Diagramming Fitness


I ran a 5K yesterday.

Let’s count the number of things that can be wrong or misleading in a five-word sentence.

First, the word “I.” That’s correct. I WAS the subject of this sentence. Yay! We’re one for one.

Next, the word “ran.” That’s hugely misleading. In fact, I ran a little and walked a lot.

The weather broke yesterday and the air was cool and brilliant. I thought that almost certainly now that it wasn’t humid any more, I was sure to suddenly be a brilliant runner… so instead of going for the run-a-tenth, walk-a-tenth plan I’ve been working, I just started running. I passed the first tenth-of-a-mile line on the pavement with a jaunty wave – toodle-oo to you!

Then, as I neared the second tenth, there were two women walking in front of me. This poses a problem. I don’t want to stagger past them, huffing and panting – yes, that’s how long it took to go from jaunty wave to stumbling desperation – and then suddenly come to a crashing halt in front of them like an oblivious shopper at the grocery store who leaves her cart in your lane and walks off to examine cans of soup EVEN THOUGH YOU’RE RIGHT THERE.

So I had to jog past them. “Pardon,” I gasped; they grudgingly gave way a bit. Their ‘tude was enough so that I had to keep going, to prove I was such a dedicated runner that I NEEDED to push them over to one side of the path. I must have jogged somehow past the three-tenths of a mile line without seeing it and was staggering along like a fool until I saw four-tenths in the distance and decided that was enough… after that, it was walk-a-tenth-jog-a-tenth and be damned for the lack of humidity.

The path around the lake is 1.5 miles. The walking part was so much more endurable than the jogging part that I had a bright idea at mile 1.2 – I would take a SECOND LAP around the lake at a walk. Enjoy the dry, cool air. Relish the fact that I wasn’t jogging. Step gracefully to the side to model polite behavior when some poor bastard jogged past me. What a brainstorm!

Lack of oxygen at 1.2 miles can cause us to make these foolish decisions.

I got to the end of my jog and fished around in my wee little running belt, wherein resided my car keys and the perfectly enormous new iPhone I bought. My son warned me; don’t get the Ten. You’ll regret it. I hate it when my teenager knows more than me. He was RIGHT; this phone is too damned big.

I finally got it out without losing the car keys, and attempted to tell the running app that I was done with THAT loop; now I was going to walk a loop. You’re supposed to be able to do that. Barbara can do it.

It wouldn’t listen to me. It just kept insisting that I should “continue.” All right – fine. I will “continue” and simply understand that my per-mile pace was going to tank as I walked the second loop.

I noticed during this struggle that I made it below a 15-minute mile yesterday; I think it was 14:51. You’d think I’d know… but I don’t. Because for some reason the app refused to record the second loop. I don’t know why. So at the end, when I was gasping at the car, it showed NO data at all. I deleted it. Then it took away the 14:51 it had registered on the first loop. Just kill me now.

The entire journey – about 3.1 miles, all in – took me almost exactly ONE SOLID HOUR, which seems like an awfully long time for twice around the pond.

Wait – wasn’t I diagramming a sentence? Where was I?

I ran a 5K yesterday. Right. We’re up to “a 5K.” That’s deceptive. I went as far as a 5K, but I did it all by my onesie, see? And apparently there’s something magical about running a 5K – being a part of that grand collective of people all grunting and panting and sweating together – that makes people want to do it.

I don’t want to do it. I think I will spend my time worrying about (a) whether I will trip anyone, (b) whether anyone will trip me, (c) if anyone is annoyed by how slowly I must go, (d) how much you have to bribe a judge to not record any time at all, (e) why I am doing this to myself, and (f) my God, I must be done by now.

But the distance I traveled yesterday – wondering about the state of my calves, thinking about Timothy Olyphant’s hips (it helps me turn on my glute medes to think of the way that man walks) and Will Smith’s butt (I have “Gettin’ Jiggy With It” on my jogging playlist; don’t judge) – was, in fact, just about the same distance as a 5K. Which I mostly walked.

Where does that leave me?

“I” – true.

“ran” – misleading

“a 5K” – misleading

“yesterday” – true.

Final grade: Partial credit. Does that mean I don’t have to run a 5K with people??


It really was a gorgeous day, though. Can you feel the cool, dry, benevolent breeze blowing in my face from this photo? I took the picture on the second, walking loop. There was NO WAY I could fight that stupid phone out of the belt during the jogging/panting/cursing portion of the course.



I’m thinking of the curve of the hip in silhouette.

I’ve always envied a slim one. In men, I think it looks snaky and quite wonderful to be slim-hipped. Add a broad chest to that and call it a masterpiece. Yum.

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This is actor Timothy Olyphant – America’s preeminent snaky-hipped slab of deliciousness. Presented solely in illustration of a superior pelvic structure, of course.

