Thirty Minutes a Day

My mother taught me everything I need to know about weight control. Notice that I said “me.” What works for me might not work for you if you have issues like thyroid problems or a slow metabolism. Her lessons can be summed up in the words I see at Scott Park: Eat less, move more.

When I was about twelve, I was helping my mother clear the table after a scrumptious Sunday dinner. Although I don’t recall the main course, I know it was Good with a capital G because Marjorie Ann was an excellent cook. I do, however, remember the dessert, cherry pie with ice cream on top. I LOVE cherry pie and can still taste the tart, yet sweet, flavor of those dark red cherries. And that dollop of vanilla ice cream was literally the “icing on the cake.”

“I want another piece of pie,” I told my busy mother.

“Do you really need another piece?” she asked.

While I was wondering what need had to do with it, she sweetly told me that that’s how people got fat—eating seconds, especially of desserts. Although I was probably about the skinniest kid in the sixth grade, her words hit home. No, I didn’t want to get fat, and if cherry pie was going to do that to me, then no thanks.

When I was a child, we lived in a small house, and truthfully, I remember as much or more about the yard than the house because my mother often said, “Go outside and play.” And play we did. I recall some bushes behind the house that we used to jump around in and shriek, “Murder below!” Why we said that, I’m not sure. In the summertime, we stayed out so late that we collected jars of lightning bugs and then punched holes in the jar lids, hoping to keep the tiny fireflies alive.

Years later, I rarely eat more than one piece of pie or anything else. I don’t trust myself with cherry pie, however, so I don’t even purchase it. Now that I’m older and wiser, I’ve also learned that there is a direct correlation between what a person ingests and how she feels. Too much mac and cheese makes me feel sluggish; apples make me feel light and energetic. Soft drinks make me feel bloated; water makes me feel “fine.” Too much food makes me feel nauseated and overly full; just the right amount makes me feel satisfied but not uncomfortable.

About playing outside, while I don’t play in the bushes behind our house or stay out to collect lightning bugs, I do spend some time outside each day. Unless there’s a blizzard, a torrential rain, or 100 degree temperatures, I’m going for a walk. Whether 20 minutes or two hours, I go outside to play. Naturally, there are other exceptions such as traveling or sickness.

As an aside, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggest 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. That seems like a lot when you first read it, but it’s only thirty minutes a day, five days a week. Some health professionals recommend breaking it into fifteen minutes twice a day if you don’t have thirty minutes.

Walking’s not for everyone. I like it because I don’t have to have any special equipment, join a team, or have a set schedule or location. I’ve walked in places where cars don’t go and seen things I’d have missed if I’d been cruising along in a car or riding a bike. At the same time, if biking, working out, doing yoga, dancing, swimming, or some other type of movement works best for you, then that’s what you should do.

For me, however, walking it is. As a “non-athlete” (something my husband reminds me of on a regular basis), it’s a type of exercise I can actually do without having to worry about coordination, speed, or team spirit. There’s a woman in our neighborhood who walks with a walker, and she’s my current role model. “Just do it,” her actions proclaim.

I’d write more, but I need to lace up my shoes and hit the pavement. I hope you don’t interpret this blog as being preachy. I’m just trying to prolong your life, boost your spirits (exercise elevates mood), and improve your health, both mental and physical.

What’s your favorite form of exercise? And what about your weight loss strategies?

Rainy Day Thoughts

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Years and years and years ago, my brother Mike and I went for a walk around the block in the rain. Why we decided to do such a thing, I don’t know. Neither of us were particularly into fitness in those days, mainly because we were young and thin and healthy. Our mother was a stickler for the major food groups. We never even tasted pizza until we were in high school, not because our parents didn’t approve of it but rather because there were no places to buy it in Camden until the 1960s.

But I digress. Yesterday morning I put on a hat, opened my bright orange IKEA umbrella, and headed out the front door for a walk in the rain. “Enough is enough,” I thought. “I’m not going to be held captive indoors by this rainy weather another moment.” Undaunted by the steady drizzle, out I went for a brisk walk around the neighborhood. It was delightful! With temps in the 60’s, the plunk-plunk of water splashing into puddles, and the cool rain hitting my calves, I was glad that I had decided to brave the elements.

Here’s what I noticed right away, the circles in the puddles. Puddles were everywhere, and the steady dripping of rain made some interesting circular designs. Some circles were big and some were small, and just about every single one of them overlapped or intersected with another, sometimes several others. Plus, ALL of them rippled out into ever widening concentric circles.

The puddle patterns made me think of my brother and our walk that day decades ago and of our parents and their love and care for us (not just the two of us, but all four children). All six of our lives intersected and overlapped, then and now. Today even the grandchildren and great grandchildren are affected by that original family of six and the experiences, choices, and interaction that we all had. Plus, none of the family members live a cloistered life. All are involved, even the young ones, in some type of work, church, play, or community activity, thus giving them the opportunity to intersect with even more lives.

Here is my point (at last). The choices we make and the things we do have a ripple effect, and some of them affect others with whom our lives are entwined and connected. Right now I’m getting ready to go on another walk around the neighborhood. Like Mike said, “I keep moving so I can keep moving.” I know exactly what he’s talking about. After my walk, I’ll get gussied up (sort of) for church. I know for a fact about the ripple effects of that experience. If I didn’t go, well, we don’t even want to think about how beastly I might feel and act.

