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Fitness (26 posts)
We all have those Life Traffic Jams sometimes. You know the feeling. Maybe everything looks okay from the outside, as it did with Emily Finch; she had a beautiful family, a big house, and drove a Suburban around, and yet, something was just off. As she recently told Bike Portland, she was depressed and "at a time in my life when something had to change." As anyone who's ever spent some months or years stuck in a Life Traffic Jam knows, sometimes you just get out of that car and start walking in the other direction. in Emily Finch's case, this happened to be a very literal solution. This mother of six got a bike. Make that, a family bike:
That's right, Emily Finch transports all her six kids around in a bike, outfitted with a specialized cargo bin called a bakfiets and an added children's bike at the back. According to Bike Portland, Finch had never biked until a few years ago, when she started feeling stuck and dissatisfied. So where most of us would think, Okay, clearly I need to make things easier on myself (or, uh, is that just me?), Finch decided to sell her huge Suburban and lug her kids around town in a family bike. You must read the entire post over at Bike Portland for details on how this petite 34-year-old powers her enormous bike (she estimates that with the kids, their gear, and a load of groceries the total weight tops out around 550 lbs!).
In part the family bike came out of Finch's desire for her large family to create a smaller carbon footprint. But also, as she put it, "When I saw that bike, I knew it. I said, 'This is it. This is going to change my life.'" And she's right, the bike has transformed her life and the life of her family: they've saved lots of money not having a big car; Finch lost the 25 lbs she thought she never would; they even ended up moving to Portland because it was more bike-friendly and open-minded than the small town they lived in before. Trading the car for the family bike has changed the scope of their days and outings, and has introduced Finch into the welcoming community of fellow bikers.
As you might imagine, it's not always (ever) easy, but Finch says, "it's changed my life. I can't really explain it. In the end, my bike just brings me happiness." And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is how you tell a Life Traffic Jam who's boss.
Try Biking to Work
Workouts for Any Schedule
Who knows why we all keep saying ridiculous things like "I'm too old for that," when this is proven to be nonsense again and again? For example, say you're past your 20s (or 30s) and looking to take up a new, non-old-ladyish hobby. "I always loved gymnastics as a kid," you might say to yourself, "but that's impossible now, so I guess I'll take up crocheting." If you're German athlete/grandma Joanna Quaas, however, you resume your former gymnastics habit, and by 86 you're winning a Guinness World Record for oldest gymnast alive. And the unofficial Life Lift blog award for awesomest gymnast alive. You absolutely must see the photos and videos of her performing -- in her granny-glasses and all (and, bonus, the video also features a female sumo wrestler):
Of her world record, Quaas told The Daily Mail,"I hope the record inspires others to realize it's never too late." She also explained that her exercise routine includes running up and down the stairs, yoga, and running. She is in much, much, much better shape than I have ever been or ever will be, but that's okay. She reminds us all that in a world more than ready to discourage a lady, or a senior citizen for that matter, we might as well encourage ourselves to try. Besides, I have a couple decades to attain my inner athletic greatness. And to find the perfect crushed-velvet leotard of my own.
You can't move very fast if you're carrying a lot of baggage. I try to remind myself of that every day. It's easy to get weighed down by bad stuff from your past--an accident, a difficult breakup, family issues, whatever. But if you're tied to the past, you're not going to get very far.
When I was lying in the hospital after the accident, my surgeon, Dr. DeLong, handed me some magazines about the Paralympics and told me to think about it. I had no idea what it would take to be an amputee, let alone a sprinter, let alone a gold medalist. But I told myself, "This is your new dream. Here it is. Take the first step."
Watch a video of April training for the Paralympics
Of the many inspiring stories to come out of the Olympics, how many of them have to do with a champion's excellent manners? Usain Bolt, world's fastest man, was being interviewed after winning the gold medal in the 100 meter dash, when US sprinter Sanya Richards-Ross's own gold medal ceremony began. He stopped his interview (in a very low-key way) to listen to the national anthem, and to let Richards-Ross have her moment over on that other side of the screen.
In a world that rewards competitiveness, how lovely it is to see an athlete take a moment to honor a fellow athlete's accomplishments. If only we could all feel this way about each others' successes -- writers, businesspeople, politicians, artists, even parents -- after all, we're all in this whatever-we-are-in together, and it never hurts to take a moment for someone else's moment.
(And you have to love how, when told he is a legend, Bolt chuckles, saying, "Yeah, people say that." Do they give gold medals in class and humility, too?)
After all, that's where the interesting stories are, as Liam and Megan O'Rourke proved with their engaging take on men's gymnastics over at the Los Angeles Review of Books. Liam writes, "watching longshot Kieran Behan stumble all over his floor routine and then smile the bitter smile of defeat was heartbreaking. My favorite Olympic moment of any sport today came when Louis Smith performed his superb pommel horse routine (ended getting the best score of the day on pommel horse) and then unexpectedly burst into tears...All of these moments made me think that, despite the fact that many people think of men’s gymnastics as a stoic display of strength moves and acrobatics, the sport is actually deeply bound up in psychology and emotion."
Meghan, a former gymnast herself, responds, noting the incredible adversity Kieran Behan had fought to be there on the floor at all, including a tumor, nerve damage, a freak accident. She writes, "So no, I don’t think you’re romanticizing the pain and danger of gymnastics. The tension between masochism and spiritual triumph is absolutely central to this sport... There are very few other sports that so fully dramatize that extraordinary exercise of will, which I think we all find beautiful: it’s why we watch the Olympics, isn’t it?"
