Bari’s Story

The Trail Revisited

Today we did the advanced hike again, and it occurred to me that although I had been up this road last week, I was experiencing it as if for the first time, having new responses, making slightly different decisions about where to put my feet and how to get up the step inclines.  I saw things I hadn’t noticed before, felt surer of my footing in some places but not others, took the time this time to taste the wild  blackberries growing in the brush.  I needed to navigate a little differently because it rained last night and a lot of the rocks were slippery…and again, it all seemed like a big, bright, flashing metaphor for life – specifically it reminded me of the lifecycle.

I realized that hiking the same trail over and over again once a week was like living through every day of every year again and again.  The trail always has that particularly grueling 250-foot incline about half way up.  We have to do taxes every year in April (give or take).  On the trail, that same natural stairway made from dozens of boulders, each two and three feet high, comes just before that nice level path near the top.  Every year we prepare for and celebrate the holidays, then coast (or collapse) a little immediately afterward.
But on the trail, no two trips are the same, and in life, no two years are the same.  Each time we see something new (today we saw a zillion red esk newts, they were everywhere because of the rain the night before).  Each time some things may be harder (some of the rocks and ground were really slippery, so I had to lean over and use my hands to climb in a few more places).  Some things may be easier (my cardio-vascular endurance is definitely improving because I wasn’t huffing and puffing nearly as much – or was it just better conditions?  This week’s weather was cooler and less humid than last week).

It made me feel very forgiving of myself, for the times in life when something I’ve done a million times before somehow seems more difficult.  It made me think I can be generous and tolerant with myself in real life when facing a challenge.  And it gave me the perspective to realize that in the future, just because something is difficult today, doesn’t mean it will always be difficult or be difficult next time.  Life will twist and turn, like this trail.  Some parts will be easier than others.  But I’ll always make it to my destination if I simply keep putting one foot in front of another.

Weigh-in 3

OK, another 2-and-a-half pounds this week!  I’ll take it! Go me!

Small World

It’s such a small world.  Here I am in what I thought was the middle of nowhere – way out in the country – and it turns out it’s not so remote after all.  I guess that’s kind of the best of both worlds… feeling like you’re really “away” but not having to go far from home to get there.

I keep meeting people who know people I know.  I love it.  It makes me feel connected to home – and to the universe.  It started the first day I got here, when I met the representative from Sprayology (that’s a product Deerfield sells in its boutique).  Through our conversation we discovered we come from the same hometown and when I told her my last name she said, “your mother was my teacher!”  Then I met another woman who lives in Maryland, but grew up in Asbury Park and knew my father’s cousin.

Then I met this nice gal who’s a lawyer from Long Island, and I said, “Oh, one of my best friends from college is a lawyer and she lives on Long Island too.  Maybe you know her.”  Immediately, we started laughing because the thought was pretty preposterous – after all, what are the chances… Long Island is a big place and women lawyers our age are a dime a dozen there.  But sure enough, they know each other – well!  Then today, I was talking to this couple from Connecticut who came for a long weekend, and after a short while, we realized they know my sister, who lives in North Jersey.    You never know!

Advanced hike

Took the advanced hike today – on the legendary Appalachian Trail.  It was very exciting!  We came across a number of through hikers making the trek from Georgia to Maine and heard a little bit about their journeys, we saw breathtaking top-of-the-world views of the Delaware Water Gap clear across to NJ and NY, and we learned about a lot of plants and animals along the way from our guide.

I have to admit, for much of time, I wasn’t thinking about much more than keeping breathing, keeping climbing, and “when are we going to be done?” It was VERY challenging – an almost steady climb up 1,100 feet.  And even though it was grueling, and I was dripping with sweat, and I couldn’t wait to be done with the climbing portion and get to the gentler walk down from the peak, I was SO proud of myself, so psyched about the phenomenal workout I had gotten, so glad to have been able to get a great workout in such beautiful surroundings, and I FELT VIRTUOUS.

But when I was thinking about something other than, “am I gonna make it?” what kept running through my mind was how the hike felt like a metaphor for all the things that are challenging to me.

It occurred to me that I had to decide exactly where to put my feet, how to get up the steeper inclines, whether to take fewer bigger steps up higher rocks, or to take more smaller steps that might take me a little longer to get to where I wanted to get, but not put as much strain on me in the process.  In the case of the hike, the strain would be on my feet, legs, glutes, and my cardio-vascular system.  In the metaphorical realm, it was all about paths of least resistance, about how life choices affect our personal life journeys.

Some of the statements that went through my mind included:

  • It’s good to push yourself, to take a bigger step than you think you can, and you’ll see just how much you can do
  • On the other hand, there is no shame in taking smaller steps to get where you’re going. No need to be a hero.  You’ll get to your destination without as much wear and tear, and this is an honorable choice too

I wrestle every day with when and how much to push myself, when to take the faster but more challenging route, when to opt for a slower but easier path to where we’re going. So did I reach any conclusions out on today’s hike? No, but there’s always next week’s.

Weigh-in 2

Woo hoo! Another 4 pouds this week! What’s with THAT!? It almost seems like magic, though I guess I am working pretty hard at the exercise and eating no more than 1,200 calories a day, so…I’m psyched.

