activities than the “have-to’s” of this past year, including the huge task of going through the mess left behind by my parents’ lifelong possessions—especially since I did not have enough of me to go around just to get through my regular daily commitments.

In fact, just seeing the table as it is tells me how ready I am to skip catching up. If there is any way to forgo another month of mourning, sign me up. I want to be a person who can converse without feeling compelled to talk about anything negative happening in my life, including in this blog. Oh, to regain the sparkle in my eyes and the spring in my step. Next time I have a hard time falling asleep, I hope it is not because my hips hurt or because my heart aches, but because I have too much I want to do.

There’s no catching up only starting anew. I can pat myself on the back for all I have cleared off that table, but in the end I am so over all the crap that has been so much a part of this year. I’m tired of it tripping me up and reminding me of what is past—I just want it gone. On the days when it doesn’t irritate me enough, I know I have become too complacent in this boring yet painful state. If I can’t bring back to wholeness what has been lost, then it’s time to rage, rage against the dark night that is this year of loss.

This is the next-to-longest night of 2011—just one more night until light once more begins its cycle of growth.

So now that these words have eased from me enough to let me rest for the remainder of this dark night, mark my words: today’s light shall shine yet on a freshly cleaned tabletop, open with possibility for what comes next.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Today I’m not going exercise class. Nope, I’m sitting at the computer wearing non-exercise clothes at noon on a workout day—and that’s OK.

Last week my exercise specialist and I had a big conversation about how little progress I was seeing from all their prescribed exercises—an hour a day!—as well as my usual classes and runs. I was tired as well as a little bit bored from all that work.

This time when she suggested a week off I did not protest. She thought that maybe the muscles we were trying to strengthen were in fact being overused at the same time.

All I know is that for all my effort, I wasn’t gaining enough.

After she conferred with the chiropractor, the two of them agreed that for this week I should walk or hike—while wearing my trochanter belt again—and stretch only.

Those instructions worked well with my travel plans anyway—as long as I could start after one more pre-road trip yoga class. While it’s good to have focused stretching the day before you set out, the day you spend six and a half hours in a car is a great day for light stretching without any extra exercise.

The exercise reduction was especially good timing since we had mini-road trips planned to get and return Christiana so she could go see her brother’s performance in Durango also, as well as visit with friends.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Wasn’t sure if Mother Nature would cooperate for the hike Sherman and I planned the morning after the play, but boy did she. Saturday dawned with just the sort of perfect October weather we had experienced when we had gotten married twenty-three years earlier. Whenever we can, we hike to celebrate the day. Was glad to know I had doctor’s orders to do so this year!

Despite using the stretching tools I’d brought—the foam roller, exercise bands, and tennis ball—I felt no different than usual. Then again, I felt no worse even though I’d sat in a car for way too long.

Another long car ride and a night of sleep, off we drove to take Christiana back to her new home. First, however, we went on another hike, this time outside of where she lives now.

Several hours later, Sherman and I returned, exhausted from our travels. Wasn’t until it got closer to bedtime that I realized I wasn’t really hurting. Not from hiking, not from riding in a car, not from just living.

Hmm. Maybe we’re on to something.

So I here I sit—will see what happens next week when I get back to work. A week’s break is nice, but two? I don’t think so!

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