Is Age Only a Number?

I ran this morning.  For the first time in weeks, I actually had a great run.  It wasn’t fast, but I ran six miles with no walk breaks, which is something I haven’t done since it has been crazy hot.  I had taken three days off running and focused on Zumba, weights, walking, and even played walleyball (I have bruises to prove it!).  I was supposed to meet a friend to run, but she chose to sleep in, so I was on my own.  I took off with no plan, which sometimes brings about my better runs.  With no expectations, I won’t be disappointed in a run.  The first mile was a bit tough; my legs felt tired, and it was getting hot.  As I continued, I began to get into my groove, and realized that nothing hurt – I felt pretty darned good!  I just kept adding on to my run, and was so thrilled to feel like a runner once again.  My runs had been so pathetic in recent weeks, I was beginning to question if I really am a runner.  Maybe I really wasn’t cut out for this sport, and the last three years I had been posing as a runner.  I needed today’s run to spark the confidence that had been slowly fading away.

As I ran, I thought about age.  I recently had a conversation with a y0unger friend.  She works at school, and the two of us have been running together.  She is just starting out, and I have been trying to help her build her distance (I’d like to say I am just like Jillian Michals, but we all know that just isn’t true).  She was talking with a friend closer to her age, and told her that we had been running.  Her friend began to question why she would want to hang out with “OLD PEOPLE”.  Hmph!  Granted, I could be my younger friend’s mother (she’s a year older than my daughter), and I am a grandmother, but I still don’t consider myself to be “OLD”.  I know, without a doubt, I could outrun many, many twenty- and thirty-something young people.  I could probably outwork them at the gym given the chance.  And really, I have had friends of all ages throughout my adulthood.  What difference does that number make?

My friend and I have some common goals, we go to the same church, and we just enjoy one another’s company.  Do my extra years of experience exempt me from being friends with those from the younger generation?  One of my best friends was several years older than I.  Donna Fenn was not only a wonderful friend, she was also one of the reasons I became a teacher, and I often judge how to handle a situation at school by thinking about what she would have done.  She died a few years ago from cancer, and I have missed her terribly.  The years between us never mattered.  I have another good friend who is my mother’s age.  I love spending time with her.  We both love antiques, baking, and laughter.  I always enjoy our conversations, and have learned from her wisdom.  And, I cannot address age without pointing out (again) that my husband is sixteen years older than I.  Obviously, age makes no difference to us.  We didn’t choose our spouses based upon some number; we certainly won’t choose our friends because of their ages.

Age can be more than a number.  I cannot deny the gray hair that is hidden neatly under several layers of Colorcharm, nor can I ignore the wrinkles that add much character and wisdom to my face.  Skin just sags with age no matter how much we fight it.  Even my leg skin is sagging.  That was quite unexpected and unwelcome.  I work hard to tone the muscles in my legs, but they are hidden beneath the saggy skin.  Despite the obvious signs that I am no longer basking in youth, I am in better physical shape than at any point in my life.  Really.  I feel better and am healthier.   And I would like to take on the young girl who called me old.  A race, perhaps?  I’d show her old!

Are all of your friends your age?  There is so much to be learned from those who have experienced a little more life than we have, and, likewise, we have much to share with our younger friends.  I choose my friends based upon similar values, interests, and compatibility.  Choose friends based upon age?  Never.

The “OLD” couple after running the half marathon (me) and marathon (Gary)

Summer Workout(s)

ImageAs I write this post, I wonder where summer 2012 has gone.  My windows have not been cleaned, my cabinets are still unorganized, I haven’t made that trip to Indy to visit Bethany and Erin, and yet there are only three short weeks left of break.  I spent all day Tuesday at school getting my classroom ready, and have been reading some books at home to prepare for the new batch of inquiring minds that will be walking through my door soon.  I had a total of three weeks that I didn’t go into school this summer.  Addison feels the same as she had six weeks of being at the high school at 7:30 am four days a week for endurance training.  That ended yesterday, and band camps begin Monday.  And what have I done?

