August 10, 2012

Before Title IX

My son and I are lazing around, watching the Olympics, dreaming of glory days.

The Olympics got me thinking. How do I compare with most women my age in terms of fitness? Could I take them? I would have to say, honestly, that I can bike, play tennis, swim and dance slightly better than most women my age. A contest that involves running, softball or bowling? Not so much.

But why do I have to compare? I usually blame my three brothers for making me so competitive. And I blame society for not offering me more girls’ team sport opportunities. I came of age just when Title IX was introduced. The requirements had not yet trickled down to suburban Chicago. So I didn’t get to benefit. This is Title IX’s 40th anniversary. So YAY! Lucky for my girls. Unlucky for me.

Still, sports were essential. I played in a Saturday night high school volleyball league at Mary Seat of Wisdom church and I loved it. I loved volleyball again years later when I was in the cast of The King & I at the Depot Theatre (the alpha and the omega of my summerstock career!). We had games right before the matinee. I loved the sting on my wrists when I landed a bump. I think that is the technical term — a bump!

I loved the camaraderie of sports and the room for showboating (Hello, Usain Bolt!)

In high school we had gym every day. I was chosen to be the demo girl when we had gymnastics. I was proud. But then, in front of everyone, on the unevens, I could not kick myself up from the low bar to the high bar. The very next day, Ms. Sellers picked another girl to demo. That stung. Worse than a sore wrist from volleyball.

While I do not have to be the best, I prefer it. And I prefer that no one see me as I slip from my pinnacle — an inevitable decline from my Numero Uno standing in my own mind. (I’m not sure, but it is possible, that this post is about the downside of aging.)

July 29, 2012

Need for Speed

Am writing this while watching the Olympic hopefuls sail along rainy London streets on their bikes. The women are so fast. I love sports where you go fast, like skiing and biking.

The other day I was riding my bike to work and there was a woman running faster than I was riding on my bike. That was one fast runner.

There’s used to be a myth that only men liked the adrenaline rush of the high-speed chase. But women (and kids) do too. It’s a human instinct to push our physical limits and thrill with the ride. We were born to run.

And now that I’ve admitted my own need for speed, let me post a couple of pictures from my long walk in the Adirondacks.

While I love to run and ride and go fast, it’s easier to snap a pic when you walk and amble and go slow. It’s easier to savor the moment when you slow it all down.

To catch a good photo, you have to pause to frame it. To enjoy a moment, you have to stop and savor it. And any sport that you do outdoors, reminds you to love nature.




July 12, 2012

Biking in New York City

signage in a bike shop window in Portland

I love riding my bike in New York City. I love when I forget my helmet and I feel the wind in my hair. I used to not wear a helmet at all but then I had kids and I valued my life (and my brains) more.  I always make the kids wear a helmet now too.

I think I started riding a bike in the city when I was about 30 and had just broken up with my ex. At that time, if a girlfriend and I were going out for a drink, my friend’d take a cab and I’d ride my Schwinn. We’d set off at the same moment. And I’d always get there first.

Mostly now, I just ride my bike to work. The bus or subway takes about 30 minutes. I’ve pedaled the 45 blocks in less than 15 minutes.

my morning commute

Besides, staying healthy, saving money, I sail past trees and grass and flowers and happy people in the park. I have a lovely commute through Riverside Park.

Pulling in to my work garage, I used to think people were kind of laughing at me and my bike. Now? Am I imaging it? — coworkers seem slightly jealous. I have a sweet ride.

Ten thousand new bikes are about to be launched on New York City streets through a bike-sharing program. Cool. Every day, my fellow New Yorkers will discover my secret pleasure — commuting to work by bike.

I’m not worried about my route getting clogged with bikers, because most of the bike stations will be in midtown and downtown.

This blog post could easily have been written for another one of my blogs, My Beautiful New York blog. I love New York City.

