Spin Spin Spin

I went to another spin class at my gym the other day, triumphant and inspired after my first, successful spin class. I learned a lot in my first spin class. I learned that I wasn’t going to die, I learned how to size the bike, I learned the basics of the digital display, how to switch stages and where to monitor RPMs. Most importantly, I learned that I could have fun and get a good work out, all in a spin class.

My second spin class was a bit different. First of all, the class was packed, almost every bike was taken. I overheard one participant say, about the instructor, before the instructor arrived, “she terrifies me.” Now, I was a wee bit terrified, too. Moments later, in bounced the instructor, a tiny-framed woman, with lean, extremely well defined musculature. She was my age, I’d say, at least, but more fit that I’ve ever been in my life, at any age. She looked familiar, and though I have yet to verify it, I think I went to high school with her. She resembles someone, a year ahead of me, who was, even way back then, small-framed, with lean, extremely well defined musculature. We’re talking the front cover of a body building magazine muscle definition. She could stand at the front of a classroom and be put to good use as a visual aid in naming every muscle in the human body. And I truly mean this with the utmost admiration, respect and a touch of jealousy.

The instructor straddled her bike on the pedestal at the front of the classroom, cranked up the tunes and gave us explicit instructions. We were going “uphill” as soon as our “warm up” was over. If I had a dollar for every time she said, “add some gear”, I wouldn’t have to pay my gym fees for the next year! She knew many of the people in the class by name and even included songs in her playlist she knew they, specifically, would enjoy. Three minutes in and I was already dripping sweat onto the floor around my bike. Yikes. We were still going uphill. As a matter of fact, I think we went uphill pretty much the entire time. Who picked this ride?

Though, it seemed, much of the class consisted of regulars, the instructor seemed attuned to the fact that there was some “fresh meat” in with the veterans. Me, for example. With this in mind, she provided very precise, explicit and valuable information on the use of the digital display, every number being given a meaning, a use, and a measure. At the end of the class, I somehow survived, I felt far more informed and in mastery of the bike, the gearing of the bike and how it all related to the digital display and, ultimately, to the best workout I’ve had in a very long time.

As I understand it, this all translates to actual cycling, too. Having grown up in a “cycling” family, my dad being a cyclist for most of his youth, and owning a bicycle shop for most of my youth, I have some vague knowledge of the sport of cycling. I know that the goal is to maintain a steady cadence. There, that’s the depth of my cycling knowledge. You shift gears to maintain that desired cadence. Got it. What I learned in this spin class is how to “make room, add gear, gain power.” This makes sense and it works. As it was explained, several times throughout the class, you have a cadence range, between so many revolutions per minute and about ten more revolutions per minute. You pedal furiously and as you reach the upper end of that range, in other words, you make room, then you add gear, giving you more power. You continue to pedal furiously after adding gear, which, logically, causes your revolutions per minute to drop towards the lower end of the range. Pedal more, get closer to the upper end of the range, making more room, add more gear. The “power” is measured by the “watts” readout on the digital display. By the end of our mostly uphill ride, we were pedaling at about the same RPMs we started our ride with, but we were generating far more power. The watts I generated more than tripled, even though my cadence was the same, during the course of this exercise. I know this all translates to the street, to real riding, to real hills, and I find it fascinating. Power excites me!

I thought about this a lot throughout the day; making room, adding gear, more power and repeat. I think this method can also be applied to life; to our goals and to our evolution as an individual. Think about it.

We have a goal. Some folks never get past the setting of the goal. Others of us plink away at our goals a little bit, here and there, kind of like pedaling the old Schwinn Varsity around the block. And for some of us, that’s it. The seat makes our butt hurt, we get winded, the chain falls off, the tire goes flat and the old Schwinn Varsity reclaims its dusty post at the back of the garage with the car washing towels draped over it, perpetually drying. Am I right?

pedal, pedal, pedal, make room, add gear, gain more power to get up that hill. Repeat.
pedal, pedal, pedal, make room, add gear, gain more power to get up that hill. Repeat.

Others of us work a little harder at our goals. We sit on that spin cycle in class and just pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal. We pay no attention to the numbers on the display. We show up, we pedal and pedal and pedal and you know what? We end up right where we started. We could attend spin class and pedal mindlessly and never increase our effort, never stand to pedal, never add gear, never gain any power, assuming we are making a difference, but we find that we never make any progress. That goal is always there, in the same exact position, never changing, never closer, truly like trying to reach it by riding a stationary bicycle.

Perhaps if we set a “cadence” for our work towards our goal, some kind of measure of achievement, of progress, and, as we work towards the first measure, we “add a little gear”, maybe some intermediate or clarifying goals towards the bigger goal, making it, initially harder, but through which we gain some energy, some power, making reaching the next level not only possible, but, in fact, a bit easier. We add more gear, gain more power, make more progress, and so forth. You see?

