Trainers

7-10-20

“Oi!” you say, in your comedically thick British accent, “let me just slip on me trainers and we’ll go for a run.”

Because to the English, “trainers” means “sneakers.” Aren’t they adorable? (The British, not the shoes.)

If you say “trainers” in the US, we’ve all been conditioned by John Hughes movies to immediately envision not sneakers but the coach of the high school football team, who wears double-knit shorts and a whistle around his neck; he’s given to saying “Hustle up, ladies” to the varsity football players.

But there’s a third definition – and I finally perceived it when I was having lunch with a friend.

We were on my porch – outside; fresh air; low Covid transmission – having socially-distanced pasta salad (made by my adorable son; he’s such a good kid) and talking about how much we each valued working with Body Dynamics in Falls Church.

My friend was dealing with some pretty serious issues, and had been told by her doctors that the pain she was in was just the way it was going to be from now on. She was updating me on the remarkable degree to which her pain had receded. It’s not gone – but it’s rarely debilitating, thanks to the combined efforts of Body Dynamics physical therapists and personal trainers.

“I had no idea,” she said, “that anyone could have – that anyone would need – a trainer if they weren’t – you know… an athlete.”

She said it, and BAM, I realized that I had never really tackled that realization before. She’s right. Instinctively, I believe trainers are only for serious competitors. They make you go to boot camp and do burpees and wind sprints. They push protein powder in everything you eat. They live in cinderblock hallways redolent with the faint smell of sweat and pool chlorine.

But NO!

We’ve been deceived by “Weird Science” and “Sixteen Candles.” We ALL need a personal trainer, ESPECIALLY if we are not particularly athletic – for, as previously discussed, doctors really don’t have the time or the training to help you safeguard your health. It’s up to you, and what the hell do you know?? If you had control over everything, you wouldn’t be in the shape you’re in now!

But you know what happens when I begin any Body Dynamics appointment? From a massage with Gwynn to a workout with Chip or Barbara? They say “What’s going on with your body today? How do you feel? What’s going on in your life?” And for a few minutes (maybe longer) we talk about it. From “my left calf feels sore” to “I can’t sleep longer than four hours to save my life.” They listen – and then they work with me to improve my daily condition and my long-term outlook for a healthy old age.

Is that something most people need? Is it a better definition of “trainer” than some track shoes from Great Britain or a barrel-chested whistle-blower?

I say it IS!

So I’m out and out advising you: Get yourself a trainer. “It’s too expensive.” “I don’t have the time.” “I don’t WANNA.” I hear you – I do. But the choices you make now will determine your future… and if you think changing for the better is hard today, imagine how tough it’s going to be tomorrow. You can do it – more, you deserve to do it.

Body Dynamics is doing online sessions; you don’t have to long for Barbara or Chip. You can WORK with Barbara and Chip. Or find someone else. But know that you don’t have to struggle alone; there are people who really do know how to help.

IMG_1175

Isn’t Barbara adorable? I’m just madly in love with her. And Chip, too. And Gwynn. I’m so lucky!

 

 

Debate

7.5.20

Well, it’s finally happened. The kid’s brain seems to have expanded; while the overwhelming majority of his time, attentions, and desires continue to rest firmly in the video game world, there is now JUST enough brain left over for him to realize that after nearly four months at home with his mother, he’s bored.

So if he’s not actively blowing up other teams or armored reptiles or space aliens (a practice that requires extremely loud screams with his online buds in which he rags on them mercilessly – and one assumes they rag on him – and then everyone howls with laughter), he is wandering the house in search of something.

He doesn’t know what he’s looking for, but I’ll tell you: I kind of dig it. Because mostly what he ends up doing is throwing himself down on the chair in my office to see if I can entertain him at all. We end up talking, which seems otherwise unlikely, given that he’s going to be a senior in college in the fall. We talk cars. We talk about book publishing. We talk (and I stay focused, mostly) about video games.

But what my son loves most is to argue.

How we got on the subject, I can no longer remember – but I found myself in a heated debate with him about the role of doctors in society. This is, as I’m sure you understand, a topic upon which NEITHER of us has even the slightest experience or wisdom – but his eyes began to shine and he sat up straighter. Conflict? Debate? I can call you an idiot? This is Rusty’s mental playground. I hope to hell he ends up in law school.

The premise: Is it a doctor’s responsibility to safeguard, maintain, or regain general health?

I took the positive. Hell, yes – my doctor ought to be the first person I turn to in the low-priority, endless quest to be healthy.

Rusty took the negative. Hell no – a doctor should be able to identify life-threatening conditions and that’s it. If you want to improve your health, you go to Barbara at Body Dynamics. (Rusty’s heard me shout Barbara’s praises ALMOST as often as you have.) You go see a trainer.

