Sunday, November 25, 2012

How to incorporate exercise into your daily routine...

When my husband saw the title of this post, he snorted really loudly and politely suggested that I stick to writing about what I know...more on his unusual mental disorder later.

I don't need to lose much weight - the odd shuffle off a few pounds from my ass to my breasts wouldn't hurt, but that's likely not going to happen. Incidentally, I have been in the position where I needed to shed 30 pounds. For a simple how-to on that, click here. It's by no means a sensible approach. But you're doing it to lose weight, not get smarter, so quit being a fussy pants.

I don't imagine I'll ever become one of those people who sigh with unabashed ecstasy, "Oh, I LOOOOOOOOOOOVE exercising. It makes me feel so great!" These people aren't well. You have my permission to reach out and scratch these people. I have a few friends like this. They know that when I lunge towards them, it's not for a hug. Although, there are also people who say they LOOOOOOOVE studying organic chemistry. To each their own, I guess. Goes to show there are a lot of freaks out there and you really have to watch the company you keep.

Friends, what I need is a plan that will stop me from sounding like a bowl of Rice Krispies. The snap, crackle and pop is cute in a's downright horrifying when it's your body. It's likely a sure sign that your body is in the initial stages of atrophy.

I don't think I have to tell you this may be the hardest task I ever embark on. Simply put, I don’t exercise. And I’m not just talking about lifting weights or doing aerobics or anything fancy like that - I’m not even a big fan of walking. I barely visit people down the hall from me at work, not because I don't like them, rather they aren't in range of the only required walk to the toilet. I can safely blame my parents for this one. Growing up on the farm, they frowned upon any sort of frivolous behaviour, including the act of walking just for fun. That would have been considered a pointless waste of time and energy. When I was a teenager, there was nothing cooler than strapping on your Walkman and a pair of velour shorts to go power-walking down the main highway with some neighbours. When I would ask my Dad if I could go, his response typically didn’t vary from the following:

Dad: Where are you walking to, exactly?
Me: To town and back.
Dad: What for?
Me: To hang out with my friends and get some exercise.
Dad: I don’t think that’s a very smart idea.
Me: Why not? It’s not like anything’s going to happen to us! It’s just a few miles away, and we’ll be back before dark. I wouldn’t worry about it.

At this point, my heart would swell with love and gratitude; I was overwhelmed that my Dad was so worried about my safety.

Dad: Oh, I’m not worried about that. What I am worried about is your ability to waste time. If you want to get some exercise, why don’t you strap yourself to the back of that push-mower, and power-walk your way over to those grain bins out back and clean up that long grass? You didn’t get around to it last week.

What? Didn’t get around to it? And deliberately miss out on all that fun? Crazy cat. Who in their right mind would pass up the chance to wander perilously through waist-high grass and randomly chop up snakes and mice with a mower blade? Why on earth would I forget to do that? You can’t put a dollar on that type of fun. Actually, come to think of it, there was one day a week where he did encourage walking, and that was on Sundays, after church. On the drive back home, it was all but guaranteed that someone would start acting like an idiot. There would be a few mild threats issued from the front of the car, largely ignored by the eight tyrants occupying the back. Eventually, Dad would pull the car onto the shoulder of the road, come to a full stop, and turn around in his seat to get a good look at who was causing the commotion. The punishment for bad behaviour in these cases was that you had to get out of the car and walk the rest of the way home. It’s fair to say that it was usually one of my brothers. With temporary order restored, Dad would resume cruising speed of approximately five kilometres per hour. This would be the exact same speed as the walking degenerate. (Ironically, the punishment was worse for those of us left in the car. In the afternoon sun, we would roast like rotisserie chickens.) When we started to complain about his lethargic driving, he would launch into an educational vignette about how brakes were only intended for people who miscalculate the distance from their turnoff. A good set of brakes, he told us, could last a very long time if they were looked after properly. And we didn’t need to be scooting around like our pants were on fire when our lane was just up the road. In hindsight, I’m fairly certain that Dad randomly picked one of us to get out and walk, so that he would have an excuse to drive excruciatingly slowly to check the crops on the way home from church. How else can one explain that this level of misbehaving only happened on the way home from church, and not on the way there?

To this day, I blame (well, credit really…) my Dad for my lack of a gym membership. After all, who in their right mind would walk, or worse yet, run, just for the hell of it? But regardless of who’s to blame, I have to get used to this fitness thing sooner rather than later. I’m going to start small, find exercise books written specifically for people like me, the exercise impaired. Recently, I found a book that explains things in a great amount of detail. For example, to perform a one-arm triceps extension, it instructs you to find a sturdy chair, put your feet flat on the ground and then hold a dumbbell in one hand over your head with your palm facing in and your elbow and wrist directly above your shoulder. That sentence right there confused the hell out of me.  But just when I was about to lose heart because I was so bewildered as to what arm was supposed to be doing what and where the weight was meant to be, the article ended by saying: "…slowly lower the weight behind you, taking care not to hit yourself in the head with it.” Then, just for a moment, I smiled a ridiculously big smile and felt great about myself. Cause yes. There are people who are indeed worse off than me.