So, yes, I encourage you to check out a spin class because it’s hecka fun and a real sweat fest. And, I also encourage you to apply some of the principles of spinning, or cycling, to the goals you’ve set for yourself. Keep up a good pace, make some room by setting intermediate goals or meaningful measures of progress towards the ultimate goal. As you approach each of those intermediate goals or measures, increase your effort and use the power to propel you towards the next intermediate goal or measure. Watch as you quickly and powerfully crest that hill and reach your goal!

Grab your yellow jersey, wave it over your head triumphantly, bask in the glory, and enter another race!

All or Nothing

I’ve always been an “all or nothing” kind of girl. But I’m getting over it.

It used to be, if the package of Oreos were opened, I’d eat them, three at a time, until they were all gone. This usually took a day and a half to two days. It used to be, if I was going to In N Out Burger, I was having a Double Double, fries and a shake. With a Diet Coke.  If I was going to drink soda, I was going to have three a day. If the “pounder” bag of pretzels was open, I wasn’t going to stop eating pretzels until there were only salt crystals at the bottom of the bag.

In interest of moderation, I found, if I just didn’t buy Oreos or go to In N Out, then I could easily abstain. Pretzels and Diet Coke were another matter, and, in fact, comprised my “lunch” for quite some time. With Red Vines for dessert. Hey, it was all “fat free”, right?

I was on the weight loss roller coaster for years, about twenty, or so. I’d lose weight for a big outing, like a backpacking trek, then gain it all back plus a few. I never grew out of the “junior” size clothing, even at my plumpest, but I was what I called a “top shelf” girl at Hollister. They keep the larger sizes on a top shelf, out of reach of the rotund, and so we have to waddle around the store and find some impossibly thin creature employed there to retrieve them for us. They look at us with something between pity and disgust as they hand us a voluminous bundle of denim, and point us in the direction of the dressing room, knowing full well, in five minutes or less, they’d be putting those jeans back up on the top shelf. I shopped at PacSun and American Eagle to avoid the humiliation, for whatever reason, they were more kind.

When my whole life turned upside down, I saw, where most would see darkness, doom, dismay, and dread, a light. I used foreclosure and short sale, the long overdue collapse of a marriage, and the struggles of rebuilding my own life, by myself, as an opportunity to change. It was a catalyst for growth. If everything was changed, then I was going to change everything.

Somewhere during that period of time, always being a fan of exercising, just more a fan of eating, as was apparent, my son mentioned he’d done a workout video, at home, with his roommate’s girlfriend, and it “kicked his butt”. He is one of the most fit people I know; cross country runner, avid cyclist, gym rat. I drove to Target as fast as I could and bought my first Jillian Michaels workout video. It kicked my butt. I sat down after the warm up and watched the rest from the couch, incredulously, dabbing the sweat from my brow.

Within a week, I was able to complete the video with a fair amount of self-respect. I bought another video. And another. I like variety. And I’m an “all or nothing” kind of girl. I was going to have ALL of Jillian’s videos, and new ones, too, as soon as they became available. Then I spied a book of hers at Target. I bought it. I read it cover to cover in about two days. I have never been the same. I have never been better.

I don't have them ALL, but I got LOTS!
I don’t have them ALL, but I got LOTS!
The book that changed my life.
The book that changed my life.

In Jillian’s book, I learned about diet, exercise, sleep, thought, environment, and, most importantly, how all of this relates to our hormones and that our hormones are what regulate our metabolism, and, so, our weight. I lost fifty pounds. There are ten pounds that come and go, but they do go with minimal effort. The real bragging rights, here, are that I’ve kept most of that fifty pounds of for most of three years. Give or take. I’ve kind of lost track.

The best part about losing that much weight, other than being able to tie my shoes, with the bows on the top of my feet, rather than on the side, where it was easier to reach, or the fact that my upper arms look like arms and not thighs, or the fact that it feels really, really, good to be thin, is that I got to shop for a new wardrobe three times in one year! How cool is that? I had to replace my tight size fourteens with size twelves because the fourteens, literally, fell off. I wore the twelves until they, too, fell off, and replaced them with eights. When the eights got to be ridiculously baggy, I bought sixes, and this is where I’ve been for two years now. So, no, I’m not some tiny, frail, creature riddled with eating disorders. I look pretty darn good and I eat pretty darn well and I feel pretty darn awesome and I can do any darn thing.

With this huge personal success, I became so confident, so inspired and so motivated, I knew, without a doubt, I could do anything. Anything at all. And this set my “effort to evolve” into motion. I vowed to myself to continue to evolve, in every area of my life, and then, to share my experiences, to, hopefully, inspire others.

I am absolutely NOT an all or nothing kind of girl anymore. I can eat two Oreos from an open package and make that package last weeks. If I really try. I still won’t ever buy Oreos for myself, but, others do. I can go to In N Out Burger and eat a lettuce wrap burger and pick at someone else’s fries and drink a nice, refreshing glass of water. Except after a marathon, then I get a Double Double, my own fries and a shake. Just sayin’. Every now and then, a bottle of really good red wine, or a super refreshing bottle of sparkling wine, does challenge my abilities to refrain from my current state of “all or nothingness”. But, I’m working on it.