“What?! That’s absurd! You think a doctor plays no role in HEALTH??”

“A doctor plays a role in CANCER. Beyond that, get out of my office.”

Oh, a battle for the ages was joined. We hammered at each other like titans at the forge; the valleys rang with the echoes from our volleys. He with mighty Mjolnir balanced on his shoulder, me with Excalibur making tiny, threatening circles in the air above his skull.

It was the best gift I could have given him.

But eventually I wore out. I’m so much older than he is. “Now you’re just making me tired. Go away.”

“Hah! That’s because you know I’m right!”

“You’re absolutely not right. I’m just done with this. Go play a video game.”

“Oh, come on – you think a doctor has time to care about your general health? They get minutes – MINUTES – with a patient. How are they supposed to help you with anything as hard to define as improved health?”

“Get out. Get out of my office. I’m begging you.”

“Well, this is the most fun I’ve had in weeks. Bye, Mom.”

Sigh. The worst thing is, I sort of wonder if he isn’t right – and that makes me EVEN MORE tired.

You don’t want to weigh in on this, do you? Do you expect your doctor to safeguard (or restore) your health? Or do you only expect the doctor to stop you from dying? Tell me in the comments. If you agree with me, I’ll tell the kid. If not, he can slaughter digital bad guys in happy ignorance.

IMG_1140

Born to argue. Is it time for him to go back to college yet??

Chicxulub, Man!

6.29.20

Suddenly, fire blazed across the sky. Every living thing looked up in astonishment; what could possibly burn in the sky, where there was nothing but the occasional winged thing floating on currents of air?

But there it was, for a blazing, breathtaking moment – a huge glowing THING with a long fiery tail that lit up the world. And then …

KABLAM!

An asteroid struck the Earth, offshore from a place which would be known a mere 66 million years later as Chicxulub, Mexico. (What is it with that part of the world, throwing in those awkward Xs in the middle of things?? Aztecs and Incans, no doubt, having a laff riot with the language.)

The Chixulub impactor was the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. There was chaos and madness and fire at the impact site, and then there was dust and darkness and death – but geologically speaking, that trauma lasted barely any time at all.

And then in the 1970s or 80s, some guy discovered the impact crater off the coast of Chicxulub, and it was a HUNDRED MILES WIDE – so big that even if it hadn’t been underwater, it would have been hard to grasp.

(There’s a kind of glass that’s forged in impossible conditions – nuclear reactors and asteroid strikes are two of them. That’s how they identified the impact crater.)

Wait, you say –  thanks for the ancient history lesson, but isn’t this a health and fitness blog? Shut up; I’m getting to it.

Maybe 20 or 30 years ago, it was discovered that the Chicxulub impactor crater was just the INNER ring of this massive, dino-killing asteroid. The outer ring?

The Gulf of Mexico.

That’s why it’s shaped in that arc, from the tip of Florida and down through Mexico. Look at the map; looks like a big, round bite’s been taken out of the area, huh? Yep. That’s the one what got the dinosaurs.

So – here’s the lesson:

When trauma happens (be it asteroid strike or the death of a husband/mother/dog or the continuing strain of a pandemic), there is chaos and confusion at first and then you adapt – but it can take distance and time and perspective to recognize just how hugely that impact has altered your landscape.

July 1st is the first anniversary of my mother’s death (followed three weeks later by the day I had to have my dog put to sleep), and all that comes hot on the heels of my husband’s death three years ago. And a pandemic. And political chaos. I’m kind of losing my mind.

What does that look like? Well – I’m sort of mean. I’m suffering from depression. I’m over-reacting to things that shouldn’t be messing with me. I’m not sleeping well. I’m eating poorly. I’m not drinking enough water.

So I had a Zoom appointment with Regina, the remarkably astute biofeedback counselor at Body Dynamics. (A virtual meeting meant no electrodes glued to my scalp – huge bonus!) And Regina gave me the words that created a handle on my situation:

“Your emotional reactivity is causing a loss of higher-order skills.”

YES! I shouted – that’s EXACTLY right! Let me write that down. Now: what do I do about it?

She gave me two tools. First, adjust my expectations of what I could accomplish, and how badly I felt about myself if I did not succeed. “It’s not permission to give up. But if you have ice cream for dinner, just get over it and try again tomorrow.”

Good one.

And next, she advised that I create a “connection mechanism” with my mother. Write about her, listen to her music, do something she liked to do. “In the Jewish religion,” said Regina, “a tombstone isn’t put up until a year after the death. Everyone goes back to the cemetery and has a second memorial, and it tends to come at a time when people really need that.”

Oh, Jeezum – that’s an awesome idea!

