Tuesday, August 18, 2009
We have been coming to Santa Fe to see opera in August for somewhere between 20 and 25 years now. The Santa Fe Opera produces 5 operas every summer, starting in July with one or two and gradually adding operas until all 5 are in production. By August, all 5 are being performed "in rep," which means a different opera every night, cycling continuously through the five. So you can come for a week and see opera every night. Some might not think that sounds appealing, but for us, it is a highlight of the year.
After so many years, we have developed "traditions," as you might expect. We have stayed at so many places around the square and have explored Santa Fe and its environs fairly thoroughly. Santa Fe is in the mountains between Albuquerque and Taos. Its elevation is 7260 ft (well over a mile above sea level). However, the base elevation of the Santa Fe ski area just outside of town is 10,350 ft, among the highest ski ares in the continental United States. In the summer, you can take the ski lift up to the top and hike to a nearby peak that is somewhere between 11,000 and 12,000 ft. I had my one (and hopefully only) experience with altitude sickness after we foolishly did that hike early in one of our trips. We quickly learned not to schedule any hiking in the mountains until we had been there for several days. Fortunately, I have never had problems with the elevation of Santa Fe, itself.
In the early days, we usually made the trip with large or small groups of Austin friends, fellow opera lovers. Many of those friends are no longer with us or are too infirm to travel now. Walking around the square is always a pleasant visit with many happy memories of past trips and of absent friends. Santa Fe has changed over the years, but much of it that we love has endured.
About 10 years ago, we started staying in condos or suite hotels so that we could have a kitchen. About 6 years ago, we started driving rather than flying so that we could bring plenty of supplies and critical things like my VitaMix (:-). One of the first things we do when we arrive is visit the local Whole Foods and stock up on fruits and vegetables and selections from the deli for our favorite Santa Fe opera tradition -- tailgating. The Santa Fe opera house is an open air theater in the hills of Santa Fe on the Taos road. It is completely covered now (wasn't always, which made for interesting experiences when thunderstorms were in the area). But it is open on the sides so that you have a view of the mountains and the sky. The back of the stage can be open, too, and usually is for the first act. You can see the mountains in the background, with the last remnants of the sunset glowing behind them and the lights of Los Alamos starting to twinkle. Sometime you see thunderstorms in the mountains. I remember one particularly memorable production of the Flying Dutchman when, during the onstage "storm" as the Dutchman was landing, there was a huge thunderstorm raging in the mountains, with thunder and lightening right on cue.
Since it is an open air theater, the opera can't really start until the sun has gone down, which is 8:30 in August. A local tradition has developed of tailgating before the performance -- bringing a picnic dinner or cheese and crackers and champagne -- and watching the sun set before the performance starts.
(view from the parking lot).
We have been doing this for years now. Since we drive, we can bring a camp table (if we are going to have a meal) and chairs (for sipping champagne). Many of the locals go all out with table cloths and candles! Often, you can hear opera selections booming from the nearby cars. Last night, one of our neighbors was actually singing along (and he wasn't bad). It is great fun. My husband always brings his camera as the sunsets can be spectacular with the right weather conditions. Frequently you see rainbows over the mountains.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I have been reading Galloway's book "Training Programs." About half way through is a very interesting section on "mental training." His discussion of "magic words" and "dirty tricks" I found especially intriguing.
Magic words are words or affirmations that evoke positive feelings or associations that can distract you from discomfort or from negative thoughts that hit you when you are under stress. "Dirty tricks" are played on the left brain, either to distract it or to let the right brain briefly take over your thinking through visualization or other acts of imagination. Galloway says to explore these as you train to find what works for you. "The more you use them, the more effective they become."
I decided I would experiment with these ideas during my run this morning. Today was a short run, and I had planned to throw in some hill running. Because of the heat, I wanted to be out no later than 8am and hopefully earlier than that. But just as I was about to leave, a contractor showed up earlier than expected. By the time I had taken him through the work list, it was already past 8:30 and closer to 9:00. My left brain started up immediately, "It's too late to run now. It will already be too hot to run for very long." So my first dirty trick was to lie to my left brain, "That's ok, we'll just do the hills on Cross Valley rather than go up to Ledge Mountain. That's just a couple of block away and we won't have to be out for very long."
