11 States in 13 Days

Mountains, rivers, streams …

I’m still recovering from my marathon driving trip through more than ⅕ of the United States. Booker and I traveled through 11 states in 13 days. Over mountains, over rivers, over bays, over the Gulf of Mexico, over the Atlantic Ocean, over bridges, and through countless construction zones. Healthy traveling is not always easy, but I did my best.

The hard part

I disposed of Hurricane Irma-damaged items from our storage unit in Marathon, Florida, and packed the rest in my Subaru Forester to bring home. I cleared the unit out completely.

The good part

Sunset over the Gulf of MexicoI ate some delicious local seafood and maybe the best pressed Cuban sandwich ever! (Not at the same meal.)

I visited good friends in Marathon and heard of their hurricane horrors.

Other friends and I shared our experiences with our soon-to-be all-natural gray hair. We each stopped coloring our hair at about the same time.

Saw some incredible sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico while I was in Marathon. Met Katie and Adam, a cute couple staying at the same hotel, and took their sunset-kiss picture, now used as Katie’s profile picture.

Had wonderful down-time in late afternoons for a few days, just reading and watching the waters of the Gulf. Booker didn’t quite understand, but he was willing to lay on his cot and get treats for doing nothing.

After a few great days in Florida, it was time for the next phase of our trek. On to Virginia and a new puppy!

Puppy time!

Booker’s six years old and Tango is nine. The other dogs in the household (my sister’s Frenchies Teddy and Torque) are 8 and 4, so the time for a puppy is now! We’d never had two Boston Terriers at home at the same time, and thought that the dynamics would be good. Booker would have another Boston to chase, and to chase him. He’s always trying to get the other dogs to chase him, and it never works.

The breeder who showed Booker’s father to a breed win at the Westminster Kennel Club show had a couple of 10-week-old little boys that I could choose between, so that was an opportunity not to be missed! I figured that I could swing up to Virginia on my way home to the Chicago area.

The bad and ugly

Arriving in Brunswick, GA after driving for 8+ hours that first day leaving Marathon was a nightmare. I had reservations at one of the moderate chain motels. They mistakenly put me in a no-dog room, and when I inquired about it, they moved me to a dog room. OK. I understood…

Except that this room smelled, and the locks didn’t work. I complained about that and the manager checked me out. Yup – kicked me out. Homeless on the streets.

Brunswick is not a bustling town and I was able to get a room at a dog-friendly motel a couple of miles away. (That reminds me – I should post a review about that first motel.)

Destination reached!

Another 8 hours of driving the next day brought us to Chesapeake, VA. I could have continued the final hour to the breeder’s home, as she kindly offered me her guest room, but didn’t want to impose for an extra day.

Nothing cuter than Boston Terrier puppies!Early the next morning I drove to the breeder’s house. It’s on a beautiful street, with established homes and mature trees. I wasn’t entirely sure which house it was because the numbers on the mailboxes were mostly worn. But then I saw her van in the driveway with a license plate that was unmistakably that of a Boston Terrier owner. I parked next to her, walked to the door and rang the doorbell. After a bit she opened the door, exclaimed that I was there and gave me a big hug. Her husband, who was traveling, called at that moment to let her know that someone was at the door. The wonders of a “Ring” doorbell!

Booker and I were warmly welcomed, we met the puppies, and thoroughly enjoyed the day.

Long trip home

Our trip home was completely uneventful (thank goodness!), but long (16 hours over two days) and inconvenienced by much construction on our route. The puppy was a champion traveler and slept for much of the drive. I was very happy, though, to park in front of my house and not get in my car for over 24 hours after that!

Takeaways for you:

Things to keep in mind when embarking on a long trip:

  • Keep your cool! Everything can be worked out. One way or another. Breathe deeply when things don’t go as planned.
  • Family comes first. When things didn’t go right, foremost on my mind was keeping my dogs safe, cool in the heat, exercised and fed when needed.
  • Stay fueled. It’s much easier to keep your cool when you’re not starving. Fortunately, on a driving trip it’s no problem to keep healthy snacks on hand – for both my dogs and me! And healthy meals are easy to find. Salads are great, with healthy proteins included. If you’re using really good quality ingredients, minimal dressing is all that’s needed. A dip of my fork’s tines is plenty. As for the car – I’m a bit cautious, and look for a gas station when the needle creeps close to ¼ tank.
  • Exercise when you can, but don’t stress about it. When I’m back to a regular routine, I’ll get back to intense exercise. Walking while on vacation is the best way to see new places, meet fun people, and work off that full feeling.