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July 2, 2012

Healthy Camping

When we returned home from camping Saturday night, I cut up a watermelon, made a big salad, put out a bowl of cherries, and cooked a Pesto Pizza (Trader Joe’s) for the fam.

our campsite on Fire Island

One thing I don’t like about camping is the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables. Maybe someone more clever or more prepared than I would’ve come up with a way to pack watermelons or grapefruits. But the fresh fruit I packed, bananas, got mushy and brown before we even hit the campsite.

Any time I travel, I try to eat healthy, yet making hot dogs and S’Mores just seems easier and more fun at the campfire. I’ve got to work on this.

The other downside in terms of my health in the summer is that I don’t mean to get a tan and with my history of Basal Cell Carcinoma, I definitely shouldn’t. But I do.

I apply sunscreen early in the day and then fail to reapply. I’m just too lazy or uninterested. At the beach, inertia sets in.

Yesterday I bought a long-sleeved SPF waterproof shirt. I hope that helps. It was expensive ($50), but then, so is skin cancer.

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June 3, 2012

Runner from Botswana

I have found my Olympic athlete to watch!

On the shuttle bus ride in Portland on June 3, I met this future Olympian, Amantle Montsho from Botswana. Ms. Montsho was very sweet; she had just competed in the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon the day before and came in second. She was departing our van and looking for Delta; I think she was heading to Europe. I was looking for my rental car as I was heading for Eugene to meet my college roommate and spend the day. (So much fun!)

I learned about this runner on the New York Times cover sports story about Amantle Montsho. I am usally ticked off that every story in the sports section (of every newspaper) is dedicated to men’s sports so I was surprised and happy when I saw this article about a woman Olympic hopeful. I thought, “Way to go, NYTimes! Way to go Botswana!”

The kids and I love Botswana, ever since we hosted two young women for a week in New York from Botswana a month or so ago. Lolo and Rati were beautiful, smart, talented! We became fans of this land-locked country, north of South Africa. And especially the people there. I wrote about our awesome experience hosting these high school musicians at Our High School Students from Botswana.

Lolo told us that the whole country of Botswana is rooting for Amantle. They all know her personally as Botswana is small country (almost as big as Texas, according to Google).

When Amantle walked away from me at the airport, she seemed hardly to touch the ground as she walked. It may be cliche to say, but she was extremely light on her feet. Like a ballet dancer in New York City coming from class, you can tell by the way she walks, she is a special kind of person who really lives in her body. She is lithe and strong. She also seemed quite young and innocent.

And I’m rooting for her!


Official Results – Women – 400 Metres





1 Sanya Richards-Ross USA 49.39
2 Amantle Montsho BOT 49.62
3 Novlene Williams-Mills JAM 49.78
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May 24, 2012

Moving Is Better than Exercising

I bike to work and do Pilates twice a week at lunchtime in my workplace. Sometimes I feel that I should have nobler fitness goals. This is why I love this blog post by Nick Crocker about Finding Exercise in Life’s Margins at Harvard Business Review.

Weaving exercise and intentional movement into the fabric of my life feels way more possible (though less sexy) than training for a triathlon.

I let our family gym membership lapse because I just wasn’t going. And I felt guilty — for not going, for the expense, for the lack of family pool time. I felt I was a fitness failure. But I wasn’t. Just because exercise is easy — like slowing down on my bike past the flower gardens in Riverside Park — doesn’t mean it’s not valuable.

You don’t have to hate exercise in order to get fit, feel good, or even lose weight. (The same goes for time at work — you don’t have to hate it.) Why not love what you do? I love playing tennis. Consistency is more important than breaking a personal record.

Personal brag: my son just won an athletic award this week. He was a triathlete — competing in three varsity sports as a 9th grader. But of one of the sports, track, he said he lacks passion. I say, Fine, drop it, if you like. Just keep moving.

Drop your gym membership too. Just stay active.

Weave fitness into every day. A little moving regularly is way better than a lot of fitness once in a while.


A guy on the bus seated in front of me was carrying
this bundle of flowers. A rosy outlook only costs $3.99.

