Friday, January 27, 2012

Pivots and Squats, What's A Gardener To Do?

If you have a few minutes, ok, a minute and twenty seconds, would you please view this video and tell me what you think?  Doesn't this gentleman make this look so easy?  That's the way I want to get up and down in the garden.  Simply pivot and get up.  Like the camera man on the video says, "It's Magic!"  I want me some Magic in the garden.  I want to do the Martial Arts move and pivot up and pivot down just like him.

I'm assuming my thighs are the problem (along with having to hoist too many pounds).  My thighs must be too weak.  My knees do not like getting up over and over again, and that's also probably due to too much weight and also improper form in the movements.  I'm fine when I'm down on my knees, but the getting up is another thing.  I found myself last year using a five gallon pail for something to push off from or a garden stool at times, too.

Do any of you notice pain upon rising from your knees?  Have you found any exercise that helps?  My knees don't bother me at all when I walk (thank goodness) but I did notice pain climbing stairs.  I was told the best way to ascend stairs is to put the entire foot on the step (not just the toe) and push yourself up using your heel and leg muscles which takes the strain off the knees.  That has been a wonderful fix for the stair climbing.  I used to just step up using my toes on a staircase, but using the heel helps a lot.

And another thing I do wrong:  whenever I had to squat down to weed or pick up something, I was up on my toes.  That's the stance I had used all my life, even as a farm kid because you have to squat down over and over again when you milk cows.  Ouch--- the knees!  Now I read online that there is a better way to squat. 

Who knew?

Check out this video:

The only problem with using this squat technique is I tip over whenever I try to get all the way down. I was watching an online video of a young, athletic-looking guy trying to do squats keeping his heels on the floor and he kept tipping over, too.  I giggled because I could relate to his struggles.   It's going to take some practice and strengthening.  When Joel was home, I asked him if he could do it and he had no problem whatsoever.  Arghhh!!  I have to work on this.

I do NOT want to land on my still-sore behinder just yet, so I'm going to keep working on strengthening my thighs and doing squats as low as I can for now.  I know the key to all of this is not to overdo anything.  Slow and easy is the motto for this old gal.  Flexibility is not my middle name.  That's right, I can't touch my toes, either.  Can't even come close.  I like to think my failure to reach my toes is because I'm rather tall and I have short arms (I'm all about the excuses, LOL)  but I know it's because I need to work on my flexibility.  It will come with time and effort.

(I hope.)

I can't wait to hear from all of you gardeners as to what works to keep you flexible, especially in regards to getting up from a kneeling position.

I want to pivot and stand.  It looks Magical!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Where Have I Been?

Walking, walking, walking.  That's where I've been.  I get up in the morning and am in a rush to get dressed in my gym clothes (a sorry pair of old shorts and a t-shirt) tie my hair in a hastily thrown-together ponytail complete with a sweat band, all so I can get in front of the TV and be on 'time' for my Walk at Home workouts with Leslie Sansone.  Nothing like having Leslie in your living room to get you ready to exercise.

Teddy and Pudding dogs glance up from their comfy doggie beds to survey my wardrobe and sigh audibly as they turn around and face the other direction.   They don't want to watch the spectacle.  Gotta love Shih Tzus, they have relaxation down to a science.  My frenzied flopping around in the living room doesn't interest them one iota.  Twenty-five days have elapsed since I got on this exercise kick and I haven't missed a day yet.  Ok, so I'm a bit OCD.  I admit it. 

We don't have a bathroom scale, I know, how silly.  We used to have one, but I wore it out years back by:

A. Weighing myself too often
B. Weighing too much.  

(If it was a one of those talking scales it would probably say, "Only one person at a time, please!")  

So now the only scale we have is an antique freight scale out in the garage.  Yes, a freight scale.  How's that for irony?  I hopped on it New Year's Eve when we weighed some meat we'd just brought home from the packing plant.   Carl was there and read the number out loud for me.  

I said, "Come again?" 

He repeated the number.  

I said, "Surely you jest."  I kept looking to make sure the meat we were weighing wasn't on the scale with me, I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  Oh, dear.  That's not good.  The old Polar Bear doctor was right.  I have to do something.

He said no, no jesting.  That was the number on the old scale. 

Thankfully Carl didn't make anything of it, but see, he's been married to me for 33 years and he's a Smart Man.  A Smart Man knows instinctively not to exclaim, "Wow! Isn't that an all-time high for you?"  A Smart Man knows this is Dangerous Territory to be in.  Especially if he wants me to cook for him again. 

