Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Profound to me.

While practicing yoga outside yesterday morning, I was in trikonasana (triangle pose where the body forms many different triangles) and noticed three birds flying high in the sky. I thought to myself how wonderful it would be to just get up and fly.  It made me think back to when I was reading Anne Lamott's book Traveling Mercies and I realized that while I wouldn't want to sky dive, I would like to go paragliding.  

Later on at Z1's tennis class, I began to read Lift by Kelly Corrigan.  This book actually caused me a lot of angst because I first read about it in some random magazine I was reading while Z1 was participating in a library program.  I couldn't remember the title nor the author--only the way it looked and that it was a non-fictional book that I *knew* I would enjoy because I usually enjoy those kinds of books.  I spent almost an hour searching the web with not much to go on until finally . . . I found it.  Don't ask me how.  

Anyway, I opened the book and it starts off: "All things want to fly." 

On Monday at the children's library I found a wonderful treasure of a book:  The Wonderful Happens by Cynthia Rylant.  

[quote]From Publishers Weekly

Like the lyrics to The Sound of Music's "My Favorite Things," Rylant's picture-book list of what is wonderful in the world includes both raindrops and roses. The sweet, rhythmic text is both cheery and unabashedly sentimental. It begins with basic bread: "In a little kitchen/ someone butters bread,/ wonderful bread./ the earth grew wheat,/ the wheat made flour,/ and the wonderful happened:/ bread." Rylant sets up a premise that conveys nature's cause and effect: bread comes from flour, birds from eggs, roses from seeds. Dowley frames her illustrations with homey, quiltlike borders in simple flowered or geometric patterns. Branches of a peach tree teem with bees, a butterfly and a clone of the bright bluebird seen in Disney's Cinderella. Then abruptly, in the middle of a full-bleed spread of a blue sky dotted with a single yellow star, the text asks, "Did you know/ there was a time/ when you weren't anywhere?" Setting aside how puzzling this question might be to a child and that her answer goes against the simple logic of the first three-quarters of the book, Rylant suggests that children just happen ("you happened/ like bread, like a bird, like rain,/.../ the wonderful happened,/ the wonderful is you/ growing like a red red rose." Unfortunately, despite its feel-good appeal and images, the book lacks a coherent vision. All ages. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition. [/quote]

I agree with the summary of the book to a tee but I still found it beautiful because I think in a lot of ways, it mirrors the way we think . . . things don't always seem to have a clear connection.  Like bread doesn't connect to a bird which doesn't connect to my children.  At least not apparently.  But they are all connected.  
It's all connected.  And that is profound to me.  

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fitness Rundown Summer 2010

After I decided that I couldn't keep up with P90X because of the time commitment (an hour plus most days), I was kind of just winging it.  I was doing lots of different cardio DVDs/routines and lifting weights too (using Jari Love DVDs or routines from the Chalean Extreme(CE) program though not in any particular order).  Last week I finally decided to commit to following the CE program exclusively but I decided to start at Month 2, the Push month, which emphasizes using weight that is heavy enough so that you really have to struggle to get out the last 3 reps in the set (with good form, of course).  The main advantage of CE over P90x is the time factor.  No workout is more than 45 minutes long at most.  Another key difference is that there are two rest days as opposed to one in the P90X program.  I use one of the rest days for cardio and the other for yoga.  Another difference is that most of the routines in CE focus on all-over weight lifting as opposed to isolating areas on different days.  I'm not sure how I feel about that approach but it is definitely a solid program and I'm looking forward to getting to the end and noting my results.  I like Chalean's energy and I think she gives excellent instruction so it makes it easier to get up and do it.  If I had it my way though, I would still be doing P90X because I like the intensity of the program even despite the fact that I have to add about an extra hour or so of cardio to the 2 hours that are built into the program.  I think weight training is wonderful and it is an essential part of my fitness routine.  It's amazing that I started out barely being able to move 5 and 6 pound weights.  Currently I'm curling 18 lbs.  in each hand and squatting with 44+ pounds.  I can't wait to see just how heavy I am going to go!  There are hundreds of reasons to lift weights--especially for women and I always encourage folks' interested in fitness to start a strength training routine.  Like Chalean always says, as a woman if you're not really trying to bulk up in a concentrated way, you won't because women just don't have the kind of testosterone.  Lifting weights nicely complements the kind of strength work I do in yoga (which is using my own weight as resistance). 

Like P90X, CE is primarily focused on strength training so I have to find ways to get the cardio I need.  I've taken up running and like weight training, I've been pleasantly surprised at how much I really enjoy it.  There is just something about running that's glamorous in a way, yes, but also super challenging mentally and physically.  To me, there's nothing like setting a goal (like the next stoplight) and making it there and then pushing through to the next stoplight.  I thoroughly enjoy the time to listen to my music without anyone interrupting.  Or just running in silence listening to the rhythm of my feet striking the pavement.  Since I'm a beginning runner, I am experiencing some novice issues like what kind of running shoe is for me, what headphones will actually stay in my ears while running, what my ideal pace is, and what kind of goals I should be setting for myself.  Luckily for me, I discovered that my local library subscribes to Runner's World--talk about about an abundance of information.  It's awesome.  

So right now, I'm doing the CE program (and also doing Ab Ripper X from P90x) three times a week., cardio 3 times a week and yoga twice a week.  I run on Sundays (my long run) and on Thursdays (a shorter run after an hour or so of yoga) so running is my main form of cardio these days.  Once a week, my cardio consists of step aerobics such a Cathe Friedrich's Athletic Step,  plyometrics/kickboxing blends like Jillian Micheal's Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism, or if I want a workout that is low-impact but still a calorie-burner/sweat inducer, Aerospace NYC AeroBox.  