So yesterday I invited my sisters over, and the family of my mother’s best friend. We sat on the screened porch at socially-distanced remove and had lunch. We talked about impact craters, and how it’s so hard to see what’s making you crazy until you stand back and look from a distance. And it helped.

I’m not over my “emotional reactivity” yet; I have a few big anniversaries (or deathiversaries) coming up that I’ve got to get past. But I feel like it’s been valuable to recognize just how far the impact craters extend from the traumas of my recent life.

And maybe you’re dealing with impact craters of your own. I hope that recognizing them helps you deal with the aftermath. Remember: It’s not SUCH a bad thing that all the T. rexes and velociraptors got the boot!

Peace to you – and to me. Onward.

Screen Shot 2020-06-29 at 12.41.02 PM

Boom. Impact crater, creating new landscapes. Like the Man in the Moon – impact craters so huge you don’t even recognize them. Jeesh. Any parallels in YOUR life, maybe?? Take care of your mental health (she said, trying not to sound patronizing) – because without that, your physical health ain’t no thing at all.

 

 

Strength – Power – Endurance

6.5.20

Remember taking the SATs? All of us crammed in together in a gym or a library or the biggest place your school could come up with, breathing the same air WITHOUT MASKS and DEFINITELY not six feet apart – AHHHHGH!

Wait. Did I mean to go on a Coronavirus rant? I did not. I’ll start again.

Remember taking the SATs? It was a time of grinding stress for me, and the feeling that I was unquestionably the stupidest person in the room – probably in the entire nation of eleventh-graders.

The only time I even approached a feeling of confidence was on the English portions. You want me to tell you what’s wrong with that sentence? I’ve got this. You want an antonym for the word “rapacious?” Years of novel-reading made that a breeze. (Let’s go with “abstemious”).

As for synonyms – here. Hold my beer. English I got.

So when the world’s finest trainer, Barbara (of Body Dynamics, and she does virtual, so you could glory in her brilliance too!) hit me with what I THOUGHT was a synonym but it wasn’t, I was so deeply confused.

We were discussing the reality that when I’m in her cardio class (45 minutes of Is It Over Yet on Mondays at 10) or her balance class (60 minutes of I’m Not Watching The Clock YOU’RE Watching The Clock on Thursdays at 10), I know when I’m getting tired because my back muscles start bitching.

“Use more abdominals,” she said – as if that was easy.

“I KNOW,” I protested. “But they’re TIRED. That’s why I’m going with my back.”

“Yeah,” she said – not agreeing with me. “We’ve given you lots of abdominal strength, but not enough endurance.”

“What?” I was  knocked off-center by this (mentally; it matched me being knocked off-center by whatever exercise we were doing). “How can I have abdominal strength but not endurance?”

She answered me, but of course I couldn’t hear her; I was too busy frantically reviewing SAT regulations to take in what she said.

So the next day, while working out with Chip (also a brilliant Body Dynamics trainer), I button-holed him. “What’s the difference between strength and endurance?”

He nodded. This is apparently a common question among people who make their living re-shaping the bodies of people in need of a lot of re-shaping.

“And power,” he said, as if he hadn’t just lobbed a grenade into the mental library where I am, apparently, perpetually taking the SATs.

“What?? Don’t make it worse! Now, power really is the same thing as strength. Cut it out.”

“No – wait. Watch.”

He backed up from the camera on his laptop and assumed a push-up position on the yoga mat behind him. Chip is a dancer; he has those long, lean muscles that in no way prepare you for the oomph he can muster on the slightest whim.

“This is power,” he said.

Then he dropped his chest down almost to the floor and was suddenly hurtling upward like someone had stepped on the end of a rake, until his head was about three feet off the floor and his hands met in front of his chest in a loud, cracking clap.

I gasped at the sheer beauty of the movement, and missed him saying “And this is strength,” followed by a perfect regular pushup that a normal human might be capable of aspiring to one day after months of intense work and grim determination…

But I had stopped applauding by the time he said “And this is endurance,” and then he repeated the perfect pushup about five times, smoothly and easily.

“Wait! Wait! Go back – what was strength, again?”

So then he did all three of them again, like it was nothing. By the end, I was cackling in a very unladylike manner because the idea of doing ANY of that was so far beyond my imaginings, much less my physical abilities.

Eventually he calmed me down and explained. “Power is strength over a very short burst. Endurance is strength during conditions of muscle fatigue – it’s strength over time.”

Jeezum. Sounds like a formula… and I was SO BAD at the math SATs.

I asked Chip if he was training me to be good at strength or power or endurance. “Yes,” he said with a brilliant Chip smile. “All three. We want you to have strength, power, and endurance. So we keep pushing your limits. Slowly – but we keep going.”