Almost fall! Time to prevent them!

Prevent falls this fall!

It’s almost fall – and it’s the time of year to prevent them! You know that I’m a huge advocate of practicing your balance to prevent falls. I interviewed Kathleen Cameron, Senior Director of the Center for Healthy Aging, a while back about preventing falls – http://fitness-over-50.com/2017/07/prevent-falls-my-interview-with-kathleen-cameron/ .

I even developed a series of simple exercises anyone can do to improve their balance and prevent falls in just minutes a day. And I run a Facebook group with ongoing balance challenges.

Sleepwalking through balance exercises

I became complacent about doing (or not doing) my balance exercises and fell!I became complacent, though. I’ve been sort of half-heartedly, sort of somnambulently performing the balance exercises myself.

And I fell Friday night. Granted, it was while I was carrying my 20-pound Boston Terrier over a 2-foot fence, but it gave me a wake-up call, all the same!

Naughty puppy!

Booker had jumped the fence (within our larger fenced back yard – it’s an area we don’t want the dogs to go in) because he thought he saw a chipmunk. There was no other wildlife in there, he was just being a jerk. In the heat of the moment he jumps the fence with no problem but can’t seem to figure out how to get back. I climbed over the fence – angry, short-tempered – and as I was climbing back out my foot caught in the top of the fence and I fell. Naturally, I didn’t want my dog to get hurt, so protected him. My face seemed to catch the brunt. Fortunately, just scrapes and bruises. There doesn’t seem to be any deeper damage.

It could have been worse, but …

And perhaps because I do some balance work, I was not hurt as badly as I could have been. But, I knew that I’d been slacking on some of the balance exercises!

So, with renewed commitment, I’ll be focusing much more on practicing balance and preventing falls.

It is almost fall. And after fall is winter, and ice and snow. Slippery stuff. It’s easy to slip and lose your balance and fall. Why not do just a few minutes of balance exercises a day to try to prevent any falls you can! Read my interview with Kathleen (http://fitness-over-50.com/2017/07/prevent-falls-my-interview-with-kathleen-cameron/) to see the statistics on just how prevalent falls are, and then commit to prevent the falls that you can!

 

Chocolate is allowed!

Chocolate contributes to a healthy lifestyle

Chocolate is part of a healthy lifestyle.Chocolate can be part of a healthy lifestyle! You may have thought that healthy eating was all spinach, quinoa and kale, but that’s just not the case. While I do enjoy a good spinach and quinoa lunch on occasion, and sauteed kale is yummy, seasoned properly (I can give you recipes if you like), there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying chocolate. On occasion. Once in a while.

Old Ben was right

I abide by Ben Franklin’s motto of “Everything in moderation.” In the case of sweets, maybe a little less than moderation…

I love chocolate, and any existence that does not include chocolate is just not worth it. I enjoy chocolate – the darker the better – and try to have a little bit every day. It has to be really good chocolate, though. If it’s not truly satisfying, the temptation is to eat all of a not-so-great chocolate bar instead of just a quarter of a really good one. Chocolate is definitely part of my healthy lifestyle!

80 – 20 Rule

I try to also eat by the “80 – 20 Rule.” As long as 80% of my intake is clean and healthy, the other 20% can be chocolate! That is – 80% of my calories should be lean protein, complex carbohydrates, vegetables, fruit and healthy fats.

Balance is key

Again – life is a balancing act. Every day we have to balance our meals, our work, play, chores. We want to eat healthy – we know it’s better for us than eating fast food all the time – but we also want our meals to taste good and satisfy us. The 80 – 20 Rule is just that. A sustainable eating plan. And if your indulgence is pizza – that’s good too! Just watch portions and make sure the rest of your diet is healthy!

Dark chocolate tastes best

Why dark chocolate? It’s my favorite. And it also contributes to a healthy lifestyle. Dark chocolate has anti-oxidant properties, it may improve blood flow and even lower blood pressure! And dark chocolate may improve brain function.

Get happier!

