Boot Camp at 5:30am

Some of those born in the early ’50s will understand when I say that getting out of bed at 5am (or at any time but especially at 5am) to inflict pain on oneself at the gym is sometimes a monumental exercise of will power.

I developed RA (I think it’s RA because my mother has it, and I have identical symptoms, even though the tests come back negative, so far) in my hands, wrists, toes and ankles. The swelling and the intensity of pain go up and down but never vanish completely. It doesn’t help that I am at the keyboard all day at work. Yes, I still work because I believe that one should postpone retirement as long as possible, but that is a topic of another post. So back to boot camp. For instance, this morning. When the alarm rang at 4:55am and then again at 5:00am, I did an inspection – I closed and opened my fist…. ouch! I rotated my trouble maker right wrist, it felt like it was broken, no way to make a full rotation. I wiggled my toes… another “ouch” foreshadowed what was about to come! Every inch of my body screamed, ‘stay in bed, you can’t do this today!’ But as most days (not all), I swung my feet over the side of the bed, while the voice in my head protested vehemently, and I braced for pain in my toes as I was about to stand up. A quick hobble to the bathroom to throw some water on my face, brush my teeth, then put on my gym gear, in slow motion because it’s hard to get the tight leggings and sports bra on when every move of the wrist and fingers hurts.

I have 15 minutes from the time I slide down from my bed till I sit in the car. In spite of wondering if I can do it, there is no time to give that thought more consideration, because boot camp starts promptly at 5:30am. Since I am out of bed, obviously I decided to go, so no use in engaging in negative thoughts. I’m going anyway, so there.

It’s a boot camp style group exercise class. Two of the instructors are former military drill sergeants and though they are kind (ish) they push hard. No, it is not a class for seniors. I am there with people spanning all age decades starting with the 20 somethings. We do push ups, burpees, spider man stretches, weighted lunges, sumo squats, lift weights, ankle jacks, we do calisthenics on stability balls, we do the ropes, you name it we do it. Today, just when we thought we we done, sweat dripping, we were told to do a 3 minute plank.

But, what about the pain you might be asking. Yeah, well, I wear weight lifter gloves, and sometimes a wrist brace, both of which help cushion the hands and wrist, or at least psychologically they create the illusion that they are helping. I don’t know how it works physiologically, but a few minutes into the class, and I am so busy focusing on what I am asked to do that I forget the pain. The music is loud, nasty, rhythmic, the instructors keep barking, ‘keep it up!’, ‘don’t stop’, ‘7 seconds to go!’, people around me grunting but pushing hard, and somehow I get through. Sometimes, when I see a person half my age struggle with sit-ups, I feel a secret satisfaction when I do them faster. I modify some of the exercises, like jump squats, because I can’t do impact due to a former knee injury.

By the time I get home, I feel energized, accomplished, and so so glad that I ignored the voice that urged me to stay in bed, and that I didn’t give in to the dread of  ‘what if I can’t do it today’.  And I am always amazed at how my body can change in an hour. So the reply to the voice in my head at 5:00am should always be, ‘maybe you won’t be able to do all you want to do today, but GO, find your limits!’

Testing the little engine IF it could

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This is the story of my first steps toward my physical and mental transformation, which turned my life long beliefs about what I could and could not do upside down.

While growing up I could never run without having a pain in my side, never had much of a stamina for endurance sports, and even though I was on a swim team in elementary school, I wasn’t able to swim more than a few laps without having to stop to catch my breath, and  eventually I was told by the coach that I was not strong enough for the swim team. I was examined by pediatric cardiologists who couldn’t detect anything more than a heart murmur, but I carried that as a badge of honor against any demands for physical exertion: ‘I have a heart murmor, so that’s why I can’t do it, and I’m proud of it!’ My teenage  years were devoted to school and to practicing piano for my audition to the music conservatory, therefore most of my teenage years were sedentary.

In my 20s, after being  married a few years and having 2 kids, I joined a gym with a friend and we began to walk 3  miles every morning, rain or shine. To be honest, we more strolled and talked than walked.  We once walked 8 miles to a nearby town where we rewarded ourselved by buying a couple of  Italian breads fresh out of the oven, and eating them on the bus which we took back. Going to the gym did make me feel stronger, but still, we didn’t truly push ourselves, as there was not a lot of sweat involved.

Then came a phase in my late 30s when I stopped the morning walks  with my friend, after which I alternated between periods of exercise and no exercise at all.  I was a cyclic gym rat who knew the equpement but never really pushed too hard.

My 40s were not good to me. I was not in a good space either physically nor mentally. I gained a lot of weight. In my mid 40s, at  5ft 6in I was upward of 200lbs and gaining. I will never forget the shocked look on my daughter’s face one morning when she looked at me sideways. I was now size 16.

My transformation began to take shape shortly after I turned 50. By then I lost a lot of that weight (which is a whole other topic for another time), but things did not change in earnest until I was 56 years old. While sitting at the lake’s  edge one beautiful spring day, I watched the crews practice. In fact I watched their  practices for years while eating my lunch, as my work was within walking distance of the  lake’s edge, but it never crossed my mind that rowing would ever have anything to do with me.  After all, I still couldn’t run a short distance, or climb a flight of stairs without getting  out of breath, and I never did aerobics in the gym for the fear of getting a heart attack  because during the few times I tried it, my face turned purple and I gasped for air at which point the instructors looked at me in alarm and told me to sit down. And I still had the heart murmor, though none of my doctors thought it was anything to be overly concerned about. That was the physical condition I believed I was in, and identified myself with, on that  beautiful spring day. I still remember a quiet little question mark that fluttered by and startled me as I watched the crews: “Why are you just watching?”

