What Do Your Feet Do?

9.3.18

Will you help me conduct a tiny, informal survey?

I can see how many people read my blog (although not who), and if every one who read this responded, that would be useful for me.

So here’s the question:

When you wake up in the morning and you’re all loose and relaxed and you’re lying on your back – which way do your feet point?

I think most people would say their feet generally point more or less up. To 11 and 1 on the clock, roughly. Maybe a little more, maybe a little less.

Mine point to 9 and 3. That’s just how they lie there.

I’m particularly interested in a reply from my sisters, Lexie and Twig. Is this genetic?

I’m being treated by Jenna, a physical therapist at Body Dynamics, for the (unrelated) unhappiness in my knee; she looked at what the dancers call my “turn-out” (dancers envy the naturally splay-footed) and said she’d be looking into my hips at our next appointment. Cool.

So – is this configuration regular? A little unusual? Kind of rare? Would you help me? Tell me: Where do your feet point when you lie relaxed on your back?

You can answer on the blog or on Facebook; you can post a photo or just say the numbers on the clock that your feet point at. You can send me an email if we’re on that footing. (Ho – footing. Get it?) You can stop me at BDI and tell me. I’ll collect and try to post an update.

Thank you!

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Nice bug bites, huh? The average 58-year-old woman heals so damned slowly!

Red-Shirted

8.31.18

Help me out, here – have I remembered correctly? If a football player gets hurt and can’t play in the next game, he’s put on the “Injured Reserve” list, right? And we refer to that as being “red-shirted?”

If I’ve remembered this wrong, then the only other instance I can think of for saying “He’s been red-shirted” is to be an innocent crew member drifting along on the Enterprise and suddenly being forced into a red shirt and sent to the planet surface to be killed by a lava monster or a psychopathic ESP teenager, to prove that the situation is grave for Kirk and Spock and all the other people most certainly not wearing red shirts.

But I think I’ve got it right; I think to say one is red-shirted means one has a sports injury.

AND I AM RED-SHIRTED!

I’m very excited by this. After 58 sedentary years, I have at last achieved that holy grail of fitness: a sports injury.

I have this wee little muscle below my left knee that is FURIOUS. If I bend that knee with any weight on it at all, I get a knitting needle run up under the kneecap. A knitting needle made of lightning.

This is very exciting for me because (a) I’ve never achieved a state of fitness good enough to actually have a sports injury and (b) I’m told by the PT not to run until she and Barbara give me the all-clear.

WHAT?? I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO RUN??

Someone ELSE is saying that? Like, out loud where witnesses could hear it?!

I AM ON FUCKING CLOUD NINE.

It’s Friday. I should run around the lake. That’s what I do on Fridays. 1.6 miles, alternating walk/run every tenth of a mile. It’s not so bad; I can endure it. BUT NO!! I’M NOT ALLOWED!

Granted, I am experiencing a certain grim pain going down a flight of stairs (I have to go up and down stairs like a toddler; both feet meeting on each step), and I have to do the exercises that Barbara and the PT gave me…

…and I don’t even have to ask Barbara if I’m supposed to be doing my home exercise program every single day now that I can’t run; I mean – duh. Obviously.

But I am totally buzzed by the fact that I’m not supposed to run.

Most athletes, I concede, are probably not this excited to be red-shirted… but I’m new to the “athlete” designation and I bring baggage with me! Time to go sit down!

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Trophic Cascade

August 21, 2018

Have you seen the insanely wonderful video about what happened to Yellowstone when the wolves were reintroduced? (This DOES refer back to fitness eventually; promise!)

If you haven’t watched it, take five bliss-filled minutes and enjoy the dazzle. It will be worth it. Here’s the link to “How Wolves Change Rivers.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_5rqiK_wBI

Did you watch? Isn’t that cool?

My point is – you can make a relatively small change in an environment (or in a body) and create a trophic cascade that ripples throughout the entire system.

That’s what running has done for me… unfortunately, it hasn’t brought foxes and eagles back to my house, nor has it changed the course of my rivers. (If that doesn’t make sense, then you didn’t watch the video, did you?? Mother always knows.) My results are … different.