Are you stuck in a dark rut?

Even though darkness looms, happiness can emerge!All too often we find ourselves doing the same things – day after day. Repeating the same tasks and not finding happiness in them. If we don’t have happiness and joy in our lives, we have no motivation to maintain a healthy lifestyle. When we’re not happy, our fitness suffers.

Can we dig ourselves out?

So, how can we lift ourselves up and find the joy again? Even when we are doing the same things day after day, we can be happy!

Permission for happiness!

The first step is to tell ourselves that we can be happy. The mere act of giving ourselves permission sometimes makes it true. Try writing down the three biggest factors that made you the person you like today. They could be life-changing moments, like a big presentation or a job change. Keep that list prominent so that you can look at it every day and remember that you’re a person to be proud of!

Change the scenery

Another method is to change the scenery. I’m not talking about a tropical vacation (although that would be nice). Go for a walk. Change your route to work. Sometimes just looking at something different changes your perspective to a more positive one.

Re-energize!

Take a nap. Have a healthy snack. Refuel and re-energize! When your stomach is full of good stuff and you’ve had a good night’s sleep, you feel more positive.

Acknowledge the downsides

Be aware of the negative aspects of a task. That will motivate you to take action and turn those negatives into positives. Your brain will be more nimble trying to turn things around.

Get another opinion

Talk to someone. Things may not be as bleak as they seem to you. Sometimes we’re too close to a situation to look at it objectively. And don’t always consult someone who has the same beliefs as you do. They may see what you consider bleak situations the same way.

Stress can be good!

Channel your stress into a positive outcome. If you’re anxious about something, try to determine the real reason for the anxiety so that you can take action. Taking action is a positive step and leads to a brighter outlook.

So the next time you feel yourself going to that deep, dark place, try these tips and aim for the sunshine!

You matter

If you’re like me, you go through your days doing the same things you’ve always done. I get up at the same time every day, eat the same breakfast every day, go to work at the same time, take the same route, see the same people at training every week. Get take-out from the same restaurants. All this without even thinking.

I’m feeling introspective today, so I’m wondering, “Why?” Why are we here? Is it just to do the same things every day? How can I justify my existence if that’s it?

So perhaps I’ll strive to make a difference today. Maybe not to the whole world, but if I can make a difference to one person, that could be enough for today.

To make a difference, I think, you have to make someone’s life better, happier, more fulfilled.

So, I’m telling you today that you matter!

To your family, your friends, your coworkers, your pets. You matter! Their lives would be poorer without you.

The old James Stewart movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” recounts the story of George Bailey – who wished he’d never been born one Christmas Eve, and how the town he loved would have been dramatically different if he hadn’t existed. (Not for the better!) The film demonstrates that we’re each here for a reason – we’re here for the people we know and love.

The world today is hectic. We’re bombarded by outside influences all day every day – through multiple screens, speakers and neon signs. We’re caught up in the day’s headlines, our newsfeeds, Twitter feeds, Instagram posts. It’s easy to be nervous about the state of the country and the world. It’s hard to think about why we alone might matter to someone else. But you do! So, take a few minutes in a quiet place and think about that!

Just like you exercise your muscles, practice your skills

Use it or lose it!

They say, “Use it or lose it!” And that’s true of pretty much everything.

We exercise to improve our health. If we don’t exercise, our health tends to decline.

We exercise to improve our cognition. Yup, exercising our body helps our mind.

We exercise to get stronger. Use those muscles or they become weak.

We exercise to retain flexibility. Don’t stretch and our flexibility decreases.

We exercise aerobically to strengthen our heart and increase lung function. Don’t exercise for a few days and we’re out of breath faster.

Practice not only makes perfect…

The same holds true for other skills. If you played piano when you were younger, you know what I’m talking about! Don’t practice and you won’t even remember where the keys are.

We practice our balance to stay upright and prevent future falls. Falls, especially as we get older, can be dangerous, if not tragic. From slipping and falling on the ice to rolling an ankle on broken pavement, improved balance can help.

Download my “Week of Balance” booklet. A free .pdf file to help you get started retaining your balance.