That was twenty five days ago and I have not been back out to the garage yet for a weigh-in.  I don't want to become super-obsessed with the sheer poundage, I just want to work at getting fit.  At this point, I could not handle the agony of seeing the numbers haven't gone down even a little or worst of all, have gone up!  I do know my jeans are a tad looser, and I'm taking that as a sign all this work is helping.   I keep a diligent food journal and write down the calories in the ketchup.  Having  hypothyroidism makes this all a bit more difficult, too, as my dosage is changed often. 

My friend Nancy suggested I join a free exercise class at our church where I am the among the youngest participants.  I go twice a week with a group of people who are in their 60's, 70's and 80's and believe me, they are in good shape.  It's amazing and humbling to know I find the workout difficult at times.  The leader of our group is in her 70's and can do pushups like a teenager.  Since I cannot do pushups like that, I was simply stunned watching her drop to the floor and give me ten. I struggle through two and that's from my knees, not straight out.  The lady is so fit; I can only wonder what she thinks of me.  (I'm secretly glad she hasn't told me, it would hurt.)

Ironically, the fall down the basement stairs in December was the true catalyst for all this frenzied exercise since there was no way I could sit comfortably.  My rump is getting better, but it's still far from happy about my being seated for any length of time.  When it first happened the only thing that made the injury feel better was walking.  Little, mincing, baby steps to be sure, but the walking made everything better.  I wasn't able to walk much at first, but now am up to five and a half miles again most days, and today, up to eight. I'm aiming for at least sixty minutes of aerobic exercise (per my pedometer) every day.  Leslie does much more than just walk, it's all low-impact, but it sure makes me sweat and I've found muscles I didn't know I owned when I do her floor exercise strength training routines, too. 

So, am I any skinnier?   Looking in the mirror, I'd say, nope, not yet.  I always remember my mother saying when she was around 50 years old  that she was glad she didn't live in a nudist colony.  She said clothes cover up a multitude of problems and I wholeheartedly agree now that I'm 53, too.  If I had to move to a Nudist Colony, I'd be the one living in the hosta bed fertilizing the 'Sum and Substance' hostas nonstop.  Those big leaves would make a great cover up for anyone my size.

We've had a little snow and Joel's taken the 574 out and plowed my walking trails in the Back Eight for me.  I took the snowblower to the other trails around the garden again.  It's been wonderful to be out and about every day for walks with the dogs.  And Carl, sometimes, too.  He has been going with me a few times now, which is great; I know he walks a lot at his job and I don't want to force him to go out again, but he's been enjoying it.  I love to go out just before sunset and enjoy the twilight.
Up by the woods in the Back Eight

 Yep, that's me, snowblowing my walking trails in the gardens. 

 I'm going to keep pecking away at the weighty issues in my life.

I sure do miss blogging and visiting all my friends, though.  Hopefully, soon I'll be able to sit for more than five minutes at a time. 

 I'm more than a little behind in everything this winter!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ahhhhh...That's More Like It

We are finally back to normal January weather.  I wasn't sure I'd ever say this, but I'm really glad to see it.  I often wondered what it would be like to live in a climate where the seasons didn't change much and this winter (or lack of it up until now) was a sample of what it might be like.  It was pleasant in some aspects, but unsettling in others.

I'm used to snow.  And when it was near 50 degrees earlier this week with no snow on the ground, I found myself restless.  It was too nice to stay indoors and work on stained glass or the dreaded housework, but yet the nights were too cold to do any mortaring work on Castle Aaargh, so I would find myself at loose ends, wandering around wondering what to do.

The yard in early January
The dogs and I were having a wonderful time cavorting around outside, and if I would have known how much time I had to get the fall cleanup done, well, then I wouldn't have had to rush at all back in October and November.  We even loaded up a trailer full of rocks on Monday. I don't remember EVER moving rocks in January.  It felt good to hoist a ton or so; we had some smaller ones we wanted to move from one pile to another.  (I don't need a gym for upper body workouts, ha. I have my rocks.)

But, finally, on Thursday, we had a mini-snowstorm that dropped a little more or less than five inches.  Ah, yes, that's the way it should be.
 Snow, snow everywhere.

Ernie all nicely frosted

Snow transforms everything

Sudddenly the slightest bit of color just pops out of the white.

The ornamental grasses were bent but not broken by the dazzling snow display.