I could go a lot deeper into the above, but if I do, then I’ll lose the time for walking and worshipping. Can’t do that. The ripple effects of exercise are far reaching. Plus, the interlacing of lives, just like puddles, will be made more pleasant for my family and friends after I spend a couple of hours in church.

What about you? What are some ripple effects of your actions? How are some ways that your life and the decisions you make affect others?

Dogs and Sea Birds

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I should be grading assignments. I know that. And yet, I just have to share some pictures I took when my brother Mike and I took an early morning walk along the beach a few hours ago. I texted him last night to say I’d pick him up at 7 this morning unless it rained, and this morning he wrote and said, “Je suis prêt.” I think that meant that he was ready and waiting. He’s not French, just unique. He can speak French and German. Nice having a polyglot for a brother. I’m exaggerating just a bit. His French isn’t that bon (bien?), but his German  is.

This morning when I picked Mike up, it was raining. Mall walking was a back-up plan, and I’m sure glad that by the time we arrived Myrtle Beach State Park, the steady rain had slowed to a drizzle. Within five minutes, it had stopped completely. Malls are fine, but there’s just something extraordinarily special in Mother Nature’s offerings, and this morning’s sights and sounds were no exception.

This morning we saw frolicking dogs, one of whom was turning around and around and around chasing a red cloth that he had in his own mouth. It was hysterical to watch, and we wondered aloud whether he would be dizzy after so much twirling. Farther along the strand, we spied two small figures out in the cold ocean, and Mike said, “Can you imagine going in the water this morning? You know they have to be freezing.” About that time, we saw their father watching from the shore and asked when he was going to join them.

“I’m not! That water’s so cold I can’t even keep my feet in it,” he said.

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Mike and I came to the area just beyond the Springmaid Pier where there’s often a swash of water so deep and wide that a person can’t cross over without getting wet. Anyone familiar with this stretch of shoreline knows this exact spot. We considered jumping from rock to rock but thought better of it. Can’t afford to break a limb at this stage of the game. No problem. We simply turned around and walked south for another 45 minutes.

Above and around us was the gray sky filled with white fluffy clouds. I used to know the name of them but have forgotten. Perhaps one of my grandchildren will let me know a nimbus from a cumulus. Beside us was the greenish gray ocean, roaring and pounding on the shore. And yes, it was flecked with foam. We walked out on the pier and observed the seabirds as they sat like sentinels keeping an eye on the ocean (and their next meal?). One of them sat hunkered down as though hiding from something. Humans with iPhones perhaps? We went through the gift shop on the way to and from the pier, and the gentleman there assured us that the weather would be nicer later in the day. The beach in any kind of weather is good!

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Mike and I talked about religion, blessings, America, family, and health. About the latter, we concur with the experts that prevention is better than any cure. We don’t know that exercise and attention to diet will solve all health issues, but we do know that a sedentary lifestyle and too many doughnuts can be hazardous to your health and longevity. About family, Mike said he knew for a fact that our youngest brother David was the favorite because his name has two syllables while the rest of us have names with one: Jayne, Mike, and Ann. Crazy, funny guy! The truth is that if our parents had a favorite, they hid it well.

Time to start reading assignments. It’s a great big beautiful world right outside of your window, and experiencing some of its wonders with a cool brother got my day off to a wonderful start. Mike also said that of the four of us, he thought I was the most “out there.” Hmmm. Good or bad thing?

The Incredible Shrinking Woman

At dinner the other evening, my friend Connie and I discussed the fact that we don’t blog as much as we used to. “Why is that?” we wondered aloud. Sure, our lives are busy, and at times we’re a little frazzled, but that’s nothing new. What we think is that Facebook and Words with Friends has cut into our blogging time! We love social media, and yet it can be quite distracting. Both Connie and I have dozens of things to write about, and we develop blog posts as we’re driving along en route to our various destinations. The problem is (or one of them) that we don’t write these things down.

That said, one of the things I’ve thought about numerous times during the last several months is the incredible shrinking woman. She’s a young woman that I often seeing walking at a local track. When I first saw her at Scott Park, I could tell that she was struggling to keep on keeping on. I wanted to say, “You go, Girl! You can do it!” I didn’t say anything though. Unsure of track decorum, I kept my enthusiasm for her efforts to myself.

Since I don’t go to the park every day, it was probably three weeks before I saw her again, moving a little faster that time. Walking steadily and resolutely, she and I came face-to-face and nodded a greeting. I remember thinking, “YES!” to her perseverance and determination.  I continued to see her almost each time I visited the track, and then one day I noticed a change in her appearance. She was noticeably smaller and quite a bit faster.

And then the  morning arrived when I couldn’t believe my eyes! She had lost so much weight that I just had to comment on it. “You’re looking good!” I said as we passed each other. She didn’t just nod; she twirled around with a smile and said, “Thanks for noticing.” How could I help but notice? Just guessing, I’d say that she had probably lost 60-75 pounds from walking those tree-lined paths.

The beautiful, healthy young woman has probably paid more attention to her diet too. It’s been my observation that once people begin an exercise regimen, they care more about what they put into their bodies. I’m not saying we don’t like Hershey bars; I’m just saying we eat them more infrequently.

So kudos to the incredible shrinking woman who consistently demonstrates the power of exercise. Keep in mind that she’s not working out with fancy machines or paying for a membership at a fitness center. Nope. She’s putting one foot in front of another, one of the most inexpensive and effective types of exercise there is.