Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘exercise

Other Examples

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As long as I’m on the subject of sticktoitiveness, there are two other examples in my life that have slowly rewarded me for staying the course day after day, in one case, for years.

When I finally took action to address an addiction to sugar which manifested in cravings that controlled my decisions, I had no idea what lay ahead for me. I had previously experimented with simply cutting out desserts and cookies or candy treats for a random period of weeks, just to see if I could, but I neglected to account for the amount of sugar I was getting from other sources.

My cravings for breads and cereals would ramp up to impressive levels, and I would allow myself those compromises.

After learning more about where I was getting most of the sugar in my diet, and discovering the actual measurement of sugar recommended by the World Health Organization for percentage of daily calories, I set out to control it by watching the numbers.

That made a big difference. First of all, it showed me how physically addicted my body, and mind, had become. I experienced withdrawal symptoms that included headaches, dizziness, nausea, and tremors, not because I cut out sugar completely, but simply by strictly limiting the amount of sugar in the food I was eating.

It has taken me years at the rate I am working it (because I waver with my level of strictness), but self-control slowly improved to a point where it hardly takes mental energy to employ anymore. Most importantly, I am not just doing this for a period of weeks. This is forever. I always measure how much cereal I eat, and I always check serving size information to figure out how much sugar there is.

A more recent adventure in every day tenacity that I am watching produce slow results is, my daily planking exercises. When I started back in the last week of March, I decided to see what results I might achieve if I did the exercises my physical therapist recommended for the entire month of April. These were focused on strengthening my core to treat the painful symptoms of degenerating discs.

It is really helpful to not be constrained by debilitating pain when doing daily chores to care for our animals.

Thirty consecutive days of planking in April established enough of a pattern that I found it easy enough to keep going through May. Then two months became four, and in a blink, I’ve made it eight months of pretty regular planking. In that time I have slowly gained enough strength that I have modified my methods to match.

The current plank that is my primary exercise is four minutes long, starting with a minute and a half of a basic horizontal planking, then 45 seconds of lifting an opposite arm and leg for a two-point plank, 45 more seconds with the other arm and leg, and then finishing with a final minute of the basic plank again.

There are other leg exercises and some yoga stretches that get mixed in after the planking, depending on how much time I have to spend, but the planking is key.

Between these two daily efforts of healthy controlled-sugar diet and regular exercise, practiced over months and years, my physical health is in better shape than most of my previous adult life.

That is providing plenty of incentive for me to stick to this indefinitely.

Maybe the fact that these steps are not a quick fix, makes the positive results that much more satisfying. It definitely provides a welcome bonus of boosting my mental health, as well.

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Karmic Humility

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Today is Friday, so I was able to sleep in because I don’t commute to the day-job on Fridays. The final minutes of my slumber this morning were filled with a dream about our cattle.

We don’t have any cattle.

Made me think of the saying, “all hat, no cattle.”

I would have said I was dreaming about cows, but after the great escape and tromping of our property by our neighbor’s bovine ten earlier this summer, we learned he didn’t have cows. His herd was all steers, so the term to use was, cattle.

I’m thinking my mind was dreaming of cattle to distract me from what is stabbing me in the back during my waking hours these last two days: degenerating discs again.

In a twist of karmic humility, instead of boasting about the progress of five consecutive months of daily plank exercises, I find myself focused on a debilitating flare up of stabbing back pains. The precious positive thread woven into this tale is the noticeable difference in level of disruption this time. I truly believe it is the result of the strength built up in my core from my string of consecutive days of planking.

When my series of painful back injuries were diagnosed as degenerating disc disease years ago, I was given a regimen of recommended exercises to treat the symptoms. The easiest was to walk a half an hour a day. Stretching and plank exercises were also advised. 

I was all about the walking, but the exercises weren’t activities that I easily maintained.

Oddly enough, it wasn’t my degenerating discs that inspired my decision to finally get serious about planking. It was more about vanity. I was unhappy that none of my healthy efforts ever seemed to put a dent in the paunch and love handles that graced my midsection.

Cutting the amount of sugar in my daily diet had gone a long way to trim out my overall plumpness, but that classic paunch persisted.

I also credit the annual Tour of Minnesota bike trip for inspiring me to plank. Knowing I was at a risk of not having enough opportunities to bike in preparation for the mid-June trip, I decided to try planking every day in April to at least build up my core strength.