Over the years, I have come to see the benefits of exercise and why it’s necessary - it can help protect you from premature heart disease and stroke, diabetes, obesity and yes, it can even help improve your overall mood, that is, once you get through with it. Yes my friends, I get why it’s important and I will eventually whip myself into shape. Odds are much better that I’ll whip myself into cardiac arrest, but hey, at least I’ll go out trying. I believe a while back on one of my blog posts, I (erroneously) threatened to complete the 30-Day Shred by Jillian Michaels. That's not going to happen. I don't think lunging at the television in a full-body lather screaming, "DIE WHORE, DIE" is conducive to holistic wellness. Not to mention my purple face frightens the children. When I've figured out my plan, I'll be certain to let you know. For now let's loosely call it the 30-Days Of Misery And Excessive Swearing by Janita Van de Velde. That should just about cover it. Stay tuned for a full report. In the meantime, I'll leave you with the following video. Perhaps I should just play "Run for the bus" with James and count that as my daily exercise. He somehow manages to randomly insert some hops and some skips whilst barrelling through the living room, which in all likelihood would work wonders on my glutes. (Somewhere along the way, I may have told the kids that back in the day, the bus didn't stop and wait for us nicely, we had to hoof it and make a run for it. This has transpired into the daily ritual of "Run for the bus". Oh, the lies.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

How to grow old gracefully...

Sadly, I suspect it involves limiting your fast food intake and anything else that’s good. Let me do you a favour and give you a brief overview of some facts and fiction in regards to growing old gracefully. Be forewarned: my credentials regarding anything associated with the word gracefully are dubious at best.

Fiction: Aging won’t bother you at all because you’re not that superficial.
Fact: You’ll wish you could turn back time and tell that twenty-year old self of yours that she was magnificent, and urge her to shamelessly apply moisturizer and sunscreen like a raging lunatic. Your entire body should be greased daily, to the point where you have a hard time holding cutlery.

Fiction: Your closet is brimming with cute, little outfits, silently screaming to be called upon to decorate your body.
Fact: When it comes time to leave the house, you’ll inevitably find yourself uttering, “I have nothing to wear.” (Translation: why do all my shirts make me look pregnant? Clue: It's not the shirts.)

Fiction: You can get away with anything when you’re young.
Fact: Years of hard living will take their toll. Sadly, the bell will bang on your face.

Fiction: When you notice your first deep wrinkle, and it dawns on you that it's not a crease from the pillow, you’ll feel like crying.
Fact: You’ll unabashedly bawl like a baby and leak snot to your chin.

What to do? Well, there’s not much you can do about the growing old part. As for the gracefully part, I don’t have much to say in that respect either, other than it’s over-rated. I do though have some useful words of wisdom to share with you regarding habits that may end up having an impact on the amount of years you spend on this planet, and how well your body responds to each passing day. I think you know by now that I’m no Doctor, but I do read enough books to know that the same messages keep coming up over and over. To keep it simple, I’ve broken this down into the big three, well four actually, if you want to count exercising. But that’s a whole other fairy-tale so we’ll save that story for the next blog post. The top three? Ready or not, here I come.

Number one: Limit your intake of alcohol. Until quite recently, I suffered from the delusion that I could still drink as much as I did in university. I must work on developing into a mature adult who possesses the intelligence and clever ability to stop after having just one. (Perhaps this should have been a mandatory course in university.) A helpful tip to speed your learning? Have children. Both the pregnancies and the lack of sleep for the rest of your life is bound to smack some sense into you.

Number two: Quit smoking. Stare at horrible, diseased lung photos all day if you have to, chew on discarded butts you find in the park, make yourself lick a dirty ashtray whenever you feel like lighting up, smoke Export A Green Death until you spew…I don’t care what it takes, or how much dignity you lose in the process, just quit.

Number three: Break your addiction to fast food. It can’t be much better than drinking diesel fuel. And in my case, this means breaking up with my lover, McDonald’s. Now this one is tough. This one bites the big one and gets me a little choked up. I mean, the first two are hard enough, and now I’m supposed to give up my French fries? Are fries really even that bad for you? I recently read that according to the school nutrition guidelines in the United States, French fries are classified as vegetables. Hmmmm...Michelle Obama must have swallowed a vending machine when she heard that.

A few years ago, a lot of people got really worked up about the movie Super Size Me. After watching the movie, many of my friends swore they’d never eat fast food again. (Incidentally, they've all lied about other things before...) So of course I watched it, hoping for the same miraculous result. Sadly, it had quite the opposite effect on me. As soon as I picked up the DVD in the movie store, and saw the picture on the movie cover of that guy with his mouth shoved full of delectable fries, I dropped my next errand to make a drive-through run. I’m starting to think that the marketing geniuses employed by McDonald’s funded the movie to send out subliminal messages to everyone who saw the cover. It’s brilliant, really. And whenever someone moans, “How can you still eat fast food? My God, haven’t you seen the movie Super Size Me? You should watch it, and I swear you won’t eat that crap food ever again!” I tell them yes, I’ve watched it. And yes, I’m still a frequent flyer through the drive-through window. And yes, my one-year old child’s first word sounded alarmingly similar to McDick’s (or something close to that…after all, their father is Scottish.) Most importantly, I think most of these fast food naysayers are still firing up their BBQ in the summer, enjoying their juicy feast of crispy hot dogs. May they continue to indulge in their delicious concoction of lips, hooves and other unmentionables. I sure will.

Really, if all that goodness ends up knocking a few years off my life, then, oh well. As the saying goes, eat, drink and be merry, for today may be your last. Having said that, I guess the saying has never been gorge senselessly, drink until you lose consciousness and smoke like a chimney. This may be where the gracefully part comes in. Yawn.

But when all else fails, this I swear is the ultimate secret - hang around children. For as much as you feel they may suck the air right out of you, they'll breathe it all back in, times ten.

Early in the morning, one of the kids will usually sneak up to our
room and hop in the shower with us. Here's Isla, post-shower, having a cuddle
with Daddy to warm up. She's pretending to be fast asleep so she can stay put.
Honey, that cheeky smile is a dead give-away.

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