You might be surprised to see me taking on movement for our Second Annual July Self-Care Retreat hosted by Cheryl (Gluten Free Goodness). The truth is I’m not physically fit. In. Any. Way. But I do believe in movement. Daily movement. And when I get in a habit of moving, I want to move more. It feels good. And it makes me healthier … even if I’m not at the optimum level of fitness or movement.
Are you moving daily? For some, movement is like breathing, and for others, it feels like they can’t breathe when they move. So they might sit on the sofa instead of move. Sometimes a litany of excuses holds us back. Here are some of the ones I use most often.
It’s too hot.
It’s too cold.
I don’t have time.
I’m too tired.
I don’t want to change my clothes to exercise.
The dog has been lying on the rug where I want to do my yoga. If I do my yoga there, I’ll get dog hair all over me. I don’t want to vacuum because Mr. GFE (or Son) is asleep, plus I don’t have time to vacuum.
And the list goes on …
Diane (The Whole Gang) shared a post a while back on the single best exercise and told us that she’d asked Melissa McLean Jory (Gluten Free for Good) what the best exercise is. Melissa is the “resident expert” for many of us gluten-free blogging friends. She has a degree in exercise science, is a nutritional therapist, yoga instructor (and much more), and lives what she teaches every single day. Melissa’s response to Diane was: “The best exercise is the one you’ll actually do.” Indeed. And the one we’ll actually do is different for each of us. It will also vary according to the time of year and what may be going on in our lives at the time.
For me, with the exception of yoga, I do much better when my movement has a purpose. Like walking the dog. Paddling the canoe on the Shenandoah River at our mountain property. Foraging for firewood at our property. Unloading/stacking firewood at our home after Mr. GFE has cut and split it. The activity can’t just be for the sake of exercise. Walking (or running) on a treadmill is not going to happen for me. I had brief success when I walked on a treadmill while watching Jeopardy and focusing on supplying the questions that went with the answers. Again, that was briefly. And that was in my own home. Even if George or Christian were working out beside me and I could “admire” them while I walked, I’d never get on a dreadmill at a gym. For me, that’s just not happening. Still it’s important to have an exercise that I will actually do as Melissa says. And again, I simply can’t do mindless exercise.
Well, maybe the exception is yoga. Some might call that a mindless exercise, purposely mindless. To do it well, ideally one must “still” the mind, so that’s sort of mindless. I love yoga though. Not over-the-top yoga. Just simple yoga moves with Rodney Yee via video each day, preferably in the morning. When I don’t do my yoga, I feel like a rusted version of myself. None of my joints seem to want to move well. However, when I do my yoga, my joints work properly and I can bound across the room and up and down the stairs. I don’t often miss my morning yoga sessions because I know how much I need them. When I was getting ready for the recent gfe retreat, I was going up and down the stairs tons of times each day, moving furniture, decluttering, and more before and after work. At one point, I had not done my yoga two days in a row and my body was getting stiffer and stiffer. One morning I was already running late for work (after squeezing in more on my “to do” list), but I literally said in my head, “You are going to do your yoga or you will not be able to walk.” So I stopped and did my yoga right then, even though I would be a little later going into work. I started out so stiffly and awkwardly and even at the end was not doing my moves with the flexibility I usually exhibit. But I felt so much better afterwards. The body I had at the end of my routine was much different from the body I had at the beginning.
Yoga effects can be as powerful (or more so) as some medications like muscle relaxers or cortisone shots, and with none of the possible side effects. How is that possible? The movements one does in yoga have been shown to actually offer anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and muscle relaxant properties. If you don’t believe in the power of yoga, you’ll want to watch this video below. It blows me away every single time I watch it. One of many things that it shows is that yoga can be done by anyone and that the power of yoga is bigger than most of us can even begin to imagine. We have to actually see yoga’s effects demonstrated in Arthur Boorman. If you haven’t seen this video already, I think you will be amazed. Yoga and Arthur both totally rock!
For those who don’t have time to view the video right now, Arthur, an American paratrooper who had been injured in the Gulf War, had been told he’d never walk again. Yoga and his commitment proved that diagnosis wrong. Read more on his story in this Huffington Post article. If you’ve been reluctant to try yoga, start like Arthur did. He used baby steps in the more literal sense of the word because he couldn’t do more than baby steps. But those baby steps “strung all together” became something completely different. He was—as the saying goes—a changed man.
