Maurice’s Review: I can really relate to this because my YMCA membership ended a few months ago, and I needed to stay active too. So far mouse moving, key clicking, and beer pint lifts have kept me tuned up. I’ve got five new pounds to prove it.
I’m not just hoping for the pandemic to be over soon, I’m thinking it’s possible I may emerge from the COVID cocoon as a new and mighty creature. Friends have been sending me timetables for when I can expect to get the vaccine, but none of them align. The truth may be that no one can tell us for sure when we might expect to get that much coveted shot in the arm. Seems like mine will be administered sometime between May and the apocalypse. Since new and scarier strains of this virus are emerging, I am more determined than ever to stay healthy but I want to be happy too. That means keeping physically and socially active.
With everything up in the air, it’s hard to plan outings for 2021. After the disappointments of last year, I am inclined to skip all the planning and just indulge in spontaneous activities and travel “off the cuff” whenever it seems safe to head out and meet up. I am prepared, though, to be ready for any eventuality (hiking, waterskiing, long car rides, bungee jumping, zip lining, etc.) and have, in anticipation, established that most loathsome of new year’s resolutions: a fitness regimen.
I am not a fitness fan, but rather an obsessive movement junkie. As an example of evidence of my squirrel DNA, I discovered just how much I tend to shift around. A few years back, after a fall in my kitchen which resulted in a broken arm, I read a book by Joan Vernikos, PhD entitled Sitting Kills, Moving Heals. It was in this sweet little book, about bone strength and wellness, that I discovered a test. Not that I like tests, but I was fairly convinced I could ace this one. Dr. Vernikos made claims in her book, after years of study as Director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division, that the best way to build bone is to increase the number of times one stands up from sitting in a day. Just naturally, not artificially—no multiple stand ups at a time. The gold standard to aim for was 35 times in one waking day.
I launched the research into my own shooting up activity on a week day, back when I was working at the gym. I stood up 45 times before noon. My work at the gym was in accounting. I wished in that moment of discovery there was a place to report this amazing feat of above average perpendicularity. I would certainly be deemed a stand-out in the annals of standing up. At the very least, I would prove to be heads above my peers in the accounting profession. I have a lot of excess energy, which, when channeled into frequent standing up, should keep my bones in relatively good um…standing for the foreseeable future.
This restless energy was no secret to me. I have always been on the move. I worked for nine years at that gym, which accommodated my energy expenditure habit nicely. Nia, yoga, cycling, Zumba, running, weight lifting, qi gong, aerobics, power walking, Pilates, tai chi, dance. You name the class, I’ve been there. I eventually felt I had to round out my activities with some classes that involved NOT moving, like meditation, writing and wine tasting. After moving to Asheville, I discovered walking around town, an activity unheard of in a gigantic city like Houston where there are parks for that stuff. I joined the YWCA, took as many classes as I could and wept when my membership lapsed last March. Every class I longed to take last year was cancelled due to COVID. Certain classes went online, but I was not interested in spending more time on my computer. Classes were later offered outdoors, but I refused to get on the bus that would take me there.
I was on my own. My formal exercise routines went downhill quickly. In 2020 walking our newly acquired dog became my favorite workout. I became complacent, settling for the occasional hike, forward bend or qi gong movement instead of finding new ways to incorporate regular fitness routines into my days. Yet, ever the fidgety one, frequent standing up was still going strong. About midway through the year, I started practicing my tai chi forms again on a regular basis and began to teach a class online. My philosophy has always been expending energy creates more energy and the more I incorporated formal periods of exercise throughout the day, the more I felt like tackling my previously abandoned practices.
I am a creature of habit. I just needed to ramp up my game and form a new schedule to follow just as if I was attending classes at the Y, gaining the benefit of channeling my excessive flapping about into something with more constructive goals. The turning of the calendar sparked a strong desire to regain strength and stamina and hold onto my good health. Toward this endeavor, my first decision was to take advantage of my pre-dawn energy. Yes, I start twitching before I even get out of bed.
Our winter blankets provide a modicum of resistance, sort of like the lowest setting (wimps and whiners) on the weight machines at the gym, but with warmth and comfort. I perform prone leg lifts to gear up the glutes. Then I switch to hamstring curls. My first attempt, after months of not doing hamstring curls, resulted in an alarming episode of flailing and whimpering due to a massive, painful cramp in the back of my left thigh! The duration of time between agony and relief was far longer than one would normally expect as I could not, at first, unbend my leg. I clutched my pillow and rolled onto my side to eliminate the resistance of the blankets and, steadying my breath, willed my foot out of my ass. The whimpering tapered off as the offending muscles began to release their collective clutch. When the eventual straightening of my leg eased the spasm in my hamstrings, I rolled over, giving up on the curls for the time being. I decided to add unresisted hamstring curls into my general exercise time before flirting with this torturous motion again.
I finish up my pre-rising routine with simple ankle motions and a few breathing practices. This sets the mood for the morning or at least gets me up and showering. With wet hair and squeaky-clean bod, I proceed with the Shakira routine. This is my deepest, darkest workout secret: essentially, I shake it. Hip rolls, snaky spinal motions, twists and twerks remind me of Zumba class and keep my abs and back muscles in salsa-dancing shape. Wiggling is the new crunch!
After breakfast I launch into my tai chi practice for 30 minutes. Tai chi helps me to slow down and enjoy a locomotive meditation. Each practice I have incorporated into my daily routine taps into a specific need and type of energy. I take two walks a day to get outside, grab some sunshine if available, connect with my guy (and pooch), stimulate the senses and improve circulation. I end my exercise day just before I need to make dinner, alternating between weight-training and yoga. I start my week with a restorative yoga practice, which involves getting into a supported pose and staying there for a long time. Essentially, this is my NOT-moving time. Rest is just as important as work.
I want to be in optimum shape for that upcoming, spontaneous outing—I hope it’s kayaking on the river, but I’d be just as happy having coffee with friends. With a shot in the arm and productive redirecting of my twitchy energy, I’ll be ready to re-enter the social stage as an iron butterfly. I need to keep working on those hamstring curls. I don’t want to be weak in the knees when I get back to hanging upside down from the monkey bars with my buddies.
See you on the playground,
Guest Editor Maurice reminded me to stop with the rambling and get to the point. He’s sympathetic to my poetic nature and my cramping muscles. We can’t wait for the post-pandemic weigh-in!