Monday Meditation: My 10,000 Steps (and very sore feet).

A very personal post this week. I hope you’ll bear with me, I am writing this the night before posting in place of the scheduled one. Typos may happen as I’m pretty tired and sore because yesterday (Saturday), this happened:

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This is the first time I have ever reached this goal and this is how I felt when I saw the stats:

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To put it into context: I’ve had a severe back injury that goes back (sorry) to when I was 20, and has been exacerbated by numerous other injuries, surgery, medications and treatments. I have spent months in a plaster cast, weeks in traction, years wearing a steel reinforced corset, and spent most of my adult life lying flat on my back rattling with pills that didn’t work, unable to have anyone touch me due to intractable pain.

I’ve missed countless family events.  I have gone to bed in my trainers because there was no-one around to unfasten them for me. I have frequently slept in my clothes because either I couldn’t move or the pain was too severe to have someone help me. There are times I can’t even clean my teeth because raising my arm is too painful. I didn’t have a bath, shower or hair wash for 5 years – I eventually had my son shave my head, very liberating! I can’t travel to see my mum. I can’t hold a book. There are still days when I can’t get out of bed. But just occasionally, with a lot of hard work over a long period of time, with fingers crossed and all the planets in alignment, I manage to go for a walk. Usually they are short. Once in a blue moon and usually in warm summer weather, they become longer.

Saturday was one of these days.

To cut a long story short, my husband needed me to go with him to take a parcel that was being returned and the address needed to be scanned, but he doesn’t have a smartphone and wanted to use mine. He has a (justified) reputation for losing or breaking electronic devices and I didn’t trust him with mine!

Had I known how far we would be going, and end up going via a circuitous route along the canal, I would have gone by car. I wasn’t feeling the best, but knew I should try and have a walk. In the event, I was distracted by swans and ducks – flying overhead and sitting on the water –  crocuses, snowdrops and canal architecture, smallholdings with geese, old buildings, and my husband pointing out where various people lived and so on.

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By the time we arrived home, I had done 7,000 steps. SEVEN THOUSAND STEPS!! In winter when it’s impossible to leave the house, I struggle to make a few hundred; previously when I did go out, I was delirious if I made 1500. Lately, with hard work, I’ve been managing 3-4,000, that’s how momentous this is. I couldn’t believe it and knew immediately there would be payback. I could feel myself stiffening up as soon as I sat down.

It had threatened rain, so it had been damp, which didn’t help. The next time I stood up, I couldn’t straighten my legs, and my feet and ankles felt like they would break with the pressure. My back was not happy at all. I knew I had to keep moving, hard as it might be. So, even though my husband kept offering to fetch things for me, I doggedly shuffled about trying to keep the bodyparts mobile. I felt like I was in my nineties! Injections of WD40 would have been appreciated.

Later, as my husband made dinner, it became a lovely evening with a peach-toned sky and I decided I had to try to walk around the block or I would never get out of bed in the morning. I was rewarded by the most beautiful song from an overhanging tree as I rounded the corner. A robin was in full voice right above my head and I had my own private concert. I was glad I made the effort.

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Can you see him? I wish you could hear him, but my blog won’t support video. I took this still from the video I took with my phone camera.

His song lifted my spirits and I walked the rest of the way with a smile and a metaphorical if not literal spring in my step.

By late evening, my husband and I compared notes, we had both done just over 9,000 steps! I couldn’t believe it. My competitive genes kicked in and I knew, if I tried really hard, I could manage the final 1,000 before bed, just walking around the house. I knew I would be sorry next day, but I didn’t care: I also knew that my sense of achievement (and the fact I beat my very fit husband!) would be worth all the pain and discomfort.

I had a long and very hot shower, smothered myself in arnica gel and set about my task. Eventually, I looked at my stats and it said 9,951! So close. I shuffled and counted. I was sure I had made it. I checked again. 9,951. What was going on? Again I counted. Still 9,951. I knew I had made it but I needed the visual evidence! I walked around and around the kitchen as I waited for the kettle to heat up for a couple of hot water bottles, I was going to need them! I was dead on my feet, they would ever forgive me for abusing them this way.

