Can you stand on one foot? With eyes closed?

One_footCan you stand on one foot? Easy, right?

Now try it with your eyes closed. You’ll probably tip over. Why?

Because you have no way to focus. When we need to balance, we instinctively focus in on something. A tree or a coffee table. It’s the same thing that dancers and ice skaters do in a spin. Focus on one spot, spin around, and come back to center.

Having a focal point gives an immediate response when we teeter.

Interesting thought for exercise and for life.

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Listen To Your Body – It’s Telling You To Rest

My little experiment that reaped great rewards

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Copyright Dennis Mitton

Tired-1
Your body will tell you when it’s time. Will you listen?

Maybe you’ve noticed something now that you’re forty or sixty or eighty: your body takes a little longer to do what it used to do easily and effortlessly. Use this information wisely. Be nice to yourself. Take care of small scratches and cuts as they can take longer to heal. Be patient with others as they are moving a little slower too.

This is essential advice if you actively exercise. Back in the good ol’ days that we all talk about, I could step on the scale on Friday morning, frown, run ten miles on Saturday and another five on Sunday, and smile at the scale on Monday morning. Not now. Losing weight takes a concentrated Herculean effort now that I’m pushing sixty. And that many miles will tire me out for a week.

runI learned to give my body time to rest last summer in sunny, blistering, buggy, and drippingly humid, South Carolina. It’s glorious in April but by the end of May I will wake up to 85 degrees and the temperature will top at around 100. Running on paved roads adds another five degrees. I tried waiting until we had a brief shower but that drives the humidity up to where one can hardly catch a breath. Natives complain less than I do but for this coffee-infused Son of Seattle it’s a tough slog.

So I quit running. I took August off and enjoyed the air conditioning and concentrated on stretching and yoga. I ran a three-mile loop one night a week when the temperature mercifully dropped to below 85 degrees. September here is as hot as August so I started back up in mid-September to get ready for a race in early October. I wasn’t sure what to expect and was truly shocked when I turned in my best times for both a 5k and 10k run. I felt smooth and comfortable the entire race. At first, I thought it was my new Lycra tights. They admittedly look pretty sweet but I don’t think they contributed to my times. I wondered if it was the cooler temps and I’m sure that helped. What I’m most convinced of is that the time off helped. Stretching and resting gave my legs time to repair from long runs in the late spring and it took a few weeks of rest to begin feeling the benefits.

victoria_s
We act like this is the goal…
yoga
When, really, this is the goal. Whole, healthy and hale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every fitness book and trainer talks about rest. It’s when our bodies repair and recharge but few of us really believe it. We’re athletes! We push through pain! We force our body to submit to our iron will! Well, maybe not. So I’ve incorporated indolence and sloth into my weekly regimen and I feel so much better for it. When my legs feel like lead on Tuesday, I listen to them and take off until Saturday. I stretch. I get a couple hours of extra sleep. I loll about and read.  Maybe even spend some quality time with the family! And I feel better for it.

So go work out. Work hard. Breathe hard. Pump your muscles. Feel your body work. And when you’ve worked enough – you’ll know when that is – take a rest. Maybe for a day. Maybe for a week. Or for six weeks like I did. It’s not the end of the world and will almost certainly make your world a little better. And isn’t that exactly what living the good life is all about?

Similar posts:

Take Care of Small Things
Running in the Heat

Give Yourself a Break – with Caveats

Whatever you are working on to improve, there will be days when it is the very last thing you want to do. It doesn’t matter if you are training for a marathon or a spelling bee.  So what to do?

You can give yourself permission to duff. I do this with some of my workouts. On some days, I burn straight through these drills and the sweat feels great. Other days, not so much. So I slow down. What they hey – I’m not training for the Olympics. And doing something is almost always better than doing nothing.

Or you can take a break for a day. Or a few days. Sometimes, a couple of days off helps you return with a vigor and enthusiasm that you had forgotten. Be careful, though. The key to improvement is mindful, incremental plodding toward a goal. There is a fine line – you will have to decide where it lays – between a rejuvenating break and giving up.

Happy Easter

I’m not a religious person nor am I spiritual. But if you are a Christian or if you at least enjoy a gorgeously cooked ham, then I wish you a happy and carefree Easter.

Cheers!

eggs

(And why do we eat pig on Easter? Did early Christians snub their noses at their Jewish brethren and flaunt their new freedoms?)

Do Something Different to Improve

How can you improve by doing the same thing over and over?

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Copyright Dennis Mitton

GluteousHere’s a weird one but it gets to the point.