Ohhhhh. The reason why people love to watch even the most obscure, suddenly-high-stakes Olympic sports is just as the O'Rourkes put it: the fever-pitched emotion, the thrilling failures, even the injustice of the very-near-misses. It's drama, is what it is: "Modern gymnastics makes you want to hide your eyes AND pick up the binoculars." And as the O'Rourkes point out, it's heightened by the fact that you can often see the reactions of the athletes' families as they succeed or fail or injure themselves or burst into tears. It's like you see the crux of a person's life, their own life story compressed, in an instant. And that is something worth taking part in.
Dr. Oz Talks to 2008 Olympic Athletes
The Spirit of the Olympics
It makes me wonder -- how many of the people I walk by every day might have some splendid achievement in their past, some great triumph jostling around in their hearts? And, once you've won a gold medal in, say, kayaking, what does that do to your life? Are you forever filled with the glow of achievement, peeking at your gold medal in moments of doubt? My guess is that when you've got that Olympic spirit you go through the rest of your life trying, working, yearning, going for the gold. Which is something we could all do, whether we're amateur divers, intermediate fencers, or hopelessly unathletic spectators.
The Music Olympic Athletes Make
Highlights from the 2010 Winter Olympics
Pop quiz: Was the above said by:
a) A teenager in Des Moines, Iowa?
b) A teenager in rural Wales?
c) Jack Mubiru, a father of the skateboarding scene in Uganda?
If you guessed all of the above, you would be right. The New York Times Magazine has some gorgeous photos of the relatively new skateboarding scene in Uganda. They are images of beautiful decay; they document people having the best time; they also remind us of how alike we all are, in the end. The Uganda Skateboarder's Saloon may not seem to have much in common with some sleek Californian skate park all voluptuous with curvy concrete hills, but the idea behind both places is the same: people need something to do, and in a void, they make their own fun.
Relearning How to Have Fun
Three Ways to Beat Boredom in Your Life
It was one of the most cringe-inducing moments of the Beijing Olympics: Fierce, fleet Lolo Jones, leading the pack in the 100-meter hurdles, suddenly knocking over the second-to-last hurdle, losing her rhythm and falling back to seventh place. Just like that, the favored champion was out of the race. Four years later, Jones was dreaming of redemption in London, but her spot on this year's Olympic team wasn't a sure thing: she was coming off a rocky season that involved sub-par performances, nagging injuries and sagging confidence. And yet, last week Jones finished third in the 100-meter hurdles at the track and field trials and qualified for London. We are in awe of this killer photo of Jones at the trials. This is a woman who will not let anything--repeat, anything!--get in her way.
The other day I was feeling bummed about the paunch, and was glumly considering my options. I asked my neighbor, who's a personal trainer, where I should start. "Three minutes running, three minutes..." "Crying?" I guessed. "Um, no. Walking. No crying." A run in the 90 degree heat? Okay. I immediately went to air-conditioned cafe and the thing is they have these really special donuts.
Evening plans: shame spiral.
Then I was talking to my husband, and moaning about the paunch, and a thought struck me: I love this problem. Don't get me wrong, it's a problem. If there's one thing I hate more than working out, it's shopping for clothes, so never getting back to my normal size is out of the question. But I am so mindblowingly lucky that this is my problem. I mean, I'm not talking the-mom-in-What's-Eating-Glibert-Grape obesity here. And I'm not starving either. I mean: Hooray! It's just a non-delicious muffin top! That's not to say I want to keep it around, but it did occur to me that if I treated my problem with loving kindness, or more accurately, an amused detachment, it's possible that I would have less angst and more energy to combat it. Like, instead of feeling depleted by it, I should be thankful for it. Hey, baby weight! Wasn't that fun when you served a purpose? Guess what, buddy? The baby's out! The baby walks and talks! So, listen, you know what you might really enjoy, is this, it's called "salad"! How lucky, to have this paunch around to convince me to exercise!
What's your paunch? -- that little problem annoying your subconscious all day? A small debt piling up on the Victoria's Secret credit card you refuse to believe you even have? A kitchen that seems to mess itself up when you're sleeping? A sense that your blah haircut is the key to all your life's inadequacies? Trust me, I know that there are big problems that are hard to love: bankruptcy, disease, bangs that refuse to grow out gracefully. But maybe if we can remember to treat our paunch-like problems with love, we can remember that it's actually kind of fun to, I don't know, run for three minutes.
9 Rules for Everyday Senseless Joy
The No-Gimmick Way to Make Change in Your Life
There are maybe three things in the world cuter than watching three-year-old ballerinas twirl around. I mean, I can't think of them at the moment but I'm sure there are some. But like any 21st Century, Non-Toddlers-and-Tiaras mother, I've found myself wondering whether my kid's super-low-key toddler ballet classes at the Y are encouraging something secretly nefarious, baby "Black Swan"-style. The idea was just to do something physical and imaginative and dreamy and fun. (And, from the daughter's perspective, something involving tutus.)
Then this great video for the song "Man on Fire," by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, comes along: a celebration of creative movement of all stripes. Inner city double-dutch champions? Check. Suburban cheerleaders? Check. Um, the New York City ballet? Check. This video feels less like a performance and more like peeking in on a dance class. And in this world, dance is about bodies moving, about feeling music, about having fun. In this world, dancing is for everyone. And even the ballerinas look like they're having fun. Phew.
A 12-Day Flamenco-Dancing Vacation from Life
Goldie Hawn Dances to Her Own Beat