I have worked out.  A lot.  Gary is participating in the Biggest Loser competition at Everbody’s, our local gym, so he has a membership for three months while the competition takes place.  Since Addison has been lifting weights and working out, she also wanted a membership so that she doesn’t lose everything she has gained.  So now, we all have memberships.  Since I am supposed to begin teaching Zumba classes there at some point, it makes sense to belong and get to know the members.

Gary has been running, doing the weight machines, riding bikes and walking with me, and even going to a spinning class.  He has lost almost 30 pounds since he started changing his habits in the spring.  His dedication and Addison’s newfound knowledge of working out has rubbed off on me – or just made me feel guilty and lazy!  I have long envied Michelle Obama’s arms, but was never willing to work to get my own set of well-toned biceps.  I am finally taking steps to beef-up my wimpy arms (maybe my next challenge will be bodybuilding!).  I found that I like the machines at the gym.  I am also working on putting together my Zumba class, and have included a great deal of arm work in my choreography.

Because we have all of this going on, I have been working out two or three times a day.  I need to keep up on my running, so I am running in the mornings when I drop Addison off in town.  With this nasty heat we have had, I am running slowly, and taking many walk breaks. After my run, I sometimes head to the gym to do weights.  In the afternoon, I have to work on my Zumba choreography.  I have to have 11 or 12 songs choreographed and ready to go in order to teach a class, and am realizing that memorizing the moves is the toughest part!  I have everything choreographed (at least what I haven’t ‘borrowed’ from my friend and instructor Laura); now I just have to make sure I know each song well enough to teach.  The problem is, working on my class means working out, and Zumba is very high energy.  But it is fun!  I really do love it, and I can’t wait to begin teaching.  I am working to get a class started for the community through the Perry County Wellness program.  I am still attending Zumba class in Hawesville a couple evenings a week, and they have been kind enough to begin letting me lead a song or two so that I can get comfortable before teaching on my own.

Gary and I have also decided to make Friday nights our bike-ride night.  While good exercise, bike-riding is something we enjoy doing together.  It really has been fun working as a family to get fit.  We are trying to eat healthier; Gary has amazing willpower – I do not.  I am doing much better, but good nutrition has always been hard for me.  I cannot say I am not worried about how we will work everything in once I go back to work and we are heavy into band season.  I wish I was dedicated enough to workout at 5 am.  I used to run a couple days a week at that time, but just couldn’t stick with it.  I love to sleep.

As summer winds down – and hopefully takes the temperature with it – I appreciate the time I have had.  My house might not be spotless, and there is always, always sweaty, smelly laundry to do, I am stronger and healthier, and oh, so much happier.  What about you?  What do you do to feel strong?  What small change can you make in your life to live healthier?  Give yourself the gift of 20 minutes a day to become a better you!  You are so worth it!

Reflections Of My Past

Reflections Of My Past.

Reflections Of My Past

This will not be one of my typical blogs about running, although it will certainly be mentioned.  Occasionally I have something else on my mind that I have to get in writing.  Today happens to be one of those days.  I am in Northwest Indiana with my friend Kim.  She is presenting professional development at Merrillville High School, and since I am from this area, I came along to show her the area, and to keep her son company while she teaches during the day.  What an adventure Spencer and I have had!

Yesterday I took Spencer to Notre Dame to see the campus.  I know my way around Lake County WEST of 65; east of 65, not so much.  It looked relatively easy – take the 80/90 east.  I did that.  Or so I thought.  Spencer was snoozing in the back seat, oblivious to our surroundings.  I was cruising along, happy as can be to be back in my hometown area.  Suddenly, a large sign appears before me:  Welcome to Michigan.  Notre Dame is in Indiana.  How the hell did I get in Michigan?  My chest began to constrict; my head began to pound.  Fortunately, there was a Welcome Center just across the state line, so I zipped in to consult my map (and pee because when I am nervous I have to pee a lot).  Spencer awakened briefly, but never noticed all the Michigan signs in the parking lot.  I didn’t want to alarm the young lad, so I just made like it was a potty break, figured out how to get back to Indiana, and ventured on.  We eventually made it to Notre Dame, and enjoyed touring the picturesque campus.