I was thinking how pretty a winter wedding would look down in the Formal Garden if the wedding party could stay warm.  The dwarf crabapple trees, 'Coralburst' were frosted just perfectly all around the dome.

I went overboard taking pictures from every different angle.
The trees were just perfectly dusted with snow.  Any little breeze and the flakes would sift off the branches with a shimmering sound.

There's that subtle touch of color again, a yellow cedar showing up on the other side of the dome.

From inside the dome the stone wall we started to replace last summer shows up much better in the winter.  And so does the red barn in the background.
I know, more of those crabapple trees, but I couldn't resist.  In spring, they are a gorgeous bubble-gum pink color, but I like the white 'blooms' too.

Summer is much more colorful, I wholeheartedly agree, but I need this time, too.  More time to reflect and recharge.

 Teddy and Pudding dogs and I can still do our walkies in the Back Eight.  The snow won't slow us down just yet.  It's got to get deeper before that becomes a true problem.

The scenery is all different now.
The trees are so stark and beautiful

Once again, the colors show up so much more vibrantly than before the snowfall.

 Our trails are still there, only now they are magically transformed.

 We have to make tracks before the snow gets too deep. 

It's great to be back to normal!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wednesday Weirdness

 The weather has been so nice out for the past week that I've been spending much of it outdoors.  I took down all the Christmas decorations which is a record for me, because they would normally be buried under a coupla feet of snow by now.  This has got to be the oddest January I can ever remember.  I hear we're in for a snowstorm by tomorrow, though, and that's a good thing.  We don't want bitter cold temperatures that are bound to come to catch us without a nice, warm blanket of snow.

I haven't been blogging as much lately, either, mostly because my tailbone is still healing and I can't sit down.  So in the meantime,  I've caught the fitness bug.  Every morning I walk, walk, walk, walk ala Leslie Sansone and well, it takes time, 73 minutes if I do the five mile workout.   I have high hopes it will do me some good.  We'll see.  I read somewhere that most resolutions don't make it until February 1.  I didn't make a resolution, so I wouldn't feel guilty about breaking it, ha!   Someone asked me if I'm seeing results yet, well, I've only been doing this for eleven days, so nope, I haven't seen massive results yet.

I ordered another DVD that came in the mail yesterday and I sat down and watched it for about ten minutes.  Yeah, I know, you're not supposed to sit and watch it, but I was already done with my other workout.  Anyway, I think I'm going to keep that one on the side until I'm in much better shape because to tell you the truth, I was completely worn out just watching them hop around.  What I like the most about Leslie Sansone's workout is the simple steps.  I'm really not very coordinated and her workouts are easy to follow.

Over twenty-five years ago I used to tape (on my Sony Beta-Max, remember that?) a workout that came on TV every day and try to follow along with it after work.  I was twenty-something years old then and the exercise program was aptly named the 20 Minute Workout.  There were three or four young girls on rotating platforms who would jump and hop around and stretch and lunge with their big hairdos and 1980's leg warmers and tights on.  They did everything but sweat.

It was impossible for me to follow.   I'd be just getting into the routine only to look up and see they'd moved on to yet some other contortionist act.  Sometimes I'd get so frustrated, I'd hop up and down flapping my arms like a chicken in an attempt to catch up on all the moves I'd missed.   I felt I had to do all the steps since they were imperative to achieving a Size 2 body.  Needless to say, it never happened.  The Size 2, that is.  I would usually end up gasping for air and feeling woefully inadequate while they continued disco-dancing their way to skinnydom.  I never mastered the art of bending over at the waist, grasping my ankles as my ponytail grazed the floor and gazing seductively through my legs at the camera either.  Those little smirks and suggestive winks were so over-the-top.  I think it was more of a tape for men to watch then for flabby women to work out with.   I always made sure to do the cool-down, though, that I could handle.

The only problem with all this walking is it cuts into my blogging time, and I need to write for my mental health as much as I need to walk for my physical health.  So I've been writing snippets here and there every day. And with the weather being so unseasonably warm, we're starting to panic about the stained glass, too.  We usually build a lamp or two over the winter and if we don't get our rears in gear, that won't happen.  It's hard to concentrate on stained glass when it's almost 50 degrees outside.

We did get the little window done for the stained glass quilt for the Association of Stained Glass Lamp Artists this past weekend though.  The pattern they sent out was a selection of the Spider Mum lamp.  It turned out fairly well.  

