Category Archives: Nature

Jump Start This Thing, Will Ya?

When I was little there was an exercise place in my hometown that was run by two of my friends’ moms. The name of the place was the “New You.” What I loved about it was that more than being a collection of strange 1970s exercise equipment—yes, they had the fat-jiggler belts—New You was a place where women like my mom could go to feel better about themselves and to be inspired by other women from the same small town. They could all find their New You together.

Once the “New You” closed down, there were a few years where the HC had no exercise facility, and then Tom and Kay opened “Main Street Gym.” Again, the endearing quality of Main Street Gym was the camaraderie of people who went there to make themselves healthier, to challenge and support each other in life’s  new journey toward health. My dad still has weightlifting trophies he won while he was lifting weights there, and the rest of my family still has the memory of going there for aerobics classes or weightlifting after school.

My point in sharing all of this is that health and the desire to be fit isn’t new in my life. I’ve ridden this horse before, which is what makes it a bit annoying to admit that I can’t just stay in the land of the fit. Instead I find myself where I was nearly 10 years ago when I started this blog, at around 250 pounds and unwell. More than I have been in the past ten years of goofing around with fitness and wellness, I am looking for a New Me and a community that will hold me accountable and support and challenge me. I want to learn to rock climb with my friends Travis and Angie, and I want to be part of the Mill City weekly runs when I can, and I want to be able to finish some bucket list races, and I can’t if I am fat, itchy, and inflamed.

After I wrote the entry last night, I was up for another several hours watching Ken Burns’ Civil War and pondering why it is I thought I needed to wait until April 1 to start this (renewed too many times) quest. I also thought about how many times I’ve failed at this before, and then I decided with exercise, I need to take it slowly, so no matter how badly I want to start running before May 1, I am forcing myself to walk. Why? I need to ease back into this, so I don’t injure myself and so I don’t burn myself out. Here’s to long walks and dietary abstinence.

Because I couldn’t wait to get started, I got up this morning at 8AM, walked the dogs, and then went for a 70-minute walk along one of my favorite non-state-park routes past the cemetery and the oil refinery. When I got home I made myself some breakfast (beans, rice, onion, garlic, garam masala, spinach, and mushrooms), and drank a big glass of water. Needless to say, I am feeling pretty good about how this day has started off, and I feel like the next 30 days couldn’t be more splendid. Of course, now I have to leave the house and face the real world.

A Reason to Drive to Minnesota to Throat Punch Me: Fitness

If you needed a reason to come to MN to throat punch me, here it is, and I even give you permission, rather the encouragement, to do it. Please, please, please, if I ever say I am going to quit swimming, biking, or running, or if I say I am just going to take a short break from it, get in your car, drive to Newport, Minnesota, and kick my ass. I’ll even give you gas money. If come to throat punch me for some other reason, you’re on your own with the gas money.

That being said, I’ve started running again, very slowly and methodically, but running none the less. I’ve just finished the second week, the second day, of the Couch Potato to 5K program, and it was glorious. I’m hoping to only have to use the guided program for a couple more weeks before my body is just back in the groove of this thing I love. I’m doing most of my running on this trail, The River Bottoms Trail, parts of which are contained in Fort Snelling State Park. The section I am using right now is the part that starts in Mendota, and it’s flat as a pancake, beautiful along the river, and packed dirt so it’s very forgiving, not like concrete or asphalt. As I get better and faster again at running, I’ll explore some of the other parts of the trail, too, but they seem more technical and I don’t want to risk injuring my knee again, so I want to be good and strong before being too adventurous. The waiting is torture. My favorite part of running is careening down hills and skittering back up the other side. It’s a beautiful childlike feeling, but for now I’ll be a 40-year-old who’s afraid to get reinjured.

To begin preparing to train for the Muncie 70.3 next July, I have decided to run three times a week, bike twice a week, and swim twice a week. I’ve already covered my running plan, so I’ll talk about biking. I’m hoping to rope Bec into my biking program next spring, but we’ll see how that goes. We love going for long rides together, so hopefully it’ll mean spending some quality time together once a week for a long ride. Mostly for now, I’m going to ride a couple of short rides each week, then settle into winter. I hate riding in cold weather, so I’ll be spending some time in the garage on the trainer, which I hate almost as much. Maybe I need to get a cheap TV to put out there to make the time pass more quickly. Such is life in Minnesota as a biker in the winter, but there is always spring.

