Ha! The extra exercise worked

It's important to keep the right balance
It’s important to keep the right balance

So, yesterday, I exercised twice — once in the morning, and again later in the afternoon at work. There’s an aerobics room at the gym at work, and it’s walled with mirrors. That’s exactly what I need, so when I’m doing some movement, I can work on my form and be mindful of how my body is actually positioned as I move it.

I picked up a lot of bad posture and positioning habits when I was younger, and that’s cost me valuable time later in life when I pulled or strained muscles, due to bad form. And then I had to sit out for a while, till they got better. And by the time they got better, I had forgotten about doing them at all. And I lost more time, till I got inspired to do them again.

So, keeping myself in good form is important. And I had the chance yesterday afternoon to spend about 20 minutes moving and watching myself move, making sure I wasn’t moving in ways that strained my back and hips and knees, and all the other connections that have given me trouble over the years.

I didn’t spend a ton of time on it, yesterday, but it was enough to wake me up, and also give me a bit more of a workout. I had been planning on getting an extra exercise session in, when I got home from work. But to tell the truth, I’ve got to make supper, and I’m so done with the day, by that point, that I just want to make supper, talk to my spouse, and chill out.

So, exercising for 30 minutes during the day is really a good option for me. It breaks up my afternoon, and it also wakes me up.

And last night I went to bed by 10:00 and I woke up close to 7:00 a.m. — nearly 9 hours of continuous sleep. Amazing. Just amazing. I’m still feeling a bit fuzzy and groggy this morning, but the fact that I got that much sleep makes it all the better.

Plus, this afternoon, I have no meetings, so I can do it again. I moved a little bit this morning, to work on my balance, and also get a sense for where my body is in space. With my balance issues — which are the one outstanding remaining danger for me and my physical safety — I have to do something. The neuro I went to see to help me with it, doesn’t seem to take my situation all that seriously. Hell, they don’t seem to take ME all that seriously. So, I’ll just have to take care of this all, myself.

I can probably do a better job of it, anyway, because I know what my issues are. I have no trouble articulating them, because I don’t need to — I’m walking around in a body that’s got movement and balance challenges. I already know first-hand what the deal is, and I don’t have to convince anyone of it.

And that makes it a whole lot easier to deal with.

Personally, I’m sick and tired of people not taking me seriously, not believing me, and dismissing me — or brushing me off with some bogus explanation, because they can’t be bothered to look deeper. Maybe it’s a function of the medical system (I won’t say “healthcare”, because there’s something else driving it than “health” and “care”), which routinely traumatizes and exhausts its members, and then expects them to turn in stellar performances. I have to factor in that I’m dealing with professionals who are A) impaired at a functional level — and have been, since they started med school, and B) honor-bound to flatly deny that lack of sleep, secondary trauma, and the pressures of the insurance companies could have a negative impact on their performance.

So, I have to take it all with a grain of salt. And just use them for what they’re good for — prescriptions, if I need them. IF I want to take them — which I usually don’t. They’re gatekeepers for insurance companies, and little else, from what I’ve seen. Just as many financial advisors are little more than highly compensated sales reps for financial services companies (I know, because I was recruited by a fin svcs company many years ago, and I got an inside look at how things work — and I opted out).

So, all that aside, it feels great to be doing something for myself. I forgot to contact that trainer at work again, to go over some complex movements and strength training approaches. I’ll make a note to do it today. I’m feeling a lot of anticipation about this spring… I think it’s going to be a good one. And an old project I had put aside, years ago, has now suddenly shown itself to be feasible, as a solution to one of the big conundrums I couldn’t sort out before has suddenly become obvious to me. So, that’s a nice thing. Very nice indeed.

It’s amazing, what 9 hours of sleep will do for you. I’ll have to try for this again… and again… and again…

Onward.

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Getting past the energy crisis

Proper form is essential to avoid injury and build strength
Proper form is essential to avoid injury and build strength

I’ve been in a bit of an energy crisis, over the winter. I just haven’t felt like doing anything much, and I’ve felt my energy waning. I haven’t been exercising as I should. I do ride my exercise bike in the mornings pretty regularly (it’s rare that I don’t, which is good), but I haven’t been lifting or swimming as much as I should be.

I start, then I feel tired and sore, and my motivation gives out.

So, I stop lifting… I stop swimming… and then I feel even worse.

The thing is, when I DO exercise — lifting and swimming and stretching — I actually feel great all day. And my energy is great. It’s just getting myself to actually do the initial work, that’s the problem.

But now it’s springtime. And with the days being longer, I feel my energy returning. I’m a real “sun person”. I love to be in it (within reason, so I don’t get sunburned or drained by the heat). And despite my sometimes painful light sensitivity, I love the sight of sunlight brightening the world around me. It just makes all the difference, as does a few extra hours of sunlight each day.

But with my energy being as low as it has been, it’s hard to work up the enthusiasm to make the most of it. Energy is a self-fulfilling prophecy — the more of it I have, the more I get… the less of it I feel, the less of it I can generate. And even if I want with all my heart to “kick it”, if I don’t have the strength and the energy and resources to do it… well, it doesn’t happen.