Since our Self-Care Retreat started, I’ve been doing my yoga each morning and I’m far better for it. So I’m on board with yoga, but I’ve been looking to add something to my exercise in the mornings. I already do my yoga routine and walk our dog, Sonny, before work. Mornings are my prime exercise time. I like getting it done in the morning. It not only sets a positive tone for my day, but gets me limber for moving throughout the day as I said. But what else could I do?
I originally planned to add on another 30 minutes of aerobic exercise in the mornings this past week, but I realized that wasn’t going to work for my schedule. So I thought about what I might be able to do that would add to my movement without impacting my schedule greatly. Another George, George Foreman, and his wisdom came to mind. After retiring from professional boxing after holding the World Heavyweight title and losing it, he decided to make a comeback years later. As in over 10 years later. At the age of 45. I’m sure that he did all sorts of the typical weight training and daily drills that one sees in the movies, but I read one thing that he did during his drive to regain his title that has stuck with me, almost 20 years later. Each day he would dump out a bushel basket of golf balls in his yard (or gym) and then pick the balls up, one by one, returning them to the basket. This exercise was designed to improve his flexibility, dexterity, and stamina. I’ve often thought of that technique of George’s when I pick up “sticks”—twigs, branches, and even logs—scattered over our mountain property. It reminds me that the activity will not only ensure we have a nice campfire, but will also help my body. As I said I like doing movement with a purpose to begin with, but knowing that this activity is improving my body makes it much more rewarding! Oh, and incidentally, George did regain his heavyweight title with his own training program despite his long hiatus from the sport and being at an “advanced age”—45. Although he retired a few years later in 1997, he still holds the record for being the oldest Heavyweight Champion in boxing. Inspiring!
So I decided to add this activity to my morning routine this week. Consider it an outdoor, single-player version of that favorite game from childhood, Pick-Up Sticks. Remember that one? I’m pretty sure that it’s still played. A classic. You dump colorful plastic sticks (some upscale sets are made from wood) out on the floor and then take turns picking them up, acquiring and losing points depending upon whether or not you can pick up the stick without disturbing others. Interestingly enough, I just learned that Pick-up Sticks is a Native American game. It was originated by the American Indians, and taught to the pioneers who settled our country. And, rather ironically I’ll add, it was originally played with straws of wheat. It seems that the game basically remains the same as the original other than the sticks used and the ways of scoring.
What does all that have to do with movement? Well … while we certainly don’t need a campfire here right now and I don’t want to gather wood for any reason at our home, I decided I could pick up sticks—the real kind … from nature—as part of my walk with Sonny. As he ambles ahead, I pick up sticks and toss them aside in the ditch or woods. We live in a wooded subdivision, so there’s never, ever a shortage of sticks, just from the normal “droppings” from all the trees. Here’s a piece of trivia for you: an acre of hardwood (i.e., trees such as oak and hickory) yields a cord of dead wood a year. That’s just normal tree degeneration, so to speak. We live on 1 ½ acres, so there’s plenty of dropped tree “debris” just on our property to pick up. But Sonny and I venture out all over the neighborhood. I’ve set my daily stick goal at 100 sticks and I usually pick up more than that, but I must pick up 100 sticks each day. And I’ve made the rule that if I pick up more than one stick when bending over, only one counts in my total. I count in my head, but if I lose track—when say greeting a neighbor or talking to Sonny—I simply restart my counting from an even number a few back … just to keep me honest, you know? I’m doing this activity on an ongoing basis while we’re walking. Sometimes Sonny is looking back wondering what the heck I’m up to! Our walk is usually 30 to 40 minutes long, so it’s easy to get this activity worked into my morning routine and the multi-tasking aspect of it doesn’t tax my brain at all. It’s quite relaxing actually. Sometimes when I’m picking up those sticks, I see beauty from nature that I might miss otherwise … bird feathers, bird egg shells, wildflowers, ferns. Nature always speaks to my soul, and has always been a vital component of my self-care, plus my version of Pick-Up Sticks has been a great way to aid in the same things that George was seeking—flexibility, dexterity, and stamina. But, bonus, and it’s a big bonus (or maybe a getting smaller bonus?), this activity is already shaping up my gluteus maximus. While I don’t think I’ll become the female equivalent of Russell Crowe’s Maximus or anything like that, this new daily movement is making a difference to my body and outlook on life.