Water workouts

Water aerobics, pool fitness, aqua toning… whatever you call it, I always thought exercising in the pool was “easier.”  But in the daily pool classes here, I’ve discovered that training in the water can as strenuous – if not more – than training on land not because of what we do in the water, but how I do it.

Again, everyone goes at their own pace.  But I’ve started taking it up a notch during a moderate class, to make the workout higher-intensity – for more calorie burning, more dramatic gains in cardio-vascular capacity, and more dramatic improvements in muscle toning, strengthening, and sculpting.

What I’ve learned is I can bring my muscles to the point of fatigue in the pool.  One of the trainers is showing me how to pushing myself in the water.  And, I can get to my abs so much more effectively in the pool than on land.  It just took a good trainer to explain proper form and posture for really working those core muscles from my pelvis to my bust and 360 degrees around my trunk.  I actually feel myself working deep in those abs without any of the strain on my low back, neck or shoulders that I typically get when doing ab work in a gym.

I even did a personal pool training the other day with one of my favorite trainers, and he  k-i-c-k-e-d  my butt!  He had me challenging myself in ways I would never have thought of.

I also get an amazing upper-body strength workout in the pool, using weights, noodles, webbed gloves and other equipment.

The bottom line is I have a new-found respect for water workouts and I’ve learned new tricks for making my own pool workouts as intense as any on land.  I guess it’s like anything else: It’s not only what you do, but how you do it that counts.

Weightless when wet

Weightless.  That’s the way I feel when I’m lolling in the water. It’s such a wonderful feeling, especially because the pool here is kept at a comfortable 84 degrees all the time!  And today was especially awesome because after a great workout during pool class, I treated myself to a little float on an inflatable raft.  I rolled up a towel for under my head, put my hat and sunglasses on, and guess what… next thing I knew it was 5:30 and I was waking up! I had fallen asleep while floating in the middle of the pool on this raft!  I don’t think I’ve ever been more comfortable in my life.  Talk about weightless!  Talk about a luxury! Wait – forget all that. Talk about LUCKY that I didn’t roll off in my sleep and awaken falling into the water!

Tailoring my exercise

The exercise classes here are pretty varied.  I can get a good workout, there’s always enough variety to make things interesting and keep my body working efficiently, I’ve learned a lot of new things, and I’m definitely getting a good mix of cardio, strength, core, stretching, and mind-body/stress management practices.  But some classes are easier or harder than others, and I had a revelation: I am responsible for my own exertion.  In other words, how hard I work in that class is entirely up to me! If I need it harder, I can go for it with a little more intensity, bend lower, step wider, raise my arms higher, hop instead of stride, add heavier weights, etc.  If I need to take it a little easier, I can hang back and walk in place for a minute.
Sure, sometimes I feel a little like Ralph Kramden from the Honeymooners when he was learning the Mambo, flailing my arms, thrusting my body about, but who cares. This is for me.  Another thing I do that actually adds a little challenge if I want to ramp it up is I sing.  Yep, sing.  I find that the extra amount of energy and breath required makes the workout that much more challenging.  And it’s fun!  AND when I have sung, there hasn’t been a single time when I was the only person singing – or flailing my arms, or gyrating like Ralph Kramden, or sweating up a storm.

If I’m going to care too much about not looking funny in class, I’m not going to get the same benefit from the workout.  And if I’m going to simply follow my neighbor and not make the workout my own, it won’t be the workout that I need.
So I’m having fun while taking responsibility for my own exertion, and it’s a responsibility I’m happy to take.

Weigh-in 1

Well, I weighed myself for the first time today…. and 4 ½ pounds down!!! I’m so psyched! NOW, I know a lot must be “water,” especially because I haven’t used salt since the night I got here, but still 4 ½ pounds difference on the scale is exciting to see, and I’m giving myself plenty of credit for keeping to approximately 1,200 calories a day, exercising my tail off for two to three hours a day, and drinking water and tea constantly throughout the day.

I can only assume that every little bit helps, and although I have so much further to go, I have to believe that if I keep doing what I did this past week, I’ll like what I see on the scale a week from today.  For that matter, I’ll probably like what I see in the mirror better a week from today.

I have to remind myself to just stick with it.  Just keep doing the next right thing, and in time, I’ll get where I’m going.

Friends

There are two women I met who are also going to be here for a while.  I’m psyched about that.  It’s funny, making new friends is not one of the goals I had in mind when I came, but we’re starting to bond, giggling a lot, sharing frustrations, swapping favorite food stories, telling each other about our kids, etc, and it’s nice.  What a revelation! I know that must sound weird, but I can tend to be a little anti-social, so it really is a bit of a revelation for me.  And the really interesting thing for me is that feeling these friendly connections forming seems important to rediscovering myself, re-connecting to my own needs and wellbeing, starting to feel more human again.  It’s comforting to have someone to fall in with – whether for an instant between activities, over a meal, or a good laugh during class.  Just saying.  You know, I’ve actually read a couple things recently about the importance of friendship and social connections – even just being in the company of others – to a person’s health, quality of life, and even lifespan. Hmm.  That’s starting to resonate with me.  True?  Maybe.  One more thing that feels good?  For sure.