The Balancing Act – Fun vs. Fit

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My focus lately has been a little off.

Actually, very off, and all over the place. Based on the subjects in my last few posts, you can see my mind is outside. It’s finally starting to look like it’s supposed to in the Green Mountain State: very, very green, and I have become brain-swept with a renewed urge to just spend all my waking free time thinking about what I can do out there.

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columbine is in bloom!

Look, Columbine! Where’s my camera?

Hey, frogs are back!

Oh, ramps are out, so are morels and fiddleheads–lets go find them before it’s too late!

Look rose breasted grosbeaks are at the feeder, where’s my camera?

Ooh! Gardens–I need to get going on those!

It’s nice to be inspired. But this change of season is seeping  into my my typically rock-solid, gung-ho attitude towards the inside fitness I feel is really important.  My scheduled workouts have become kind of an afterthought. I’m procrastinating, waiting until the end of the day to do them. This may not be so bad for some people, waiting until later, but I’m really beat by late in the afternoon, and my mind isn’t really into it by then. Yesterday I clock-watched through the entire workout and was feeling down on myself.

look! an RBGB!

look! an RBGB!

If I’m like this now, this summer will be worse!

Trying to figure out where that super-motivated, fit and focused me went, and how to bring her back, I started thinking back to an experience that really make me thankful fitness is an important part of my life.  At about this same time last year, I attended a fly fishing class.  This was the 2nd time I took this class, because I needed a refresher on the knots and casts I learned the year before, and thought this women’s-only class would be a fun, more relaxed group. On the second day in the afternoon, we went out to a local stream.  There was one very reluctant woman in the class, I’m guessing she was in her 60s, who was there only because her husband had sent her. We were wading in the river on somewhat slippery rocks, most of us wearing borrowed and unfamiliar wading shoes,  trying to reach the bank on the other side, and working against the current. There was another woman, there on her own free will and excited to learn, in her mid-fifties. And she also was struggling to stay upright and cross safely, becoming a little more discouraged by the minute.

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a little fun with casting at class…

A few of us had to offer an arm and walk slowly with them, across the river, and over to the other side.

At the end of the day, as we all headed with gear towards our cars, I sided up to our wonderful instructor, Molly Seminek, who was visiting from Montana just to teach this class. We were silent at first but then began kind of a reluctant conversation about how tough it is for some people, wading in the water and having the balance and strength they need. She often advises clients to work on their balance and agility and their overall fitness and strength levels off the water, because it’s something that definitely works to their advantage when in the water, and on the riverside when you need to step over rocks or logs, or high banks. I mentioned how I feel strongly about the need to stay fit as we get older, and how yoga and weight training, has helped me too, in many ways. Hearing this was something she works on continually to keep herself in good form to keep guiding and doing what she loves every day as a career, was very reassuring.

This conversation comes to mind from time-to-time for motivation when I need it, as well as advice I hear from other sources, most notably from P90x, one of the strength training programs I like to rotate into the mix a few times per year. Tony Horton, the trainer mentions a few times throughout that jump training, and yoga and some of the other moves included are so great to practice and learn to do safety in a controlled environment, because it helps train you for all the great things you want to do in real life and in real settings. And I guess it’s because these are on DVDs and I have heard the same lines over and over again, that I can hear his voice in my head when I’m lunging down to dig up dirt in my garden and throwing it in a pile. And I’m reminding myself to not arch my back. Or let my knee go over my toes. And when looking for salamanders with my son, always bend my knees when lifting up heavy rocks, instead of pulling them from a standing position. Or when lifting him to cross the river when he’s about to swamp his boots.

My friends and family, when I ask for advice on this, tend to think it should be easy for me to just let go of my need to do any

always ready to join me on that hike...

always ready to join me on that hike…

formal exercise inside, because it’s just so nice out. I should just hike. Or run. Or whatever keeps me moving, as long as it’s outside. I don’t think one really replaces the other though, and with a set amount of free-time, I worry I’ll lose all that great endurance, flexibility and strength I work so hard to build the rest of the year, that enables my success on so many levels. But then again, it’s super-depressing being inside doing pull-ups and push-ups, or planks when I hear an oriole out the window chirping and the river rambling along, and always a labrador ready and waiting to be walked…

I have to figure out how to let my fitness life and my outdoor life live side-by-side this season, without slacking off in either. I want to be in my sixties, and crossing that river on my own, without someone else lending me an arm, and worry if I let it slide, even a little, I’ll lose momentum long term…

How have you balanced your fit lives when more fun activities are calling your name?

Do you make changes that help keep the strength training more interesting? Or take that outside?

Do you let fitness slide a bit throughout certain times of the year?

Do you have the perfect mix of both?

I’d love to hear some ideas and discussion.

For more information:

Molly Seminek: http://tietheknotflyfishing.com/wordpress/

P90x: http://www.beachbody.com/product/p90x-what-you-get.do

Master your Mud Season

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Mud Season has come early to Southern Vermont.

Yesterday I didn’t get out much, but was told it snowed in every town surrounding us, but not here in my own.

It’s really strange. Most of the other snowstorms plaguing New England this season have eluded us as well.

What we see?  Just Rain. Cold. Mud. Slush.

To add insult to injury, and adding more to my glum outlook, I managed to injure myself while walking with my lab, Balsam. Heading towards the river by my house, the mud was so squishy and wet, I hurdled unceremoniously down what I thought was a path, but what was actually a mudslide.  I finally came to a stop when my arm got hooked on a peace of rhebar left over from when the forest service came onto our property to do some work last fall.