Finally, finally, the stats changed. 10,360! That was so cruel. I could have been in bed 360 steps ago! But I was ecstatic. And so proud. I have been trying for years to improve my walking and kept being kicked back to the starting point. This was incredible. I was so happy.

All I needed now was a good night’s rest and to take things easy next day, try to keep moving but not push myself. So, what happened? A dog barked all night. The temperature had risen and I was overheated with the shower and hot water bottles. I was over-stimulated by the exercise and my mind wouldn’t stop recalling my efforts and everything I’d seen that day. I was so stiff, I found it hard to change position. By the time I felt like I had just managed to drop off, a blackbird was singing his heart out and it was still pitch dark!

It took me an hour and a half to get up this morning. Another long hot shower. More arnica gel. My feet didn’t want to touch the ground. I felt like I’d been in the ring with Ali. My husband went on a 50 mile bike ride and I could barely lift a cup of tea!

And yet, I was smiling. I couldn’t wait to show my also very fit cycling son and my kick-boxing daughter what I had achieved. They wouldn’t believe it. I still had trouble believing it. I keep having to look back at the stats.

I may never manage it again. But if I don’t, I will always have this feeling. I will always remember this euphoria. I will always be grateful for the chance to prove that despite all the ‘can’ts’, this time I could.

Ps Plus the added bonus of beating my husband!

PPs I could never have done this before I started juicing and became vegan. There has been a marked improvement in my overall health in the last 4-5 years. I think there has been a reduction in the inflammation throughout my body, plus the added nutrients feeding my muscles, nerves and so on.

Thank you for reading. I just had to tell someone!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

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Monday Meditation: My Walk Around the *Neigh*bourhood

A9782E54-B393-4A09-B173-2A2C704B7C59As I write, it’s midday on Sunday, the sky is a clear blue as far as the eye can see and the sun is bringing out the crocuses and daffodils in the front garden. A perfect time to go for a walk. Except it’s 2 degrees C out there with an icy wind. My crazy husband is out on a bike ride with the club, but I’m waiting a couple of hours for those predicted extra couple of degrees! So, I’ve put on the Prime Chill album, made a cup of 3 Mint tea and thought I would show you some pictures of last week’s walk on a similar day, when I went up to what used to be the horses’ field.

Not that long ago, I used to go regularly to see the permanent residents of this field, Dolly and Annie, two working carriage horses. Dolly was a black heavy, plodding mare who was so quiet and friendly. Annie was a tall chestnut and very temperamental. She was a bully and any other temporary residents were given short shrift, including the foals, often receiving a nip or a kick to let them know their place in the scheme of things. She was quite haughty, looking and behaving more like a thoroughbred. She would always push herself forward for any treats and I often had to distract her so that I could sneak some apple or carrot to Dolly or the foals. But they both allowed me to befriend them and would make their way over from the far corner of the field as soon as I approached, Dolly plodding over in her slow, lumbering fashion, Annie skittish and tossing her tail.

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I was privileged to witness one of Dolly’s foals being born, a really ugly little thing with a huge head, but he was so friendly and funny. Annie had a much more elegant-looking long-legged foal not long after and some months later, on a beautiful summer evening, I stood and watched as first Dolly’s foal started racing around the perimeter of the field, then Annie’s foal joined in. Annie was not impressed and tried to put a stop to it, but then Dolly got the itch and began charging around after the excited foals, pounding the ground with her heavy feet, and before long, Annie had to join in the fun. I’ve never witnessed anything like it. Four horses careering around the field at full gallop, round and round, uninhibited, kicking up their legs every so often with the sheer freedom and fun of it all. Oh, to move with such joyful abandon in the fresh summer air under an endlessly clear sky!

 

Now, sadly, the field lies abandoned. The local authority wants to build a supermarket, petrol station and housing, by a busy roundabout in a residential area at the entrance to the town. Of course there has been a huge outcry and everything has been up in the air for a few years.

