Tag Archives: Fitness

Where to go when you have too many shoes (yes, it can happen)

There are two reasons I’ll never appear on the Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid.

One, the bugs. How people before the modern era lived without bug spray, I don’t know. [They didn’t. They died of malaria. Forget malaria, the itching would drive me mad!]

Two, walking barefoot everywhere. Who cares about being naked? It’s the shoeless thing that would do me in. I like going barefoot through the carpeting in my living room, not over rocky terrain or alligator infested waters.

[There are other reasons I’d never make it on Naked and Afraid, not the least of which are the inability to make fire, hunt or go without food more than six hours, but we’re going to talk about shoes, so we’re focusing on naked feet for the purposes of this blog post.]

I admire barefoot runners, but I will never be one. My Achilles heel are my feet (that sentence is a disaster for so many reasons, but you get my point, right? My feet are made of clay? My soft underbelly is my arches? How to best say this?).

I have insertional Achilles tendonitis, intermittent plantar fasciitis and Morton’s neuroma (or, at least, I have self diagnosed myself with these maladies) and in order to cope, I spend a lot of money on expensive running shoes on the theory they make running less painful.

[One could argue that running is causing these symptoms so rather than buying more shoes, I should simply spend less time running, but that makes too much sense. We runners pursue irrational ends.]

running shoesIn any case, I collect a lot of used pairs of running shoes, and this was no more apparent than last week when I was forced to empty the back entryway in order to remodel it. I found no fewer than eight pair of running shoes, all of which belonged to me.

See the thing with running shoes is that they wear out Most runners put no more than 500 miles in a pair of shoes. Until recently (when I’ve cut back on running — cut back, not eliminated — because of the aforementioned aches and pains), that meant at least two pair of running shoes a year for me.

Given how much they cost in the first place, I couldn’t bear to just dump my surplus shoes in the trash.

So I looked for a way to recycle them, and I found the MORE Foundation Group — Modular Organic Regenerative Environments.

MORE collects gently used athletic shoes, sells them and then uses the proceeds to plant thousands of trees around the world (it’s a little more involved than that, but you can check out their website if you’re interested in grand vision; we stick to personal transactional details here). Trees, as any kid knows, offset the carbon in the atmosphere, and it’s hard to hope for more than that with shoes that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

All of this explanation and whining is to say, if you, too, have used athletic shoes cluttering up your entryway, click here to find the nearest donation site.

Blob alert! Time to stand up!

Popular culture’s black-hat villain smoking a cigarette was also probably sitting down.

If you haven’t already heard, you’re about to be enlightened: “Sitting is the new smoking.”

That declaration comes from Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative and inventor of the treadmill desk, and it’s echoed by all kinds of experts. So much so that Better Homes & Gardens’ suggested New Year’s resolution to not sit so much be realized with a get-up timer (who knew people made such resolutions? Better Homes & Gardens, that’s who).

Yes, we live in a world where we buy automatic dishwashers and riding lawn mowers and then we invest in health club memberships to get more exercise. And now we have to be reminded to stand up because sitting too much will kill us. Click here for all the ways sitting too much is shortening your life but here’s the Cliff Notes version: Cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, depression and more.

I looked down on so-called chronic sitters because, I thought, I stand up plenty. I won’t be one of Pixar’s blobby “Wall-E” humans watching TV from dawn to dusk and moving with a hover-round, no sirree! I own a two-story house, which forces me to take the stairs regularly. My laundry room is not on the same floor as the bedroom closets. I run a couple times a week. I walk the dog, goll darnit! We don’t even own a riding lawn mower!

But it turns out my arrogant I-don’t-sit-too-much attitude was based in fiction.

I’m too sedentary, too.

activity appAccording to the folks who know, we should be getting out of our seats at least once an hour. I got an iWatch for my birthday, and one of the functions automatically loaded on the watch is the Apple Activity app, which dutifully reminds me to stand up once an hour by gently tapping my wrist and then it records my results (it also records how many calories I burn a day by moving and how many minutes a day I exercise).