By the way, where does it say that if something tastes really, really good that more of it will taste better? Why does having more, or all of it, now, make us think we’ll be more satisfied? The last Oreo tastes the same as the first. Isn’t it better to make it all last? Two Oreos every day for a month versus all the Oreos today, prolonged enjoyment, less negative impact. The first glass of wine is enough, and, then, I can enjoy it, again, tomorrow. So, I’m working on it.

Jillian taught me the virtues of NOT being an all or nothing kind of girl, in fact, she preaches it in all of her books. Okay, so, yah, I do have ALL of her books. And videos. And buy the new ones as soon as they come out. It isn’t al “all or nothing” thing, I swear, I’m studying her as a marketing role model. I only hope to be a fraction as successful in my endeavors, some day! Wink, wink.

Being an All or Nothing, Today – In Application:

It used to be, and this is so common it’s a joke, really, I’d start my “healthy eating” program on Monday morning. I’d cave at about 3:00 PM on Monday and, so, the week was “blown”, I’d start, again, on the following Monday. For a few hours. Why do we believe that “healthy” can only begin on Mondays? Now, I eat healthy most of the time. When I don’t, I don’t and then I resume my healthy eating with the very next bite. In this practice, I gain six and a half days of healthy eating every week over what I used to do. Make sense? It isn’t an all or nothing, take it a bite at a time, a meal at a time, not a week at a time. Just keep at it and be as consistent as possible for as much of the week as possible, every week, forever. That’s what healthy is!

It is almost that time of year, again, one I dread with ferocity. In a few weeks the gym is going to be a zoo. For about two weeks. Then it will be a gym, again. For those two weeks, the “resolutionists” will be flocking to fitness classes and crowding the weight room floor. The cardio equipment will have plump, impatient people waiting in line for their fifteen-minute cardio embarrassment. New Years and all those well-meant resolutions will be forgotten within two weeks and the couch and the potato chips will win out, for most. Sad, but true. And, where, exactly, is it written that an “exercise regime” can only begin on January 1st? Why not March 12th? Or August 27th? So fitness is an all year or nothing thing? Nope. It isn’t. I have weeks where I work out, per plan, four, five maybe even six times. I have weeks where I work out only once, and, every now and then, I have a week without any workouts. But, more weeks than not, I am working out at least four times. It isn’t an all or nothing deal. Just keep at it and be as consistent as possible for as much of the year as possible, every year, forever. That’s what healthy is!

Part of “living clean”, part of what impacts our hormones, is our environment, and this is something that most folks aren’t aware of. Being healthy goes beyond diet and exercise. There are many other factors that impact our health that we are surrounded by, all the time. They are practically inescapable in many households and work settings. The cleansers we use, the detergents and soaps we use, the household products we use, the stuff we spray and squirt on the animals we hug, kiss and snuggle with all night, the stuff we spray in the air and on our furniture and carpets to mask the smell of our chemically treated pets, the things we smear on every part of our body from scalp to armpits to eyelids. All of it is chemical based. All of it is, if not toxic, at least harmful to our endocrine system, altering our hormones, which regulate our metabolism, which is a very necessary component of our health and our ability to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and state. Is it possible, then, to rid our environments of all of these harmful products? No. Not at all. But, every product we are able to replace with something natural, something organic, is one small step in the right direction. We can’t just throw up our hands in surrender and assume if we can’t afford all organic cleaning and personal hygiene products that all is lost and we should just commit suicide, slowly, by sitting on the couch eating ice cream, potato chips and Texas Toast.

There are strategies for low cost alternatives to organic products. There are a million resources for finding them online. Well, maybe not a million GOOD sources, but there are a few.

Great stuff and lots of resources for clean living within.
Great stuff and lots of resources for clean living within.

So, if you refuse to give up your “all or nothing” attitude, fine, but try this first; change a few of the things you do and don’t give up on January 14th or on Monday at 3:11 PM. Just keep at it and be as consistent as possible, forever. I promise, you’ll see positive results, inside and out. Hopefully, this will inspire you to make a few more changes. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

When we were in the second grade and out on the playground playing jump rope, when our turn came and we “ran in” and jumped, eventually, we’d mess up and our turn would be over, at which point, by golly, we got right back in line and anxiously waited for our next turn. We didn’t just say “well, screw that, I blew it, can’t jump rope again until next Monday, or until next January.” We just kept at it, trying again and again and again, until the recess bell rang, and then we were at it again the next recess, always getting better and better. Did we ever get it perfect? Obviously not, or we’d still be out there on the playground, jumping, jumping, jumping, chanting the lyrics along with a bunch of very patient second graders, hoping for a turn, someday.

Perfection is non-existent. There is perceived perfection, occasionally, but even it is rare and illusive. Do the best you can, just keep at it and be as consistent as possible, forever. A healthy lifestyle isn’t an all or nothing kind of thing. Life isn’t an all or nothing kind of thing. Nor am I.

Have a great Monday! Have a great New Year! Have great health! Have a great life!

Not a diet or exercise book, just a great inspirational read for life, in general.
Not a diet or exercise book, just a great inspirational read for life, in general.


