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(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

Sometimes I have to remind myself that the destination isn’t the only thing that counts. When you are young, you think “When I am five, I can go to school,” “When I am in high school . . .”, “When I get out on my own . . .” and on and on. The problem is it becomes so easy to keep thinking this way even though you long ago stopped being young at all.

So far true mindfulness has evaded me in many situations. When I run, I can’t always focus on body sensing or my breathing. In fact, one of the best parts of running for me is how my mind often takes off on its own journey—which is definitely better than thinking about what may hurt or what I have left to run. Not very mindful I know, but that mind journey is part of most running journeys for me.

On the other hand, when I am doing ZUMBA or dancing, I am just dancing, hearing the beats of the particular song playing. When I was dancing as if I didn’t know my age at my nephew’s wedding in February, I did allow myself to think—briefly—about how old I felt the morning after dancing at another nephew’s wedding in November, but then thought, “What the heck?” My feet prefer the muscle memory of the moment, not the muscle memory of the mornings after–and so I danced on.

In every thing—little or big—that we do, there’s always this tension between journey and destination. For the chores we must do, it’s easy to think that just getting done is what matters, but when we do so, we lose the meditative benefits that can come from doing repetitive movements. In fact, I tend to tempt myself into doing these chores by listening to books or music—which is fine from time to time. But there can also be something very Zen-like about hearing the whir of the wheels as you push the manual lawnmower through the grass and smelling the perfume from the blades of grass now opened to the air.

Moments of flow do not happen when we are focused on the end to the detriment of what is happening around us. They happen when we are just where we are, one minute to the next.

You’re on a journey—don’t miss it while looking for the exit. Too soon, the exit comes for all of us.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

Earlier this year I started working out with a heart rate monitor and was very frustrated by what it told me. Still, I gritted my teeth and committed to working with it for a few months to see if I would become stronger by first slowing down. All these years I’ve been telling myself to speed up and now I have to tell myself to slow down!

At the same time, I’ve wondered how accurate the traditional heart rate ranges are for a person with exercise-induced asthma who pre-treats with ProAir, a medication known to raise heart rates. I don’t have breathing difficulties in my regular day-to-day activities, just when I’m exerting myself aerobically. In fact, if I pre-treat very long before my activity begins, I get very jumpy.

As for that question, I just found out that National Jewish Health cardiology is doing outreach into the neighborhoods by offering Walk with a Doc monthly events where a specific health topic is discussed and then people go on a walk with the health professionals present and ask more personal questions. When I wrote the program with my question, the doctor in charge suggested I come and talk with them there—which I will do at the June event. However, he did give me hope that I may not have to restrain myself at the level I am currently. You mean I don’t always have to run like an old woman??!!

Typical run exertion rates Jan. 2013

Typical run exertion rates Jan. 2013

Since I’ve been using the watch for around three months, I have finally collected quite a bit of data and there is definitely a positive trend occurring. My watch “knows” what’s happening throughout my run, but the straight data I get is more along the line of mean and mode—it doesn’t really tell me what my median heart rate is. However, I can find a summary of that data through the training load chart. Checking it yesterday, I was surprised and delighted to see that my willingness to “listen” to my watch these past several months has paid off.

According to Polar Fitness, “Training intensity and duration as well as physical parameters (for instance, age, weight) affect training load.” The training load chart is divided into three zones: red indicates “cumulative training load is on a very high level” that is potentially straining your body so much so that taking a break is recommended; yellow indicates “cumulative training load is on a high level” and training level should be reduced in intensity; and, green, which indicates “you are recovered from previous training sessions” and can increase training sessions or their intensity levels.

Typical run exertion rates April 2013

Typical run exertion rates April 2013

I’m very happy to report that I haven’t hit the red zone in over two and a half months and that my workouts in the yellow zone this month have been very close to the green zone. For the most part my highest training loads happen in ZUMBA class where I do not make any effort to slow myself down. But even those sessions have improved greatly since I began changing my running patterns by exerting myself more as the watch suggested I should.