“Surely at some point, I’ll get to a mythical “maintenance” stage?” My question was hopeful; his response was depressingly pragmatic.

“As we age, muscles want to weaken. It’s easy to slip into a much more rapid decline than you would have experienced a few years ago.” (He was being diplomatic. I’m sixty now; I’m unquestionably in the “use it or lose it” category.)

I was definitely whining. “So we’re going to keep increasing these exercises every time I can manage them? This is never going to get easier?”

He wrinkled his adorable Chip nose; he knew the answer I wanted to hear but was forced by his innate fairness to keep me informed.

“When it’s easy, you’re not pursuing power, speed, or endurance. And that means you’ll be increasingly more limited as you age. Which is NOT easier.”

Damn it. That’s an annoyingly good answer.

So now you know, too. There’s a difference between power, strength, and endurance. Which one should you be going for? The answer is – Yes.

Screen Shot 2020-06-05 at 3.14.37 PM

Wish I had a photo of Chip doing that clap; it was so much more fluid and powerful than this meaty steroidal shot – but I was too busy gasping to take a picture. You’ll have to go with this outrageous theft from Google images. Although – now that I’m looking at it, doesn’t it look like this guy has let his left hip drop down JUST ever so slightly??! Everyone’s a critic.

 

 

Occult

5.18.20

Despite what you’ve assumed from multiple teen witch movies (in which a handful of adorable teenaged girls with suspiciously clear skin accidentally summons Beelzebub while trying to make Kimmi’s hair fall out for the crime of flirting with Andy when everyone KNOWS Andy belongs to Misty), the word “occult” doesn’t mean demonic or supernatural or witchy.

It just means “hidden.”

And isn’t that so very human? Anything we don’t understand or which remains hidden automatically becomes supernatural, evil, suspect. We fear the unknown, people.

Really, it’s just unknown AT THE MOMENT. Can’t find your car keys? Well, that makes them OCCULT car keys – how thrilling! Does that mean they’ll engage the lava-powered engines on Satan’s Maybach? No. It means they’re in the pocket of yesterday’s jeans and are going to cost you $200 for a new set when you stupidly run them through the machine with the laundry.

And they say cleanliness is next to godliness. Right.

Wait. Didn’t I have a point?

Got it. I’ve refocused: Occult means “hidden.”

This thought occurred to me today because I had another dental implant put into my jaw on Friday. After the jawbone grows around the screw (which takes 6-9 months), a dentist will hang a new molar on that screw and I will have powerful gnashing teeth well into my senility. An advantage should I decide that orderly is due a little course correction for his flippant ways.

Because my oral surgeon slips a little chemical paradise into my veins before he goes a-drillin’, there is nothing even remotely painful about getting an implant. Even in the aftermath, the most pain I’ve felt is a distant ache and the sense that things are sort of raw in that quadrant of my mouth.

BUT:

This isn’t my first dental implant rodeo. (Wouldn’t that be a public event to cherish? A dental implant rodeo? With dental implant rodeo clowns dashing around the teeth to distract the massive, angry tongue from the clever, darting, silvery drill?)

And I know that the problem here isn’t pain – it’s post-anesthesia after-effects. Last time it took me a full week for my 60-year-old body to finally process all that heroin-like poison – and this time is no different. Let’s review what I’m feeling now, four days after waking up with a little Home Depot sprouting from my gums…

First – and I suspect this won’t surprise you – my ability to focus is SHOT TO SHIT. I’ve always been something of a “oh, look – a bird!” kind of person. But today, I spent some ten minutes trying to decide whether Satan would favor a Maybach or a Lamborghini. Maybach – too wealthy and powerful for the average human and so a good Satanic image. But “lava-powered Lamborghini” has such alliterative juice to it, and a Lamborghini is such an aggressive asshole of a car.

Still, my concept of Satan is more in a perfectly-tailored bespoke suit and not in racing leathers, so – Maybach.

What was I … right. Loss of focus.

Also: Inability to regulate my internal temperature. I was shivering under a down quilt yesterday, which led my son to immediately assume I had the corona virus. He made me take my temperature, which was 95.4. “I’m cold because I’m cold. Go away.” An hour later, I was putting my hair up in a clip and reaching for the ceiling fan remote.

Also: Depression. There is a voice inside me that is questioning every possible effort. I feel as though I’ve temporarily forgotten The Terrible News I’ve just gotten, and any minute now it’s going to come back to me and I’m going to be shattered. So I keep finding myself braced for something horrible that is clearly going to happen.

Now, I have an advantage, here: I went through this with the last dental implant and I know that it lasts about a week. All I need to do is endure. Hold on. Stay calm and be kind to myself.

