Monthly Archives: July 2014

Take a hike…

Really, if you’re able, there’s no easier or more enjoyable way to get some good exercise than taking a walk.  All you need is comfortable, supportive type shoes, the ability to take or make time, a safe place to walk and you can be off.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I prefer to walk outside whenever possible as opposed to walking on an indoor track.  However, here in Minnesota sometimes because of inclement weather (read that sub-zero temps, icy surfaces and snow, or very high heat and humidity), I have to depend on the track at our local community center to get my walking fix.  I’m here to tell you walking outside is a much better workout and much more interesting.

As for the workout outside being better (i.e., more intense), climbing the hills in my neighborhood, dealing with the weather elements (sometimes WIND – my enemy, heat, rain) and maneuvering on different surfaces (asphalt, concrete, gravel, sand) make a walk outside harder work than on a flat, easy-on-the-feet-and-legs indoor track surface in an air-conditioned/heated building.  I can get my heart rate up into a good workout range and feel like I’ve really worked my muscles when I walk outside.  Unfortunately, I don’t experience those same feelings when I walk inside.  (Don’t get me wrong, I do think walking inside is better than not walking at all…it’s still exercise and you are burning calories).

As for being more interesting to exercise outside, there’s lots to see, hear and enjoy while walking through the neighborhood, in a park, on a beach (one of my favorite venues), or through the woods.  Circling the same oval track multiple times in a boring non-interesting building doesn’t create the same excitement. (Well, sometimes it is interesting to watch others at the gym as they go through their routines.  People watching – hmm, look what she is wearing; or, look at what he does with that exercise ball – can provide a diversion to the boredom of a track.)  Music in my ear buds can also help get me through the routine inside; but, I never  wear headphones while walking outside.  I think it is important to be aware of traffic – vehicles and other walkers/runners/bikers so as to avoid accidents.  I want to be able to hear any impending danger.

While searching for activities to do with my two young grandsons, I came across the idea to go for a walk and involve them in a scavenger hunt-like game.  Seems to me anyone of any age could enjoy this idea while walking.  It could add some interest to your routine, or even provide the impetus for taking the hike.  Make a list of things to look for, smell, or hear on your walk and then see how many items you can check off the list on your trek.

Here are some ideas for your list –

  • see or hear a robin or cardinal
  • hear an airplane/helicopter
  • see a rabbit or squirrel
  • see a cat sitting in a window
  • find a maple leaf
  • hear the sound of a workman’s hammer or chain saw
  • dodge a puddle
  • see a “hot” car as my grandson would say
  • find a heart-shaped rock
  • smell dinner cooking aromas emanating from one of the homes you pass
  • see a butterfly
  • hear children playing

You can create your own list, adapting it to the area in which you are walking.  At the very least, it will help you stay in the present moment while you exercise, leaving your cares behind.

Happy Walking!


Too much stuff…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you’re like me and over a life-time of maintaining a home you’ve collected just too much stuff, I know of a fun way to begin cleaning out the clutter.  I call it 9 for 9 – tossing, donating, gifting or otherwise ridding your household of nine items each day for nine days.  I have done this little exercise on more than one occasion over the years, and always thought it was an actual Feng Shui concept.  (Feng Shui – the science of placement founded in Eastern cultures meant to create balance and harmony in one’s surroundings.) When I Googled Feng Shui, however, I didn’t find any specific references to this 9 for 9 process.  My daughter, Amy, introduced me to this clearing-the-clutter method several years ago (and, actually, to Feng Shui) after she heard about it during a workshop she attended.  As Amy and I discussed the fact I couldn’t find 9 for 9 on the internet, she suggested it was perhaps just the good idea of the leader of that class.

The number nine is, in fact, a very important number in Feng Shui.  The Chinese have assigned a meaning to each number from one to nine, with each successive number being more complex and representing more knowledge.  Nine then, is the epitome of all of this knowledge and represents completion and satisfaction to the Chinese.  Given this information, I still can’t explain the reason we should discard nine things for nine days, but maybe some of you are brighter than me and can figure out the connection.  I just enjoy feeling like I’m participating in a sophisticated science (plus clearing out my house)!