April 2, 2012

Sugar Blues

Last night on 60 Minutes, I watched some excellent reporting on the hazards of sugar in our daily diets.

I needed to be reminded because, like most Americans, I need to cut down (out!) my sugar intake.

The information was not new to me. In high school, I read Sugar Blues and it changed the way I ate. The bestseller showed how a diet high in sugar was addictive and pernicious. Beyond obesity and diabetes, sugar was shown to cause mood swings or an emotional crash an hour or so after indulging.

Yet biologically, we are wired to love sugar — there’s nothing sweeter than mother’s milk.

I cannot cut sugar out entirely. I’m not giving up a glass of red wine, a thin slice of chocolate cake, or fruit yogurt. But I am going to slim down my portions.

I will try to follow the government’s recommendation on the food plate (formerly, the food pyramid). I think eating a variety of healthy foods, with an occasional sweet thrown in, is best.

There’s nothing better than an apple, a strawberry, or a handful of blueberries to satisfy a sweet craving. I’m constantly amazed that something so good tasting can also be so good for you. Because it’s way better to eat an orange than to drink orange juice, I’m cutting out fruit juices too.

Thanks 60 Minutes for this healthy reminder.

March 22, 2012

Going Running

How do you psych yourself up to go for a run? I tell myself, “Come on, girl. You can do it.” I talk to my body like it were a beloved family horse. “Yes, get moving, Ole Paint. Get out of your easy chair.” (I know that’s a mixed metaphor: horses don’t sit in easy chairs! Hey, it’s my blog. Write your own blog and mix up your own metaphors!)

There are a million reasons NOT to run. Here are a few:

Florida flower1. My feet hurt.

2. I am slow.

3. No one else is running. (Everyone else is going out for breakfast, in fact.)

And here’s why:

1. It will feel good when you’re done.

2. You will see some new things.

3. You will model fitness for your kids.

4. When you’re done, you can have a big breakfast.

Maybe I’ll go wake up one of my kids and see if they want to go with me.

I am writing this from a rocking chair on the porch. The kids and I are on a four-day trip to Siesta Key, Florida. It is our third day and inertia has set in. After a few days of vacay, especially in a warm clime, inertia always sets in. I must beat back inertia as if it were a horse sitting in an easy chair. (That’s a horrible image. But there you have it. As I’ve said, inertia has set in and I am mentally lazy, can’t come up with a better image. I could, if I really tried. But I have to go running.)

Come on, girl. Let’s go.

March 5, 2012

Food Plate

Tonite, because my sis-in-law is visiting, we had a vegetarian dinner: pumpkin ravioli, eggplant, shrimp, artichokes, and a big salad.

There was something for everyone. I think it’s better to eat a bunch of healthy, yummy stuff than just meat and potatoes. The more food, the merrier.


February 17, 2012

My stupid feet

Yesterday I was back at the podiatrist’s. I really have to take care of my Plantar Fasciitis. The bottoms of my feet hurt all the time, but especially when I wake up in the morning and after I do any sports.

Tennis season is coming up. I want to keep running. I want to be an active person, beyond doing my beautiful pilates and yoga and occasional swimming.

My podiatrist told me I MUST do the assigned stretches for my feet every day. She gave me a (cortisone?) shot in one foot and told me to come back for two more on that foot and then we’ll do three shots on the other foot. The shot hurt. I don’t want shots.

I know as we get older, like an old car, we start to break down. But I need to stay fit so that I stay sane and can destress. I don’t want to break down. I want to keep running smoothly. With Chris’s illness, I have to and want to stay healthy for the kids (and for myself).

Last night I couldn’t sleep. My forehead is still recovering from the basal cell carcinoma surgery two weeks ago. And now I’m concerned about my feet. These are small, even insignificant problems, certainly not life-threatening.

But even ordinary health problems can be irritating, slow me down. I’d like to write more about this, but I have to wake the kids and do my stupid physical therapy for my stupid feet.