(And – despite what you think – I am NOT going for vigorous exercise. You’d think that you could process anesthesia faster by getting up and moving around, but I tried that last time and nearly collapsed under the weight of the confusion, depression, and temperature swings that resulted from the sudden exposure of a neurotoxin best dealt with slowly over time.)

Now – if I can hold on to my focus for just a few minutes longer – I’m going to bring it all home to an actual fitness observation that might have value to you:

People who are challenged by health and fitness (especially, I think, people who have always confronted weight issues of any kind) have been trained (by society, by family, by themselves) to believe that their challenges are self-created. “If you don’t eat so much, you won’t weigh so much,” is the whisper. Maybe no one is saying it, but that doesn’t mean no one is hearing it.

We all think that if we could just apply a little more self-restraint – if we could pull ourselves together – if we could just stop being so lazy/greedy/weak, then we’d be grinning through triathlons and showing the kids on the Ultimate Frisbee course how it’s done.

But I’m here to tell you: There are OCCULT REASONS why you are the way you are.

(There – I brought it back to the beginning. Remember?? Occult means hidden.)

You wish and strive and try to achieve some goal, and progress is so slow that sometimes you can see that you’re actually back-tracking. And because of that, you’re inclined to kick yourself and think you’re the problem.

But maybe it was the anesthesia.

Or – you know – some other occult cause. You just don’t understand it YET. Maybe you never will. But that doesn’t make it invisible or supernatural or evidence of a weakness in your moral character.

JUST KEEP GOING. And be kind to yourself.

Screen Shot 2020-05-18 at 2.32.39 PM

I feel I could have tied this up more neatly. I also feel that I haven’t given nearly enough thought to the concept of Satan driving an extremely hot Tesla, because that logo is just so damned good looking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Octane

5.2.20

Ooh, lawsy – at the dawn of aviation, those little Europeans could NOT get a plane across the Atlantic to save their lives. Hah! Americans were cruising over with no problem. Clear a path, Frenchie – I’m setting this big bird down on your terre.

The American aviators were cocky about it. They had that “new world” swagger as they strutted about in scarves and leather caps. When Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris, the city went wild. The entire WORLD went wild. It was pandemonium. Those Americans! Right across the Atlantic! Ooh-la-la!

So what was it? Was it Lindbergh’s rock-chiseled jaw, his steely gaze, his goggles worn dashingly at the neck? Was it American superiority? Was it manifest destiny?

The Americans certainly thought so.

Turns out – Lindbergh was a fierce racist, manifest destiny is a crock, and America is no more superior than any other nation EXCEPT that our gasoline, just by a fluke, has a higher octane content than the gas then being processed in Europe.

THAT’S IT.

There was a REASON so many European aviators had to flag down a passing ship as they stood, like Captain Sully, on the wing of their slowly-sinking plane. If they’d had American gas – or if they’d started in New Jersey instead of Paris – they would have made it, too.

But nobody was measuring octane. Nobody KNEW about octane. AND LET THIS BE A LESSON TO YOU, she said with sudden accusation in her voice.

There is SOMETHING that we are not measuring in the human body. Some version of octane that we just don’t know about yet.

I was sitting on a (really very fascinating) zoom workshop yesterday, starring Chip Coleman – the nutritionist at Body Dynamics. (Too short a definition. Chip is a ballet dancer. He would say he WAS a ballet dancer because no one is paying him now to arabesque across a stage, although if you get him in just the right mood, he’ll whip out a move that will make your heart stop, it’s so pretty. Chip is also the personal trainer who’s teaming up with Barbara Gallagher Benson to pave my way to a healthy old age. Barbara focuses on global muscles; Chip on stabilizer muscles; and they talk to each other. I don’t stand a chance.)

Chip was telling us that the foods we ate would either boost or depress our natural immunity – a fairly critical matter in this COVID age.

I asked about stress eating. Of COURSE I asked about stress eating. I’m using the corona virus as an excuse to abandon every good nutritional habit Chip has ever managed to glue to my forehead.

His reply was EMINENTLY REASONABLE. Sugar will depress my immunity. Fresh foods and plenty of water will bolster gut health – and the gut manufactures roughly 70% of the immune system’s power tools. And, he said, I would feel better if I ate better.

Well, now I’m a European on the wing of my plane trying to flag down the passing Titanic.

I don’t feel better when I eat better. I don’t feel worse when I eat badly. I’M NOT GETTING THE SAME INPUT AS HE IS. And we’re just not measuring that correctly.

If I had more body-octane – if my body would respond clearly and measurably to the factors that influenced it – then perhaps I would be a former dancer, too.

But that’s not what happens.

If I diet, I gain weight. (In fact, I can no longer afford to diet; I’m just too fat.)