Scarlett’s Letter September 26, 2013

I left the hotel alarm clock set for 5:00 AM. With sheer resolution, I also set my iPhone alarms for 5:00, 5:01, 5:02 and 5:03. I don’t hit the snooze, ever, and, truthfully, part of my waking up process has to do with hating the sound of any alarm so much, that, I usually wake up automatically, two or three minutes before any of them sound and quickly turn them all off as I climb out of bed.

Last night, though, I tossed and turned and slept fitfully. My sleep was disturbed with a nagging thought; two alarms would go off simultaneously. The shrieking clock radio alarm and my first iPhone alarm, which with iOS7, is, well, alarming. The first morning my iPhone alarm went off after upgrading to iOS7, I thought some cannibalistic tribe of ninja pygmies had entered my room and I was awakening to their pre-sacrificial prologue. So, in my fitful, bizarre dream riddled sleep, I worried, which of the two obnoxious alarms would I turn off first if both sounded simultaneously. The human mind is a strange place, the human mind, in sleep, is even stranger. My mind takes the cake, I’m sure.

No worries. I awoke at 4:57, which, may I remind you, in New Jersey, where I am this week, may be nearly dawn, but at home, the bars haven’t even closed yet. I quickly turned all five alarms off before they uttered a peep, beep, honk or trill. I’d put a snack size Ziploc with eight almonds in it on my bedside table. I munched on those and cleared all the overnight notifications from my phone. It was all good until one of the almonds I crunched down on was rotten and tainted the flavor of everything for the rest of the day. Maybe the rest of the week. There is some controversy about whether to eat before working out early in the morning or not. My personality trainer says I should eat something light, like eight raw almonds, before working out in the morning. Yes, I said personality trainer. I can’t afford a personal trainer, so I’ve adopted a personality trainer, Jillian Michaels, assisted by Shaun T, and I can barely afford them with their prolific video production habits. Note to self; check iTunes for Jillian’s latest video release, I think it’s out.

I headed out the door of my hotel room, doing the early morning workout wear pat down, similar to “keys, phone, wallet”, but more like “pants, shirt, matching shoes”. Check. I made my way to the hotel gym and managed to get the key into the card lock slot facing the right direction, on the first try. I clamored aboard one of the three rickety ellipticals. There was a man on the middle one, so, no matter what, I was working out next to him. Like seats at the airport, space permitting, there is an unwritten rule, every other piece of gym equipment is occupied, a blank machine between two sweaty, panting people is barely adequate. To have to work out right next to someone is kind of like sitting in the middle seat in coach on a long flight, except the people next to you are sweating profusely and panting loudly. Gross. I know. I set down my Fiji water, my room key and my phone, careful not to let my phone and room key get too close. I am the Queen of demagnetizing keys. When I check in to a hotel and they ask me how many keys I want, I ask for a dozen. There is nothing worse than getting all the way to your room and not being able to get in, only to have to return to the front desk, wait in line, and obtain another key.

The rickety hotel elliptical doesn’t have an incline, so I tried to figure out what the “L9” I’ve selected is all about. I’m sweating, so it must mean something. So, at 5:00 AM EDT, which is 2:00 AM my time, what do you do on cardio equipment to stay awake? No, really, I need to know. I’m certain I lapsed into sleep, while maintaining a perfect cadence, several times. After fifteen minutes and some REM action, I’m fairly certain, I was jolted back into some level of quasi-consciousness, by the incessant beeping of some piece of cardio equipment nearby. Oh, mine. Right. Time’s up. I move to the even ricketier stationary bicycle. The bike I rode yesterday wobbled precariously as I pedaled. I had to maintain a very careful balance, more than I would on an actual bicycle, so as not to fall over. I chose a different one today.

By 5:15 AM, as I pedaled 86 RPM at the maximum resistance setting, and dozed, I would occasionally be rudely awakened by the sound of the gym door opening. After the bike, I intended to use one of the five treadmills. Based on yesterday’s experience, I know, at some point this morning, every piece of war torn cardio equipment and every piece of tattered weight training equipment, and every last sweaty dumbbell, and even every last stabilization ball, is going to be employed by someone who ate too much last night and can’t bear the guilt. I get a little obsessive about the availability of the next piece of gym equipment on my menu. No matter where I’m working out. Rarely obsessive enough to abandon one machine early for the next. I even more obsessive about completing the time I’ve set, down to the last second. Again, the human mind = strange place, mine > strange place.