First, running has activated my glutes. Unbeknownst to me, my butt muscles have been coasting for 58 years, coming along for the ride but not doing their part. (I use my quads and low back, instead, which is at least part of why exercise has never been much fun for me. Quads and low backs aren’t designed to create all that power; they get fussy and fatigued and need to be taken out to dinner and told they’re marvelous.)

But now my glutes are beginning to wake up. New sources of power are pulling my feet straighter; I no longer walk like a duck. I’m a tad less splay-footed. Not a LOT less – but my toes are beginning to face forward. Like, all the time.

That means that the two strap muscles that run down your leg (the IT band in the thigh and the whatever in the calf) are suddenly being asked to stretch longer. For the first time EVER. It’s making them grumpy. They refuse to be taken out to dinner and be told they’re marvelous; they’re just sitting there bitching. And who’s getting it in the neck, metaphorically speaking?

This wee little muscle that attaches the IT band to the hip bone – the TFL. (Can’t remember what any of these initials stand for, but they’re both gorgeous and sound like villains in an ancient Greek tragedy.)

The TFL is one place where the IT band can find a little give as it’s resisting the stretch. And when the TFL is being tormented, it sends a quick jolt of electricity to the front of the hip, causing the driver to emit a startled yip and a dip of the hip. Zip.

So I’m walking funny. Sometimes it’s kinda painful. Sometimes I make little EEP noises when I first stand up.

I don’t like it.

Gwynn the astonishing therapeutic masseuse worked on my right leg yesterday; she used her cupping suction cups and leaned her entire body into my thigh muscles. (Gwynn, a ballet dancer, doesn’t have much mass; I’m equal to at least two of her, so when she digs in hard, I feel like an oil tanker being towed by a tug boat… but like with the oil tanker, that tug boat knows where it’s going and it gets the job done!)

I’m still yipping, but now I know better WHY – and I can turn my toes out (feels weird now) when it gets really bad.

The second effect running has on me is that I get hungry.

Not like “Yeah, I could eat.”

I’m talking fishing around in the grocery bags because I can’t wait to get home before consuming something. ANYTHING.

All right – not the grocery bag. The bucket of chicken from KFC. Don’t judge.

The third effect? I can’t stay awake through an entire afternoon. If I manage to stumble through a mile with Barbara in the morning, I’ll be napping a few hours later, while clients call to no avail and deadlines go ticking past.

I’d apologize for making a poor decision, but napping isn’t my idea. Word comes down from the cerebral cortex – we’re going on strike now.  Get to a horizontal surface because the system shut-down is happening in five… four… three…

Finally, on the days when I run, my thighs take on the gravity of a black hole. They’re strangely heavy. When I walk up stairs, I have to lean forward and haul up with my hands on the bannister. I feel like I should be singing a work chanty to make it to the top. That’s the SOUND of the MEN working on the CHAIN… GANG…

My point is – my trophic cascade isn’t exactly what I was expecting. I thought I’d be slim-hipped and vibrant. (Keep your KFC commentary to yourself, there; like you’re so perfect?!) I thought I’d have more energy. I thought I’d be the kind of person to trot briskly because walking was just too slow.

Instead I yip, I gorge, I nap, and I crawl up the stairs. Where is my re-drawn river system?!?

(Look – you know and I know that during ALL of this, my heart is beating more healthfully. My arteries are more open and smooth because good cholesterol is making its first-ever appearance on stage. My lungs are pink and healthy. My brain is more highly oxygenated. There are a million reasons to keep running; a million reasons to be proud I’m still working at my cardio fitness. But it’s so much easier to bitch!)

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Now – go watch the wolf video. You can spare the five minutes, and it’s SO DAMNED COOL.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_5rqiK_wBI 

 

Ninety-Eight Percent

August 18, 2018

I’m still running.

Rather, I should say I’m still jogging; “running” is too fleet a word for what I’m doing. BUT I note with pride that I no longer thud quite so heavily; I don’t THINK impact tremors are alerting seismologists around the world to a possible tectonic shift, so that’s good.