(But, I rush to point out – I ain’t going anywhere near that slim-hipped fellow. I could crush Seth Bullock/Raylan Givens like a Saltine, and would rather not go through the humiliation of calling the rescue squad in because I broke some pretty male.)

In women, the slim-hipped look is liable to fill me with black envy. I’m talking real this-speaks-badly-of-you-Pru jealousy. From the time in third grade when pretty Liz Gilmore brought in one of her father’s old button-downs to protect her school clothes on arts-and-crafts day and the shirt fell straight from her shoulders, I have looked at slim-hipped women and felt instinctively ashamed of myself.

I have to have specially-tailored shirts to get that look – shirts that balloon out at the waist. It takes a lot of careful engineering to get that lovely-column-of-graceful-beauty look.

But I’ve learned something RAWthah exciting, my petal:

I have retroverted hips.

This means that my femur heads stick into the pelvis in an unusual way.

I don’t mean to insult you by explaining something you already know, but this is something I did NOT know:

Your leg bone doesn’t come straight down out of the pelvis. (Even if that’s the way Walt Disney always drew it in cartoons.) The femur (that’s your thigh bone) (sorry if that was patronizing) has a part that juts out to the side, with a big ball at the end of it. And the ball is what sits in the hip socket, so there’s actually a sort of cross-brace at your hip that goes to the vertical of the thigh bone.

Weird, I know. Seems like a design flaw to me – but I guess there’s no better way to let the leg be able to move in THAT many directions.

For most people, that ball-and-socket effect means that the femur juts out of the hips at about eleven and one o’clock (assuming your pubic bone is 12:00). Some people might actually have their hips at ten and two o’clock; a few people have them pointing towards 12:00.

Mine go straight out to the side, at 9:00 and 3:00. That’s why I sit or lie with the sides of my feet flat on the ground.

It’s called being retroverted.

(There were, of course, other wonderful words for hips that ran more typically, and hips that were the opposite to mine, sending femurs out to the front of the body, but I lost them in the shuffle. I love a good word; I’ll have to ask Jenna the brilliant physical therapist at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA. She’s the one who diagnosed my retroversion.)

(I made up “retroversion,” but it sounds good, doesn’t it??!)

Now let me explain why this delights me.

If I contracted a dire wasting disease and lost every ounce of excess flesh on my body, my hips would be lean and bony – but those retroverted femur heads would STILL stick out to the side. That’s just the way I’m built. It’s not will power, it’s not a weakness of character, it’s anatomy. I can’t change it, no matter what.

So isn’t that cool??

It’s not MY fault my shirts won’t fall straight down like Liz Gilmour’s in third grade!



“Retroverted” sounds interesting, I think. A combo of “retro” (“oh, Pru – she’s so retro” would be a compliment, implying 1960s shag carpeting and large “The Prisoner” orbs for lamps) and “perverted” (“Oh, Pru, she’s so perverted – you know, she broke Timothy Olyphant the other day – a perfectly good slim-hipped guy” would ALSO be a sort of badge of honor).

Winnie the Pru


“A bear, no matter how he tries,

Grows tubby without exercise.

Our bear is stout and fat,

Which is not to be wondered at.


‘Bite me,’ replies the bear,

‘This is how I was stuffed.

See if you think it’s so funny

When I unsheathe my hidden bear claws and rip your face off.’”

With apologies to A.A. Milne


I was working out with Barbara yesterday.

We were in the big PACE room at Body Dynamics. We’d just run a mile. (In fact, we’d walked even more of that mile than normal as the humidity was so high you could pull water from the air by miming the wringing of a towel and I was having a hard time sucking in enough oxygen to power the machine.)

Barbara had finally isolated whichever of my muscles she’d wanted through a Torquemada-like contraption she MacGuyver’ed on the spot. (Mixed metaphor much? Can you imagine Torquemada and MacGuyver standing around looking at the rack and wondering if they could make it work without creaking so much? “Hang on – I’ve got my Swiss Army knife here…”)

I had a fat rubber band around my legs above the knee. I can walk in this, but it’s a lot like what I imagine wearing a mermaid dress must feel like. Then I had a second band around one ankle; that band was connected to a really massive elastic strap tied to the wall.

(There are more official names for these things, I’m sure – all involving syllables like “flex” and “thera,” but I don’t know them nor care to. How can I keep track of 1980s music trivia AND the name of all the odd work-out equipment at Body Dynamics??)

My job was to get to the far stretch of the wall-tied elastic. Then step one pace farther to the side and bring my feet together again – that puts resistance on the inner thigh. Then squat. Then stand up again and step one step back toward the wall without my leg flying out like it was being tugged by a long elastic band WHICH IT WAS. There are concentric exercises when you flex, and eccentric exercises in which you resist the relaxing of the flex. These people are crazy.