We made it back to our hotel, but not after accidentally going through a rather rough section of Gary.  If you have never been to Gary, let’s just say when I was a kid, my parents would tell us to lock the doors as soon as we hit the city limits of Gary.  It’s scary.  And Spencer and I were driving through.  I instructed him to avoid staring at people, though there are some interesting people to stare at.  Seriously, you do not look at anyone.  Ever.

So, after explaining to Kim about my errors in judgment, and telling Spencer he had been to Michigan, it was time for dinner.  I had plans to meet two of my childhood friends at Joe’s Crab Shack.  The three of us had not been together since I moved when I was eleven!  I was excited, but nervous that it might be awkward.  Let me give you some background that might make the rest of this blog make sense (or not).

When we lived in this part of the state, we were members of Southside Christian Church.  That was our family.  My parents belonged as teenagers; all of their friends were from church; and we spent much of our time at church.  When my father died suddenly, the members were there immediately.  And they never left.  The men and women of the church cared for all of the children of the church, and we respected all of them.  I have never belonged to another church like it.  It really is hard to describe how important our church family was.  Karin, Nancy, and I talked about how we were at church Sunday morning for Sunday School and church, Sunday evening for recreation, Christian Endeavors (youth group), and Sunday evening service, and Wednesday evening for services.  Many weeks there were also skating parties or youth events.  I did not keep in touch with school friends from elementary school; I kept in touch or reconnected with church friends.  So meeting up with Nancy and Karin last night was just wonderful.  We picked up where we left off 34 years ago.  With the miracle of Facebook, we knew some things about one another, so the conversation flowed easily – for three hours!

Today was another day to visit my past.  I don’t know why, but it has always been so important to me to keep those connections to my early years.  The experiences I had – good and bad – and the people who have been part of my journey made me who I am today.  The men and women of Southside taught me and loved me and nurtured me for eleven years.  I so appreciate that part of my life.  I began the day by visiting the cemetery where Dad is buried.  It is a large cemetery, and is divided into gardens.  In this part of the state, they do not use upright headstones like we have in Tell City.  They have brass plates that are flat on the ground.  This makes it very difficult to locate a grave if one doesn’t know exactly where she is going.  I knew Dad was in the Garden of the Last Supper, but had forgotten where.  I was wandering, and beginning to panic (I don’t know why.  It wasn’t as if he were lost!).  The very kind workers asked if they could help, and the began looking, and then called the office to have them look up the location.  They stood and talked with me as we waited, and were just so kind and compassionate.  I was blessed.  They took me to Dad’s grave, and then I was able to locate my grandparents.  Even after all these years, it is still tough to visit the cemetery.  I feel as if I revert back to that seven year old when I stand there.

Enough sadness…I had a great day, and I want to share it!  My next stop was Southside to pay for some books I had ordered and to wander around.  As luck (which I normally do not have) had it, two of my mother’s best friends were there!  I was so excited to see them, and they were happy that I had come in.  They were preparing a meal for the Senior Saints, and asked if I would come back to visit some more.  I didn’t know how the day would progress, but told them I would try.  I then dragged Spencer back to the car, drove by my old house in Munster, and proceeded to Hammond.  I drove by my old house on Van Buren, and then went to another of my mother’s friend’s houses to surprise her.  She wasnt’ home, but I found out she was going to the Senior Saints luncheon.  Then I went by my grandma’s little house and checked it out.  Afterward, it was time to meet my friend Kim for lunch at my absolute favorite burger joint, Miner Dunn.  It is an old, old diner, and looks pretty much the same as it did when we lived there.  The burgers and fries are awesome, and when one orders a deluxe platter, she also gets a cup of orange sherbet.  Yup, I got the platter just like I always did as a kid, and I dipped my fries in the sherbet.  Why grow up?  After a wonderful visit with Kim, Spencer and I struck a deal (this kid was a trooper).  He wanted to go to a fireworks store we had seen, and I wanted to go to Senior Saints (gosh, I never thought I’d type those words!).  We hit the fireworks store where, I might add, the saleskid gave Spencer a bunch of free firecrackers that had come out of boxes.  Spencer was all smiles the rest of the day!