I run on Tuesdays with Barbara, as the opening to our hour-long fitness training. We jog around a mile-long loop; I walk in three carefully-chosen areas (up the stairs in the park and to the next corner; across the footbridge before the other park; and around the elbow of road before The Hill and subsequent hairball-like feeling of I Hope I Drop Dead Before I Have To Make It To The Top). As previously reported, I’m not much of a fan of the running, but I LOVE being FINISHED with running.

And I’m supposed to run on my own on Fridays. If the weather is too swampy, I can run stairs instead, but on days when the air actually includes oxygen, I jog around a small lake (or is it a big pond?) at a housing development near my home. They’ve marked off the 1.5 mile path in tenth-of-a-mile increments, so you can watch for the next line across the path with a hollow-eyed desperation. Makes it fun!

I told Barbara I was going to try something new – switch my gait with every line on the path. Thus, jog a tenth of a mile, walk a tenth of a mile – repeat until end. Now that Barbara has me recording my runs on an app, I can see how long it takes me to run a mile (use a calendar, not a watch, children), and I was wondering if short intervals would increase my overall time.

Barbara instinctively said “a tenth of a mile isn’t long enough,” but then remembered to whom she was speaking. “Yes – that’s a good idea. Try that.”

For two weeks, she’s been asking me if I’ve tried it; for two weeks I’ve been defeated by Virginia in August and ran stairs instead. And yesterday (Friday) I simply ground to a halt and did NO exercises…

…but this morning, I happened to wake up at about 3:45 in the morning. This is becoming standard for me; I think by that time I’m sleeping so lightly that when the cable box recycles, it wakes me up. I stay up for a few hours, killing time with my iPad until I’m drowsy, and then I go back to sleep.

But this morning… ah, this morning. At about 6:15, I thought – I can either try rolling over again and spin my brain uselessly in the mental mud about all the things I need to do today (which will just result in me sitting up again and playing yet another game of solitaire)… or I could haul it out of bed, put on the cute Black Watch plaid running skirt and my sneaks, and make it out to the jogging path by just a little after sunrise.

This was a valuable idea because I’d be running when it was only 71 degrees, instead of waiting until later, when it went up to 88 or 90.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

The humidity of the pearly part of the morning is FAR more relevant to running comfort than the actual temperature… and when I jog/walked my 1.6 miles? (Added the walk to and from the car to the 1.5 mile loop)

IT WAS NINTY-EIGHT PERCENT HUMID.

Seriously: How can the air have a 98% humidity rating and it not be actually raining??!

That nice “soft” air I was breathing when I started out turned out to have the consistency of oatmeal. I was a-tremble by halfway through my run. AND YET SHE PERSISTED. I made it back to the car, where I collapsed in a spineless puddle. And STILL my run was about thirty seconds faster per mile than it was when I ran 1.1 miles and walked .4 miles. So – victory. Sweaty, gasping victory!

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This is a photo of me after I drove home and toweled off; I was SO SWEATY and overheated that all this “dew” appeared after the initial scrub. In fact, although I stood in the shower with cold water pouring over my face for a long time, I discovered my face was still sweating half an hour later. This may be the only protest available to sweat glands. I hear you, guys. I’ll watch the humidity next time. Live and learn!

Fleet

8.3.18

I’ve had TWO dreams lately in which running was bliss.

In the first, the running quickly turned into flying – the BEST kind of dream. As soon as I wake up, I recognize the flying as actually being swimming, but without any water, including me pushing off walls and parked cars, etc. as if they were the side of a swimming pool, and then I “fly” even faster, breast-stroking madly, until I drift to a stop and have to push off something else.

Lovely.

In the second, I was running – happily – along a mountain path at night. No, I don’t know why; it was a dream – hold all your questions until transactional analysis. I realized I’d gotten off the path. With a dream-like déjà vu, I knew that if I continued, I’d be attempting to move along the side of a cliff, so I backtracked wisely until I found a road.

The road led me to a town, where rednecks menaced me. When I turned for help to the toothless tavern owner, she grinned at me and locked the door behind me. The man with no feet leered, and the original thug in the baseball cap appeared at the back door. I thought, “Man, are these guys going to be surprised when my super powers kick in.”