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This gnarly old tree used to be the only shade for up to 6 horses, next to a pond that gradually shrank over the years. Now the tree has apparently been struck by lightning, cleaved in two. It wasn’t an ideal situation for the horses: in summer it was completely overgrown with tall thistles and nettles, in Spring and Autumn, it was a boggy quagmire around the perimeter with all the rain. But it was a large space, with a right of way for walkers, who would bring treats as they passed through. I loved taking my young grandchildren there: they, too, saw the baby foal within minutes of its birth. It was a special time. We were on a nature walk at the time, I had given them a list of things to look out for. We had spotted guard-dog geese, a pair of swans with their cygnets, collected feathers, but this was truly a gem.

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Annie’s foal with my grandson

On my most recent walk, I spotted these gates further up the road on the opposite side to the field:

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I don’t know how many hundreds of times we have driven past, or the dozens of times I’ve walked past, but I have never noticed them before. I was always looking over the road for the horses. They are beautiful iron gates with metal flower ornamentation.

When I arrived home, a little sad and angry at what I had found by the field (see next Monday), I came through our gate and smiled. I saw the first real signs of Spring:

 

The daffodil had been proudly standing in bud since early January, the only one to be in such a hurry, and I thought it would be sure to get caught by the frosts, but has withstood everything the elements have thrown at it: frost, hail, rain, snow and icy winds, and now it was fully open. And there, too, was the first forsythia flower, a sign I always look for tell me that Spring is really very close.

And now the outdoors calls again, the sun couldn’t be brighter: it’s bouncing off windows and cars. Incredibly, we are forecast snow on Tuesday! Have a wonderful week, we are confined to barracks having the parquet flooring in the hallway refurbished, pictures soon.

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

 

Monday Meditation: A January Day in the English Countryside Part II

Last year at this time, I posted photographs of a walk along the local lanes on a clear, warm January day in what turned out to be another mild winter.* This year, the weather couldn’t be more different. We had 7” of snow before Christmas, sub-zero temperatures and cowered under numerous storms as we shivered by the woodburner and gradually desiccated in the central heating. This past week has again been freezing and wet, and we’ve just had another two days of sleet and snow.

This particular afternoon, however, the wind abated, the rain stopped and the sun peeped out for a look-see, so we took the chance for some fresh air and exercise and decided to retrace our steps from the previous year.

There was so much mud, debris (squashed plastic water bottles and other litter blown hither and thither by the gales) – and horse manure – on the lanes and verges! But I spared you all that detritus and picked out as much green as I could. We didn’t see the animals on the smallholding, which seemed abandoned, but we did see some sheep. Here are the photos I took this time around:

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This proud wood pigeon wasn’t at all camera-shy, he posed for a very long time, allowing me to get the perfect picture, making sure I only caught his good side, though!

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If you zoom right in on the next photo, you should be able to see a flash of orange just a little left of the tree trunk in the middle. This robin flitted about the whole length of the lane but was always in too much of a hurry to get a decent shot.

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This squirrel on the other hand sat motionless for so long he could have been an ornament. He was so well camouflaged, much darker than all the other grey squirrels, it was a while before I realised he was there. We had met a friend of my husband’s and they stood chatting under this tree. I had my eyes skyward, looking for birds when I spotted him.

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Do you remember the odd long pods that looked like suspended grey broad beans from last year’s post? This year, there were hardly any, those that were in evidence were shrivelled and black and much smaller, but there were many more of these pink, blossom-like flowers on the twigs. I still don’t know what it is.

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From the colour of this sky, you wouldn’t believe we have had endless days of heavy dark cloud, rainstorms and winds strong enough to blow you along the street. My mum’s fence was blown down last week! It was so calm this afternoon, but cold enough to freeze your breath.

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I think this is my favourite photograph from today. 

It was such a refreshing break to be outside amongst the nature we are so privileged to have all around us. It is threatened, sadly, by endless new housing developments which have taken up all the open fields around the schools here. These views are on opposite sides of the lane we walked. The view on the right used to be the same as that on the left.

 

 

We make the most of it and appreciate it while we can.

*Monday Meditation: A January Day in the English Countryside

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: The Edwardian Gardens of Victoria Park, Stafford – & Lots of Ducks!

