’twas the night before fitness

‘Twas the night before fitness and all through the house,

not a snack to be found, not even for a mouse.

The measurements were hung by the fridge with care

in hopes of losing the ‘tire of spare’.

The SMART plan was snuggled deep in my head

and now, it was time… for the pounds to be shed.

When spring time emerged with the birds all a clatter

I jumped from my couch finding – I was a bit fatter.

As I donned my shoes and found my cap,

I decided to walk instead of a nap.

And what to my wandering eyes should appear

but blue sky and flowers, yes, even a deer.

My heart started beating, my muscles felt power,

my bones and my brain said “Let’s go for an hour!”

At the end of the walk, I worked on my core,

some planks, push ups and stretches galore.

I feel so good, my bod a machine –

it’s time for some lunch – I think “make it clean”.

Nothing processed, no sugar, no fat past my lips,

none of this food will stay on my hips!

Day one and I’m pleased, I’ve started anew

I’m in charge of my life again –  so simple, who new?

 

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sparkle

I took a walk Sunday morning and it was a gift.

A present to my mood, wrapped in tiny winks of sparkle.

Let me backtrack on this. Rewind to Saturday night and time to let the dogs out. As I open the door and glance up at the streetlight I see it. It begins as those flurries in a hurry. You know what I mean…those  swirly little white particles that hastily fall from the sky like it’s a race to the sidewalk. My heart sunk.

“Oh no, more snow?” Just this week, I was starting to see my neighbor’s rooftop. And the shrinking snow piles in my backyard, had me feeling a bit hopeful that melt was beginning. I could feel an ever so slight sinking in my mood. “Maybe it’s just blowing from somewhere, I told myself.”

About 15 minutes later, as I went to let the dogs back in I noticed the snow intensity had increased. Now it was falling like threads of tinsel from the sky. Was this rain or snow? I went outside to check and sure enough it was a type of frozen, glistening, furiously falling snow strand. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. There was an eye-catching, shimmery kind of beauty, which caused me to pause. My glum mood was definitely distracted by the silvery strobe effect of this unusual weather. But then, in the blink of an eye, the shimmering and glimmering stream changed to fluffy snowflakes. The glitter effect was over, and I was aware of a letdown feeling, because it was snowing…again.

The next morning as I glanced out the window at the walks that needed shoveling, I couldn’t help thinking impatiently, “I wish we were done with all this”. No doubt, there is some “cabin fever” affecting my mood. Will I ever get back out doors for more than just mile long dog walks? I just want to walk outdoors, I don’t want to shovel first for an hour, I don’t want to put on four layers of clothing for a dog walk. That’s it, I’m going – I’m going to treat myself. And I did. I went for a 3 miler. I couldn’t take it anymore – I needed to bust out. That’s when it happened.

About ten minutes into my walk I felt the amazing warmth of the sun-ball on my skin. I actually thought “Hmmm, maybe I could use some sun block.” Holla!!

The rays of the sun were so bright upon the freshly fallen snow that it made the snow sparkle, like millions of baby diamonds strewn on a thick white pillow. Now I thought “Wow, I should have brought sun glasses.” What???

At once, my mood changed, it was bedazzled! My eyes couldn’t stop looking. The open field of snow was twinkling and shimmering, glistening and gleaming. I felt like I was in a storybook land.

As walked on through the Park, the dazzling warm light made the new snow look phosphorescent (like Edward’s face in Twilight). To top it off, all of this brilliance was framed by a lavender sky, not periwinkle, not sky blue, but lavender – like the endless fields of lavender in warm Provence.

Yes my friends, I think the sun is getting warmer when it does come out. I also think we are getting “close to” Spring snows, the kind of snow that is more inclined to melt because the sun is radiating more heat.

My walk flew by and got me out of the doldrums. It made me think about how something as small as a sparkle can lift a ginormous and heavy mood. There is such power in a good walk.

The moral of my story is, every once in awhile we all need sparkle…the sparkle in someone’s eye, the sparkle of a splash of water in sunlight, the sparkle of a midnight star. It’s all here for us if we can step out for a moment and catch the wink of it’s light.

Love it when Snow Sparkles!!!!!!

heartwalk

Happy Valentine’s Day One and All!

Here’s a suggestion…love yourself with a 10 minute walk today!

Just step out a door. Any door. Where are you going? Who cares. Who knows – just go outside.

It’s a day of hearts – take a heart walk.

Give a present to your heart – with a big red bow of lowered blood pressure in a heart shaped box  filled with less risk of heart disease! (Oh my…too much metaphor???)

Use your eyes as a camera, and snap one beautiful scene on this planet to take back indoors with you. Let your ears play you an outdoor song. What does winter air smell like? Free your mind, open it like a window and let some fresh air blow through. Walk slow and purposeful. Feel your legs generate natural power as they move you. Inhale deeply and slowly, exhale – let go. Be in your being and love the opportunity to do this one small thing for yourself. Celebrate your good fortune.