My coat ripped. My legs covered in mud. My arm vibrating, I thought, note to self:  Bog Boots are not made for wearing in mud. Next time, I’ll remember…

Ego wounded, I slowly made my way back to the house, where my son helped cover my new wounds with a collection of Tow-Mater and Lightning McQueen band-aids.

This time of year?

It’s not the most inspiring.

And I’m guessing it’s like that for you too.

The thought of another few months of this irritates me; so after some thought, I decided it’s time to reposition the role of Mud-Season in my life.

No more sulking.

No more complaining about cabin fever.

And about how fun Vermont is in every other season but this one.

I need to make the most of this down time, and start thinking about setting some personal goals for the rest of the year, so when spring is here, I’m ready.

And for now? At least it’ll give me a positive outlook and something to look forward to.

I only learned about personal goal-setting a few years ago, but I should have started a long time ago, when I first realized I had lost sight of my hobbies and interests.

I moved to Vermont for a new job  when in my 20s and single, and was experiencing my first mud season in early 1996.  I didn’t know too many people yet. One weekend day, bored and with nothing to do, I hopped in my car and drove an hour and a half to Albany, New York.  I thought, well, it’s the closest city, I’m sure there are things to do there. Lots of shops. And lots of people.

But I was wrong.

In Albany, I just walked around for a few minutes. I poked in a few stores. I had lunch. But I really didn’t want to spend much money.

And about a half hour later, realizing my mistake, I made my way on the long, curvy, dull drive back to Vermont.

What I learned? Shopping and going to stores is not a hobby. Eating out is not a hobby. These are just activities to pass the time.

What else could I do, living on my own, when I was bored?

I had no idea.

Before I moved, I primarily spent my time working and commuting. And in my spare time, shopping, going out with friends to eat, or to see a movie or concerts.  But if someone asked me about my hobbies or interests, aside from a little reading and lots of music, I think I would have been stumped to find more to add.

It finally occurred to me “When in Rome, I need to do like the Romans”, right? When in Vermont…?  Skiing and snowshoeing in winter. Mushroom hunting and hiking in spring. More hiking and gardening and bird-watching and river-rock rambling in summer, and leaf-peeping and more hikes in the fall.

Learning about wildflowers and trees and edible plants and all things nature–that’s where I spent my time after that.

Who would have thought someone like me, this product of suburbia, could morph into a nature-girl.

But I made the transition well over time.

Today, the need for personal growth, learning new skills, and finding new hobbies is even more important, because it’s really easy for our sense of self to just slip away. We have way too much responsibility. With the work day no longer 9-5, our attention is constantly diverted away from things that are important to us. Our spouses and kids, of course, are the top priority, and the house upkeep next. And our community and schools need us too.

The list keeps growing and pulling us in every which way, except the one leading to any personal satisfaction, creativity and growth.

To keep progressing over the last few years, I started to set my sights on confronting activities I always thought I would dislike, and vowed to  never, ever, ever do.

And have found when I succeed in turning a “never“, as I call them, into a hobby, it’s amazing for building confidence. And one success turns into another, and another, and another…

My experiment started a few years ago, when my friend Mary dragged me to a Yoga class after I repeatedly told her I wanted nothing to do with group exercise. Well, guess what? I was nervous. I had never done yoga before. But,  I LOVED it. And we continued to go every Saturday throughout the summer until the program ended.

I always said I would never, ever do exercise videos, because I hated those too (although, as with the yoga classes, I had never tried them before). Well, since the day I nervously forced myself to press play on that video a few years ago,  I  continue to challenge myself through some pretty harrowing programs that now, even after the fact, I still can’t believe I ever did.

How’s that for building confidence? I never would have known I was capable of doing a pull-up, and many other scary-looking moves, but hey, now I do!

A non-fitness challenge I tackled a few years ago was learning to fly-fish. My husband is into it. I always said I didn’t want to learn. Why? No reason. I just assumed I wouldn’t like it.  I signed up for a weekend course, with my friend Kiernan for moral support, and loved it, took a second class last summer, and am continuing my education this spring because I still have a ton to learn. I wrote about this experience if you want to check it out later….http://www.orvisnews.com/Women-in-Fly-Fishing/Giving-in-to-fly-fishing.aspx

This year, I forced myself to get back on skis for the first time in about 15 years.  And ice skates too.

But I haven’t been back to an exercise class for 3 or 4 years, so maybe that’s something I need to change this spring.  Since it has been awhile, I went back to being scared of them.

Another goal I have is to step up my vegetable gardening skills. How I’m going to do this, I’m not sure.  But this is a good time to figure it all out.

Think about it.

Do you have abandoned hobbies that you are scared to go back and try?

Is there something else you want to learn?

I’m not talking about things for you to do with your kids, because they like it, what are you personally interested in?

I have been really inspired by some of my friends lately. My friend Susanne started felting as a hobby, and has now made it her business. My friend Lynn took some painting classes last year, and is now a full-time artist. Eve gave snowboarding and strength training a try last year–very brave! And is continually challenging herself with some really cool knitting and textile projects.  Kiernan learned to fly fish with me, and is still working on it, but continues to challenge herself with different workout classes, even after the longest days and at strange times, because they offer her some much-needed time for herself.

I met a very inspiring woman during my second fly fishing class last June. She was in her mid-50s, and a teacher. She told me that during her summer breaks she finds one new activity to learn, and works on it all summer. Most of the other women in that fly fishing class were there because their husbands “sent” them. They were scared to death, and didn’t really want to be there. But this gal, Mary, was there because she thought it would be really cool to learn, and on her own too. And she does something like this for herself every year!

I love that.

And want to be just like that.

So what about you, are you with me?

Take a chance.  Carve out some time.  And start planning…

I can see the clouds-lifting, the mud drying, and the confidence-building already.