Wait. What was my point again?

Oh, yeah. I dreamed – TWICE – that I was really enjoying running.

Like – I was feeling the delicious cross-body stretch from up-elbow across to up-knee, from forward shoulder to forward hip, and my breathing was easy and deep, and my shoulders were down and back, and I felt like I could run forever.

Despite what those dreams evolved into, don’t you think this is a positive, hopeful sign for my future as a runner?? One day I could run as effortlessly, as fluidly, as easily as Barbara?

(New reader? Barbara is my fitness trainer at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, Virginia. She’s a gifted trainer and a contagious runner, in that she makes you want to run, too. Like an infection. Like the plague. You’re GONNA catch it, poor bastard.)

As previously noted, I’ve spent 58 years arranging my life so I do NOT have to run. To discover, at this advanced age, that MAYBE it’s not QUITE as horrible as I previously thought? That’s – well, it’s dreamy.

I can’t consciously envision myself as being fleet-footed – ever. But I can in my dreams. So it must be in the outer bounds of possible. (Still waiting for the super powers to kick in.)

Onward!

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Allies

7.25.18

When you were in high school, your mama was praying that you’d run with a “good” crowd.

Parental influence sets the dye of your personality, but there comes a time when your background gets tie-dyed by non-familial influences. If you were a jock, you hung with jocks. If you were a head, you and your friends smoked a lot of pot. If you were a thug, your buds persuaded you to shoplift lipstick and cigarettes.

Of course, you’re reading an amateur’s fitness blog, which points strongly toward you being a nerd in high school. You didn’t play field hockey with the boomers, you didn’t lurk malevolently in the smoking lounge with students dressed entirely in black, you didn’t date college students.

No, you were debating the relative merits of Star Trek vs. Star Wars, you were collecting Louisa May Alcott and Little House books, you were wondering if the Debate Club was really as scary as it sounded. And your friends were the people who did the same. (And you love them to this day.)

I was thinking about the importance of running with a good crowd when I was working out with Grace today. Body Dynamics (in Falls Church, VA) isn’t a very big place. I visited one of those massive warehouse gyms with a friend a few weeks ago; Body Dynamics isn’t like that. In this clean, unfussy, sunlit world, I’m now on a smile-and-nod level with all kinds of people…

…and they’re people who look like me. That is, this isn’t Gold’s Gym, where muscle-bound weight lifters would probably look at you like you’re taking up space and using valuable oxygen. At Body Dynamics, the clients are all older, pudgier, move like they could use some help. That’s why they’re there.

They are my allies. They’re the “good” crowd I’m running with at the moment… and I’m grateful! My non-workout friends are all supportive and kind about me spending so much time in bulging exercise clothes, but I suspect my effort can seem to them like a silent accusation. (I know this because I’ve felt that way. A friend appears, all rosy and toned from working out, and I’d feel pasty and sedentary and pathetic; that’s the kind of friend that maybe you draw away from a little.)

So I try to not dwell TOO much on my workouts (saving it up for a blog that people can choose to read or not)… and I’m grateful for the people I know who are at a place in their lives when they, like me, can devote time and energy to getting healthy. These people are ready and eager to discuss the endless challenge of the sugar demon, or the merits of one masseuse over another, or a new exercise or work-out plan. These people help me keep my enthusiasm high.

I suspect “these people” are actually YOU—and so I offer you my thanks! We’re doing this together, even if we’ve never met.

And if you’re someone who cannot yet devote the time and energy to getting healthier but wish you could—and there are a whole lot in this particular crowd—then I hope you know I respect your yearning. Every one of us is doing all that we can manage every single day; if the time isn’t right yet for you to devote your energies to health, then don’t feel bad about yourself. Tomorrow may be better. You’re a good person, even if your waistline is thick or your knees hurt. Really.

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If you start out with high school crowds, it’s law that you need a Breakfast Club photo – right? Typical that all of them were beautiful; Hollywood doesn’t understand the TRUE high school clique, but never mind. Still a great movie!

 

 

Discounted

7.14.18

Here’s why it NEVER SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED!