That's where I am with it right now.  When I'm done with CE, I'd like to get into kettlebell workouts or try a different kind of strength training.  I know that I would just love to get an interchangeable dumbbell set at some point in the near future.  I think it would be an excellent investment in that I'd have a large range of weight to use and switching weights would be a quick  and easy process that doesn't involve calculation.   Right now, I am using the hubby's weights which consist of threaded dumbbell handles and an array of weights that go on them and some neoprene handweights.  To figure out how much weight I'm using, I am constantly with a calculator adding and subtracting 2.5 lbs, 5 lbs,  etc . . .  Also, from an aesthetic perspective, it would help a lot.  The weights are in corner in our living room and the kids just love to mess with them leaving all over the place instead of neatly stacked the way I leave them.  I still haven't decided yet but it's between the Powerblock 2.5 to 50 lb. adjustable set or the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells.  I'm drawn towards the Powerblocks because they look less sleek which often means they are more durable.  The SelectTech's are sexy which means (in my mind at least) that they may break more easily.  I can adjust both weights in seconds and that's the main reason why I'm not looking into the Ironmaster's which are supposedly the best on the market.

So that's my fitness rundown.  It may have bored the hell out of some of you  but fitness is really a huge part of my life right now.  And I hope it will be an important part for the rest of my days. 
There's nothing quite like feeling and being fit and strong. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

What's with all the propaganda?

It seems recently that everywhere I turn there are warnings to use sunscreen at every possible moment that you might have even the tiniest bit of exposure to the sun.  Including in the rain.  Or through a window.  In the winter.  There are advertisements in magazines for sunscreens with SPF ratings of 100!  I have to say, I think this is insane.

Of course, I can appreciate that because of human actions, our ozone layer is compromised and more harmful rays make their way down to us.  But despite this, I cannot embrace the idea that the sun is this deadly heavenly body that could only bring us harm.  

Ancient peoples worshiped, celebrated, and honored the sun because they recognized it as the source of all life.  Without it, we are finished.  Plants need it to photosynthesize and we need plants for food.  But we need the sun in a more direct way as well: without the sun, human beings (and many other animals) cannot synthesize vitamin D, an essential vitamin.

In many of these magazines that I've been reading that are so pro-sunscreen, I have read that even a daily 10 minutes unprotected in the sun could be deadly and that the *best* way to get Vitamin D is through supplements.  They rarely make any distinctions in the supplements when they are making the recommendations: D2 versus D3?  There are some studies that say that the body can't really use D2, the vegan form of vitamin D.   Natural types of vitamin D supplementation (like cod liver oil and eggs) versus synthetic forms?  Is it really all the same?  Somehow I doubt it.  

And what's perhaps the most troublesome to me is that they never seem to consider darker-hued individuals in their recommendations.  I read somewhere once that highly melinated skin (i.e. dark skin) is equivalent to SPF 50 on it's own.  I would guess that lighter skinned folks of color would have skin that's at least naturally SPF 15 or 30.  That means that for a darker-skinned persons, sunscreen would not be as necessary especially if the person is not in the direct sun for hours and hours.  But I have yet to see any sunscreen guidelines for darker skinned people.  I am worried about what the repercussions will be if all people follow the general guidelines for sunscreen.  For many months out of the year in my neck of the woods, the sun does not shine at all.  Are we to understand that supplements really are an acceptable alternative to synthesizing our own vitamin D naturally?  Do we really want to go by those guidelines only to find ourselves in 10-15 years seriously lacking vitamin D in our systems and dealing with all the issues that come from such a deficiency?

I am well aware that mainstream medicine and media will not take the time to make guidelines specific to people of color.  I am kind of in a teetering position--worrying about the dangers of the sun (which have come about as a direct result of human actions)  but not being able to trust the establishment as to what to do in terms of sunscreen and vitamin D supplementation.  I fully expect to hear some crazy statistic in a few years about how babies of color are suffering from rickets and other bone disease because whatever supplement was prescribed (Oops!) just doesn't work.  Then they'll change their recommendation again and say everyone should strive for at least some unprotected time in the sun but by then, the damage will already have been done.  I feel this whole thing could turn out to be just the same situation as when margarine was far better than butter but then they turned around and said that in terms of bad food, trans-fats are the devil incarnate.  I mean, really?  I ate margarine my whole childhood! 

In the winter or when my kids get sick, I am an avowed cod liver oil user.  I like Carlson's brand because it is a high vitamin D oil that is triple purified so there is no mercury present.  I'm also able to buy it at my local market.  I feel that cod liver oil, at least, is a more natural form of vitamin D than something made in the lab.  And I do use sunscreen but I'm not crazy with it.  I always use SPF 30.  If we're at the pool, I'll apply it once and leave it at that.  It we're at the beach, maybe twice (because the beach is really the only place I've gotten a sunburn). But if we're going about our business, ducking in and out of stores, the library, the car, etc. and not really in direct sunlight for any extended length of time, I don't put it on.  

I won't even talk about the myriad of unnatural and questionable ingredients in most mainstream sunscreens.  My favorite brands of sunscreen: The Naked Bee (which is a butter) and All Terrain TerrasSport, which both have ingredients that I'm more comfortable with.  

Anyway, I feel my conspiracy theorist alter ego rearing up whenever I read yet another article on using sunscreen . . . who is in bed with who here?  Who stands to benefit?  What's with all the propaganda? Essential questions to ask.

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