The door opens again. I pedal faster. When I realize that pedaling faster won’t make the fifteen minutes pass any quicker, I settle back into my 86 RPM, a little embarrassed and hoping no one noticed my franticly increased cadence. Like anyone would be able to notice over all of the clunking, squeaking and whirring of all the cheap and poorly assembled cardio equipment. Hotel gyms are the worst. I lapse into sleep again, am awakened by the door, lapse into sleep, and awaken a few seconds before my fifteen minutes ends. Similar to awakening before the alarm goes off in the morning. I head for the treadmill, four of five are free, so I try to be selective based on visible defects, pools of sweat, and television programming on the monitor. I settle on the one at the far end, even though it puts my ass in direct line of sight from the glass entry door. In other words, my ass is the first thing every early morning exercise fan is going to see. Hopefully, they’re all walking in their sleep, too. But, there’s a Full House episode on Nick @ Nite on my monitor, which beats the hell out of any of the other programming, and, since I haven’t taken the time to learn how to change the channels, and, like on airplanes, I just watch and read lips, I don’t plug my ear buds in to the monitor and listen, who really cares. John Stamos from that era is just eye candy and for the next thirty minutes, I just walk briskly and constantly. I don’t run on treadmills. I know, I’m “a runner”, with a marathon fast approaching. I walk briskly. Truth. I am intimidated by treadmills, and I haven’t really worked out in my over logical mind how one actually runs on a treadmill without killing oneself. I think about this a lot and marvel at everyone around me, many who seem a) less intelligent b) less agile, and c) definitely less fearful than me as the plod impressively along on the narrow, mechanized belt, without hanging on, without tripping and without flying off the back of the machine. I once saw Barbara Walters interview Jim Carrey while he played on his treadmill. It was hysterical; Google it. I want to be able to do THAT. Actually, I’d really like to be able to just accelerate to my running pace and not fall and knock all my teeth out, or trip and land in a heap on the floor behind the machine. My plan; some day, if ever I find myself in an unoccupied gym, the likelihood of which is infinitesimal, I am going to practice. I’ve seriously considered heading down to the hotel gym at like 3:00 AM to attempt this endeavor. But I’d have to set my alarms. All four of them.


Why I fear treadmills …Treadmill – Imgur

Scarlett’s Letter September 25, 2013

How alarming.

When I travel, I always use my iPhones for my morning alarm. I set two on one phone, my personal phone, an AT&T phone and two on my other phone, my work phone, a Verizon phone. I figure I have my bases covered in so doing. I never use the clock radio provided by the hotel. Ever. As a matter of fact, if there is a clock radio anywhere in my midst at bedtime, I turn it around so the time cannot be viewed. I used to be a terrible insomniac. I learned that we all wake up many, many times during the night. Most of us just don’t realize it and fall right back asleep without any issue, and so don’t remember waking and, therefore, aren’t concerned with it. If there is a timepiece visible, however, if you wake up enough to note the time, you remember waking up. You usually end up accounting for all the times you awake each night, and before long, it kind of stresses you out. The more you stress out about waking up, the more you wake up. If you turn clocks so you can’t see them, and learn to manage your stress, soon, especially if you eat healthfully and exercise regularly, you’ll sleep much better, most of the time.

Last night was my second night at this hotel in Saddle Brook, New Jersey. Yesterday morning, the clock radio alarm did not go off. The first of my four iPhone alarms did, at which point, I quickly turned off the others and got out of bed. I got ready and went to work. It wasn’t until I got to work that it occurred to me that I’d forgot to leave a tip for the housekeeper. I don’t tip a whole bunch, just a couple of bucks and a note saying “Thanks!” I’m pretty fastidious and other than a couple of long, curly hairs on the floor and a few towels that need replacing in the bathroom, things are spotless. I even make my bed. But, I forgot the tip this morning and I felt a little bad.

This morning at 5:00 am I was bludgeoned out of sleep by the loudest most obnoxious foreign noise I’ve ever experienced, the clock radio. It was turned against the wall in my dark room, so I groped for the offensive, shrieking object, unsuccessfully, had to flail my arms about until I found the light switch, try to focus, grab the clock radio and then try to figure out which buttons to slide or push or press to make the noise stop. At last I succeeded.

My alarms were set for 6:00, 6:01, 6:02 and 6:03. That gave me ample time to have breakfast, get ready and walk to my clients’ office building conveniently located immediately across the street from the hotel. As usual, I’d packed my workout gear, and, as usual, had every intention of working out every day, morning or night, however it was managed, and, as usual, didn’t. I’ve been eating out every meal for weeks and I’m beginning to fill my jeans and slacks out more than I like. I feel lousy. I have a marathon coming up. So, I’m laying there, thinking about all of this, the light again turned off, hoping for another hour of sleep. Finally, I did what the well-intended, disciplined inner me hoped I would. I threw the covers back, turned the light on, strode over to my suitcase, pulled out my gym clothes, went downstairs to the hotel gym and did a full hour of cardio. I felt amazing all day long. And I was sure to leave a tip with a nice thank you note for housekeeping.

I did not set that alarm clock. And there is no way, no how, that I slid the lever to the on position, after examining it, when I turned the clock around for the night. It would’ve taken a certain amount of force to engage the slider and move it the distance required for the alarm setting to be on. I examined all of this forensically. That’s what I do. The only person I know of that entered my room in my absence was the housekeeper. I mean, I’m the only one here, I travel alone 99.9% of the time. My daughter accompanies me to New York City, but most certainly not to New Jersey. I could account for both keys the front desk gave me, so it’s not like someone obtained one of my keys, entered my room and turned the alarm on! That would be absurd, anyway. And, certainly, if someone broke in, they would certainly want something more than to turn on the alarm on the clock radio. Like my shoes. Or my chocolate. Or my wine. I had to wonder, did housekeeping set the alarm because I didn’t leave a tip? No. That couldn’t be. Would they do that? I’ve forgotten the tip before and this kind of thing didn’t happen. But, maybe less obvious retaliation has occurred that went unnoticed. A dirty glass? Or that time the shampoo was replaced with hand lotion. Or that other time that the blue mouthwash was replaced with blue shower gel. That was gross. I buy and carry my own mouthwash now. And read labels on tiny bottles very, very, very carefully.