In dog training it’s the same. Lots of skills are involved in training a dog to compete in obedience or agility. Don’t practice one of them and the behavior deteriorates. My agility instructor likens this theory to circus performers spinning plates on a long dowel. He’d get a row of plates spinning, and when the last one started the first one would start to slow down and topple. The performer would have to run back to the first one and start it spinning again.

Calm your mind

Being able to calm your mind is another skill that requires practice. There are so many distractions in the world that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to focus on a single thing. From our own devices – phones, tablets, laptops, TVs – to the world around us, there’s a lot to take in.

I find it imperative to be able to narrow my focus. I get more done when I’m not trying to do several things at once. We all have heard people extol the virtue of multi-tasking, but the only things that benefit from multi-tasking are computers.

We’re much more productive when we can focus on a single task and then move on to the next one.

Guided meditations can help calm the mind

But many find it hard to calm the mind at first. It just takes practice. And sometimes a little help. Check out my free short, guided meditations. Sometimes just a couple of minutes of a guided meditation helps clear your mind. And there are also lots of free smartphone meditation apps. (I find these to be a little long, but everyone’s different.)

Guided meditations:

Garden meditation

Ocean meditation

River meditation

Yet another study supports what we know …

Another study that supports what we already know: that those who exercise  are in better health than those who don’t.

Cycling and exercise for health

82-year-old Norman Lazarus, a professor emeritus at London’s Kings College, requested that a study be performed on the health of older active cyclists. King’s College and the University of Birmingham took him up on it. Researchers compared 125 amateur cyclists, ages 55 through 79, with a group of people ages 57 through 80 and with a younger group ages 20 through 36. All of the noncycling group were healthy but did not exercise regularly.

Lazarus had noted that he and his riding group were not experiencing many of the frailties, such as joint problems or chronic illness, that affect so many other people as they age. His group had been avid cyclists for most of their lives.

Less evidence of aging in cyclers

The researchers found that those who exercised – in this case cycled – regularly did not show evidence of the outward signs of aging.

The male cyclists in the study had to be able to ride 62 miles in 6½ hours, and females had to be able to ride 37 miles in 5½ hours, according to the study, published in the journal Aging Cell. I’m not a cyclist but seems like a fairly intense regimen.

Less loss of strength

In a series of lab tests, researchers found cyclists did not lose muscle mass and strength like the noncyclists did. The cyclists also stopped the clock on increased body fat and cholesterol, and the men’s testosterone levels remained high.

Improved immune systems

One of the most surprising findings was that the cyclists’ immune systems were equivalent to those of healthy young people in the study, as measured by the presence of immune cells, known as T-cells. The cells are produced by the thymus gland and typically start to decrease as the thymus begins to shrink after age 20. Depleted immune systems are one of the greatest barriers to health in the elderly.

Intense exercise is the key

We know from other studies that cycling is not the important part of this – the intense exercise is.

The CDC recommends that adults get 150 minutes a week of moderately intense exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise.

The moral

The moral here – do something! It’s better than nothing. And even if you can’t do even moderately intense exercise now, you soon will be! So get moving!

Focus on the important stuff

Is frizz important?

There are a limited number of hours in a day. You’ve got to spend 7 or 8 of them sleeping. The rest are up for grabs! Lately I noticed how many products there are in the marketplace for frizzy hair. And lately I’ve noticed that with all the rain and humidity we’ve had my hair has gone totally frizz. Am I tempted by all these products that promise smooth silky hair without frizz? No. It’s not important to me. I notice that my hair is frizzy because I do look in the mirror to make sure I’m somewhat presentable (the public does come into my shop, after all), but I’ve got better things to think about than my hair.

Focus on more important things

I think about training my dogs – what do they need for us to succeed as a team in their sports? I think about my sister’s and my shop – what can I do to make Golly Gear more successful, and our customers happier? I think about what to make for dinner (meal planning sort of went out the window this week…). I think about my new balance exercises.

So, you can see that I try not to focus on stuff that is unimportant to me.

What really is important?

To focus on the important things, though, I have to decide what really is important. Of course, what’s important to you may be very different from what’s important to me. And no one can tell you what’s important – aside from the obvious, of course – family, friends, work, etc.

Prioritize

Once the important stuff is decided, then it’s a matter of prioritizing tasks.  Balancing the different aspects of my life. You would think this would be easy, but it may not be. I find that the best method of prioritizing is to get absolutely everything down on paper and then sort the tasks. It can be a monumental effort, but once it’s done, I get a great feeling of relief.