This news makes me ecstatic because it means that very soon I should be able to begin increasing my speed without overexerting my heart. Then I’ll just be running like the middle-aged woman I am! As well as exerting myself in a much safer manner than previously. Yaroo!

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

The computer has not crashed yet, so we didn’t take it down after all. In fact, it took a break from ominous messages. So after I met with the accountant, I was able to prepare the FAFSA forms for this year. Then I continued by finishing my March bill-paying. I know—I have all the fun, right? Well, the ominous messages are back so maybe we’ll take down the system for Unplugged Day or whatever this is supposed to be. I call it a good excuse to go skiing and try to shake off all those unfriendly numbers I’ve spent time with this past week.

Speaking of numbers, though, I have made some peace with my heart rate monitor as far as the running goes. Yes, I let the watch tell me how often and how hard to run over the last four weeks. Though I never quite met its expectations, I did change my approach. Plus, I looked around for other interpretations of what my running heart rate should be that might better suit my own expectations.

The standard that sounds most fun I haven’t had time to do: aiming for the heart rate that allows me to hold a conversation with someone while running for 30 minutes. I might be crazy, but I didn’t really want to be known as that crazy woman who mutters to herself the whole time she is running!

Another option I discovered didn’t hold with using the 220 minus my age and then keeping me at a low percentage of my maximum. Instead the goal is to aim for 180 minus my age—which puts me right where I tend to run—well, after this past month of retraining myself.

Previously I would have considered even that heart rate too low, but now I see the value in not stressing my body too quickly. I’m still hopeful that I will return to my previous pace but while maintaining a more reasonable heart rate. After all, I thought I would just die going as slowly as that watch said I should, but now my own heart rate is what is telling me I can go faster. In other words, I can run faster while achieving the same heart rate that just last month I could only maintain by trudging.

I still don’t know how exercise-induced asthma affects heart rates in general or mine in particular. I have no idea if I will ever be able to run up a hill without breathing heavier (and my heart beating faster) than someone who does not have asthma.

Also, I don’t know if I can get myself to dance in ZUMBA at a rate that would make my monitor happy. All I know is that while I can slow myself down for running, I don’t even want to dance if I have to cut back as much as it recommends.

Which may mean that, though I am working at a higher level than most everyone in the class, I am not likely going to lose much weight in ZUMBA. Now that’s just crazy! I guess I’m going to have to look to running more for burning those calories than to ZUMBA.

Perhaps the running will eventually prepare my heart better for all that jumping and spinning. Or not.

Numbers are not all that life is about—having something you love goes a long way toward reducing the strain your heart experiences when dealing with disk space, taxes, bills, and all the other can’t-avoid-them numbers in your life. Sometimes you know something is good for your heart simply because you love it—now that’s heart-healthy in and of itself.

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

Yes, it’s finally coming back. When you first fall ill, you’re sick enough to think it’s a great idea, say, to watch the entire Season 2 of Downton Abbey in one day—interspersed with naps, of course. But after you lose several days to doing nothing, you want to catch up.

However, the truth is after you’ve been really sick, then comes the time when you’re just tired. And, if you’re smart, you’ll listen to your body and rest when you body say, “Rest!”

Talk about dull and unproductive! And when you are productive, it’s because you only have the energy to do the dull things you must do.

Well, two weeks after my flu/cold, I finally regained some energy. Who knows if I am pushing it too hard or if I really am that much better? I’ve hardly coughed at all since Monday and that is a big improvement. Plus, maybe losing five pounds from not wanting to eat turned out to be helpful after all. (Don’t worry, I have plenty to spare . . .)