We were then off to Senior Saints.  I have to admit, it was a blast to visit with the Southsiders of my youth.  Mrs. Meisner always brings up that when I was about four, I would call her and ask her to go to lunch.  This lady is 87 years old!  She helps her daughter care for her 16 year old twins who have Aspergers.  Mrs. Meisner told me all about their diagnosis and what they have been through.  It made me tired and I am half her age.  I spent time talking with Mom’s friends, Josie, Bonnie, and Bernie.  They were so much fun.  Bonnie knew my whole family, even all of my uncles and my grandparents.  What a blessing to hear about them.

To be back in my church, where my heart will always be, and to spend time with the ladies who helped raise me, was truly a magical experience.  I love those people, and won’t wait so long to go back.  I have spoken with my sister a couple times today, and we decided we are going to bring our mother up for a visit.  My brother even said he would consider coming with us.

I know this is exceptionally long, and might not be of interest to anyone, but in order for me to ‘process’ my days, I wanted to get it all down.  I have run the last couple of days.  Our hotel has a great workout facility, so I have run on the treadmill.  I was emotionally drained after today, so I cranked up my Jesus music (contemporary Christian) and ran like a gazelle.  Not really.  But it felt really good and helped relieve some of my anxiety.

Who in your past would you like to connect with?  What’s stopping you?  Take the time to start a conversation –  or play bingo at the Senior Saints!  It is so worth it!

It’s too stinkin’ hot!

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I am a self-professed lover-of-all-things-summer.  I love hot weather; I love sitting on my deck in the sun with a great book; I love working up a good sweat on a run.  Hamburgers on the grill, sleeping in, fresh corn on the cob, ice cream – what could be better?  Temperatures for two weeks over 100 degrees?  I hate it!  If my husband reads this (which he’d better), he will remind me of my words at every opportune moment, but I am going to say it anyway…I am sick of summer!  Oh, I love my time off school, and am not quite ready to embark on another school year, but I long for crisp fall Saturday runs, sweatshirts, and running in shorts and long-sleeved shirts.

The extreme blazing heat is no good for my running.  It is difficult to breathe, my legs feel like bricks, and my energy is completely zapped.  I have been running by myself because I want to stop for water (a lot), and my walk breaks are rather frequent.  I might go out intending to run 5 miles, but stop at 3 because I simply cannot move.  And the sweat…wow.  I don’t mind sweating, but when it is literally pouring off every body part, it just gets gross.

This morning was going to be different.  I awoke early and headed to town at 6:30 – I was going to beat the heat!  I decided that my pace didn’t matter as long as I kept moving forward.  I just finished the book An Accidental Athlete by John Bingham.  He states, “Too often, it seems to me, we miss the most important reasons to run because we are so busy running.  We get so caught up in the days and weeks and miles of a training plan that we run right past experiences that would make all the training worthwhile.”  I thought about that as I ran this morning.  I made a conscious effort to take in the run and to forget about my pace.  I left my Ipod in the car, and instead ran to the symphony of nature and the awakening of the city.  I enjoyed the songs of the birds, the barking dogs, and the peacefulness of the Ohio River.  I stopped at every water fountain and even took a break and dropped in a friend’s house for an ice-cold glass of water.  I walked about a half mile in the middle of my run, and I enjoyed simply walking.  Was it hot?  Heck, yah.  Did I enjoy the run?  Absolutely.  I ran 5 miles – slowly, but surely!