Come to think of it, for some reason, yesterday afternoon, my hotel room door was stuck shut. The lock disengaged, but it was physically stuck. To exit and enter I had to tug and pull and really use brute force. Today, it is fine. Had something sticky been applied to the door to make it stick? I’m not usually a suspicious person, I rarely adhere to conspiracy theories. But, these little things kind of had me bothered. So, yah, I made double darned sure I left a tip when I went to work this morning. When I returned, the door opened with ease and the alarm was off. I went ahead and turned it on. For 5:00 AM. I’m going to get up and work out again tomorrow. I reset all my phone alarms for 5:00 AM, too. I learned two lessons from my alarming morning; 1) always leave a tip and 2) it isn’t all that difficult to motivate oneself to get out of bed an extra hour early for an energizing and beneficial workout.



Scarlett’s Letter August 13, 2013

I did it! I went to the gym in the morning! I have been trying to switch to morning workouts from my usual evening workouts. If I work out early in the morning, whether I run, or go to the gym for cardio, yoga or strength, I can take my shower and be done for the day. I have that happy glow you only get from working out all day long and I am ready for whatever the day may have to offer. For example, if I go out to lunch and have a beer, or go to a tasting room, then my work out isn’t compromised, or, worse yet, neglected. This is a tough switch for me. While I tend to be an early riser, early morning is my intellectual, creative time. Physically, I tend to gain momentum and energy as the day goes on. But working out in the late afternoon or evening means having to do the whole shower thing, again, if I want to do anything in the evening, which means I don’t often do anything other than work out in the evening. I’m hoping this switch will work and that my physical and intellectual energy time slots will just reverse themselves to accommodate.

There is a track work out this evening I should be attending. In preparation for my upcoming marathon in December, my training really needs to include speed workouts, which are typically done at a track. I need to learn to embrace this form of training, at least once a week. The local running club in Napa, the Vinerunners, has a well coached track workout tonight and on most Tuesdays. I have yet to go. My Sacramento running club also does track workouts on Tuesday, but that’s a long way to drive, in commute traffic, for something I am resistant to doing. I’m just not a track person, and that goes for more than just running. When I run, I much prefer varied terrain and scenery, it stimulates the mind and the senses. When I horseback ride, I prefer trails to the arena, and if I were a race car driver, I know I’d much prefer road racing to track racing, again, for the scenery, the challenge of the curves and hills and the varied terrain. So, how is it, then, that I can stand to do cardio at the gym?

I have a very definite, almost OCD relationship with my cardio routine at the gym. I am very particular about the equipment, the time, the cadence, the resistance and everything. I joined my gym, specifically, because they were the only gym in town that had the brand and style of stair stepper I like. Period. Did I mention that I was a little particular? My routine is an hour and when I am finished, I am head to toe dripping with sweat, heck, I’m that way five minutes in. I don’t “phone it in” as Jillian Michaels says. So, for someone who is so into varied terrain and scenery, how do I manage working out on the same four pieces of equipment several times a week? I do math. Math is not something I am very gifted at. Yes, I know, I’m an accountant, but I wouldn’t be without the advent of software and spreadsheets. I occupy my mind on the cardio equipment by calculating percentages, for example, if I’ve worked out so many minutes and seconds out of a total of so many minutes and seconds, what percentage complete am I? It probably helps a little that my stair stepper machine, the crossramp elliptical with arm levers and the treadmill all overlook the lap pool. And the spin cycle overlooks the martial arts/basketball rumpus room. I usually have something interesting to look at when I’m not staring at the number of calories I’ve burned, the elapsed time, the mileage or when I’m not doing math in my head.

This morning as I approached the only free stair stepper, of two. On the other stair stepper, a mere foot away, was an incredibly sweaty man. He had full size bath towels, several, spread out all around the machine to catch the sweat that was flying from his pores. The machine I intended to use was splattered. Again, being a little particular about the order and preference of my cardio machines, I had to make a difficult decision. Stair stepper first next to incredibly sweaty guy? Or later, and mess with my chi. I thought about Eleanor Roosevelt. Yes, Eleanor. I always think of Eleanor when I have a fearful decision to make. “Eleanor once said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” She is also quoted as saying, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” So, I did. I worked out on the stair stepper next to extremely sweaty guy. Good thing I did, because he was sweating up a storm on that piece of equipment for 55 out of the 60 minutes I was at the gym. He finished a few minutes before I completed my last of four cardio machines. Had I waited, I still would’ve had to work out next to him, he’d have been, by that point, even sweatier, and I’d be all out of order on my machines and my chi would be officially messed up. Don’t let fear rule your decisions.