I don’t know what the band around my knees was doing, but once I did the exercise with the band, Barbara’s face brightened right up and she patted herself on the back. “I’m a genius,” she said happily.

I could only agree with her in theory; I STILL don’t know what was happening – but since we were apparently working a slacker muscle, I guess I don’t really need to know. At least she doesn’t want me to keep this rig on 24 hours a day.

So I was already dripping with sweat from the run. I had my aged brow furled in concentration. I was trying to remember to use my glutes AND my abs AND my inner thigh, but NOT my back to complete a highly-unnatural series of movements. In short, I looked like a teddy bear in a terrifying bondage video featuring latex and cursing.

Barbara made some note in her computer (“my client looks like a teddy bear in a terrifying bondage video,” I assume). Then she returned to her post of exactly in front of me to notice immediately when I began to cheat.

And in going from computer to surveillance, she happened to hop adroitly over the wall-tied elastic strap.

This was nothing. She didn’t even notice. But I did.

It was an unnecessary expenditure of effort, coming from a woman whose body is so obedient to her, so comfortably fit, that she can jump over a line instead of step over it BECAUSE IT FEELS GOOD.

I’ve been thinking about it. I’ve been thinking about how all the fit, attractive, kind people at Body Dynamics are persuaded that MY body can ALSO be obedient. They don’t have decades of contrary information to taint this sunny belief.

But YOU know what I mean, don’t you? You go on the same diet as someone else; they lose weight, you somehow manage to gain. You exercise regularly; you become a fat person with muscles.

My body has never been obedient before. It has its own ideas; it assumes that it is a teddy bear, stout and fat; that’s the way it was stuffed. Holding on to the determination to change that is beginning to wear on me.

I’m bitching, of course; my body HAS changed, and I need to keep that firmly in mind. But it hasn’t changed much recently, and I find I am impatient. What have you done for me LATELY, broad ass? Bulging belly? Lungs that can barely get through a mile-long run?

Wait. (I’m now lecturing myself.) I don’t ache when I get up in the morning. I no longer fear blood tests. I can walk from here to there without pain. Yes, I know all kinds of things my body CAN’T do – but I can’t forget about the things I CAN do.

And as I age, I’m going to be one tough stout teddy bear. A geriatric Winnie the Pru in a headband, working out with all the young toughs. Barbara will be leading the class, of course.

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Keep going. Just keep going.

Madly Binding, Dear


“Aspirin,” my mother would say in a significant tone, “is madly binding, dear.”

What she meant but was too nice to say out loud is that aspirin has a constipational effect on the digestive system, which – I find – is generally true.

You know what else gives that effect?

Say you have to get your car in to the shop for its regular maintenance by 11, and you’ve been lounging around enjoying not having to work out (Friday – I’m on my own on Friday), and the glorious breakfast mix of yogurt and fruit and nuts and wheat germ and pumpkin seeds and flax or chia seeds takes half an hour to create and then eat (because eating is a parasympathetic process which means don’t eat in the car) and is there EVER going to be an end to this sentence?

So I skipped breakfast. Yes, I know that’s a nutritional no-no. Just the first of many yesterday.

Off I went. Dropped off the car. Picked up a loaner. Zipped over to the mall to buy a new iPhone. THAT took a few centuries. It was 1:30 before I got out of there, and I was – show of hands who’s surprised? – hungry.


And what was right outside the Apple store? The devil.

Disguised as a kiosk selling – wait for it – BAKLAVA.

I mean, really. Could the devil BE any more obvious?! I know I haven’t been to the mall since 1987, but are there really baklava kiosks scattered about here and there like unexploded ordinance? Surely there’s a law against this kind of thing?

Wait. It gets worse.

The squares were smallish (little four-bite nibbles each), and some had cashews and some had walnuts and some had pistachios. And I am only human.

“I’ll have two of those and two of those.”

“We can do them in threes or eights,” said the devil, in the guise of a perfectly nice counter guy.


The spirits of Barbara the trainer and Chip the nutritionist appeared at my shoulder. “Bail!” screamed Chip like a submarine klaxon when the ominous crack begins to leak. “Don’t get eight, whatever you do. You’re way too hungry to resist eight” said Barbara. My facial expression was paralyzed for a moment, and then I heard myself say “I’ll take eight, then.”

And then I ate them.

Every last one of them.

It took me a few hours, but they were a few sticky, bliss-laced, happy hours.

That was yesterday. Today, I’m down one high-fiber, nutritious breakfast and up several gallons of butter, filo dough, and honey. Like aspirin, I’m here to tell you: Baklava is madly binding, dear.

I’m off to spoon dry mouthfuls of wheat germ into my regretful mouth.

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The moral of the story: Delay the service on your car until the last possible moment.

What Do Your Feet Do?


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!


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



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.


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.


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


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)


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!


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!



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.


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.)


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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!