Have a heart… that you love and take care of.

I love the trails.

weather

There is a famous quote familiar to Chicagoans “If you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes and it will change.”

This has been life in “the stinking onion” for the last couple of weeks.

In just a couple of days, the temperature has gone from wind chills of -30 to almost 50 degrees. Within that time period there was the snow – about 2 feet fell from the heavens and buried us in a weeks’ time. The “city of big shoulders” stooped, struggling under the weight of it for two days. Only to be outdone…by the rain, which came next in steady buckets, shutting down city underpasses. And, over the course of one night, about 7 or 8 inches of snow disappeared, and we were on flood watch. (Is anyone getting dizzy? I can barely keep up myself!) As I watched the news on Tuesday, the forecast – started with rain, changed to an icy mix, followed by snow, high wind (of course) and occasional claps of thunder, (are you kidding me?) then a deep, (not quite Chi-beria) deep freeze. Thankfully, none of it happened, except for the part where we plunge into a deep freeze. A deep icy freeze I might add, no fun for walkers.

Moral of the story in “the big windy” – planning to walk outdoors can be very challenging.

Ahhh…but that’s why we love it…the hellacious challenge. (I looked up hellacious, just for kicks, guess what it means…remarkable; horrifying; wonderful; formidable. Uh-huh, that’s Chicago weather alright)

On the upside, Monday was like spring- a gift, the best reason to live in the moment in Chicago. It was the day when the temperature hovered around 45 degrees, and by mid-afternoon the sun came out in a big, yellow burst of invitation.

All I wanted to do was to get outside and walk.

Once I finally arrived outdoors, I heard birds. Yes, my ears were treated to a symphony of birds; chirping and tweeting and filling the vacuum of winter with their flutelike melodies. As I walked along I could also hear the tinkling and dripping from icicles, glittering in the sunshine. Melting overflow from snow packed gutters ran in rivulets through the streets and alleys, trickling along like streams in the mountains.

The air had the smell of cool, clean freshness on a gentle breeze and my face felt the warm heat of the sun, not faint, but direct and intentioned.

My feet had all the work, maneuvering around leftover ice and slushy snow piles, but this engaged my brain to navigate a safe path. When it was safe to look up -my eyes beheld the spectacular majesty of a cardinal. Who could miss it? In a sun tinted black and white world, boasting a deeper red than the bows on the used up christmas trees laying by the curb. It sat still and perfect, in silence on a snow covered branch. Such beauty. Such peace.

That was Monday, and my walk filled my soul with some ‘way too early’ hope of Spring.

I know, I know “wait 15 minutes and…”

cardinal in the snow

playlists

I love a good playlist for “walk-ing out”.

When I need help getting in the mood for a daily walk, or I wish to escape to memory lane to eat up some time, or I need a coach to help me focus on an intense pace – I create a playlist; a compilation of favorite songs strategically placed to take my mind off exercise.

How about this headline from Science daily –Music increases exercise endurance by 15%.

Yes, studies have actually shown shown that when athletes synchronize their movements to a musical beat, their bodies can handle more exertion.

The tempo of music or BPM – beats per minute (Hmmm…sounds like we’re talking about heart rate! Oh! Wait a minute – we are!) is what can be measured to effect the pace of a workout.

The recommended “sweet spot” for workout music is between 125 and 140 bpm, with higher intensity exercisers or athletes-in-training opting for 162 to 168 bpm. Ideally, mixing up the pace – starting with a slower bpm and then steadily speeding up the beats to increase intensity – helps get the best workout.

In case you’re wondering how to find the bpm of your favorite songs,  songbpm.com  can tell you instantly. All you need to know is the song title and/or artist for an immediate answer.

Every season I look forward to sitting down and making a new playlist, sometimes two.

My playlists will be specifically timed to get me through a certain amount of minutes; this helps me stay focused and also works as a timer so I’m not constantly looking at my watch. For walking, I usually estimate about 15 minutes worth of songs for a mile.

Let’s say I was planning a playlist for a 3 mile walk. During mile one, the first 4-8 minutes would be from 90 – 120 bpm; this gets me warmed up and psyched for the “walk-out”. The next 7 minutes will be in the 120 – 130 bpm range to quicken my pace. By mile two I’m ready for some intensity – 130 -140 bpm for about 7-8 minutes; for the second half of mile two I want to get myself in a very high intensity range 140 -150 bpm, this is a much faster pace and challenging to maintain.  For the last mile, I will divide it in half or thirds and begin slowing down my pace.

Now, let’s say this sounds like too much work, math and organization. (Some of you know what I’m going to say…) “We live in an awesome age.” Why? Because anyone who needs running, walking, cycling, playlists with bpm and time information can go to jog.fm, an app for creating a playlist or choosing from already made downloadable lists.