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A few weeks ago, we had occasion to take refuge in The Edwardian Gardens of Victoria Park in the centre of Stafford, a vast award-winning site of colourful flower gardens that also includes a bowling green, a glass house, an aviary, sculptures, the official town war memorial and a couple of listed buildings.

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29933792_UnknownThis park has everything for everyone. Previously, we’ve only been there with the children on a hot summer’s day. There is a separate huge play area for children of all ages, including a splash pad which our young grandchildren loved: spouts of water shooting up from the ground at different times and heights, great fun, and a concrete skate bowl. These are at the far end from the more peaceful flower gardens, however, and there is no need to fight your way through over-excited children and buggies to enjoy the flowers, the birds and the waterfowl – oh, I forgot to mention there’s also the River Sow running through it! You can picnic by the river and take shade under the weeping willows.

This time, however, we were there for a little respite on a chilly early autumn afternoon after spending a couple of hours in the bank registering Power of Attorney for my mum’s accounts. This was our second trip as the first time I didn’t have the right documents – have you tried proving your identity these days without a passport or driving licence? It was draining and time-consuming, and I was feeling the stress and anxiety of having to acknowledge that Mum was struggling and I was now responsible for taking care of her and her finances.

When we came out, I suggested we have a look at the gardens, I wanted some air and time to destress, but I also wanted to see if they were accessible for Mum. I find that everywhere we go now, I am assessing the access and whether it is somehwere Mum would like to go. This was definitely her cup of tea. Sadly, despite obvious attempts to make it so with entrance ramps, they were much too steep for an elderly woman who can only shuffle with a walker. My husband thought we could hire a wheelchair but I burst out laughing and said they would both end up in the river!

These sculptures are of the cricketer, W.G. Grace, and the 17th century writer, Isaak Walton, most famous for ‘The Compleat Angler’ but also author of several short biographies.

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 Even at this late time of the year, there were plenty of brightly coloured borders to walk by or sit alongside – there are lots of benches all over the park. It is much more structured than other parks or woodland areas I’ve written about (and usually prefer), but it was lovely to reacquaint myself with this vast area of parkland, trees and flowers, and of course the ducks! I couldn’t believe how many there were, far more than I could fit into the photos. In one of the photos it looks like they’re either queuing up for a boat ride or about to dive in for a race!

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We couldn’t spend long there as the light was going amd it was threatening rain, but we strolled about and stood and watched the ducks and birds. It was long enough to let go of the stifling couple of hours sitting on an uncomfortable chair in a tiny cubicle in the bank. The young woman who dealt with us couldn’t have been more helpful or understanding and patient, but it takes as long as it takes and I was grateful for this short respite. Our forefathers had incredible foresight in designing and constructing public recreation areas like this one, in the middle of the town. For me, they are a lifesaver. Being among trees and wildlife is rejuvenating, it allows me to let go, to breathe in the clean energising air and to look beyond what is currently taking up my thoughts and time: my mum is adjusting to the idea of moving to be near us, but there is a lot to do and she needs constant reassurance that it’s the right thing for her now.

When we arrived home, my brother and sister-in-law, newly ensconced in the US, Facetimed us before we had chance to remove our jackets and, now relaxed, I was able to give them a positive rundown of the afternoon’s proceedings and give them a laugh about the wheelchair.

Look at these beautiful birds. We are so fortunate to have access to wide open spaces of natural beauty and the wildlife therein.

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation : A Stroll Along Sustrans Bike Trail 55

29401840_UnknownIn my recent post, Laughter Really Is The Best Medicine – Paint a Rock & Give a Smile to Someone Who Needs It! I briefly mentioned our woodland walk along the Sustrans* bike track to the canal, where we found the painted rock that made me smile when I was in a lot of pain. I promised another post with the photos I took along the walk. As I always keep my promises, here it is!

First, though, let me explain to non-cycling enthusiasts and readers from outside the UK that Sustrans is a charity that has spent 40 years promoting cycling and walking, whilst constructing a national network of safe bike and walking trails. Recently, we got our own section which runs along the route of a disused railway line. It is easily accessible from several points and family-friendly. Whenever our families visit, they all toddle off on their bikes together, often the only way to separate the teenagers from their screens.