Since Dec. 23, I’ve achieved the goal to stand at least once an hour 12 times a day exactly six days. That’s six out of 27 days or less than 25 percent of the time.


What an eye-opener.

Well, the good news is that now I have a standard to beat. The competitor in me can reach (quite literally) for better stats.

And even if you don’t have an iWatch, you can download the Stand Up! app on iTunes and Google Play for the daily reminders, minus the gentle wrist tap. You have Better Homes & Gardens to thank for that tip.

How to fake being an old lady at exercise class

So I joined a new gym recently and I love participating in the exercise classes. Like Full-Body Toning and BodyPump and Step Like You Mean It.

Just kidding about that last one. That’s not the real name. It’s a step class just like I used to do in the ’80s.

Oh my god. Has it been that long?

Yes. Back then, I had my own step, I inserted a videotape into my VCR and Jane Fonda barked me into exercise submission while I sweated away in the middle of my living room.

The instructors at the my classes nowadays probably don’t even know who Jane Fonda is.

And they certainly don’t know what a VCR is.

But there are some benefits to being one of the oldest women in these classes filled with young suburban mothers. Let’s call it Red Hat Syndrome.

Surely you’ve heard the poem that begins “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple/ With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.” An entire sorority of women has been formed around the ethos of that poem: When I get old, I won’t care what other people think.

It’s an especially useful attitude in exercise class.

For example, I don’t care if you can see the cellulite on my butt through my tight spandex capris. And I don’t care if I’m using baby 5-pound weights during the biceps routine, and I really don’t care when I give up doing sit-ups half-way through so I can catch my breath or if people have to walk around me after class because I’m still in the way stretching my Achilles tendon.

If anyone is judging me during exercise class, I don’t care. Because I know I’m better than 90 percent of the rest of the population who are still in bed or sitting in the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through.

So when I show up to claim my 6-by-6-foot spot on the exercise floor, I take the one up front and by the mirror.

Because I don’t care!

A bonus benefit of being the old lady up front is I think people actually feel a little sorry for me. The teacher loudly mentions, “It’s OK not to use weights for this one — you can use your body weight.” And the girl behind me isn’t looking at my measly weights and even measlier biceps — she’s thinking, “Oh, good for her! I hope I’m still doing exercise classes at her age!”

And because I don’t care if I wear my hair in a ponytail and I don’t have any makeup on, I might even invest in a red baseball cap to wear to class.

Because that’s how old ladies roll.

Or step.

Feet of clay

Forget my knees, running is detrimental to the health of my feet.

With the help of Google, I have diagnosed myself  with insertional Achilles tendonitis (if you’re concerned this blog will increasingly discuss my petty aches and pains as time goes on, I am, too).

Runners nod knowingly amongst themselves when non-runners say things like, “Running will ruin your knees!” Actually, evidence suggests this isn’t true. But a lot of non-runners like to believe it is because it’s a good excuse for not running.

But I’m pretty sure my semi-regular but excruciating slow practice of running (jogging? very fast walking?) is ruining my feet.

Regular readers will recall my complaints about plantar fasciitis and Morton’s neuroma. Both conditions have improved (I know you were waiting with bated breath for that update).

Now it’s my left heel that hurts. Not my Achilles tendon, exactly, but the place where the tendon connects to my foot. I discovered the exact location while giving myself a foot massage last night during “Bar Rescue” (never a dull moment around here, friends).

Causes of Achilles tendonitis? Age and running farther or faster than you’re supposed to. And, according to Runner’s World, “The cause [of slow healing] seems to be the collagen fibers.”

OMG. Not collagen as a cause again!

Treatment? It’s the most boring, old-person prescription ever. Avoid weight-bearing exercises. Like running. And practice copious amounts of calf stretching.

Oh, and ibuprofen and ice can’t hurt.

This is why runners give up running. People in general give up running because it’s boring and hard — genuine runners are the type of people who do it anyway. But constant nagging injuries deter even true believers.