Yesterday, for the first time in a long time, I didn’t have my Tuesday noon Pilates class—it’s been cancelled permanently due to low numbers. As much as I know I need the class or something similar to keep my lower back behaving, I didn’t miss it yesterday. I might not have been doing planks, but I was going up and down the stairs, putting away things that have been homeless for too long. I also undid the dogs’ winter-weather handiwork by mopping the floor. Finally I got around to putting the new rugs on the bedroom floor—but not until I cleaned the floor first. It’s rare when I find the energy to do domestic tasks so I pushed myself as hard as I could—I’ll leave out the rest of what I did. No, not exciting to do but exciting to have done!

Then today I woke up really craving some ZUMBA dancing, even though I’d be going to yoga later. If I’d known we’d be doing vinyasa yoga, maybe I would have waited, but probably not. I just wanted to move once I saw the beginnings of this glorious day. And then after working out inside, how could I resist the Colorado blue skies and warm temperatures that returned today? Yes, I went for my first run since the day before I came down with the flu. Was it easy? No, but it was just the sort of day that not only makes me want to run, but also has the kindest weather conditions for my conditioning.

So after all that, do I still have energy? Yes and no. Truth is sometimes dealing with frustration kills my energy more than movement. Let’s just say that online job application I worked on made me want to scream—the system really didn’t want to send me my password again and it really doesn’t want to make it easy to input a résumé (yeah, sure all the formatting disappears but will the system allow you just to send your nicely-formatted résumé? Not a chance!)

Boy, have I missed my energy, whether I wanted to use it for fun activities or just to get me through necessary—or even frustrating—activities. I bet I sleep well tonight—which will build more energy, right? Welcome back, Energy! See you tomorrow . . . when you and I work together, the sky is wide open.

(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.

Ready to get off the dock and run . . .
(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

Anyone wonder if I followed up my rhapsodic “back to running” post with any more running? That’s a pretty good question. The truth is that most of us have to work through the beginning phases of running before it ever becomes the sort of thing that we love—unless you’re really young—then all you have to do is put up with a couple days of pain and then you’re back to where you started—oh, those were the days!

When you’re missing running like I am, then you know you’re really lucky to encounter the kind of perfect day that is seductive enough to make you want to go through what you have to go through to get back to running. So since that golden October day that provided enough fuel to ignite my desire, I have followed up with four—count them—four short runs.

Still, I am nowhere near back on track. Just call me H. R. HuffandPuff (yes, I know bad 70s TV reference—that’s H. R. Pufnstuf to you youngsters.) I swear I haven’t just been sitting around the house eating bonbons, but when I start running, I soon feel as if I haven’t been doing any aerobic work.

Thank goodness I do ZUMBA, but I only do a high-level class once a week. Plus, ZUMBA classes are supposed to be designed using songs with varying intensity levels so as to make the workout more like interval training than not. You could call it a sort of fartlek (or speed play) workout for dancing.

Despite learning (and giggling about) fartlek in high school track, I’ve never been one to vary my running speeds unless someone else tells me or reminds me to do so.

No, I’m just slogging—at one pace only—on the street and thinking running feels really, really hard so far. Before I step out my front door, I watch and do Chi Running’s recommended exercises (called looseners by the Chi Running folks)—even though by practicing the looseners, I might make the neighbors think I’ve taken up hula dancing. Nonetheless, I think I am doing a reasonable job of following the Chi Running principles. Maybe by waiting a month or so between watching the DVD and running I have created some mental distance between my resistance to changing my form and the ability to make the change.

So while I am not really limber yet, I have moved from the limbo of not running to the limbo of learning to run in a new way.

Change is hard, but then again, so is not being able to do what you want to do.

And with that in mind, I’ve got some looseners to do so I can get out there and do (short) run number five. Gotta’ run . . .

Christiana and Trina jumping, 2009

I’m not a big fan of the current culture of sports. Don’t like the tribalism, the excessive focus on winning at all costs, the big money thrown at competing, or so much acceptance of rude behavior toward others. But I love watching the movements of those who are at the top of their sports and/or have worked really hard to get their bodies to do really difficult tasks and make those tasks look easy.