Before going to the gym this morning, I did have breakfast with Mom. To perfect my new morning schedule, I am going to have to begin a little earlier. There is that strange time vacuum that occurs at the kitchen table in the morning. We are melding better these days, she lets me do my contemplative journaling almost without interruption and I don’t go into an explosive fit conniption if she does interrupt me. I’m getting better. She reads her newspaper, silently, more and more. I only have to remind her once a week or so that I choose not to read the newspaper and so also choose not to have it read to me. But, every now and then, a newspaper article will be shoved toward my place setting and I am supposed to look up from what occupies me, and read it. Today, it was a Paella recipe, she knows I like paella, but, truthfully, after reading a few recipes, I’ve decided I’ll never make it, I’ll just go out to a restaurant. It’s intense. Besides, I can get any recipe I want online in about no time. I know, it’s the thought that counts. Before I moved in I’d get an envelope, regularly, with half of the newspaper clipped out. And coupons. None of which I ever read or used. So proximity matters little. I am always going to have bits of newspaper shoved at me. Though I am committed to going completely paperless, I suppose I’ll survive the occasional attempt to litter my life.

As the day progresses and work is through, I feel a little lost. I am all dressed up and made up and have nowhere, really, to go and nothing, really, to do, other than shop or wine taste, and I really shouldn’t. Almost seems a waste. I have plenty on my to-do list, and did spend part of my afternoon at Browns Valley Yogurt and Espresso Bar where it was cool and peaceful and not my usual scenery. I did some work there until it was no longer peaceful, thank you Elaine. Bless her heart. I think I will write down all the projects I hope to accomplish this week on bits of paper. I need to organize my shoes, shred mail sent by everyone I asked to go paperless with, shoot my next video, go through at least five boxes in the garage, and wash my car.  Then I’ll select one bit of paper out of one of my many, adorable hats and fill the rest of my evening with that task. Or not. Then to bed early, I have to get up and run tomorrow morning. First thing!

Browns Valley Yogurt  and  Espresso Bar, pre-Elaine.
Browns Valley Yogurt and Espresso Bar, pre-Elaine.
... or I could do this.
… or I could do this.

Happy Place

I have been so grumpy lately. Me, the person who preaches “positive mental attitude” and always being “in charge of your own feelings”. Hey, at least I’m honest! No amount of wine seems to help. Truth? It just makes me grumpier when morning rolls around. And I’ve fallen into that vicious cycle of “one more glass of wine” in the evening, which then results in “one more cup of coffee” in the morning. I’ve switched to half-caf in an effort to regain control, as of yesterday, and I was nearly homicidal. Today I made it a little less half and a little more caf and so far no one has cowered when I’ve tried to “explain or clarify” something.

I know I’ve mentioned in previous articles, but I have moved five times in as many years. Maybe more. I may have lost count. I’ve packed and unpacked the same boxes several times and they all, finally, fell apart. Now I have $300 worth of nice, sturdy boxes, piled four high in my room, my office, and in the garage. Partly due to my independence, my freedom and my autonomy, all of which I cherish and nurture, I am the “floating family member”, moving in to assist with rent when my son’s roommates moved on to other schools, and now, moving in with Mom to help her keep up with the house I grew up in. Can you imagine the culture shock moving from a house with a twenty-something and friends to a house with someone on the far side of octogenarian? My life has gone from trips to the gym and the pub in the same evening to a brisk ten minute escorted walk down the toothpaste aisle at Target. I know that moving in to help my son, and then my mom, is the right thing to do, given my flexibility and adaptability, but geez. I also preach that “change is good”. Well, then, I should be in excellent fricking shape! Change is all I’ve had! Constant upheaval, a complete change of locale, having to find my “vibe”, places to shop, to work out, to hang out, and the constant packing and unpacking, temporarily take their toll on my usually sunny disposition.

The move in with Mom has been much harder than I anticipated. We are both very strong willed, opinionated women with slightly, or not so slightly, different outlooks on life. True, and she realizes it, the circumstances have provided quite a bit of good blog fodder. And made me really, really out of sorts. I feel like I am reeling to regain my balance, teetering, not sure if I’m going to land on my ass, on my face, or on my feet.

The recent relocation has been the most difficult. I love Sacramento. I miss Sacramento. I know it may seem like a weird place to love and to miss, but I do. It is a “just right” town. I left Napa for Sacramento thirty some years ago, for a reason. Sacramento is just big enough without being too big. There is plenty of really decent shopping, lots of nice new developments, a great restaurant scene, lots and lots and lots of outdoor recreation possibilities and a decent wine region an hour in any direction. On a clear day there’s a view of the Sierras to the east and the coastal range to the west. How cool is that? Okay, so you can count the number of clear days per year on your fingers and toes, but they are that amazing. And really, the three or four months of hundred degree temperatures aren’t really that bad.