My husband, a serious bike rider, found it particularly useful after his accidents when he was trying to regain both his fitness and his confidence before rejoining club rides on the roads.

I have never seen it before as I don’t cycle (back injury), but one afternoon when my husband had spent most of the day repairing bikes and I was itching to go somewhere, he suggested we drive to one of the access points and walk a short part of the trail.

It was so quiet and peaceful. The tall trees, many of them silver birch, some oak and elm, shaded us from the sun that came out after we had wrapped ourselves up against the chilly breeze and possible showers forecast!

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We met a few people along the way: couples walking their (small) dogs (always on a lead), a couple of cyclists, but mostly we were on our own.

Here are some of the photos I took on our walk:

 

29401712_UnknownI amused myself spotting the wildflowers I used to tick off in my iSpy books as a child  – do you remember those? Rosebay willowherb, giant willowherb, cow parsley, red campion, elder berries… We don’t see as many now so it was especially surprising to come across a single red clover, I haven’t seen red clover in decades, the white variety seems to have taken over.

 

This though, remains a mystery:

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They reminded me of Muscari or Grape Hyacinth but I can’t identify them. The odd thing is, I’ve never seen them before and then a few days later on a completely separate walk, I saw another solitary group.

Eventually, we came to the towpath along the canal, where my back gave in and I found the smiley rock. The mature trees and all the vegetation alongside the sedately-moving barges made for a tranquil setting, with the sun streaming through the branches and reflecting on the still (if a tad murky) water.

I took a few photos of the boats and then slowly – very slowly! – inched my way to the pub nearby to rest, while my husband went to retrieve the car. Despite my over-enthusiasm leading to several days’ bedrest, I had a wonderful afternoon out, meditating on nature, childhood games and family outings.

 

This is how they used to do it in the olden days:

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And this is my favourite:

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Oh, and the smiley rock? Here’s where I hid it, good luck!

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 *Sustrans

Ps It’s my brother’s birthday today. I can’t imagine him as an aging hippy! It will be my dad’s birthday in a few days. He would have loved this walk, he loved boats too.  I thought of him alongside me, and all the walks we did together and wondered if he was still playing the pied piper leading groups of children in Follow My Leader, with his mischievous smile playing on his face as did a skip or a funny walk.

See: Sweetpeas For Dave

You Were So Much More Than Your Job: A Tribute to My Dad For Father’s Day

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Ducks Crossing! In Which We Take a Break from House Refurbishment

We had been cooped up for so long with all the work being done in the house and having the drive resurfaced: the parquet floor* took 9 days instead of 4, the drive had been delayed and went from taking 5 days to 11 days due to the rainy weather and we were also decorating the kitchen and lounge! The middle Sunday, however, turned into a fine day and I was feeling like a caged animal, so we took a short drive to one of my favourite places: Lilleshall National Sports Centre, where the  gardens and magnificent trees never cease to uplift and inspire.

Here are some photos from that afternoon’s breath of fresh air:

 

 Then, on the way out, along the long drive with its line of conifers, old farmhouse cottages and where we often see squirrels, a badger, pheasant and rabbits, here was a flock of ducks waiting to cross the road. We slowed to a stop so I could take a photo, and waited as they regarded us, assessed the situation and eventually decided it was safe to cross. Tentatively, the first one stepped out, looked at us then carried on, while the others had a little huddle to discuss whether he was wise or insane and then slowly followed his lead in a long line.

 

 Three cars were stopped either side of the road until they reached safety and proceded on to the lake a few hundred metres away. It made my day.

See also: Magnificent Trees, Olympic Medallists, A Czar & Some Sheep! for the history and more beautiful photos of Lilleshall

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If you like country estates, you’ll love this! for a different seasonal view.

*The Tour de France & A Parquet Tour de Force!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

If you like country estates, you’ll love this!

Last summer, in Magnificent Trees, Olympic Medallists, A Czar & Some Sheep! I took you on a tour of our National Sports Centre at Lilleshall and gave you a potted history in among the photos of the beautiful grounds. Many of you have liked this post and those of a similar ilk, and I am so thankful to be living in the vicinity of these grounds, I thought I’d share these photos of Lilleshall in Spring. Unfortunately, we only had an iPhone, so some of the ones taken at a distance are out of focus, the zoom is really bad. I hope it doesn’t spoil your enjoyment.