If I sleep on a steady schedule for fourteen days, I can blow it on the fifteenth without so much as a backwards glance.

If I refuse to exercise, I don’t feel itchy or twitchy. I feel pretty good. I settle my plump butt more comfortably in the cushions and make sure the iPad is plugged in for a marathon reading session.

The ONLY thing that’s keeping me going is the big old brain at the top of the spinal column – and any psychiatrist will tell you: Intellect is WAY weaker as a motivator than instinct. And really, really weaker than the knowledge that there’s ice cream in the freezer.

My point is… what was my point? Oh right:

I SEE YOU. I see you trying to do your best and never quite living up to your goals. I see you trying to eat right and having the cookies anyway. I see you planning on exercising but – well, maybe tomorrow. I see you, my sister or brother. I know. I’m with you. We’re Harrison Bergeron-ing our way through life, trying to be healthy with twenty-pound weights chained to our good intentions.

ONWARD, brave warrior. ONWARD. Keep paddling. We’ll get to Paris eventually!

Screen Shot 2020-05-02 at 2.30.50 PM

It was Bill Bryson who told me about American octane, in his awesome book “A Short History of Nearly Everything.” That’s a good book. You could read it if you were climbing the walls. Plug in the reader, settle your tail in the cushions. It’s a long one!

 

Hah! The E-S-D!

4.27.20

Lordy, you should hear me bitch. Sailors would blush on the mornings when I “have” to exercise.

(This is the way I think of it: I HAVE to work out. I’m being forced to. I signed up for the classes or one-on-one trainings; there’s no one holding a gun to my head – and yet it requires SO MUCH grit to rise from the paradise of my morning-sleep bed that it MUST be SOMEONE ELSE making me do this… and when I find them, I’m going to do some serious damage to some VERY important tendons.)

I get up on the mornings when I have to exercise and the only way I can propel myself to the drawer with the work-out clothes is to push bursts of really powerful profanity against the surrounding walls. The more profane, the greater the momentum – even if it does peel the paint.

I keep up this string of bitter invective until I’m actually in front of the Zoom conference, at which time some utterly out-of-control switch flips in my brain and I’m all happy and eager to see everyone and I can see on the screen my own old-lady-saggy skin stretched in a huge grin and I think – no one would know from looking at me that this is a BITCH.

But honey. It is. Every single time.

That’s why I was so blissed out when my college friend Amelia McCulley posted a link on Facebook from a researcher at our Alma Mater – the University of Virginia.

(Now I’m chanting at the computer – a stupid, poorly-rhymed college cheer that nevertheless makes me absurdly proud: Wahoo-wa, wahoo-wa, uni-vee Vir-gin-ee-ya. Who-are-ay, who-are-ay, Hey-hey, U-V-A. This is just lazy writing. I can’t help it. That’s the mating call of the Virginia Cavalier; Amelia and I know it well. And we ain’t the only ones.)

Where was I?

Researcher.  Right.

His name is Zhen Yan – so automatically you know he had a tiger mom who wasn’t satisfied with anything below a 100% from nursery school on. I cast far-reaching racial biases when I say I am quite sure this guy checked his math. WE CAN TRUST HIM.

And what does he say?

Exercise creates endogenous antioxidant enzymes – specifically, one particularly juicy beauty called “extracellular superoxide dismutase.”

((Too many syllables. I deal largely in four-letter words. Let’s agree to call these miraculous little health bombs the E-S-D, okay?))

So, you sweat and curse and your heart gets going fast and you have to mop your face with the same dishtowel that last week Barbara had you use to slide your feet along the basement floor after no one with any competence had run a cleaning product over that surface for too many weeks to count. (Oh – is that just me?)

It’s dire. Some mythical overlord has to “make” you do it. There is NOTHING joyous about it.

Except…

The creation of the E-S-D…

…which, UVA researcher Zhen Yan says hunts down harmful free radicals, protecting our tissues and helping to prevent disease.

AND HELPING TO AVOID THE CRAP THAT PUTS YOU ON A VENTILATOR AND IN THE GRAVE IF YOU GET THE CORONA VIRUS.

Whaaaaat??? That’s AWESOME!

Read what Dr. Yan says:

“We cannot live in isolation forever. Regular exercise has far more health benefits than we know. The protection against this severe respiratory disease condition is just one of the many examples.”

Want to read the whole article? It’s not too scary; “extracellular superoxide dismutase” was the worst of it. Here’s the link. https://news.virginia.edu/content/exercise-may-protect-against-deadly-covid-19-complication-research-suggests?fbclid=IwAR11kVY_e_jSoeOcd9T6qSmZy_uG_N_ghEbtgt2p7H0AwMQfeLU685egDTo

Personally, I believe that the bitching I do every morning ought to count as cardiovascular exercise, but Barbara (and Dr. Yan) might disagree… so I’ll keep up the official classes, too. Bitching. Always bitching. But secretly very proud.