The first hill on Cross Valley is short, but steep. As I run (slowly), I practiced some magic words. "My legs are strong today." "They are really powerful." I made it to the top and took a walk break. As my left brain was basking in my accomplishment, I hooked a quick left off of Cross Valley onto a street that would take me to Ledge Mountain Drive. "Whoa," said my left brain. "That's ok, we can turn off when we get to the top of the hill and head home."
This hill was not quite as steep, but much longer than the first one. I ran slowly, repeating my phrases about strong my legs were and how good my breathing was. I noticed a walker ahead of me on the sidewalk, also working her way up the hill. As I reached her, she stopped and leaned against a mailbox to catch her breath. We exchanged greetings, and all of a sudden a vision of Yoda popped into my head. "Be one with the hill," he said. I laughed. The walker didn't look very happy but I don't think it had anything to do with me.
I ran past the turn off to home. "It's not that much farther to Ledge Mountain. Let's do just one lap." The Yoda image had been fun, so I decided to switch from magic words to visualizations.
Ledge Mountain is a short stretch of flat road. One lap is about 3/4 of a mile. My left brain was warning me to be sensible. "It's hot and you've already run harder than you usually do before you get here." I started to run. "But don't you see, someone has installed one of those moving walkways like they have at O'Hare." I summoned up the visual memory of that moving walkway and the physical memory of what it felt like. I saw myself arriving at the train station under the airport and riding the escalator down to the train. About that time I reached the end of the street and turned around to come back.
When I took my walk break, my left brain started chattering again. The sun had come out from behind some clouds and was really beating down. "See, it's really going to be bad now. You should cut this short and go home." "But don't you see, we've just stepped into the sauna at the gym. Isn't it invigorating -- can't you feel your pores opening?" (Fortunately, the sun went back behind some clouds again.) I switched back to the image of the moving walkway on the second lap. As I turned to come back, a breeze started up. It made me think of riding my bike along this stretch of road. So I invoked that memory for a while -- coasting easily along with the wind in my hair. Before I knew it, the second lap was done.
I agreed with my left brain at that point to head for home. The way back is more down hill than up hill, but there is one fairly steep hill shortly after turning off of Ledge Mountain. "You've done enough for today. Just walk it." "But don't you see, my husband is at the top of the hill with a rope. He's going to help us." I pulled my shoulders back, raised my chest a bit, and imagined a rope attached to the center. I saw my husband at the top of the hill, reeling the rope in. Before I knew it, I had run up the hill. The rest of the way was mostly down hill and I was home before I knew it.
Reading over this, I know it sounds fairly silly, but it turned out to be a lot of fun today and I'm going to try it again.
Sunday, August 09, 2009
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"
I signed up with SparkPeople on 26 January 2009, but I consider my real start to be 2 February, which is the day I reset my ID, published my goals, and got to work. It has been fruitful six month, full of accomplishments, surprises, and discoveries.
I never had any doubt that I would meet my weight loss goals. When I set a goal for myself, I'm fairly single minded about pursuing it (my husband would say obsessive, but he's not writing this blog). I knew that I would do what it took for as long as it took. No, my concern was for what would happen after I met my goals. The traits that make me good at reaching goals don't always lend themselves to the longer term. By this I mean that I am prone to throw myself into things at a rate and pace that is not sustainable for the long haul.
I knew the challenge would not be with my diet. About 6 years ago, I learned that I was extremely salt sensitive and as a result, I had already eliminated all processed foods and fast foods from my meals and started cooking everything myself. I enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables and my diet was already fairly healthy. I was just eating too much. I also had a bad habit of skipping meals (because I would get caught up in projects and lose track of the time). Both of those problems were fairly easy to solve with the Nutrition Tracker. In fact, I became very good (too good) at cutting my calories, and I ate fairly consistently at the low end of my calorie range.
No, I knew that my long term challenge would be to find a sustainable physical activity. I had been successful on this front in the past. Most recently, I was a regular walker, having found a walking buddy at work in a good friend of mine. I also went faithfully to a local yoga studio, which I enjoyed very much. But, unfortunately, my teacher moved her studio across town, too far away to fit into my day. Then my friend retired and I started working from home and eventually retired myself. And even though I had a treadmill right outside my work room and my own yoga mats and props, I found that I did not continue with my exercise once I was spending all my time alone at home.