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While I want to improve my pace and continue to run half marathons (when it cools down), I also want to take more time to embrace the act of running.  I began running as a form of exercise, not to compete in the Olympics.  What I love most about running is the time with friends, the time alone with my thoughts, and the time outdoors.  I need to remember that on my next slow run!

For this afternoon, when the temperature is supposed to reach 108 degrees (YUCK!), I will stay inside playing with my grandson, Layne.  My daughter Bethany is on her way back from St. Louis, and will spend the day before heading back to Indianapolis, so I will also enjoy some time with her.  In the air conditioning.

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Another First…

I have never belonged to a gym.  I didn’t think I would be dedicated enough to spend the money, and I could run outside with no cost (other than shoes and clothes for every season and a GPS watch and an Ipod…).  That all changed this morning.  Addison and I got up early, went to town, and joined Everbody’s Fitness Center.  There were several reasons for my decision.

First, Gary has a three-month membership because he is participating in their Biggest Loser competition this summer.  This is a great program for our community, and apparently 85 people agreed; that’s the number of participants.  Gary is working hard for his ‘blue’ team, and is very dedicated to his weight loss.

Another reason is that Addison wanted to join.  She has been participating in the strength and endurance camp at the high school, which is four days a week, two hours a day.  They have a ten-day break for the holiday week, and she was afraid she would lose what she has worked so hard to gain if she did not weight-lift.  I was going to wait until later this month when the camp was over, but since they are on a break, we decided to go ahead and get started.

My final reason to join the gym is that I am going to teach Zumba classes there at some point.  I was trained in April, but it is taking some time to prepare my music and choreography.  I am working hard to create movements that will provide a good workout for participants, and do not want to rush the process.  And at my age, remembering all the moves is taking some time!  I have told my husband that it isn’t like I can work all day on preparing; every time I work on choreography, I am working out.  I get tired!  I had planned to join the gym when I begin teaching, so I just got a jump start.

My hope is that if I do weight work and build up some muscle, I will be a stronger runner.  I know I will be able to get to the gym in the summer while I am off school, but I am going to have to make it a priority during the school year, while at the same time trying to maintain a running routine.  Really, I just don’t have time to work!  My dream job is to do what Kristen Armstrong does; she is an author.  If you don’t know who she is, she is Lance’s ex-wife, but more importantly, she is a runner, writer, and motivational speaker.  She has time to workout during the day, and then works on her writing from home.  I have read a couple of her books, and am in awe of her career.  She has a strong faith, an extremely supportive group of friends and workout partners, and a brother who steps in and helps out.

So, today it started.  Once Addison and I filled out the paperwork, we got to work.  Since she has been learning how to properly use the weights, she led and I followed (with much lighter weights!).  I have no upper body strength, though for years I have said I wanted ‘Michelle Obama’ arms.  I just haven’t been willing to put in the work to achieve those buff arms.  Maybe now is my time.  I just don’t like to do anything that hurts, and sometimes lifting weights hurts, or at least it is umcomfortable.  When I began running and it became uncomfortable (like when I took that first step), I would tell myself that if it were easy, everyone would do it.  That became my mantra, and it got me through some miserable runs.

I don’t know what machines I did; I just had Addison show me what to do, and did about ten reps per machine.  I didn’t hurt when I left, but we went outside to play badminton, and I could just tell I am going to be sore.  I guess that  is the only way I am going to make progress.  I also plan to try some classes.  I am particularly interested in trying spinning.  My niece – who is in great shape – went to a class, and said it was killer.  I will give it a try – I just hope I don’t start crying in the middle of class!  I am excited to begin teaching Zumba.  It is so much fun and a great workout.  I also like it because anyone can do it.  In the class I go to, there are women of all ages, sizes, and fitness levels.  Everyone does the workout in her own way.  As long as we are all moving, it’s fine.

Now, to get my eating under control…