And lest you think YOU get a pass – here’s the sentence you need to read, also from Dr. Yan:

“Research suggests that even a single session of exercise increases production of the antioxidant.”

So come on in; the bitching’s fine. Barbara’s Cardio Class is on Monday at ten (and maybe Friday, too – she’s thinking of adding another class). Her Balance Class is on Thursday at 10. These are East Coast times. Come with. Your first session is free; after she hooks you through the extracellular superoxide dismutase (I’m getting used to it), each class is $15. Body Dynamics’ website is https://bodydynamicsinc.com/

And while you’re going through her ridiculously easy class which somehow still makes you sweat like a glass of iced tea on a hot day… you’ll also be fomenting cellular rebellion. Knocking out free radicals (which are SO much more dangerous than paid radicals). Whipping your E-S-D into fighting trim. It’s a bonus!

Screen Shot 2020-04-27 at 3.33.53 PM

KEEP GOING. That’s what we’ve learned.

 

Gwynn

4.23.21

In the darkness, her hand reached out, questing through a landscape of soft sheets and warm blankets. Moving silently, her fingers curled over her husband’s exposed, vulnerable shoulder.

Was it an amorous invitation? A long-festering “I’m going to throttle that guy if he doesn’t stop snoring” wish fulfillment?

No – in my (utterly imaginary) scenario, Gwynn’s hand took advantage of her sleeping brain to embark on an expedition all its own.

Gwynn is a therapeutic masseuse. She can use a Zoom call to guide someone through self-massage – but she can’t get those hands on tight, sticky, clumped muscles or tough, non-pliant fascia. She can’t reach out and tug a willing body into alignment. Not only is SHE socially-isolated… so are her HANDS.

And I think her hands must be going buggy.

Sometimes I lie on Gwynn’s table and I can tell her feet are almost off the ground; she’s putting her entire body weight (such as it is) into whatever muscle of mine she’s coaxing into “hurts so good” submission. If it were me, I’d be exhausted by the end of the hour.

“How many of these massages can you do a day? Don’t your hands hurt?” I am constantly amazed by how strong and clever she is.

“Quite a few,” she says with a smile. “I’m used to it.”

And now, Body Dynamics has gone virtual. My one-on-one trainings with Chip and Barbara have been as challenging and brilliant as ever; they can both STILL see every cheat I’m attempting to get away with. (Most of my cheats are unintentional… most of them!) The group classes continue to be a blast. A horrible, sweat-inducing blast. If I needed Chip to explain why I shouldn’t live on cookies and pasta, I’m sure I could sign on for a virtual nutritional consultation. (But jeez – why would I??)

But the massages – those intuitive hands, that encyclopedic brain figuring out the WHY of my various physical limitations – those are back-burnered for now. Gwynn offered guided self-massage, but you know that just wouldn’t be the same. (Or maybe it would. I should probably try it. She’s such a good teacher; I’m sure I’d learn a lot…)

I MISS THE MASSAGES.

And I bet Gwynn’s hands are getting wicked cabin fever. She probably looks down and is astonished to discover that her fingers are curling and flexing in hunger. Her family and her dogs must see her coming and back away, hands held up. “I’m GOOD, Mom – seriously!” She sits, fidgeting, on the sofa and analyzes Anderson Cooper’s shoulder alignment.

We’re all suffering under this brilliant, burdensome quarantine, but spare a thought of pity for the therapeutic masseuses of the world. I know your hands miss me, Gwynn, and I miss all of you!

Screen Shot 2020-04-23 at 1.13.59 PM

There are VERY FEW photos of Gwynn on Google Images, and what there are are blurry. We’ll have to make do with Thing from the Addams Family as a representation of my fantasy that Gwynn’s hands are probably skittering independently around her house looking for something to massage.

 

 

 

 

I Wish

4.21.20

I wish I didn’t have to exercise this morning.

After my alarm goes off – and after I’ve hit the snooze two or three times – I’m pure lizard brain. It’s all instinct and desire and grumpiness; it takes a few minutes for rational thought to come back on line.

In fact, I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror putting toothpaste on the brush before logic returned. I’d once again offered my whining, complaining wish to the cosmic void – damn, I really wish I didn’t have to exercise this morning – when the reply showed up from the upper stories of the mind.

If you don’t exercise, you will inevitably decay and have a feeble, limited old age. You’re not getting any younger, you know.

Rational brain is annoyingly patronizing.

Fine, replied lizard brain. I’ll clarify: I wish I LIKED to exercise.