First, I’d just RUN A MILE. Seriously. I did it on a treadmill because Northern Virginia has become an aquatic neighborhood of late; it was raining when I arrived for my Body Dynamics session with Barbara. It’s raining right now.

(Advice: If you’re ANYWHERE near Falls Church, Virginia, treat yourself to Barbara. She’s uncanny in her ability to read a body, motivate a spirit, and never set an exercise too hard to actually do.)

Next, after my session with Barbara, I moved one room over to do Stretch Class with Clara. (Clara is moving on in two weeks, which is a tragedy for me but not for her; she’s going to intern with the George Washington swim team trainers, which sounds amazingly cool plus she’s fresh out of college and adorably cute and thus it isn’t creepy for HER to lust after and perhaps have romances with those college men’s triangular swimmer’s bodies – like watching Timothy Olyphant walk across a TV screen, all wide shoulders and snaky hips and puma-like grace… lord, I have COMPLETELY lost my train of thought and need to start again.)

After my session with Barbara, Clara said she’d seen me running on the treadmill and that my form looked really good. That alone is astonishing for someone (me, not Clara) who has spent so many years (MANY years) avoiding running for just about any reason at all. Light changes halfway across the crosswalk? No one WANTS to hit a pedestrian; they’ll slow down, right? About to miss the train? Eh, another one will be along. Rabid dog heading this way? Well, it’s just a series of painful injections to the belly; why run now?

So here was a trained fitness expert (a child, but she’d graduated with a degree in whatever) telling me that my running form was no source of embarrassment. Of course, I’m Barbara-trained; I knew I wasn’t making horrible errors… but still, it was very nice to hear, so I was pumped up and sassy.

And finally, I was dressed in fitness garb. Spanxex-influenced pants to just below the knee in always-slimming black, and then a blue shirt big enough to cover the part of my body where the blooming happens.

That is, my legs are beginning to look pretty good. Naked in front of a mirror, I’m not dissatisfied until pretty high up on the thigh, and then things bloom like algae in the Great Lakes. Ampleness ensues. Oxygen deprivation due to fat clotting. That goes on for another foot or so – flared hips, what might be generously described as a Rubenesque belly, a posterior for which “drooping” is the best descriptor – until the waist, at which point things get better, and the threat of accidental public nudity is no longer nightmarish. Healthiness is working down from the top of my head and up from the soles of my feet; I’m pathetic at about the hinge, and the rest is getting okay.

The point is, I was looking not only pretty good (with effective camouflaging) but I also looked like someone who had recently engaged in reasonably vigorous exercise. I was moving as if my joints had all been oiled and as if nothing hurt, because—thank you, Barbara and Grace and Gwynn—nothing does hurt.

So when the teenager at the cash register awarded me a “Seniors Tuesday” 5% discount on my groceries, I was thrown.

I wanted to reach across the conveyor belt and drag his skinny torso toward me to enquire – with desperation, not violence – do I look like a senior?  DO I?? Seriously – really??

I really don’t care much about my age; I’m 58 and consistently getting better. But there were still two ancient people in the check-out aisle in front of me, suspiciously studying the three-foot-long receipt the teenager had just given them as if they thought he might have listed their bank account, their blood types, and the location of Great Aunt Irma’s pearl broach. Shit – THEY deserve the senior discount. Do I look like they do??!

On the other hand – maybe the kid just gave the discount to everyone he checked for. He had a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy of just slapping a 5% discount down for every customer, rightly assuming no one (including me) would say “Hold on there, my good man – I am not yet a senior. I WANT to pay more for my grapefruit and organic Greek whole milk no sugar plain yogurt.”

(All right – and also my container of Ben and Jerry’s. Don’t judge.)

A vast, orchestral argument ran through my brain as I smiled vacantly at the little boy at the register. I accepted my receipt and walked out (passing the elderly couple, still intently focused on the military launch codes apparently embedded in their sales receipt), feeling very out of sorts… but ever so slightly richer. Five percent.

I felt…discounted.

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Truth: Would you look at this face and decide you don’t even have to ask if she qualifies for a 5% senior discount? I can take it. You can say “yes.” But… really??

(Nice dog, huh??)