Though I am by no means, deep into Feng Shui, I do know that its followers feel mess saps strength and blocks positive energy.  They also think broken things are impediments to vitality.  Feng Shuiers strive to harmonize their energy with their surroundings; thus, clearing clutter or fixing broken things fits right in with their goals.  Though not specifically about Feng Shui, other articles I have read about clearing clutter preach we should keep only the things we absolutely love, use, or which have sentimental value to us.  Using those criteria makes it easy to decide what to dispose of.

Doing a 9 for 9 blast works fine alone, but I have found it is really more fun joining in the effort with a group or at least one other person, with each participant sharing their list of cast-offs at the end of each day (through FB or email, etc.).  The lists can provide some great humor – e.g., (1) two straws from McDonalds with the paper cover still intact, (2) a sippy cup no one is using or needs, (3) a dog leash for a dog who has been gone since 2000.  You get the idea – WHY ARE WE KEEPING THIS STUFF?!?  Sharing the lists with others provides the incentive for keeping up the process for the nine days, and holds everyone accountable.

Finding 81 things to discard over nine days can be a challenge, but not as daunting as tossing 27 things each day for nine days…I did find a reference on Google for someone who proposes doing that.  Believe me, nine a day is enough; and, for those of you that work outside the home a full day plus have all the normal responsibilities of running a household, you may find yourself gathering items to toss at 10:00 o’clock at night.  Try to hang in there though, because you will feel so good when you complete the nine days.

See my picture below of the first nine items I am discarding as I start yet another round of 9 for 9.

  1. some yarn meant for mending, if needed, a sweater I no longer have – garbage
  2. two bracelets I’ll never wear again – donation bag
  3. two CDs of music for very young children and no very young children in sight – donation bag
  4. (love this one) billing paperwork for daughter’s college sorority – she graduated in the 90s! – shred
  5. a paper punch for an obsolete calendar system now that I have an iPhone – garbage
  6. new bobby pins which I haven’t used in years (and, why do I have two full cards of them?) – garbage or maybe donation bag since they are new
  7. old nail polish – garbage
  8. used Christmas candles that haven’t been lit for a long time and won’t be used again – garbage
  9. a half-empty travel size bottle of bath gel which is very old – garbagephoto

Gotta run to start finding my next nine things.  Perhaps I’ll tackle my clothes closets today.




Take a deep breath…

One of the most beneficial practices I have taken away from yoga instruction and use daily is the yoga deep breathing technique…I think it may be called diaphragmatic breathing(who knows if that is spelled correctly).  Inhale slowly to a count of whatever is comfortable, ballooning out the diaphragm, pulling the air into the lungs, holding the breath for just a couple of seconds, then exhaling twice as long as the inhale.  A slow count to four on my inhale and a count of eight on my exhale works for me.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I find this breathing technique useful in several different ways; and, I don’t even have to be reclined on a yoga mat – while walking, sitting or standing anywhere works just fine…

  • enjoying the delightful fragrances I encounter on a morning walk outside – the smell of newly mown grass, flowering crabapple trees or lilac bushes, or the moist smell of the earth after a rain;
  • relieving stress when I find myself overwhelmed by a difficult project at work with a deadline, or the many tasks I perceive I should complete in a day that doesn’t have enough hours (I know, this last one is a self-imposed stress – a whole other topic to discuss at some point);
  • gaining the strength to finish the last few minutes of my workout on the elliptical machine when I think I just can’t do it…breathing in strength, exhaling tiredness;
  • finding the courage to do anything daunting – like making known to the public that this blog exists!
  • easing pain – I love the technique a yoga instructor once taught me, to concentrate on the pain and to think about expelling it from my body with each exhale.  Try it – it works to relieve any tension in the painful area, if nothing else.
  • bringing myself to the present moment to alleviate sleep issues (trying to solve the world’s problems in the middle of the night when I would like to be sleeping – another blog topic for the future).  Yogis preach being in the present moment – deep breathing centers me so I can experience that phenomenon.  (Yes, it is a phenomenon to me to be able to eliminate concern about how I handled something in my past, or worry about something that hasn’t happened yet – and may not!)  I’ll admit the deep breathing doesn’t always work in this case, but I keep practicing, hoping to master it someday.  Practice makes perfect, right??

There are probably other situations where deep breathing could be used, but these are the ones I practice regularly to help me “ignore the wind”!  Happy breathing.