I am sitting shivering as I write this.  I did something really stupid this afternoon.  Since we have our little flock of nine free-range hens, we are still getting at least four eggs a day probably due to the warm weather.  Carl and I love boiled eggs, so I took the oldest ten or so of the four dozen we have on hand (I pencil a date on the eggs every day) and set them to boil on the stove.

I used to set a timer for ten minutes when I boiled eggs before, but for Christmas I was given one of those plastic egg timers that  turns from red to black when the egg is done to the hardness you would like.  Well, wouldn't you know I put the eggs on to boil and went to the basement to start doing laundry and forgot all about them.  There's no timer that goes off when they're done, you're supposed to watch them.  Of course, a watched pot never boils, so I thought I'd get a good start on the laundry.

It wasn't until I heard a weird popping noise upstairs that I ran up to find the kitchen enveloped in blue smoke.  I grabbed the smoking pan and went right outside with it where it finished billowing in the driveway.  Such a mess and such a smell!  The egg timer melted down on one end and the eggs themselves had started to char.  I wasn't gone that long, but had chosen a smaller pan than usual and it had boiled dry.  And wouldn't you know, the smoke alarm that normally goes off when the toast gets a little warm remained mute through all of this mayhem. 

I turned the furnace off and opened all the windows and went back to washing with my wringer washer.  It's now a few hours later and the house is a chilly fifty-three degrees but at least it smells much better in here now.

Time to turn up the heat or pop that new exercise DVD in..........that will heat things up around here.  But I will shut the windows first!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I Want Mom Jeans

I'm sorry, but what is the deal with jeans?

I stood in my local farm and garden store just before Christmas with literally hundreds of jeans from various makers stacked in their little particle board cubicles all staring back at me. There they were, in a limited range of colors, shades of blue and black, pre-washed or extra-dark-rinsed according to current fashion and taste.

Mid-rise, low-rise, at-the-waist, just-below-the-waist, lower-on-the-waist.......good grief.  Slender cut, boot cut, straight leg, slightly flared. Slender stretch, classic fit, skinny jeans, petite, medium, long.

I know what I want.

I'm 53 years old.

And I'm a mom twice over.

I want Mom Jeans.

 Is that asking too much?  I don't care if 'Mom Jeans' are SO out of fashion, I really don't. I want jeans that have a zipper longer than two inches and I want the waistband to be at my WAIST and not a mere whisper above my netherlands.

I know, I know, I'm 53, soon to be 54 and sigh, I probably shouldn't be wearing jeans anymore, especially in the current shape I'm in, but I have worn jeans virtually all of my life and I'm not gonna stop now.  They are what I'm comfortable in and that's the end of the story.  I could never get used to sweat pants, it just ain't gonna happen.  Spandex, jeggings, capris, what-have-you are not my forte'.  I just want denim.  Five pockets, please, no rhinestones, or pocket flaps to make my dented derriere look even bigger, no bizarre washes or rinses that make them look white in certain areas and darker in others, I don't need trendy, I need comfort and utility.  I want a dark rinse, because, believe me, after a summer of weeding and throwing rocks around, they will be stressed. 

I was doing my Leslie Sansone walking workout this morning and one thing I found so refreshing was the fact that not all the people in her video are a Size 0.  There are some ladies my size (gasp) and that means a lot to me.  The larger ladies were all properly covered with workout pants and shirts that met them at the waist.  The majority of the skinnier chicks were, of course, wearing the cropped tank tops and the low-rise workout pants.  Good for them, though I really can't see how low-rise is comfortable, even for skinny chicks.   Fat or thin, I would be constantly tugging my pants up and my shirt down.  But that's me.  And you all know I'm weird. 

Who really likes the low-rise jeans?  I read somewhere (yes, I actually did an online search for the answer) that low-rise is supposed to make the torso look longer and leaner by giving the illusion of a longer waist.  Really?  Well, maybe, if you're built like a ten year old boy.  But if you're built like me (and I have more in common with a Mack Truck) then low-rise spells disaster.  I'd best be wearing a t-shirt that comes down to my ankles so there will be no involuntary sightings of non-appetizing culinary confections.

You know what I'm talking about. Love-handles AKA the dreaded Muffin Top.  Or in my case, more like a Loaf Top.  I think even the menfolk out there will agree there's such a thing as a woman showing too much cleavage.   However, pardon me, (ahem) butt cleavage is Really Not Cool.  With all the old jokes about plumber's butt, why does the fashion world purposely set out to make it a much more common sight?  I saw a young girl bend down in the grocery store the other day and halfway up she had to drop the canned goods to rescue her modesty.  She was close to full-frontal (and rear-al) disaster.