 

 

Summer

7.8.18

It’s human nature to look at crater strikes on the moon and immediately decide they look like a face. We seek patterns everywhere…

…which means that when you see three friends posting on Facebook about needing to reboot their dedication to health and fitness, it’s evah-so-easy to decide that EVERYONE IS SCREWING UP their training this summer and we should all just have ice cream and calm down about it.

On the other hand, I can also see posts from my brilliant trainer, Barbara (from Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA), who is on vacation and apparently running for the sheer joy of it… for ninety-two straight minutes… in July… during a heat wave so massive the entire east coast was melting.

So it’s not ALL of us who are off track. Damn it. There’s always some overeager kid waving their hand and crying “But teacher – you forgot to give us homework!”

I’ve abandoned my exercise regime for one solid week. No, wait – this is day ELEVEN of doing NO formal exercise at all. (Jeez. Those lazy days mount up quick!) At first, I was on a mission of mercy to help a friend in need; too tired from helping her pack up her house to take the twenty minutes to do my HEP. That was a pretty good excuse.

Then the weather was gaggingly hot; the A/C could barely keep up and that was my excuse for skipping stairs.

(Skipping stairs sounds like a vigorous, sprightly exercise; what I mean, of course, is that I skipped trotting up and down the stairs, which means I am neither vigorous nor sprightly.)

The weather broke yesterday; the air is dry and kind and the heat is only warm and not sauna-like… so why aren’t I exercising now??

I don’t know. Because… I don’t want to?

Yes. That’s what it comes down to. I just don’t want to and all my sisu has dried up. I’m out of the habit.

I’m back at Body Dynamics on Tuesday for a session (including running a mile) with Barbara plus an hour of Stretch Class with Clara. (And on Wednesday for an hour with Grace, and on Thursday for Balance Class with Barbara.) That will put me back on the straight and narrow – so why don’t I linger happily here on the curvy and wide for just a little longer??

Summer. It DOES get in the way!

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This is what Barbara posts; that’s her most recent run. On vacation. Just because she loves doing it. I dunno – are we the same species, do you think??

What, Now?

July 3, 2018

She pulled uncertainly into the parking lot of the gas station-cum-garage and rolled, confusingly, over the now out-of-date line that rang a bell in the dark bay ahead of her.

“Haven’t heard one of those in decades,” she thought nervously. “Maybe I should wait until I’m back on home turf…”

Too late. From the shadows an overall’ed form was moving toward her. The mechanic was nondescript and plain. He didn’t seem menacing, so she put the car into park and got out.

“Hi,” she said brightly, hoping he wasn’t one of those Neanderthal men who make women feel small for neither knowing nor caring much about the inner workings of the four-stroke combustion engine.

“Help you?” he asked as he wiped his hands on a filthy cloth. (Why bother?, she wondered. His hands can only get dirtier from that.)

“My car has a – well, it’s a shimmy. If I go over about twenty miles an hour, it begins to feel like things are going to fly apart.”

“Uh-huh,” he said flatly and toed a rolling dolly over to the car. Without preamble, he disappeared under the car and she heard him banging around. Knowing he could only see her well-shod feet pacing nervously, she held her questions until (it seemed) eons had passed.

“Can you find anything?”

He rocketed out from under the car and walked to the office. “C’mon,” he said shortly.

“Oh, well…” He ignored her, so she moved ahead but stopped in the doorway, uncertain of the situation. Hedging her bets, her head was inside while her feet were still on the pavement outside.

He was rummaging in a worn metal desk, discarding oily bits of metal and poorly folded road maps as he went. “Here it is,” he muttered. He turned and held out…

…an apple.

Startled, she reached out instinctively and took it from him. Then she regarded the apple with profound suspicion. What the hell was it? Why hadn’t she refused to take it?

“Hold that,” he said. And then there was silence.

“Um – okay.” They regarded each other blankly.

Finally he clarified. “When you drive. Hold that when you drive.”

Words failed her. She shook her head and raised her eyebrows. Her forehead creased.

“Go on,” he said. “Try it. You’ll see.”

“You want me to hold an apple… to fix the shimmy in my car?”