Undaunted, rational brain had a fast come-back for that. If you LIKED to exercise, you wouldn’t need Barbara and the Body Dynamics team. You’d have exercised all your life and relished it.

And Jeezum Crow – ain’t that the truth? By my age in life, all the easily-fixed character flaws have been ground down. Don’t bite your nails. Stop sharing everyone’s secrets. Quit offering to help strangers who don’t need any help.

(Still guilty of all three – but working on it.)

What’s left are the recalcitrant, dug-in-deep character flaws that are rooted like a tree stump. You’re going to need a truck to get that one out. Or maybe a backhoe.

And I just don’t like to exercise.

So if the genii appeared to grant me a wish, what would I REALLY wish for? When I’m so longing to crawl back into that lovely bed and pull up the covers and curl up and hug the feather pillow and burrow down and purr like the cat in a sunbeam??

I guess I would wish for the strength of character – the determination – to haul it out of bed, stuff myself into some Lycra, and make it to the next Body Dynamics appointment, where Barbara’s energy (or Chip’s charm) will carry me through one lone stinking hour out of the 24 in which I can give my body what I know it needs, instead of what it thinks it wants.

Just a little determination. That’s all I’m wishing for.

And – poof! – here I sit, stuffed into Lycra and eating a nutritious breakfast, ready to sign on to a zoom session with Barbara.

Huh. Wish granted.

Screen Shot 2020-04-21 at 10.16.25 AM

And I never got to see the handsome genii! Hang on – don’t I get THREE wishes, Will Smith??

Proud Today

4.12.20

There’s a scene in The Big Chill where Jeff Goldblum (at his oiliest and least appealing, so you KNOW I’m going to find a hotter photo than THAT for this post) (oh, damn – found it!) says…

“Don’t knock rationalization; where would we be without it? I don’t know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations.”

That sounds like the purest, high-grade truth to me today. I spend most of my psychic energy fighting a demon – the demon of pure cane sugar, who lives in the Everglades and chortles fiendishly while it breeds its crystalline children, sending them out into the world to ruin good intentions and metabolize into fat and plump up the pillows so that cancer – when and if it arrives – will find the accommodations to its liking.

What – you think waging war against Demon Sugar doesn’t require MASSIVE amounts of emotional force? Then you don’t have a problem with sugar.

Because THE DEMON IS EVERYWHERE, and he tempts you (well, he tempts me) pretty much all the damned time.

If there are cookies in the house – eat the cookies. Might as well. Then they’ll be gone, and I won’t be tempted.

Same for any chocolate.

Double for any ice cream. ANY ice cream. Last night I ate an entire container of Snickerdoodle ice cream from Artie’s (they’re doing curbside take-out; I go there a LOT). I didn’t even like it – it’s way better at the restaurant with the real whipped cream and the satin-rich dark chocolate sauce. But I ate it anyway. Manfully. Like I was performing a service to society.

Why?

Because SUGAR IS IN THE ASCENDENCY.

So why do I entitle my blog post with the word “proud?”

Because I AM proud. I’m pounding down cup after cup of hot tea (because I put in so much sugar that it’s more like a cup of sludge) – but I’m also ripped. Wait – that deserves all caps.

I AM RIPPED.

I’ve been taking the online classes at Body Dynamics. (You can, too – we can sweat and bitch together. Bodydynamicsinc.com will get you there.) I’m taking two group classes each week followed by two stretch classes, and two one-on-one sessions with my glorious trainers, Barbara and Chip. Six hours set aside so smart people can guide me through helping my body get stronger. I’ve done this for a few weeks now…

…and sweet pea, you’re lucky we’re all in quarantine right now because I’m in the mental place where I’d be walking up to strangers on the street and demanding that they poke my belly. “Feel that! Feel those muscles! And around to the side – see? Like rocks!”

The backs of my thighs. Even the long-dormant and inert “muscles” under all the sit-down padding are beginning to flex with awakening interest.

I’m iced with a generous layer of fluff… but under that? Man, I’ll kick your BUTT. I am SO STRONG. And that feels pretty freaking good!

So – yes. I’m rationalizing when I fall to my knees and worship the sugar demon. Yes, I’d sacrifice a goat and read its entrails if it meant I’d get some toffee chip cookies out of it. Yes, I did write “buy more sugar” on the shopping list today. (Just a few weeks ago I was proud that I wasn’t rolling in the sugar bowl like a pig in a wallow and now look at me. Sigh.)

But I’m also one tall, plump, walking muscle. And I’m proud of that.Screen Shot 2020-04-12 at 2.59.12 PM

Let’s see. Can I get this back to Jeff Goldblum? Oh, sure. Look who’s been working out. Nice muscles, young Jeff Goldblum!