OK, before giving it up entirely, I will try to spend more time spinning and swimming and stretching.

But I don’t have to like it.

Taking to water like a couple of ducks

It’s not secret I’m a big fan of water. I mean there’s the whole hydration aspect of it, and you can’t beat it for getting you clean.

But I was born in the land of sky-blue waters (hello! Minnesota has been the Land of 10,000 Lakes on its license plates as long as Missouri has been the Show-Me State), and I spent many-an afternoon as a junior high schooler getting pruney and water-logged at the Wadena pool.

Despite swimming the crawl at the speed of a crawl, I became a lifeguard and spent two summers teaching 5-year-olds how to swim (thanks, Shannon Whateveryournamewas for assigning me to the role no one else wanted but has served for excellent blog fodder in my golden years).

But as I’ve aged and gotten increasingly protective of my artificially colored hair, I’ve spent a lot less time in the chlorinated waters of a pool.

Until recently.

NOT me and my Beloved. But you get the picture.

NOT me and my Beloved. But you get the picture.

My Beloved and I joined a new gym (goodbye, Snap Fitness, you served me well), and I’ve spent a number of mornings getting my groove on in the pool during water aerobics classes.


Well, it’s not because I’m a fan of green hair (and I’m really hoping I can avoid the inevitability by keeping my ponytail dry — well, dryish).

My Beloved appreciates the lower impact exercise opportunities afforded by a pool of warm water, so I’ve been joining him and the grannies so we can exercise together.

Only here’s the thing: It’s not just grannies. And it’s not a bad workout.

I’ve been walking around all day today fully aware I worked out in the pool this morning. It’s not the same kind of sore as lifting bar bells that were too heavy, but I know I put my arms and legs and heart to work.

Another plus on the pro-and-con list: No one looks sweaty. We’re all just … wet.

Hey, today’s song list even had us underwater grapevining along to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters.” Oh, wait a minute. I suppose teenagers who were amazed by “Thriller” are grandparents now. But whatever. We weren’t dancing to the oldies. OK, the really old oldies.

It’s not like a summer run as the sun rises over the horizon, but water aerobics are pretty fun.

And splashing around the pool with my sweetie is better than icing on the cake. Because I’m burning calories instead of consuming them.

Splendid marigold sun

willow river trees

“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house. So I have spent almost all the daylight hours in the open air.”

~ Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1842

Taking advantage of proximity and timing, I enjoyed an hour-long trail run on Labor Day morning along the Willow River in Willow River State Park near Hudson, Wis. I was rewarded for my labors with a magnificent view of the lake just above the dam.

Stop and smell the lilacs on the way

lilacs vert

Few flowers have the power to capture my attention like lilacs. It’s their scent, I’m sure. As I was running around town yesterday morning, I literally stopped to smell the lilacs on the way.

My sense of smell is not exactly exacting. Sure, I can smell strong odors, but nuances elude me. Roses? Pretty. But their fragrance is weak.

There’s nothing nuanced about the scent of lilacs. Their heady perfume pervades even a hypnotic run. I’ve jogged by this home at least a hundred times, but I don’t recall ever seeing lilacs there. Obviously, I was exercising elsewhere in past late Mays.

Clearly, I have a thing for lilacs. I’ve waxed nostalgic for them more than once on this blog (201020112013). I’m always transported to the house I consider my childhood home, where a phalanx of lilacs grew in the alleyway, sweetly scenting the garbage cans for a few weeks every year.

I didn’t have my iPhone with me on my run yesterday, so I went back today on a soggy Saturday morning to capture this image.

The lilacs still smelled fragrant.

lilacs with saying

Life is like an interval run

My run yesterday morning began with seven minutes of low-grade torture. It wasn’t like a near-drowning experience at the hands of a CIA operative, but it generally sucked (as in “I repeatedly sucked air into my half-deflated lungs”) and I began planning how to cut my workout short.