“That’s right.”

“Is it a MAGIC apple?” she asked, not able to bite back the sarcasm.

He grinned. “Once around the block. If it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else. Go on, now.”

Thinking she’d entered a madman’s lair, she scurried back to her car, clutching the apple, and drove off.

“Insane,” she muttered. Then, as the car began its alarming shuddering, she looked suspiciously at the apple, lying innocently in the drink holder. Her frown of contempt became a moue of frustration. “All right!”

She reached out and grabbed the apple – and the shimmying stopped. “What the hell?!?”

She put the apple down and the juddering began; she picked it up and it stopped. I do NOT understand, she thought – but it’s working!

* * * * *

This tale is a parable. A fitness parable. I composed it to explain how WEIRD is the power of Barbara Gallagher Benson at Body Dynamics, and of Gwynn Hegyi, and of Grace Ball – my BDI team of WIZARDS.

Listen: About 18 months ago, I came down with a strange numbness that was diagnosed as Guillain-Barre Syndrome (which I incorrectly call Guillaume Barré because it sounds like an interesting protagonist in a French thriller). For reasons unknown, my own immune system attacked the sheaths around my nerves from the ribs down, leaving me mildly numb.

Some people have quite exciting experiences with Guillaume Barré; I don’t happen to be one of them. Despite being slapped into the hospital for five or six days, I was fine. I was numb and then I slowly got better. My right leg is still a little numb; I barely notice it any more. Not a big deal.

But I (now) know that at some point, I began shifting my weight to the left, which woke up more rapidly. And the muscles on the left got correspondingly stronger. The muscles on the right, relieved of duty, decided to take a break. Everything that was SUPPOSED to be done by those big old glute muscles on the right began to be accomplished by the muscles on the left, except the movements that HAD to come from the right side.

I now know which movements those are, because I have two sets of muscles which have begun to rebel – like colonists throwing tea into Boston Harbor. My adductor magnus runs up the inside of the thigh from knee to groin; the magnificently-named quadratus lumborum sit above the butt muscles like two mainsails.

Mine have been shrieking with increasing fury for the last six weeks or so.

And then Barbara said… “…tighten your glute mede.”

Barbara probably CAN tighten her gluteus medius without engaging minimus and maximus. I can’t – but I can clench a butt cheek in general.

And what happens?

ALL THE PAIN CEASES IMMEDIATELY.

Immediately. I can go from mid-wince to limp-free in the span of time it takes me to flex my ass.

This is VERY WEIRD INDEED – but honey – it’s a freaking blessing.

It is VERY CHALLENGING to see how these things are related, anatomically, but they are. Like solving a car problem by holding an apple. It makes no sense. But Barbara figured it out anyway. And Grace. And Gwynn. They worked my complaints until they solved it. And by damn, they DID solve it. I can’t believe it.

Of course, my glute mede is weak – so to make the parable complete, the apple that makes the car stop shaking has to weigh about twenty pounds; you can’t ALWAYS hold it until you build up some endurance and long-term strength (I have exercises now to add to my Home Exercise Program)… but you can be sure that building endurance is easier to do when NOT doing it causes pain.

I don’t know how those geniuses keep doing it, but I’m damned glad I’ve got them in my corner!

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“Oh – here’s your problem: Your ass is totally weak on the right side. Think of it as a bad boot around the CV joint, got it?”

Bulrushes

6.24.18

I had an uncharacteristically Biblical thought yesterday.

I’m not much of a gardener. I mostly kept up with the weeding until I saw a long, lazy, benevolent black snake in the garden. Then I screamed like a 1950s sitcom and refused to go into the yard for months; let the snake weed.

(This was an unsuccessful weeding policy, as it turns out, and the yard quickly began to assume a jungle-like air of neglect that only felt more alarmingly snaky.)

But when I discovered a (quite large) turtle in my tiny, man-made pond, I was restored to the natural world. (From this experience we see that the fear of a snake is JUST SLIGHTLY outweighed by the delight in a turtle. Mathematically, snake < turtle.)