So, I have to do something. I need my physical body to support the wishes and desires of my mind and heart, and without conditioning, that’s not going to happen. Keeping in shape is about more than keeping the pounds off and looking good. It’s about keeping myself as functional as possible — getting myself to a place where the strength of my body is on par with the drive of my mind. It’s about never giving up, never quitting, always keeping myself functional in ways that actually let me live the life of my choosing.

Just an example: I have water delivered. In those 5-gallon bottles. A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds, so that’s a 40-pound weight I need to lift intermittently, when I change out the water cooler. It’s never really been a problem for me in the past, but over the last year or so, I’ve had less coordination and strength. It’s been an interesting challenge to A) hoist the weight up, and B) flip it over onto the top of the cooler without dousing everything around it with water.

Normally, I can do it fine. But the last couple of times, I’ve given the nearby shelf a good splash. It’s not that big of a deal, because everything can be dried off. But then it’s one more thing I have to do, and that puts a crimp in my flow. It also annoys the crap out of me. I hate that. I hate being weaker than ever. I hate being uncoordinated. I hate the disheartening sound of water splashing out of the well where it’s supposed to be.

It’s not the end of the world, but it bothers me. And it’s something I can actually fix.

So, it’s time to do something about it. I need to get my behind in gear and get serious about my strength routine. It’s for the sake of being more conditioned and capable, as well as better balance. Plus, I need to be smart about it and not injure myself by doing too much too soon.

Now I’m adding another aspect to my workouts — the mental warmup in the morning, before I get out of bed. I’ve read in a number of places how visualizing physical activity actually primes you to do it properly. The brain simulates the activities before you do them, and that gets the right connections firing.

Here’s an excerpt from Visualization in Sport

Visualization in sport is a training technique that forms a part of the larger science of sports psychology. Visualization is also known as mental imagery and rehearsal. Visualization is used primarily as a training tool, one that improves the quality of athletic movement, increases the power of concentration, and serves to reduce the pressures of competition on the athlete while building athletic confidence.

Visualization occurs when athletes are able to create an image or a series of images relevant to their sport, without any external prompts or stimulation; the images are mentally generated by the athlete alone. Visual images are usually the most important to athletic training and may be employed as the sole mental training method. Athletes may also depend on auditory images (sounds), kinesthetic images (movements), tactile sensations (touch), and purely emotional stimulation, in combination with visualization or as freestanding training aids, as may be appropriate to the effort to elevate the performance of the athlete.

There is a powerful relationship between mental and physical performance in sport. The development of a wide range of mental powers, such as focus and concentration, elevates athletic performance; over-analyzing detracts from the athlete’s ability to react instinctively, an attribute that is usually a more desirable quality than the ability to reason through every sporting circumstance.

Visualization is intended to take the athlete to an image that conveys what perfection represents in the particular aspect of the sport. During visualization, the brain is directing the target muscles to work in a desired way. This direction creates a neural pattern in the brain, a pattern identical to the network created by the actual physical performance of the movements. A neural pattern is similar to diagramming the specific wiring and circuits necessary to transmit an electrical current. Alexander Bain (1818–1903) of Great Britain was the first scientist to develop a theory as to how the brain built such patterns to direct and control repeated physical movement. Numerous researchers since that time have expanded on the concept. Visualization alone will not develop the most effective mechanisms in the brain to later perform the desired action, but physical training coupled with visualization will create better recognition of the required nervous system response than physical training alone.

This technique has been around for a long, long time. And I used to do it, when I was competing in high school sports. Somehow, the practice didn’t always translate properly to my regular life away from sports, and somehow I thought that because my non-athletic visualizations just weren’t working, I was either doing it wrong… or it just doesn’t work.

I’ve modified my beliefs about visualization — down-sized them a bit, you could say. Now, instead of using it to shape my entire life, I’m focusing on visualization of basic physical activities, those very kinesthetic behaviors that actually respond to the brain’s visualizations.

I’m visualizing proper form while I lift weights. I’m thinking about the feeling of my body as it moves the weights up and down, back and forth. I’m visualizing workouts, and I’m imagining how good it feels to do it. And this morning, after I lay in bed for 20 minutes, waking up gradually and thinking through my workout, I felt really good, doing the workout itself. And at the end, it was even more satisfying than ever.

So, this is good. I know I’ve done it before — I’ve started out strong, then I lost my focus and stopped doing the visualizations… and some of the exercise. Part of the problem in the past, is that I would get over-tired, push myself too hard, then get injured, and I’d take time off to heal… and then I’d never get back to my former practice.

I’d just forget about it. As though it didn’t even exist.

And by the time I remembered it, I would be de-conditioned again, and have to start all over.

How demoralizing.

Now, though, it doesn’t feel demoralizing. I feel energized. And I know I’m doing the right thing by taking it easy and just getting used to the motions again. I am working with either very light weights, or no weights at all, to re-develop my kinesthetic and proprioceptive sense. I also have access to a strength trainer at work who consults with employees about exercises and nutrition. So, I’m going to take advantage of that benefit.

I’ll carve out time in my schedule, and I’ll just do it.

Because I can.

Spring is here. Summer’s coming. Then fall. Three seasons — followed by winter, which I actually love. All of them ready for me to get moving into.

Onward.