I was embarking on what’s normally my favorite interval run, the 7654321 workout which meant six more intervals of running six minutes, five minutes, four minutes, etc.

I toughed through those long seven minutes and walked briskly for three-and-a-half minutes, marveling at the nice weather. For the first time this month, I was able to take it easy for a few minutes without freezing my tush off.

Then I began my six-minute interval and noted how I was still going uphill and now the wind was in my face. Figures, I thought, that my longest intervals are the hardest part of the route. [My route, by the way, was my choice. No one twisted my arm to run uphill. Downhill options exist just a block from my house. I was the idiot who chose to do it the hard way.]

Ah, then came a three-minute interlude of brisk walking. Good.

The end of my five-minute interval  ended at exactly the highest point in my route. The rest of the way was downhill I noted as I surveyed the village below. And the wind was at my back.

And then I began to realize my morning run was a metaphor for my life so far.

At 48, I’ve finally figured out that choosing the easy way is easier. [Took 48 years for that brilliant revelation. Every single decade, I look back at my 10-years-younger self and think, I was such a dope 10 years ago. I’m so much smarter now. Now, at least, I realize my 10-years-older self will still be saying the same thing.]

Those running intervals are getting shorter. And, with a bit of experience and oxygen in my veins, I’m getting faster. And the world seems to be working with me instead of against me.

By the time I got to my three-minute running interval, I literally felt like I was flying. A little bit. My pace had picked up. I was running downhill. The wind was carrying me along instead of spewing in my face. I was floating for a millisecond on every step, gaining an extra inch with every stride. I was airborne!

That’s how my life is some days. Buoyant. I’m married to an amazing man of big adventures. I am doing good, important, creative work. My car functions, the economy is improving, and I’ve avoided having to shop at the local detestable supermarket for more than a year. Hey, I’m within five pounds of my ideal weight. The small things count in the big picture. I’m experiencing a runner’s high of life right now.

My two-minute and one-minute running intervals quite literally flew by. Poof! My morning workout was done.

Not so bad for a run that had me so demoralized in the beginning that I considered not finishing it.

Kinda like life.

Yoga on the beach

Recently, I changed up my exercise routine with yoga. Instead alternating running with weight training, I’m alternating running with yoga.


It’s a great way to work out, stretch and meditate a little, all at the same time.

I can’t do yoga properly without guidance so I have to have an instructor or at least a video to encourage me to try a tricky pose or hold a pose longer.

Some yogis encourage you to hold an intention during class. So today I intended to be present in the moment and celebrate that I made it to Friday!

yoga on the beach

Recently, I had the opportunity to do yoga on the beach. On the beach! For a native Minnesotan, this was the definition of novel. The sun shone brightly, a breeze was blowing, I focused my eyes on a horizon where I could see only sky and water. Wow. I marveled at my luck. Who cares if I couldn’t hold a pose as long as the 20something teaching the class?! This was special.

That’s the kind of opportunities I seek out when I’m away from home. I feel like I really experience a place when I’m running its streets or breathing its air. It’s more real than sight seeing — better than taking a picture, though sometimes I do that, too.

Here’s a shot of what I saw in my shavasana pose — total relaxation.

corpse pose

Runner’s paradise

Most sightseers at the Wisconsin Dells take in the magnificent Cambrian sandstone rock formations from the perspective of the Wisconsin River.

A popular tourist attraction, the Dells may be better known for their multiple water parks but the river gorge features dramatic geological and ecological landscapes.

A much less traveled frontage road near the campground where I’m staying this weekend offers a view of the Dells from what might be considered the backside.


The unique rock formations line the isolated road along which I jogged this morning. The weather was perfect, too. Cool in the shade and warm in the sun without almost any humidity.


As autumn begins, the leaves are changing color, too, giving the place an even more artistic perspective. It’s like Jack Frost flicks his paint brush every morning, converting leaves from green to red or yellow.

These rock formations were formed as a glacial sea melted some 15,000 years ago. But it was as if they dressed up just for me today. Stunning.