I hired a landscaping company to create a turtle paradise; the result is so stunning that I can’t imagine Yertle isn’t blissed in his groovy bachelor pad. I rather hope he’s on TurtleMatch.com, finding himself a little honey to enjoy Eastern Slider Eden. One of the things the landscaping lady did was fill my little turtle pond with all kinds of luscious water plants. (Some of which sit on low tables made of slate on stone legs, under which GOLDFISH would be happy to hide! I’m going to buy Yertle his pets this week.)

And one of the plant varieties is a bulrush.

Bulrushes, it turns out, are lovely. They have pretty, oblate leaves, and they stand tall and wave gently in the breeze. They have pretty lavender flowers growing shyly from their stalks.

But of course the most immediately awesome thing about the bulrush is its place in literature (or history or religion, depending on your interpretation), as it was among the bulrushes that the Pharaoh’s daughter found tiny baby Moses. (I pointedly omit a wealth of commentary about family planning and societal shame and the unlikelihood of babies drifting, carefree and untethered, among tall reeds in a wetland.)

So I heart my bulrushes big-big, and occasionally look to see if any baskets have fetched up among them. Nothing so far.

But a big wind did come roaring through. It pushed over one of the cattails and one of the bulrushes, and I bravely took my bare feet to the distant side of the pond (where, one might reasonably assume, a snake could possibly be enjoying a poolside sunbath) to stand up my reclining plants.

Once I was safely back in the kitchen, I looked with satisfaction at my pond. It was perhaps the biblical nature of the bulrushes that made me think to myself, “I have restored the habitat to order; I am the god of the turtle pond.”

Any time you decide you’re a god, it’s a good opportunity to slap yourself in the face and shake that thought loose. I don’t follow a formalized religion, but I do believe in karma, and if you decide you’re the god of ANYTHING, the actual god of that thing will make a point of proving just how wrong you are.

(I follow no formalized religion, but there are gods everywhere in my world, and it’s best not to piss any of them off. Be grateful. Be humble. You never know when a deity is paying attention.)

But before I lost the image of me as a god entirely, I felt an electrical pull that meant an analogy was inbound. Annnnnnd…. It’s here! Listen:

I’m a bad gardener, but a landscaper with a green thumb and a love of growing things has put me on the path. She’s given me the bare rudiments of knowledge to be the goddess of the turtle pond.

I’ve been a poor manager of my health for my entire life. Now a fitness trainer with a knowledge of musculature and an understanding of my emotional barriers has given me the bare rudiments of knowledge to … No, too blasphemous to say I’m the goddess of my health. But really – the analogy holds true. I have the ability now to be a good steward.

This analogy is pretty sound, even without the biblical value of a garden. I have a garden; I can ignore it or I can tend it. There’s a snake in the garden – not Satan, in this case; I think my snake is sugar – but it won’t hurt me if I don’t hurt it. I just have to accept that it’s a part of my garden, and work around it.

If you don’t weed a little every day, things get away from you, and what could be magnificent instead looks like a rental property, where no one cares what happens to the shrubs or trees or – yes – bulrushes. That’s how people get to looking tatty and worn out before they need to. I was treating my body like a rental property. (Whoops – switched analogies there. Let’s try again.)

I was treating my body as if I was only going to look at it from the kitchen – but you can’t see the turtle from the kitchen, or the goldfish. You can’t see the blooms on the exotic water lily, which only blooms at twilight. (How cool is that?) You can distantly hear the frogs croaking, but you can’t get the full effect until you get out there.

A stint on the elliptical (or – help me, Rhonda – jogging a mile with Barbara) is like weeding. It’s annoying and hot and I dread it beforehand. But once it’s done, I feel better. I look better. And the bulrushes offering their surprising lavender flowers is like (and you’ll have to take my word for this, as I will NOT post a photo) the nascent little crease that is developing between my thigh and my butt. It’s not just one large slab of flaccid any more; I’m getting enough muscle definition that things are starting (just barely, but it’s a start) to look less embarrassing.

Bulrushes. There’s so much they can teach us.

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That’s a fitness blog entry of 23 paragraphs, and only the last five have anything at all to do with fitness. This seems like a LONG way around a pretty simple point. You’re very patient!