Finally, I just sent for my community lap swim card. Talk about a super-cool, super-weird deal: the schools in our district open their pools for lap swim for anyone in the community. It costs $65 A YEAR to join the community lap swim program. $65 A YEAR! The pools are open four nights a week, and the one closest to my house is open on Monday and Wednesday from 8PM to 9PM, which is perfect. I can get in a nice swim two nights a week, just before bed. I had registered for Big Shoulders this year, but since I haven’t been swimming, I’m going to forgo my participation and watch my friend Teresa do Ironman Wisconsin. I’ll try for Big Shoulders again next year when I’ve been in the pool more.

Here is what I hope my weeks to come will look like:

Day

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Activity Swim Run Swim Run Bike LongRun Bike
Time 8-9PM Whenever 8-9PM Whenever Whenever Whenever

Afternoon

Getting back into this type of training is much more difficult than just sticking with it could ever be, so please, please, please, heed my offer. If I ever, ever, ever, mention quitting or taking a break, make the drive and throat punch me. I won’t be surprised about it, and I’ll pay for your gas.

*

On a totally unrelated note, people who have very long acrylic fingernails should not be allowed to type in public. Isn’t that so the late 1990s early 2000s anyway? The clicking reminds me of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells.” The clicking is maddening. In fact, I think my work is finished here. I’m going to go home and shower, then find a place to get my newest tattoo. Happy Birthday to me.

Mystic Monday: Guico I, Solitude

“You are aware that in the Old Testament, and especially in the New, almost all the greater and more profound secrets were revealed to God’s friends when they were alone and not in the midst of milling crowds. These same friends of God almost always avoided the hindrance of crowds and sought out the convenience of solitude when they wanted to mediate more deeply on something, or to pray with greater freedom, or when they wished to be removed from earthly concerns through mental energy. […] and you should agree that solitude is the greatest support for sweet psalmody, pious reading, fervent prayer, deep meditation, ecstatic contemplation, and the baptism of tears.” —Guico I, from The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism

My students and I have been reading the American Romantics for the past six weeks or so, and they are always struck by the amount of time the writers spend alone. I am always envious of the same. What strikes me about Christian mystics, especially the earlier ones, is their love and appreciation for silence, for being alone, and for prayer and meditation. Why aren’t American Christians as dedicated to making space for God’s voice? I try and fail to open up solitude and quiet, even for a few minutes. Thoreau writes in Walden: “I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” I, too, like to be alone, and I am wearied by even my best and closest friends. Don’t get me wrong, I love being with people, but being real and present with others is exhausting and sometimes confusing. But there is a difference between being alone because I want solitude, like Thoreau, and being alone because I strive to hear the voice of God, like Guico I.

How, then, can I as a 21st century Christian foster the type of solitude that elicits the revelation of God’s profound secrets? Where can I pause, meditate and pray, and hear those deep stirrings that I long for? Most days I am so caught up in my own life and its pressures and deadlines that I forget to take a moment to listen for God. I forget—no I don’t forget—I don’t make time to just be, to just sit in the presence of Nature and listen for God. I worry about the future, when I should just simply be. I try to interpret my past, when I should just simply be. I miss everything present because I am on a deadline. I know that “solitude is the greatest support for sweet psalmody, pious reading, fervent prayer, deep meditation, ecstatic contemplation, and the baptism of tears,” but I will never experience it if I don’t make solitude a priority and not just an escape from the chaos of the world. The solitude I need to experience God is an intentional solitude wherein I try to hear God’s voice, sense God’s presence, and feel God’s joys and sorrows.

I suppose the feeling of God in moments of intentional solitude mirrors Margaret Fuller’s awe at the face of a Niagara Falls that she thought she already knew everything about: “This was the climax of the effect which the falls produced upon me-neither the American nor the British fall moved me as did these rapids. For the magnificence, the sublimity of the latter I was prepared by descriptions and by paintings.” This reminds me of the ways in which God just sort of creeps up on us in the least expected ways. We look toward the falls for the great beauty, but we are taken aback by the simplicity and power of the falls. I hope I can find some ways to be taken in by the sublime nature of God’s unexpected beauty, but I know that will only happen if I make time to seek God intentionally through prayer and meditation in solitude. I wont’ be overcome by rapids in a crowd of people. So, I ask again, how can I make time for beautiful solitude in which I come to expect to hear the voice of God? Possibly I’ll make time for a retreat of solitude this summer, but more intentionally, I’ll make 15 minutes each morning for meditation and prayer.