Although I’m not one to schedule my life around watching sporting events, I’m here to tell you I was enthralled with Peyton Manning’s comeback to football while leading the Denver Broncos to the win this last week. Kinda’ brought tears to my eyes, even though I’ve never really followed professional football closely or paid Manning any attention.

Even though people around the world don’t really care if Trina Lambert’s finished or not as they do with Manning, I understand having to sit on the bench, wondering if I’ll ever get back in the game again.

What I could see was this guy’s yearning—and absolute joy—to be back and to know he was still able to make plays.

I get the hubris that is involved in trying to keep your body doing what it’s always done as if age doesn’t matter—which it does. But on the other hand, sometimes you just want to feel the wind moving through your hair as you reach for the finish or the exhilaration of jumping in the air. The truth is, once we understand the prospect that we might never again feel those joys, some of us are willing to work for comebacks that just return us to doing what we love. Unlike professional athletes, if we have to slow down a little or limit the height of our leaps to keep moving, then we will.

You don’t have to be famous or even good to love to move your body.

So now that I’m jumping again, I’m ready to build my baby steps into running strides. However, my memories from my exile—when moving whenever and however I pleased was not to be—have taught me that wanting is not enough—I have to change my approach if I want to play again. It’s no good working so hard to get better only to go back to running with my same old form.

While focusing on developing a mid-foot strike and applying other techniques from Chi Running, last week I took my first steps around the track on that proverbial 1000-mile journey.

I felt more like a stranger to those lanes than someone who once thought running was as necessary as breathing.

Yet, in those moments when I forgot the 1-2-3 count maintaining my cadence, I sensed the possibility of the freedom to return to doing one more activity that’s helped make me who I am.

That’s all the victory I need for now.

And, no, I don’t know if I’ll be watching Manning play again tonight because, after all, my ZUMBA class meets on Monday. I am back and I am most definitely in black . . . exercise clothes.

Gotta’ run—or is that gotta’ jump?

(c) 2012 Trina Lambert

Yes, I may have had a hard time sticking to plan on almost all of the letters in this A to Z Blogging Challenge, but I always knew I would finish by writing about ZUMBA. (I do know that “Y” is missing so, technically, I did not finish with “Z”–oh well!)

Although ZUMBA fitness has been around since 2001, these days ZUMBA is the hot, hot, hot fitness craze—and not just because you get really hot while doing it! For me—being the local gym rat that I am (see my “Re-Creation Center” post)—my knowledge of ZUMBA started when I saw a sign advertising a new class coming to my center in August 2009. I’ve been dancing ever since.

I have always loved dancing, even though my formal dancing days were brief and limited to what was available in my Nebraska town of 600. The only choices we had were whether or not to do whatever activities someone was willing to teach in whatever space . For me, that means I learned tumbling, baton twirling, tap dancing, and Hawaiian dancing in a community center and/or school gym, not in a dance studio.

And as much as I learned to love dance, I still suffered a lot of anxiety about performing. In fact, though I would tell you I “retired” at eight because of the growing pains in my back and because I just wanted to have a chance to watch Saturday morning cartoons, I really, really didn’t want to continue if it meant dancing with the group in a scheduled TV performance in a larger close-by town.

At least I now had time to watch American Bandstand with my newfound free time, which was helpful since my friends and I played “American Bandstand” games more than we ever played “school” together.

I often regretted how my eight-year-old performance anxiety stopped my formal instruction, but I didn’t really stop dancing. Cheerleading, a class in Spain, a class at my own college, Jazzercise, and dancing informally whenever I got the chance followed.

Still, for several years the only dancing I did regularly happened in my mind during savasana in yoga. But what a dancer I became in those last minutes of class, twice a week, over a period of four years.

I think my heart knew what I truly needed to become mindful: dance.

You see, I love what yoga has done for my mind and body, but for the most part, I have to work hard to keep my mind from wandering off in classes. I have to push away those “to-do” list thoughts, the worries about loved ones, the meanderings away from where I am right then.