When I bend over, I want my jeans to have my back side fully covered, thank you very much.  I do this for you, the unsuspecting public.  No one wants to see that.

Go put some Mom Jeans on.

(My apologies to Leslie Sansone, this is SO not her video!) 


Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year

Here we go again.  Another new year is upon us.  This is always a rather melancholy time of year for me.  I know I'm not alone in this feeling, though.  Many people feel a bit down during and after the holiday hustle and bustle.  Carl was off of work for a week and a half and we had such a nice time together that this morning things felt a bit empty around here.

I decided to try turning over a new leaf this morning.  Though I walk as much as I can around the farm and down the road, winter is making an appearance finally.  We now have about two inches of snow on the ground.  I won't be able to do much walking off-road once the next snowstorm hits.  Normally in the winter, I cross-country ski.  But, it is also customary that I take at least one or two tumbles a winter when I'm on skis.  (Just call me Grace.)    I'm not looking forward to falling on my dented derriere again, so I'm thinking the skis will have to wait until next year.  Once the snow gets a little deeper, I will get out my snowshoes, which is fun, too, but I prefer skiing.  The thought of a gym membership has never appealed to me, not even when I was slimmer.  I prefer to look ridiculous in private.

I have never invested in exercise equipment.  I don't have enough room in this house for a treadmill.  I know a few people who owned one, and it ended up being a clothes hanger.  That's all I need, a big ol' place to toss coats on.  NOT.  I had thought about getting a Wii Fit when they first came out, but so many people told me it wasn't worth the money and it would end up sitting in the corner (or the cabinet, or wherever you store exercise equipment). I thought it looked like great fun, but I guess it gets old after awhile?

And, to tell you the truth, running on a treadmill seems silly; like a waste of time and energy.  Being an old farm kid, I never had to worry about not getting enough exercise.  Exercise opportunities and work go hand in hand  on a farm.  You're always walking or running somewhere, pitching something, hoisting buckets and bales and climbing ladders to get to the haymow.

Ann and I often talked about how much of a shame it is that all the work on a weight-lifting machine or treadmill or aerobics class couldn't be put to good use.  In other words, it would be so much better if you could get something productive done while you exercise.  Maybe I should see if I could generate electricity for the house.  Carl should be able to rig up some sort of a Rube Goldberg invention that would make all the energy output useful. 

In years past, Carl and I would saw down some trees during the winter which is a great workout, running my little chainsaw, piling up brush, loading the wood.  Makes you feel alive.  I love the fresh air.  But we haven't had any trees to take down for awhile now and the only other work is Castle Aaargh which needs warmer weather because right now the rocks are frozen down to the ground.  I do have some dead branches to clear out of the white pines in the Back Eight, though, as long as the snow doesn't get too deep.  So there IS something I could be doing.

I do try to make my walks count.  My mother lives a little less than a half mile away, so I take the opportunity to stop in and see her almost every time I go for a walk.  That way, I'm checking in on her and seeing how she's doing and we have a nice visit.  Of course, the dogs, Teddy and Pudding,  are guests of honor at Grandma's house and have special  pillows they gravely wait to have laid down for them on their perch by her big kitchen window.  They know the drill so well that if I try to walk by without stopping, I have two seriously confused dogs on my hands.  We have to stop and see Grandma.  It's a tradition.

  So, I rented a walking exercise video on New Year's Day and am attempting to sweat myself into better shape.  Heaven knows the shape I'm in right now isn't a good one.  Actually, I am counting my blessings because after my little trip down the stairs things could have been much worse, so I am grateful I'm still walking. I could be in a body cast.  But after taking a hard look at the old pictures of the way I was and now viewing the way I am, well, I'm a lot overwhelmed.  How's that saying go?  Every journey starts with a single step or something like that?  Well, I've gotta a whole lot of steps in front of me.  Staying motivated is always the hardest part.

After renting the video, I was intrigued; I wondered if there were other ones out there that are fun, too.  The walking one is really a lot more intense than I thought it would be, but I have to take it back on Friday.    I took a completely out-of-the-box step yesterday afternoon and ordered a dance exercise video online. We'll see how this goes when it arrives.  (I didn't even tell Carl I did this.)  I figure a DVD is a lot smaller to store in a closet than a treadmill or an elliptical thing.

Not that it will end up in the closet.

I'm going to dance myself fit.

Or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

Wish me luck.