My butt might not be ready for the trip, but the rest of me would be resilient and strong. Knowing that planking was also advised to ward off back problems did help maintain my motivation at the time. Who wants to bike all day and sleep on the ground at night with an ailing back?

So, I succeeded in planking all through April, twice a day, in fact. It’s said that doing something for 30 consecutive days goes a long way to creating a habit. I planked through May, June –taking a week off during the bike ride– and have continued pretty much every day since.

Sometimes I miss an occasional day, or skip a morning or night, but the habit has been established, and the developing results are noticeable. The paunch and love handles are losing ground. As the planking has gotten easier with accumulated strength, my routine has expanded to longer duration, two-point planks, side planks, and more yoga stretching.

This morning, the routine is greatly modified to accommodate a recently unhappy, worn out disc.

Consider me duly humbled.

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Written by johnwhays

August 31, 2018 at 7:53 am

My Choice

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The other day I picked up a pitchfork and worked up a sweat stirring compost. It was late afternoon and I was already tired from a full day of chores, so my energy was waning. My arms sent a notice of complaint to my brain.

“Tired. Don’t feel like working anymore.”

It occurred to me that, despite a prevailing mindset to use machines to do all our exhausting tasks, I prefer the precise control I can achieve with hand tools. I’m not as fast as a machine, and I tire easily, but I get more satisfaction.

In my head, I imagined someone interrupting my effort to suggest I use the bucket on the tractor, because I was huffing and puffing, straining at the effort, and breaking a good sweat.

I actually like the exercise, despite my body complaining that it is tired.

How hard is it to convince yourself to get up early and go to the gym for a healthy workout? The body would rather remain at rest, for sure. But to be physically fit, we have to push ourselves out of that resting comfort zone.

Next, I imagined myself at the gym, huffing and puffing at the effort to work my arms, lifting weight. Would someone suggest that there is a machine to do that for me, so I don’t have to work so hard?

I choose my pitchfork.

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Written by johnwhays

September 13, 2017 at 6:00 am

Far Away

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img_ip1886eThis feels so far away from home. Breakfast on the lanai by the pool in shorts and a t-shirt is so mind-bogglingly different from my normal routine that I feel like this is a dream. Well, it is a dream, actually. We are living the dream.

Besides power-lounging the day away, the most work I did involved figuring out how to connect Fred and Marie’s smart TV to the internet so they could watch shows on Amazon Prime, and then helping Fred put air in his bike tires.

He hadn’t ridden the bike for about 2 years, but Marie told him other visitors have been using the bikes every year. He wanted to take a little ride, so we just added some air and off he went.

When we next saw him again an hour or so later, he reported he had gone for a short bike ride followed by a long walk. His front tire had blown out. First, he reported noticing a ticking sound as the wheel turned round and round. Then it POPPED!img_ip1889e

Forensic analysis revealed a failure in the sidewall of the tire. The inner tube had ballooned out and was rubbing the brake with each revolution, until the rubber tube burst.

Turned out to be a pretty impressive level of activity for the guy turning 80 this weekend.

Otherwise, the afternoon became a blur of card games, napping, and floating in the pool. Cyndie served Barry and Carlos drinks by the pool.

Around dinner time, the surprises for Fred continued as Cyndie’s brother, Steve arrived. Then, after dessert had been served, her last brother, Ben appeared with his wife, Sara. The last secret had been revealed and the kids were all present.

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We sat around the table sharing life stories and lost our breath in laughter multiple times. Fred shared a memory of his 60th birthday when the kids all showed up for a surprise gathering on a ski vacation in the mountains out west. That year, they left spouses at home.

Cyndie and I have been married for 35 years and had dated off and on for 7 years before that, so I recognized plenty of the tales that were being recollected. Reliving the many stories reveals a weird combination of my being part of the family, but not being one of the family. I’m here, but I’m not as here here as they are, if that makes any sense.

One thing that is clear, we are noticeably far away from our home in Wisconsin right now.

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Written by johnwhays

January 20, 2017 at 7:00 am

Quick Transformation

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DSCN4680eI am so pleased with our decision to get a wood chipper attachment for our tractor. We have an unending supply of branches available for chipping and we have a need for wood chips on our trails.

In a rewardingly short amount of time, we were able to convert an unwanted pile of collected branches on the edge of a trail, into conveniently placed mounds of raw material for “paving” the paths.

It really feels like double dipping. Like having our cake and eating it, too.

There is even an added bonus of saving us from needing a gym membership to get exercise. Last night I could really feel the body fatigue from the constant motion of bending and lifting, done at an accelerated pace to keep the chipper fed while the diesel engine races along at optimal revolutions.