Moving back to Napa is hard. I know, I know. Everyone I meet is so jealous, “you live in Napa?” Um. Yah. No big. True, there are better than stellar wineries within an hour and the restaurant scene is world class. So, too, are the prices. Shopping? Nothing. You either have to go to San Francisco, an hour and some, or, Sacramento, an hour and some. My gyms, all three, “national chains”, don’t have facilities here, causing me to have to pay to end my contracts early and find a local, “single location” gym. I know. First world problems. I’m a spoiled rotten bitch.

Work has had me a bit out of sorts, too. I’ve been dreading the go-go busy travel season, which begins, um, Monday and ends, maybe, in December. It has been our “slow season”, meaning we’ve been working from home re-writing our class materials. It has been nice working from home, I guess, though I don’t really feel quite at home, living out of boxes and all. And the work, re-writing materials? Mind numbing doesn’t even begin to describe the pain and suffering involved. So, beginning next week, I guess I’ll just unpack my boxes into my suitcases and, well, see ya. My life becomes a travelling road show. Ironically, my first two weeks of travel are to Sacramento! I’m making a list of restaurants and shopping and work-outs and hikes and visits and …

Today, however, marked a change. Maybe even a paradigm shift, a much needed paradigm shift. First of all, I worked with a client on the phone and web, providing eight hours of software training. I dreaded getting up at 5:00 AM to call in on time, but once I was online and talking and joking and providing a valued service to these happy and appreciative people, it kind of rekindled what it is about my job I love. The people. Bonus, not monetary, no, but a figurative bonus. Beginning that early, I got to end my workday early, and begin “my day” while it was still bright and sunny outside! The veil of grumpiness budged, ever so slightly.

I went on a mission last week to try to figure out which of the three local gyms I am going to sign my paychecks over to. I toured them all and was given a couple free passes to each. It’s kind of like Goldilocks and the three bears, Scarlett and the three gyms.

The first one was nice, clean, had a decent offering of classes, including Zumba and yoga and spinning. But, the equipment wasn’t all that and it was affiliated with the local hospital, which, when approaching the age of fifty, is not something I really wanted to think about. I mean, most gyms have defibrillator devices posted on the wall, here and there, but I don’t think they actually ever get used. This gym had, like, crash carts, and the staff all wore surgical scrubs and stethoscopes and it was a little too close to the emergency room for my comfort.

The second gym was in the “supposed-to-be-trendy” downtown Napa area. Downtown Napa is about four blocks long and two blocks wide and consists of nice restaurants that open for a few months, then close, leaving the investors in ruin, a few short-lived tasting rooms, and a couple of really scary and totally desperate shopping venues aimed at, well, my mother. There are a ton of vacancies, and in an effort to keep up appearances for the tourists, the windows are full of displays of local artists. It all looks quite nice, but is an illusion. There, in the midst of all this “splendor”, a gym, that used to be a Woolworths, complete with a breakfast counter serving, somehow, greasy pancakes, for most of my childhood. As I toured the gym with the overmedicated customer service representative who reminded me of Joan Cusack, in character as an overmedicated, struggling not to be middle-aged woman, all I could smell was an overwhelming deodorizer-slash-air-freshener, with underlying tones of musty sweat and somehow greasy pancakes. To top this delight to my overactive olfactory senses, they were missing a crucial piece of equipment, the stair climber. I refuse to even use my free passes there, even they smell like strong air deodorizer, musty sweat and greasy pancakes. It is hard to hold your breath and pant at the same time.

The third gym is what I would call a “glitz palace”. A showcase. It is modern, bright, light and vibrant. Appointed with expensive tile half way up all the walls and nice, expensive, shock absorbent flooring. There are windows everywhere, and beautiful, clean, state of the art equipment in several locations throughout, each with a different view. So I can work out and overlook the pool one day, the basketball court another and the free weight room another. I love a workout with a view! All this and only thirty dollars more per month than the other two gyms. But, it was extremely well ventilated, had free Wi-Fi and two stair climbers. The class offering was decent and the clientele did not look like they’d be in need of resuscitation any time soon. I used my second and final free pass today. After an hour of intense cardio and a good day of working with actual people, my foul temper was, yes, almost as sunny and warm as the weather outside.

Exercising is very important, not only for my long-term health, my ability to fit into my nice jeans I rewarded myself with over a year ago for reaching my weight loss goal, to my energy and my productivity, but, probably most importantly, to my disposition. My mom isn’t in tune with this, yet. But K-man, my good, good man from the far, far north, he knows. He can tell within the first two words of a conversation with me whether I’ve managed to exercise that day, or not. If I am sad, or mad, or out of sorts, he will often say something like “why don’t you go for a run, or go to the gym, you know you’ll feel better.” He is right, always. I do feel better.

Tomorrow, my last day for mind-numbing project work. Ugh. I will drink my half CAF and fuss with headers and footers and pagination, page breaks and font size, consistent indentations for bullet lists and things that are not at all natural for an accountant to be doing. But with mind numbing project work and no scheduled class to teach, I will have the freedom and flexibility to go to the “glitz palace” gym and tithe a portion of my earnings and partake in a much needed attitude adjustment. I have found my new happy place!