In the short term, after joining SparkPeople, I was on the treadmill every day, upping the intensity and duration every week. I soon discovered that I needed to increase my calories when I increased my exercise minutes to avoid plateaus, but for the most part, I made fairly steady progress. However, I knew that once I reached my target, I was unlikely to use the treadmill every day. I need to find the key.
I started looking for goals that were health oriented rather than scale oriented and that were either open ended or longer term. I got very interested in the nutritional profile of my diet, and set an ongoing goal of meeting all my macro and micro nutritional requirements through the food I was eating without having to take supplements to make up deficiencies (this is really only possible if you aren't cutting calories a lot). I set a goal to reduce my resting heart rate to below 60 bpm. I also set body composition targets and added goals to run races at increasing distances over the next year, starting with a 5K in the spring.
And then I ran my first 5K. I have already blogged about that race and about how it was like a switch flipped in my head. I discovered that I loved to run outside and that I loved to run in a group. All of sudden, running ceased to be exercise and became a passion. I enjoy both the solitary and communal sides of running and can't imagine not having it in my life. I signed up with a training group and haven't looked back. I'm currently training for the Austin Marathon on 14 February 2010, which is the day after my 60th birthday. All my friends are invited to party with me at the finish line.
So here I am, a work in progress. No one will ever confuse me for a Joan Benoit or a (female) Lance Armstrong. But every day I'm a slightly stronger, slightly faster, slightly better ME.
Friday, August 07, 2009
An addendum to my story yesterday about my recent measurements and my trainer's reaction to them:
When my husband got home from work last night, we went to the neighborhood pool to swim (him) and aqua jog (me). As we walked the two blocks, I told him the story about my measurements and about my trainer's asking if he had noticed that I was "getting ripped." He responded, "Well, I really noticed it when I took those pictures of you at your mother's," (This trip was at the end of May). I laughed and said, "I hadn't started working out yet when we made that trip." "Yes, I know, but I thought you looked very good then."
LOL, Do I know my sweetie or do I know my sweetie?
In all fairness to him, most of the more dramatic visual changes did happen with the first 20 pounds lost. These last 6 pounds (and the reason I added the strength training) are all about my health and athletic goals. I want to get rid of as much inter abdominal (less visible) fat as I can because I am convinced that is necessary for me to reach my goal of managing my blood pressure without medication. And I want to get stronger so that I can run long distances without injuring myself. Except for these two considerations, I was pretty happy with 135 and also thought I looked pretty good then. But looks are only part of my equation.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
Today was measurement day for me at the gym. Once a month, my trainer gets out his calipers and tape and we see how I've progressed.
He started taking measurements, and after a couple he said, "this is going to be good!" Then a couple of awesome's escaped (he's 22). He was getting more and more animated. When he finished, he did his calculations and showed me the sheet. In the two months since I added strength training, I've lost 6 pounds. But those 6 pounds break out as 8.149 pounds of fat lost and 2.149 of muscle gained. I've also lost 1.5 inches from both my waist and my hips and reduced by body fat percentage by almost 5%. "That's really great progress," he said, "I rarely see that much muscle gain with that much fat loss." I should add that when I started this training, I increased my calories to maintenance level and my protein intake from 15% to 20% of calories eaten. So this fat has been lost without cutting calories. I probably would not have gained as much muscle if I hadn't increased my calories. So I was feeling pretty good.
We went upstairs to start my session. He was still pretty jazzed. "Look at those biceps," he said as I did my rows. "Your quads are started to get cut," he said as I did my leg extensions. "Is that good," I asked sweetly (I probably shouldn't pull his leg). "Oh yes," he said, "That means you're getting muscle definition," as he showed me his quads. Hmmm, not bad. (In case you are wondering, his quads looked slightly better than mine.)
"Has your husband said anything about how ripped you're getting?" he asked as I did my back extensions. "Well, no." "Really?" he seemed disappointed. "You've got to remember," I said, "that we've been married 35 years and he's a smart man. He told me I looked good before I started working out." He only seemed slightly mollified. "Well, he said, when you go on vacation, I'll bet he notices then."
He's a really sweet kid and I like working with him. And, now that I think of it, he's also a bit of hunk in a triathlete sort of way. But I was feeling a bit protective of him, so I didn't give him KATMOMMA's phone number.
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