So, it has actually proved to be a 3-in-1 device! It’s a perfect model of efficiency.

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Written by johnwhays

April 24, 2016 at 6:00 am

Tired Legs

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I’m home again. After a week of biking, my legs feel much stronger, yet thoroughly worn out, if such a thing is possible. I was awakened by thunder this morning, at the hour we would have been just waking up to pack our tents for the day, extremely grateful to be in my own bed and under a roof.DSCN3576e

For the most part, the weather during our adventure was good for biking and camping. We even enjoyed a few occasions of a tail wind, which always provides a much appreciated ego boost when traveling by pedal power.

My body developed some stiffness from all the exercise, and probably from sleeping on the cold hard ground, but I didn’t develop any specific nagging issues from the prolonged hours of pedaling. That is something that I find particularly rewarding, as it hasn’t been the case every time I have done this trip. Joint pain or muscle strain can really mess with the pleasures of day-long riding.

DSCN3562eI think most of my stiffness was a result of just a few games of pickle ball in Albert Lea on our day off from riding. I found that to be enough fun that it was worth the muscle soreness.

Participation this year was split almost half-and-half between returning riders and those who were doing it for the first time. Meeting new people becomes one of the highlights of the week for me, and this gave me plenty of opportunities for that.

I rode to breakfast with a group that included one man whom I felt had been with us before, but when seated in a booth beside him, discovered he was from Kansas City and it was his first year on the Tour of Minnesota.

As always, I was carried along throughout the week by the incredible support and precious energy of friends Gary Larson, Julie Kuberski, Rich Gordon, and Steve Reynolds. I struggled with the challenging limitations of creating blog posts and taking pictures with my phone, and Rich and Julie were kind enough to offer some of their great photos to help me out.

I’m not quite the mobile device guy, and I am extremely happy to be back on the laptop today, writing and editing my words and pictures. Something tells me I may resort to my old ways of writing posts in advance again next year.DSCN3582e

Today I have plenty of laundry to do, and if the rain stops and grass dries up, a lot of lawn to mow. Pequenita seems happy to have me home and has stayed close to my every move. Delilah appears to have bonded stronger to Cyndie again, in my absence. The horses show no change at all, though they each gave me some intimate moments of breathing in each other’s scent when I stopped down to say hello.

It’s really good to be back home, tired legs and all.

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Written by johnwhays

June 20, 2015 at 7:45 am

Calorie Burning

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We have tried to pay better attention to controlling how much food the horses get daily, ever since our last vet visit revealed they still need to lose more weight. It’s not as easy now as it is in the winter, when the only food they get is what we give them. Now there is more than enough grazing available, unless we lock them in the barn.

I’m not going to do that. It creates way too much mess for me to clean up. Early last week we had a cool day with wind and rain that set the herd to shivering. We put them inside overnight to dry off. Next day, since I was out of the routine of cleaning the stalls, I forgot all about it. Then I forgot the day after that.  When I finally got around to it, the weather had warmed considerably and the humidity had climbed. It was nasty ripe inside the barn.

It gave me new appreciation for all the times I have had to do that chore in frozen winter temperatures. It’s much less stinky.

Back to controlling their food… our herd leader, Legacy, is rather persistent about asserting his authority over the others by way of moving them off their feed pan. If I put less out for him, he just finishes it quick and moves on to the next pan, forcing off anyone who happened to be there.

IMG_iP0794eSince he seems to always get the most food, we’ve decided to balance that by getting him the most exercise in hopes of compensating. Sunday afternoon, Cyndie led Legacy to our arena space to do some longeing exercises. He is funny because it is quickly obvious that he knows the drill, and even seems to light up and enjoy proudly prancing around, but after barely finishing one circle he stops and turns toward Cyndie as if to say, “I’m done! That was great. How’d I do? Where’s my treat?”

In fairness to both of them, he and Cyndie are out of practice and it was distractingly windy. Also, the surface was wet and thus a bit slippery. She restarted him a few times, but eventually cut the session short, for his sake and hers.

Yesterday, I was walking Delilah and when we popped out of the woods, we found three of the horses on the ground, napping. It took them a bit to become aware of us, and after they did, the two chestnuts decided to get up. Our exercise-needing herd leader did not. He decided to stay on the ground.

He doesn’t seem very fired up about burning any extra calories.

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Written by johnwhays

May 19, 2015 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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