Not in ZUMBA. In ZUMBA I am just dancing. No matter what is happening in my life, I forget it once the songs begin. Even more than the desire to teach or feel better physically, I know that I want my body to heal so I can self-medicate my mind through ZUMBA.

The tagline for ZUMBA is “Ditch the workout—join the party!” but I think of it more like the words from that song “Get Happy”:

Forget your troubles and just get happy . . .

“Z” really stands for happy in the moment with ZUMBA—for me.

(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

Anyone else a runner during the running boom of the late 70s? Do you remember that some time later some studies came out that said running was actually harmful? What about the stir raised when running guru James Fixx died from running? I didn’t pay much attention to the hype, but it seemed the media often chose to pick up on the “running is bad” concept without analyzing studies or considering other factors.

I just thought a lot of people were looking for a reason not to do an activity they didn’t like in the first place. You know, the kind of people who are always doing the latest thing whether or not they enjoy it and whether or not it’s good for their bodies. I think the media buzz is happening again with yoga (and like it did with aerobics and Pilates and . . .)

Yes, I learned the truth—at seventeen—that running could hurt me. I ended up getting fitted for orthotics which helped me recover my health long term. The podiatrist said that running didn’t cause my imbalance problems—it just accelerated how soon they showed up and began affecting my life. Never again did I have the same obsession with running nor was I as naïve about the helpfulness of running, but I didn’t stop for good—I liked running.

You see, I didn’t run because it was “in” or the cool thing to do. For the most part it was a lonely experience, except for when I could meet up with my friends to do it or be part of a track or cross country team. Yet running often soothed my soul. I truly believe this was how I managed my undiagnosed ADD for so many years.

Enter real life obligations, children, and another undiagnosed condition that worsened—asthma—and running became less frequent in my life. It got to the point where I knew my weight gain was a risk factor for running, yet I didn’t know how to keep down my weight without running. This time I ended up with an injury common to inflexible, heavier, long term runners of a certain age: plantar fasciitis.

After that injury healed enough that I could use my feet, I switched to walking. Didn’t “everyone” say that was healthier anyway? I walked and walked—and continued to gain weight. With my feet problems, I couldn’t do any hard core land-based aerobic activities. So . . . I signed up for my first yoga classes.

By that point my lower back was hurting so much that I couldn’t get out of my chair easily. While I did find that yoga was helping in so many ways, maybe it wasn’t enough or maybe it just wasn’t fast enough. When I told my doctor, she thought I ought to add Pilates classes first to see if I could avoid physical therapy.

Here’s the deal: with yoga, Pilates, and walking, I did start to feel better—everywhere, but especially with my back and feet—and that ADD mind. And then I started to lose weight which meant I could move more vigorously, enough so that I could return to running and begin doing ZUMBA dancing.

So are all those things to blame for my recent back injury? Well, maybe. However, I will point out that my injury surfaced after I took off a week from exercise while spending most of that time sitting in a car.

Now that yoga is the new evil activity, it must have been the real cause behind my injury, right?

Really, I think that living and aging are behind my recent physical woes. As far as I can tell, people can get injured by moving—or not moving—or both as they age. When my father needed back surgery, it was because he carried excess weight and did not move unless necessary.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather earn my badges of aging from activity versus inactivity.

So I’m not going to stop practicing yoga even if I am more likely to modify my poses now. I have always gone to restorative yoga classes led by mature instructors who aren’t fostering a competitive environment. And I will argue with a teacher if I think a pose goes against the advice I am receiving from the medical practitioners treating my condition—if I’m not going to believe them and follow their advice, then I need to stop seeing them.

I guess I have to say that if people don’t like to do yoga, then they should not be doing yoga to please others. They can take their chances lifting weights, swimming laps, or sitting in their Easy Chairs while I’m holding a Downward Dog—or attempting to get back to running again.

Maybe we’re all just running against the wind trying to maintain our bodies in the face of time, but I’d rather move than sit down to wait for the Grim Reaper to find me.

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Blogging AtoZ Challenge 2012