These were taken on a gorgeous sunny midweek afternoon – these gardens really are breathtakingly beautiful and the trees are just overwhelming in their majestic beauty. Whatever season you visit, the colours are just stunning. The amazing thing is that it is always quiet and peaceful. During this visit, there were people from Rugby England (the sport not the town) on some sort of course; the England gymnasts and archers train here as well as the footballers, but local people can visit and use facilities, my husband has sports massage there and benefitted from their treatment when he had his bike accidents.

Get ready to be in awe! The rhododendrons take your breath away, there are at least five different colours, as well as yellow honeysuckle and bluebells.

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These wrought-iron gates are generally locked and the trail inaccessible, but this time they were left open invitingly. It led through a cool woodland with bluebells and yellow honeysuckle.

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When you come out of the woodland and back onto the trail, you’re confronted by this striking maple tree which stops you in your tracks. It reflects the light and displays so many shades of red, brown, orange, russet, burgundy .

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There was a lot of clearing going on near the mansion house too (which is a hotel, restaurant and wedding venue). I don’t know if it was all the result of Storm Doris or if they’re planning another structure:

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 While driving down the long, tree-lined drive on the way out, we saw a pair of pheasant, just I pressed the shutter the female flew off, again the zoom spoiled the photo:

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We are so lucky to have this wonderful playground on our doorstep. The young grandchildren love the freedom and space, we collect giant fir cones and spot rabbits, squirrels and pheasant.

It’s a wonderful place to recharge your batteries for an hour or two.

And all for free.

(Also posted on Haddon Musings 52 Weeks of Thankfulness)

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Jumpin’, Jivin’ an’ Jiggin’ About: Your Home As Your ‘Gym’!

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We all know any kind of movement is good for us.

We do, don’t we?

(Can’t hear you at the back of the class!) 

At this time of year especially, articles, tweets, tv programmes, Instagram memes all shout at us to get our bodies moving.

Just in case you’re still in any doubt or denial, here is a list of proven benefits:

  • it gets the heart pumping
  • improves circulation
  • builds muscle and bone which improves balance – especially important for those of us no longer in the first flush of youth
  • builds strength and stamina
  • creates endorphins which improves our mood, helps us feel better and therefore helps diminish those January blues and even depression.
  • makes you feel more alert and energetic
  • aids mental clarity, making us more productive and creative at work and home.
  • helps prevent lifestyle diseases like Type 2 diabetes through better control of blood sugar levels
  • helps keep our weight in check – if we also keep an eye on what we eat.
  • helps keep joints mobile and flexible

So, now you really do know that exercise is good for you, you can’t claim ignorance as your get-out clause!

But don’t worry, this post is not about going all out on the crossfit machine or hefting eye-watering weights at the gym. It’s all about movement and fun!

At this time of year, when the Christmas season is over, we feel overfed and lethargic, Spring is in the air and many of us start making plans to go to the gym, start running or take a zumba class.

Trouble is, in the cold months, our resolve can soon start dying a slow death. It’s cold, wet, dark, and miserable. The woodburner or the tv and a glass or cup of something warming are far more attractive. All that money spent on gym fees or trendy neon fit-wear may as well be flushed away for all the use we make of it.

Unfortunately, many of us have also had negative gym experiences or are old enough to remember the torture of school PE classes: being made to run cross-country in freezing conditions wearing t-shirt and shorts, inadequate footwear and with little or no preparation, the booming voice of the wrapped-up PE teacher in our ears decrying our efforts and urging us on, drill-sergeant style. (Anyone who has seen the film ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ will know what I mean!)

It’s also often difficult if not impossible for many of us to embark on formal exercise regimes due to having small children or sick family members or because we have physical problems of our own or simply can’t afford the expense. So we accept that’s how it has to be and get on with it, skipping over all the articles we see urging us to move more and diverting our eyes from all the pony-tailed, fitbit-wearing runners dashing past the window.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. No more guilt at being a trainer-free home-bod.