What’s not on that list of tasks? De-frizzing my hair. Making an appointment with my stylist is, though!

Guilt and eating “healthy”

Eating what makes you happy may not be eating the things that are “good”

In my ongoing chat about our feelings of guilt, a natural topic is that of eating “healthy.” Why the quotes? Because to me, eating healthy means eating what makes you happy and eating the things that are good for your body.

And that may produce guilt

Are those mutually exclusive? Sometimes, and that’s where the guilt comes in.

You might think that eating the things that make us happy involves vast quantities of chocolate, pizza, ice cream, chips, … and the list goes on.

And, yes, in the short-term, those things do make us happy. They taste incredible, the texture is amazing, and they lift our spirits.

But we know intellectually that these things are “bad” for us, and we feel guilty about eating them. We know that we “should” be eating more vegetables, more fruit, more whole grains.

Why eat things that aren’t good for us?

So why don’t we? Why do we eat the “bad” stuff and then feel guilty about it?

Perhaps we haven’t found the “good” stuff that we like as much as pizza. Or that satisfies our soul like spaghetti.

So, try foods that you’re not used to. Try different recipes. Try quinoa. Try kale. You might like it. Or not – and then you can try something else that you read about that’s supposed to be “healthy.”

It happens to everyone

And for those of us who do eat “healthy” most of the time, there are still times when nothing but a Snickers bar will do. Biting into that yummy chocolate and then getting your teeth stuck in the peanuts and caramel… Well, you get the idea. That happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I was hungry late one Saturday afternoon and I wanted a Snickers bar. So I had a Snickers bar. True, it was a fun-sized one, but it satisfied me. I knew I’d have to do a few more minutes on the treadmill to work it off, but it was worth it.

Actions have consequences

See, that’s the thing. There are always consequences to our actions. If you think about your actions, and their repercussions, there’s no reason to feel guilty about taking the action.

But there’s no reason to feel guilty about them

“If I do x, then I’ll have to do y.” No big deal. No reason to feel guilty.

And that reasoning follows through all your actions, not just eating.

Guilt about money

Guilt in spending on yourself

Do you feel guilty about spending money on yourself? I’m not talking about spending money on frivolous things, like a costume jewelry bracelet. (Really, who needs a costume jewelry bracelet? Unless, of course, your business is researching costume jewelry.)

I’m talking about an exercise program. Or a pair of leggings. Or a pair of running shoes. Or fresh greens.

Yes, funds are limited. But after all the vital stuff is taken care of – mortgage or rent, utilities, insurance – the rest is discretionary.

Guilt about groceries

We all have to eat, and food is a major part of the budget. But after the staples, like milk, eggs, toilet paper, paper towels, you’ve got to figure out where your food budget does the most good. You might as well get the healthiest food you can with your limited dollars. (I’m not talking about organic food – it has not been proven that organic is substantially healthier than non-organic food. I wash my fruit and vegetable carefully – I don’t usually buy organic produce.) It has been proven that fresh fruits and veggies are good for you.

Produce is also cheaper when it’s in season. It’s June now, so grapes and other soft fruit is getting cheaper. Tomatoes are cheaper now, and so are some greens. In-season produce is also tastier!

So, it pays to buy fresh – you’ll be healthier! And so will your family. Another guilt factor – do you feel guilty about feeding your family your “rabbit food?” It’s natural to feed your family the food that you’re cooking for yourself. You wouldn’t be eating it if it wasn’t tasty, well-balanced and well-seasoned. Ask them how they feel about the meals you’re serving. Chances are they’re enjoying the freshness as well. Don’t be surprised if you need to see your doctor less. You’re getting healthier.

Guilt about personal items

So, after you’ve spent on the necessities, you feel guilty about spending money on personal items? Get over it. You’ve budgeted for your family. Now it’s time to take care of you. Your workout shoes are worn? Time for a new pair. They’re less expensive than a trip to the emergency room after you’ve injured yourself.

You feel guilty about spending on a new pair of leggings? By now you’ve trained yourself not to reward yourself with food. So after a few successful months of working out and eating right – you deserve those new leggings (or T-shirt, or yoga mat).

Guilt is not helpful. A budget is.