Pondering that question, I looked at the lake for a while, then slowly walked back to my office feeling perplexed. As if obeying some direct order, I looked up the crew club’s website and there I found an announcement about their “Learn to Row” program which was to start in early fall. And I instinctively knew that I arrived at a new chapter. There were no questions in my mind any more. I was going to stop watching the crews practice.  I was going to become one of them! Me, little Ms. Out-of-breath, I was going to row, and I was going to kick my butt till I found my limits! But at least I would find those limits on the water, and not by sitting at the shore wondering IF my little engine could. I bailed out many times, but not this time.

To be continued…

Perspectives over time

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There was a time when everything seemed to be very important. I used to feel my insides twist and my stomach tighten like a rock over things which today I view with acceptance. I used to be intolerant and opinionated, judgmental. I used to argue in order to win, no matter what. Today? I listen. I try to truly understand the other person’s point of view and I try not to judge.

On my 60th birthday I became very ill after taking a massive dose of antibiotics prescribed for sinusitis. Suffice it to say that there were many moments when I felt that I was going to die. Obviously, I didn’t die, but during the course of my one year recovery period I changed.

In 2007 I took a course at the Juilliard with David Dubal. It was a fascinating class on music appreciation where he analyzed various pieces of music, and talked about composers. One of his stories involved his conversations with Vladimir Horowitz. What stuck with me to this day was what Horowitz revealed to Dubal as his firm belief. He told him that everyone should find their “life and death”. That one passion, without which life is not complete. Doesn’t matter what it is. Making music, being a plumber, a sport, whatever. Find your “life and death”. Hmm… I thought… what fruit for thought…

In hind sight, all those things that used to tie me up in knots were my then “life and death” situations, worth putting up a fight for, or so I thought. And I had a myriad of those situations. Of course at that time I didn’t know that most things we get upset about are not really all THAT important. That they are not at all “life and death” situations.

Now, when the little ones get yelled at by their parents for not turning in their homework in time, or for a C on their report card, I mean it when I say to them that, “nothing is ‘life and death’, unless it’s life and death”.

How perspectives change over time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh Baby. . .

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Some of us women, now in our 60s, made earlier financial mistakes which we don’t want our daughters to repeat. It is frustrating and hurtful sometimes, when while trying to advise a grown offspring to avoid the same financial mistakes we made, they attribute the advise to the lack of pride and respect for their abilities and numerous accomplishments. But while extremely proud of the accomplishments, it is hard to stand by without saying anything when I see my daughter living the good life, being a successful business owner, a great parent, always ready to help others without hesitation to the point of self-sacrifice, generous and loving toward her parents, yet not thinking at all about the “distant” future for herself – NO retirement plan at age 40, and no savings to talk about!  Because when the retirement plan consists of relying on the spouse’s retirement plan, no matter how ample it may be, one hates to think of worst case scenarios, but you just never know…

I strongly believe that the best way to live is to stand on one’s own feet,  regardless of current marital bliss, even if it means cutting back somewhat on the good life. I am not predicting doom, but I insist that a woman needs to be prepared for all contingencies, and becoming self-sustaining is of paramount imortance to her in today’s world.

I know of too many Baby Boomer wives, whose husbands decided to trade them in, who ended up struggling in their golden years without financial support because they took it for granted that their financial future was assured by their husbands’ financial success. They were of the opinion that in case of divorce they would get 1/2 of everything, if not more. They certainly did not count on smart divorce lawyers who left them standing at the curb. No, that is not my case, but I have seen it happen.

Sometimes I am caugh by utter surprise when my grown kids react with words of indignation at well meaning suggestions which should be taken as a normal thing coming from an elder who’s been around the corner more than once. Never ceases to shock me how a loving child can turn total stranger at the slightest hint of what is eroneously perceived as lack of recognition of their current successes. I don’t like it,  but I don’t mind too much if my kids label me paranoid, unappreciative of their abilities, or whatever else they want to call me, as long as my prodding results in their focusing on the long term. Because as a parent, my job is to keep pushing the envelope, not sweep it under the rug regardless of how unpleasant it may be for me.

Amazon.com – “Prime Membership” FRAUD

Just discovered today that Amazon enrolled me in their “prime membership” without my consent. The only reason I know this is because they did this using my business card and I received notice from our financial department about an unknown charge. On investigating, I found that Amazon enrolled me six months ago on an automatic renewal, and today I was charged the renewal fee of $51.94. After going through all my email I found the original enrollment email in a junk folder. I did a search on Google to see if anyone else complained about Amazon enrolling people in their prime membership without consent, and found that they are doing this regularly. In fact, merely clicking on a link to find information on free shipping enrolls you with an automatic renewal. They refunded the credit card, but while this is not one of those life and death situation that would keep me awake all night, it IS FRAUD by deceit, nevertheless!