My butt is killing me. Right at the top where my gluteus medius attaches to the top of my pelvis. It a smaller muscle right at the top of your rear that helps you balance and controls sideways movement of the legs.

The muscle hurts because I don’t use it much and now I am. I like running which, obviously, is typically a forward-moving exercise. So I don’t use this muscle much compared to it’s larger and more famous partner the gluteus maximus. The maximus helps to pull my thigh upwards when I run.  I’m doing a new workout now with more lateral motion that puts this comparatively weaker muscle in play. So it’s sore.

Doing something different is the key to any improvement. It’s obvious when you think about it – how could we ever improve doing x by only doing x? This is why marathoners do sprints. They need more than the long drudge of mere miles to earn their best times. This is why we do word problems in math. This is why we experiment with whole wheat flour instead of using the bleached white stuff. Different results required different inputs.

How do you want to improve? What are you doing now to maintain your skills? What do you need to do in order to improve those skills? Whatever it is, it will be awkward at first. What you are good at felt awkward once. But keep at it and the new habit begins to feel comfortable. It starts to feel right. And then you’re on the track to improvement and accomplishment.

So have at it. Do something different. Put yourself in a weird place. Do something out of character. You’ll be better for it.

Living Long and Happy. Learn to Work Hard and Be Uncomfortable

 

Exercise – it all adds up

Adding up the ‘little virtues’ for health

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Copyright Dennis Mitton

Mower
Getting in a workout

It’s April now, and it’s likely that your New Year’s resolution to become the Most Fantastically Healthy and Best-Looking person on the planet has been dashed by a thousand pieces of chocolate, by croissants dripping with butter, and by voluminous glasses of ‘healthy’ red wine. If you are especially resolute, you made it through January on track with your workout routine. If you are one-in-ten-thousand, you actually signed up for a French class rather than just looking through the catalog. Oh well. It’s called being a human being and it’s not such a bad thing. We change in tiny increments that all add up to who we are today. It’s the very same way that we become who we want to be tomorrow.

exercise
An hour down – only two to go!

There is a pervasive idea – a lazy excuse? – that if you don’t get outside and run for at least half an hour then you are wasting your time. Or that you need to visit the squat rack five days a week to crush your thighs into submission. Whatever you do, the myth is that you must do lots and lots of it to see results. Exercise science, though, tells a different story. We now understand that adding up ‘little virtues’ through the day totals up to a real and healthy exercise experience.

What does this mean? It means that there is real value in parking your car in the next lot over and walking an extra two minutes to your office. It means that there is real value in taking the stairs. It means that you should turn off your instant messenger at work and actually walk over to talk to someone. Who knows? You might find the added benefit of having a nice relationship with another human being? And maybe having a healthy laugh? It means that there is value in work. Mow the lawn. Take the dog for a walk. Good gawd – go have sex rather than watch other people do it. There’s a crazy idea! Find ways to let your body do work rather than machines.

wood_stack
Grandpa’s idea of going to the gym

Aside from the earlier onset of disease, our Great Grandads and their moms were typically in much better physical condition than we are yet they didn’t exercise. How? Their lives were filled with physical activities that added up through the day. Do you want a good night’s sleep? Go bail hay for a day. Imagine your great grandmother dragging her carpets outside to hang them on the line to beat the dirt and dust out of them. And then dragging them back. Most folks today would need a glass of wine and an hour watching home remodeling on television after this kind of workout.

Let’s be clear that carrying your groceries to the car won’t build biceps that will get you on the cover of Muscle and Fitness. For that, you will have to live at the gym and inject steroids. But as a general boost to your health, adding up daily chores and using your body as a tool can reap real rewards.

 

From the blog:

Exercise to Overcome the Onslaught of Luxury
10 Tips for Starting an Exercise Program
Reasons to Run a 5K – Even if You Can’t Run

Kinds of Conversations

Do you read Seth Godin’s wonderful blog? You should. Recently he posted about how humankind developed in groups long before symbolic language evolved. He extrapolates from this that we are hard-wired to respond to much more than vocal communication. It’s fascinating to think that everything we do and everything we are involved with has a communication component that may or may not include (from Godin):

words
trust
status
culture
pheromones
peer pressure
urgency
energy

I add:

faith
family

We can extrapolate further from this list. Clothing and hairstyles are forms of communication. So is receptiveness. Have you ever been in a group and the very air feels electric? Like anything is possible? Or the opposite? Where there are walls between every person? We never, ever know what will be remembered about us. We will rarely know what our actions or eyes or perfume will say to the people around us. Our words are possibly the least important part of our communication.

Good to remember.