Hooray! you shout.

Hang on, you’re not getting off that easily! You still have to move about, just not in a gym or on the road. 

Here are some tips to get it all jiggin’ about:

  1. Your home can be your gym and everyday items your equipment. Little or no expense, warm environment (less chance of injury), relative privacy (though maybe not privacy from your relatives 😉), win-win situation. Your stairs can be your step-exercise, bottles of water or tinned goods your weights, your cd player your zumba instructor.

2. You can even incorporate exercise into your everyday activities.

And no-one needs to see you doing it!

According to the BBC programme ‘Trust Me, I’m a Doctor,’ * a group of people over 40 – and therefore losing muscle, I think the oldest was 67 – incorporated exercise into their daily activities. Over a month on average they gained 3% more muscle, 12% more muscle strength, 13% more muscle power and 4% more grip strength.

So how did they do it?

Visit the website to see in detail, but basically:

  • squats and standing on one leg while brushing their teeth
  • heel-raising while washing-up
  • lunges while vacuuming
  • arm curls with juice cartons or tins
  • wall presses.

You get the picture.

I would add to these:

  • using the stairs as often as possible
  • doing step-ups, and also hanging your heel off the edge of the step to stretch your calf muscles and tendons
  • standing up from a chair and sitting back down without using your hands during advert breaks while watching tv or sitting at your desk
  • doing a walking circuit of your home as often as possible
  • in an upright chair with arms, press down on the arms and raise your bottom from the seat for as long as is comfortable
  • even on your commute, on buses, trains or planes, you can raise alternate knees, toes and heels (maybe not in a car – unless you’re a passenger!)
  • on fine days, take a turn around the garden, up and down your driveway or around the block, look up at the sky, the trees, the birds, breathe and smile!

Exercising needs to be fun too or you’ll never stick to it. Here comes the Jumpin’, Jivin’ an’ Jiggin’ About bit! (At last!)

3. One piece of exercising equipment I would recommend investing in if you can manage it is a rebounder. You don’t have to jump like an Olympian!

Rebounders are not trampolines. They are not as springy and provide more resistance. And kids please note: don’t even attempt to do somersaults! Parents please note: children should always be supervised because they *will* attempt to do somersaults!

image

NASA-approved, this method of exercising is accessible to most people if you start off slowly and simply, just gently bending your knees then graduating to lifting your heels and low bouncing before trying anything more energetic.

A couple of rebounding sessions a day exercises all parts of the body, gets your lymphatic system moving – strengthening your immune system and clearing out waste and toxins – and makes you feel more alive.

And it’s great fun.

Kids naturally love trampolining and this is great for getting them to exercise during the winter months when they can’t use the one in the garden. It tempts them away from their screens for a while which is always a good thing. Even the smallest members of our family make straight for it when they come for a visit. They are great family fun. (Again, children should always be supervised).

The Juicemaster website* sells various sizes of rebounders, the smaller ones fold up and have a carrying case. I can vouch for their quality and endurance.

4. Just dance like no-one is watching!

With or without a partner, dancing with reckless abandon is the best way to forget your worries and feel alive! Put on your favourite music, the one you like singing aloud to at high volume and just go for it! (see video below).

You can jig about when you’re in the kitchen – my regular readers will know that I often like to attach a YouTube track to accompany my recipes – or when you’re cleaning or tidying up, doing the ironing, doing a bike repair (one for you, K and S!😉). I have even seen my neighbour doing her ironing to the accompaniment of reggae music in her back garden in the summer, not caring a jot if anyone saw her.

In general, whatever your age, state of health, fitness or finances, any movement is better than no movement.

(I realise there are certain health conditions where this may not be appropriate).

5. Many of us, especially older people, get stiff joints and cold legs from sitting. While reading, doing the crossword or watching tv, you can raise your knees and heels up and down, rotate your ankles and wrists, stretch out your fingers and make a fist, walk about during the ad breaks even if it’s only to get up and make a cup of tea. Clench alternate groups of muscles and release. Do shoulder rotations.

img_2421My husband exercising on a borrowed rowing machine in the garage with a broken arm. He also used one of those stretchy bands that physios use which come in different levels of flexibility.