I’m not telling you to go out and pick up sticks in your neighborhood, but do consider getting in more movement each day. We all know the list of tips for easily adding in more movement to one’s day. Park at the furthest end of the parking lot where you live or work, always takes the stairs versus an elevator, walk versus drive whenever you can, and so forth. Some of those we can readily do daily. Some are not practical, but chances are, there are definitely simple ways to add movement to your life. For self care, try just one this week. My friend Alisa (Go Dairy Free and Alisa Cooks) recently shared that she walks 15 flights of stairs to her apartment when she goes to and from the pool each day. Awesome! I don’t come close to that stair stepping level, but sometimes I purposely make multiple trips up and down my stairs when carrying things up or down, just for the exercise benefit. Sometimes I run up and down them when transporting small objects from one floor to another, just to get my heart rate up. If we’re able, using stairs is great movement for our bodies.
Of course, simple walking is one of the most effective movements there is. I credit walking, a weight-bearing exercise, as being one of the primary contributors for reversing my osteopenia after going gluten free. Never discredit the importance of walking. Cheryl, our self-care retreat hostess, recently shared on our 2nd Annual July Self-Care Retreat Facebook group page that she’s been getting up early to walk in the mornings and it’s taking her “back to her high school days.” How cool is that? An easy way to get in movement and feel young again!
As I mentioned, if all goes well, I’ll be adding in another 30-minute activity in the mornings this week. The key to making that work is getting to bed early enough so that when I get up, I’m ready to commit to my various movement activities instead of slugging along trying to feel better through exercise alone. (Great food, aka fuel, also plays a major role, of course.) Hey, if I keep this up, I may truly feel like I qualify as someone with “an active gluten-free life,” the target audience for Melissa and Pete Bronski’s brand new book, The Gluten-Free Edge: A Nutrition and Training Guide for Peak Athletic Performance and an Active Gluten-Free Life. Have you heard about The Gluten-Free Edge? This book was officially released yesterday, but because I had pre-ordered it through Amazon, I got my copy on Wednesday. Woohoo! I’ve just started it (love the beginning!) and plan to finish reading it this weekend. As I stated on Facebook the other day, this terrific book has a little of everything … medical information, nutritional guidance, training wisdom, profiles of gluten-free athletes (you know how much I love personal stories, right? These are powerful, encouraging tales) and last, but not least, 50 recipes! Priced at $11, with that wealth of info, it’s a true value. (Note: Amazon links on gfe are affiliate links and I do get a few cents for each book sold through them.)
These posts are to inspire you all to make July a month of reflecting on self-care and the many ways to nourish ourselves. We encourage everyone to participate in this event in a way that feels appropriate to them, whether through personal reflection, journal or other self-care. If you would like to share your experience with self-care, we would love to include you in the experience, whether you join us for one week or every week. You can write generally about self-care and how you include it in your life, or “try on” one of the practices we’re blogging about over the course of the next week (movement, food, family/friends/pets, creativity and inward reflection). We ask that you link back to this post so that more people can learn about this retreat, and leave a comment for the weekly theme host, too! As a little added incentive, for each post on your goals and your progress you link back here or one of the other co-hosts, you’ll be entered to receive a $50 gift certificate to Nuts.com (donated by our hostess, Cheryl). If you would like to be included in our roundup and the drawing, please email a link to your post, along with your name and blog name, to us at selfcareretreat at gmail dot com by July 30, 2011.
Are you moving each day? Are you exercising self-care in other ways? If the answer is no, maybe you can change that this week. You’ll want to visit Cheryl, Carrie, Iris, and Valerie to read all their inspiring posts on self care. See Cheryl’s post with all the self-care retreats to date here. Last, here’s my post on Nourishment Through Family, Friends, and Pets from last year’s Self-Care Retreat. It’s one of my favorites; I hope you’ll like it, too.