Monday, February 24, 2014

To plank or to rest...that is the test

This evening, while making ground turkey tacos for dinner, I received a text from my mother.
“Does one do the plank with hands on the floor, or elbows?” she asked. Out of context texts are even more fun that out of context overheard quotes.

For those of you not in the know, planking is the latest and greatest ‘get fit and build your core muscle’ activity.  I have seen the “30 day planking challenge” land on my Facebook page more than once. Co-workers stand around the water cooler and candy dish to compare planking stories. And most recently, on an otherwise lovely day spent eating, kvetching and gambling at the 25 cent slot machines with my mother and sister, my sister saw fit to demonstrate this new fitness fad.

Understand that the 30 day challenge goes something like this: Day 1- plank for one minute, Day 2- plank for two minutes, Day 3- plank for 3 minutes…and so on. Until at the end of the month you ought to be able to plank for a couple of hours while a toddler rides a tricycle across your back. Or is that Circus tryouts?  Anyway, back at my sister’s house, otherwise known as Casa Verde, she proceeded to show us proper planking technique.  As I moved into starting position, my sister rounded the corner with a broom. A full on broom!

During her instruction she had pointed out that it was important to stay level and not lift one’s butt up into the air. “What in god’s name is that for?” I demanded.  I was not about to let my older sister whack me on the behind with her kitchen broom.
“It is just to hold across your back to make sure you are staying straight,” she replied. She seemed sincere.
I glanced at mother with a look that I hoped she could interpret as, “If she tries to hit me with that broom you had best tackle her!”

You can visit Mark's Daily Apple site to learn about good planking technique and a detailed explanation of the photo below. My sister is a big fan of Mark's Daily Apple, and probably all of his fruits and veggies. I have chosen his primal-y self to explain the plank in honor of her.

Well I managed to plank with very good form according to my sister! I lasted for 15 seconds which is excellent according to my sister. And she is the expert because she had already been planking for nearly a week. I had to stop when I could no longer inhale or exhale and realized I was using my shoulders instead of my core. Or lack of core, as the case may be. I won’t get into the state of my abdominal muscles, which make the rest of my muscles look Olympian by comparison. That’s an entirely different post.

My point in sharing all of this is to say that some things do not need saying. I always use too many words, as I want to be thorough in my explanations. My doctor recently asked me not to use the email option so much and instead come in for appointments. It seems my emails contain too much information and perhaps I digress into side topics, so he says. I don’t believe him. But I digress…

 My reply to mother’s text query regarding plank form, went something like this…“Heehee…both. Forearm on floor with palms flat. As soon as you cannot breathe, or if you lift your butt, you should stop. Remember 10 seconds is good for a first time!” 

As I stood stirring the taco meat, it occurred to me that I could have left out the bit about not breathing. I suspect my mother would have the sense to stop an activity if she could not breathe. Of course if she didn’t…well, she would have just passed out and dropped a few inches to the floor, where she may have woken up a minute or two later and felt quite rested. Yes, some things do not need saying.

Speaking of not breathing…That reminds me of the year I had pneumonia, followed by a month or two of laryngospasms…yet another story for another day. Right now I should go see if I can beat that 15 second record. After all, I did two sets of five reverse push-ups earlier today. Not the back-bend kind, rather I just lift myself up and down on a chair using my triceps. I’m pretty much nearly ready for the Danskin triathlon again. If you hear a thud from the other end of the house don’t be alarmed, it’s just me having a little rest.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Watching Myself

Each week I sit down to write a bit for my blog. Each week I walk away and do not post.  I have been journaling again, pen and paper.  I’ll share a bit and try to tempt my spirit out of hibernation.  Life has been hard, sad, painful, funny, cosmic…and many other things these past few months. I think that is why I struggle. The dichotomy. The unexplainable.  So I will not try to understand or to explain. Perhaps these past few months are meant to roll around in my heart and mind for quite awhile longer. Churning the painful, poignant moments until the sharp edges and rough exterior are ground away to reveal a gem. Of wisdom. Or love.  Churning until some of them are but sand to be blown away by the strong winds of the Pacific Ocean, washed away by the Northwest rain.
It is in these days that Just Only Judy spends a lot of time people-watching, those around her but also herself. And apparently writing about herself in the third person. This moody Judy is often distracted as she slows her thoughts. She is an excellent people watcher, becoming so still and quiet (laryngitis helps with the quiet part) while she notices the tiny details in a person’s clothes, the interactions of a family…and eventually the stories start in Judy’s head and she can tell sad, heartwarming or humorous stories.