Walking should also be about stress relief and relaxation. I always want to make sure I have a playlist that is made up of mood-friendly favorite songs for a more gentle walk. I’m not so interested in bpm for this group of songs, the length of the music is more important so that I can just escape in my thoughts and stop when the music tells me to.

All this blogging has made me restless. I want to get up out of my chair and take a walk, with some awesome music of course.

To keep motivation.

encouragement

“Your best t-shirt should be like your bed; it just feels like home when you are in it.”      Ashton Kutcher

I have this t-shirt and when I put it on all the decades of my life come back to me. I can close my eyes and get a glimpse of feeling from each part of my past, bringing back my youth to fool my present age. When I wear this t-shirt I am any age and I can walk forever right along memory lane for encouragement.

Summertime, I am eight years old and my mother has given me a shiny Jefferson nickel for some minuscule chore. Happily, I decide to take a walk. I walk about five blocks to “Moldy Joes,” the neighborhood corner store, where the groceries are questionable but the gum/candy selection is out of this world. I trade my silver coin for a little red and blue rectangle of pink sugary delight. I begin my walk back home, carefully unwrapping the package. I place the gum in my mouth and as I chew, bursts of sweetness capture my taste buds and the blocks fly by.

Fall, it’s getting chilly, the sky is dramatically gray, I am a tween-ager walking over the “forever-long Laramie bridge” with my fellow cheerleaders. We are on our way after school to a basketball game. We are acting silly, blowing bubbles with our recently purchased bazooka bubblegum. Whose bubble will last the longest? Who will blow the biggest bubble? Whose bubble will pop on their face and leave sticky lines causing everyone to laugh until their stomachs hurt? This walk is easily an unperceived two miles of bubble-blowing fun.

Winter, I am in high school, volleyball practice doesn’t start for another hour. Craving some fresh, crisp air I walk through the cold and snow with some of my teammates to the local corner store for gum and candy bars. Each of us grabs a bunch of bazookas. (You never know when you’ll need to share.) As we walk back and unwrap our soft pink pillows of gum, we read our bazooka joe comics out loud and chuckle at the goofy humor. Every one gets quiet when it’s time to read the fortunes. Another inconspicuous walk.

Spring, there is new energy in the air and I am at college training for …everything. I need bazooka during badminton, bubblegum when jogging, bubble blowing when walking to classes and studying for finals. I can still smell the tantalizing sugariness at this moment, taste the cotton candy-like smack of flavor, feel the gooey, squishy blob moving from the right side to the left side of my mouth.

Sadly, it was around this time that I went to the dentist and found… I had ten cavities. Now I’m not implying the gum had anything to do with this but…it did significantly contribute to the end of my bazooka bubblegum chewing days. In my opinion, sugarless was just not the same, not the distinctive taste or the soft, palatable consistency for bubble blowing. This phase of my life had come to an end.

Aahhh, well, sometimes memories can be so …sweet!!

I’m off now, off to put on my home-filled memory t-shirt of encouragement and walk.

bazooka

ice

– slippery when wet or near freezing.

This post is for the hard core walkers out there – of which I am one.

Somedays there is no way around the fact that a walk needs to take place in less than optimal weather conditions. Today’s walk  was one of those. The Chicagoland weather was a cold 34 degrees, with an intermittent drizzle. Along the park path there were several unmelted snow piles situated here and there. Adding to the potential hazards was the time of day –  early in the morning, which increases the likelihood of black ice lurking about.

Armed (or footed) with my Yaktrax, I wasn’t about to give up the walk.

I’ve noticed, in cold temperatures, I need to be cautious and assume that all wet, dark areas on pavements are slippery and icy. It seems that water vapor can freeze on cold surfaces, forming an extra-thin, nearly invisible layer of ice that looks like a wet spot on the pavement – black ice.

Making sure to walk on the cleared path as much as possible,  I remain focused and try to always look ahead when I walk. If there is a snow pile on the path –  I look for an edge, especially if I am unsure of the footing and need traction. Sometimes I just have to watch where I am stepping and GO S-L-O-W-L-Y !! This definitely helps my reaction time when there are changes in traction. There may be times when it is better to take short steps or shuffle for stability when it’s very icy; it might even help to stop occasionally to break momentum.

There are also some body mechanics I find helpful… I try to keep a slight bend at the waist and walk flat-footed, with my center of gravity directly over my feet. I pay attention to my sense of balance at all times. I make sure to leave my hands and arms free to balance myself if I should slip or misstep. I never leave the house without gloves or mittens because I do not want to keep my hands in my pockets while walking. When my hands are out of my pockets my center of gravity is lower and my balance increases. More importantly, I can break my fall if my hands are free and I do start to slip.

Without a doubt, it is always safer to avoid an outdoor walk when there is the possibility of black ice or any ice.

But, if the outdoors beckons…

                                               Caution Watch For Ice Sign