Do what you’re able and what you enjoy – with your family, friends or on your own. Walk, cycle, laugh, sing – they all exercise your body inside and out.

Just do!

6. Oh, and btw, apparently, exercising is more effective in burning fat if men exercise on an empty stomach and women after eating. (I can hear all the women cheering from the gallery!)

Ps Whatever form of exercise you do, be sure to warm up and stretch first,  and ease into it – it won’t do you much good if you pull a back muscle or sprain an ankle in your first session!

PPs If you have any concerns about whether or not you should follow any of the advice above, please do talk to your doctor.

*Trust Me, I’m A Doctor – you can watch on BBC iPlayer

*Juicemaster: Rebounders

(Thanks to Clive at Take It Easy for putting me on to these guys!)

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Post Thanksgiving/Christmas/Celebration Digestion – some suggestions to ease that overstuffed feeling

My American friend Bernadette over at Haddon Musings has just requested a digestive aid to help overcome the overstuffed feeling after the Thanksgiving meal. I half- jokingly gave some suggestions, but on reflection perhaps they may help some of you cope better with the over-indulgence at this time of year. For many of us in the UK it is Christmas or Divali or Hannuka.

I realise of course I should have written this a few days ago! Sorry!

My first advice would be to pace yourself. Take your time, eat slowly and chew thoroughly, put your knife and fork down occasionally and talk to your neighbour.

Remind yourself that as lovely as all this sumptuous food is, your stomach will only take so much before it starts objecting, very loudly and clearly! You can always go back for more later.

It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to get the message from your stomach that it’s had enough, so eating slowly gives time for this message to get through before you start feeling uncomfortable.

You could serve melon with ginger sprinkled on (especially cantaloupe) before the main meal (melon must always be eaten on an empty stomach) and a green salad with the meal, these will help with digestion and also help fill you so you don’t over-eat the fancier stuff.

Here is a website I found which has juice recipes specifically designed to aid digestion: The Fit Indian

Also, fennel and ginger are great digestive aids in any form.

imagePapaya too is especially good for the digestion.

The best thing that you could do – apart from not over-eating in the first place! – is to go for a stroll in the fresh air afterwards. Most people flop on the sofa, holding their stomachs, groaning, vowing never to eat such-and-such again and then doze or veg out in front of the telly.

This is the worst thing you can do!

Walking aids digestion, gets things moving and regulates blood sugar levels so you won’t be dozy all afternoon.

Another tip, have some small windows open. If you are all packed into a stuffy room you will feel worse if you’re also overfull.

Drink water in between the wine/whisky/beer. 

I hope this helps and that you all have a lovely time with family and friends.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Hot, Hot, Hot Anti-Inflammatory Beetroot & Ginger Juice!

This is one of my favourites. I love ginger and have become so used to it I can stand quite a lot of it in juicies. It is anti-inflammatory, antiviral and anti-fungal and when used regularly it’s great for helping ward off colds and viruses, treating Candida, nausea and relieving inflammatory pain.

Inflammation has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions.

If you’re not used to it, begin with a thin slice of ginger root and gradually increase it.

Beetroot is well-known for its beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system, it dilates blood vessels which improves circulation – athletes, professional cyclists and gym enthusiasts are known to employ fresh beetroot juice in their training and preparation. It’s a good source of potassium.

Freshly extracted beetroot juice has also been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol when drunk regularly.

Celery, apple and lemon provide electrolytes, so altogether this is a good juice to have when exercising.

All ingredients are organic and therefore they are just washed and the peel left on. If using waxed lemon, thinly pare the peel leaving plenty of pith, it’s where the healthy micro-nutrients are.

Ingredients

Small Beetroot

2 Carrots

2 Apples

1 Stick of Celery, chopped into 3″ pieces

Thick Slice of Lemon with peel on

Thick knob of Ginger – about 2cms x 2 cms

Juice all the items, placing the lemon and ginger between the apples and putting the celery in last to avoid it clogging up the juicer.

(The picture in the background is entitled Moths and Butterflies by Sophie Whiting).

Copyright: Chris McGowan