Just Only Judy recently took a trip to Denver. Her voice nearly silenced by laryngitis, her mind slowed by distraction…and medication, she ventured off on her own to see what Colorado had to offer.  In this case, it turned out the offering was Cherry Creek shopping mall and business park. Snow, single digit temperatures and long work hours prevented Judy from venturing into downtown Denver proper. Her world shrunk to the size of two square blocks and 8 stories high. But if you recall, she rather likes it when her world gets small.
Between shuttles and the airline, Judy’s old black suitcase was bent and battered. She could not unzip her luggage. She put a shoe string through the hole in the zipper pull, braced her back against a wall and pulled with what little strength she had. After a sweaty ten minutes she swallowed her pride and called the front desk. The young maintenance man arrived with tool bag in hand. Judy was worried that he would easily unzip her bag and she would appear to be a liar, or hideously weak. She would have preferred that he open the suitcase with a hacksaw than to face the humiliation of being weak. Fortunately it was neither extreme. It took the assistance of some pliers and another tool to pry the bag open and save Judy’s pride. She was so delighted that she said to the handsome young man, “I want to tip you, but I don’t have any cash!” He mumbled something about ‘that’s all right…’ and hastily left the room.

The hotel room was clean and spacious. Judy could do her yoga on the giant King size bed. She did not mind that the squishy down comforter did not provide a firm surface. She works in environmental health and knows that hotel floors are not to be trusted!  Her only complaint in Denver was the dryness. In the days that would follow, she drank gallons of water a day, stole and begged bottled water off her co-workers and refilled them from the disturbingly warm 8th floor bathroom tap. She harassed waiters to "leave the pitcher on the table!" Housekeeping staff thought her request of 4 daily bottles of lotion a bit odd, but then they were not there when she received a static shock from the water while washing her hands. They could not know that she was coating her hair, skin and then her tights and camisoles with another layer of lotion. She was afraid of spontaneous combustion from sparks. Or just really bad pant-cling.

One other small complaint had to do with the hotel hair dryer. The cord measured approximately 10 inches.  Had Judy been any taller than her humble 5’2” she would have found it necessary to bring a chair into the bathroom to use the hairdryer, as squatting would make her legs cramp. The outlet was placed low, at sink height, which required her to press her body against the bathroom wall and contort herself into a multitude of positions to let the air reach her entire head. Thank goodness for that yoga! While she was blowing and twisting and pressing, she had time to ponder why on earth a hair dryer cord would be so short. Aha! "Of course", she thought, "they have shortened it because they do not want the terrible publicity that would come if some depressed soul used the hair dryer to hang himself on that shower rod." It did not occur to her that the shower rod would likely be too low for anyone taller than 5'2" and too flimsy to hold more than twenty pounds. 
Later, when she bravely attempted to iron her work clothes, she saw that the cord on the iron was much longer than 10 inches.  She made a note to point that out to the management, in case they wanted to shorten it for safety. 30 minutes into the ironing, the pants and blouse looked mildly less wrinkled and her arm was cramping. Although she has been an abject failure at ironing her entire life, she blamed it on the dry air.

Her first night in Denver, after checking a third time for bedbugs and failing one last time to figure out how to close the curtains, she crawled into the giant bed. She curled up on the far edge, where she would sleep all three nights because the middle of the bed made her feel trapped. She stared out the window at the falling snow, lit up by the lights of the business park.  Just as she was feeling cozy, in the big bed and the big room of this little two block world, she smelled hamburgers grilling. As the fatigue of a long day of travel crept over her she hoped that it was not the sleepiness of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a faulty ventilation system.  As she pondered stack effect, humidity and ventilation, she drifted off to sleep, making a mental note to ask the front desk if hamburger smells were normal for the 8th floor.