First off, the elliptical.
I remember the first time I set foot on one. I asked one of the gym employees to show me how to get started. I wasn't even sure if it was going to work for me because of knees and ankles, but figured I would give it a try as a means of not impacting my foot.
I did this at the end of an evening's workout, so I was already running low on energy. I lasted all of five minutes on a cardio program that did nothing more than up the resistance to get my heartrate to the right range. And man was it up to that 142 with just the slightest amount of resistance. Then it did a 3 minute cooldown that made me laugh inside because my heart would not drop below about 128.
(For reference: I am 43 so my max heart rate is 220-43=177. Target Heart Rate range of 65% to 85% comes to 115 to 150. I think most of the machines use 80% which is 141.6 or 142.)
I tried again a couple times that week and was sooo proud when I managed to keep going for a whole 12 minutes plus the 3 minutes cooldown, though I was still having trouble going easy and slow enough "cooling down" for it to not still be a workout.
Some bit back I'd swapped from the elliptical that is just one height to one that adjusts incline. Part of the reason for that was because of the way my feet would start going to sleep within 15 minutes on the "flat" version. I laced my shoes looser, move my feet more, and swapped to the machine with incline - and the combination helped.
This machine has various programs for varying the incline through the workout and does a 5 minute cooldown. I got into the habit of doing 15 minutes plus 5 minutes cooldown after my weight training, having done 30 minutes on the recumbent bike before.
In the last few weeks I've been pushing myself more on both the recumbent bike and the elliptical. I've gone as long as 50 or 55 minutes (including the cooldown) on the elliptical. I started bumping up the resistance from 1 to 3 then 4. I swapped from a hill program that was milder (went between 1 and 16 inclines) to one that has a "big" hill topping out at incline of 20. I've gone from 110 strides per minute to mostly holding 120 strides consistently to pushing for stretches of 130 strides per minute and/or doing some arm moves for added cardio work.
It's hard to believe stepping on today and doing a 10 minute warmup (did the lower hill program and skipped the cooldown), stretching my calves, then doing a 40 minute program of the big hill at resistance of 5, keeping at 130 strides per minute for at least 3/4 of that, then 5 minutes of cooldown during which my heart rate quickly got down to 112, how far I've come.
I don't do this to burn more calories, even if that is an effect. I don't do this so I can eat more. I don't do this so the pounds will melt off faster.
No, I do this because it shows me just how capable my body is. I do it because it makes my legs and glutes feel strong and able. I do it because I can set tiny goals for how to up the workout the next time and do it. I ~LOVE~ the mental high from exceeding my own past ability.
Now, a funny thing today happened while I was doing my elliptical time. Two girls came out from another area. One got on a treadmill and was sort of slowly increasing the walking speed. The other hung around a little then got on an elliptical but was going about as slow as one could go. At this point one of the personal trainers came out of where they'd been and made the one on the elliptical get on another treadmill.
Best I could tell, this was part of their session with him. He was trying to get them both to go a decent speed on the treadmill. (And I don't mean full out running. I mean that they were both walking well under 4 mph and from what he was saying, he wanted them running or jogging.)
At least one was complaining (even if in fun) and turning the speed back down every time he'd reach over to speed it up.
I had to really shake my head and laugh inside. Some people will pay serious money to have a trainer push them. (And, really? I've seen this guy with another group of four girls who work - he pushes just as hard as they need - varying it by their ability. But he does push.) If I was spending that money, I would NOT be complaining or saying I couldn't do something. I'd be at least putting my all into doing it and letting my body limit me rather than my mind.
Me? I won't pay a trainer because I'm regularly pushing myself. Not on my rest days like yesterday, but the rest of my days are about seeing if I can do more. I don't want to be pushed to the edge of my ability, but I'm not about to lighten up and take it easy on myself either. What I do want is to be always pushing to expand my comfort zone. If I'm comfortable, I'm not pushing myself enough.
This last is some thoughts that went rambling through my head while working on the elliptical after those girls and another pair he worked with.
I am not the sort to be suicidal. At all. Something dreadful could happen to my children, all of my family and extended family, my best friend, even to me, and I would absorb it and find a way to live with it and survive for me.
At the same time, I am the sort who does not want to live to be 100 unless I'm able to live an active and independent life. Something I've heard about in primitive cultures was the elderly beyond a certain point choosing a time to walk away, to stop being a burden on their village / people. That has a strong appeal to me. When this body is almost done, I don't feel vitally driven to keep it going longer.
Where is this going? Well, the main windows of the gym I go to face this wide walkway between two main streets in downtown, a theater being directly opposite. There is a LOT of foot traffic through there. The University is only about 6 blocks over, a main park and the convention center are a few blocks in other directions. The primary transit lines and transfer points are on either side of this walkway. So I see many people in all sorts of levels of fitness and health.
One fellow I've seen a few times now is missing much of his forearms and hands or they're small up near the elbow. I'm not close enough to know for sure, but it looks more like something he was born with. He doesn't hide his arms. He manages to carry what he needs. He looks healthy and fit. I see him and think what life might have been like born that way. I do this with many people who go past.
Never once, I realized, did I think that it would be miserable to live like that. Instead I was imagining the challenges involved.
So that sent my thoughts on what some might consider a morbid turn.
One of my unmentioned goals to finally get done this year is a Will, a DNR (do not resuscitate) order, and so on. My kids already know the basics - any organ donation possible, cremate what's left, ash disposal up to them. (I'm not at all concerned about what happens to the body once I've moved on.) But formalizing it is always a good idea.
The DNR order is one of those trickier ones. At what point of body damage would I want efforts to keep me alive to cease? Because, yes, I have a strong will to live. I can see myself in a wheelchair, paraplegic, and fighting to keep doing as much "normally" in my life as I can. I can't see myself happy as a quadriplegic with little control of anything but my head, driving my wheelchair with a joystick I manipulate with my head or mouth. I feel a very real horror at the thought.
Activity. The ONLY activity I'd be capable of would be mental. I may love reading and learning, but the idea of being unable to do any more than drive around on a sunny day just makes me cringe.
I'm not athletic. I'm not interested in being a runner or a bodybuilder or a fitness trainer. But I am and always have been active. Even when I made myself essentially a shut-in for a few years, I still walked to and from work, walked to the grocery store, went for late night walks for any number of reasons, went hiking when I had my car.
I love physical activity. I love the body in motion. It's a perfect balance to the constant mental activity going on. I cannot imagine losing that. I read about those with mobility issues or injuries, and I'm immediately trying to think of ways to remain active in spite of those. There are numerous Sparkers whom I respect immensely for the amount of fight they put up to be active, whether it's against pain or injury or illness or other form of disability.
So, really, as long as I have a body willing to move, and a mind and body capable of moving it, I'm going to be active. I'm going to make the time. I'm going to create the space.
I'm going to move it, move it, shake it, shake it.
Madagascar version: www.youtube.com/watch?v=
Original version: www.youtube.com/watch?v=