I think we overdid it…

Standing next to saguaro with many arms
Standing next to a saguaro. They grow their first arms at around 100 years old.

My bones ache. My muscles are tired. I don’t know why it’s so hard to recover. Maybe we overdid it and got carried away. Every weekend we go for a hike. When we started out with life in Arizona, we explored new areas to hike, but no more than two or three miles a day.

A week ago Friday, we had a visit from my sorority big sister and her husband. Wonderful surprise to see them after many years — and to learn that they are buying a home a few miles away! We went for a five-mile hike with them on the nature’s preserve across the street. It was a gorgeous afternoon and so much fun to catch up on the past 10 years or so of our lives.

Then as we walked them out in the dusk to their car, we were showing them our yard — I tripped over a cactus and flew onto our brick walkway landing on both knees and hands. Hard! I was stunned and didn’t bounce back to my feet. My husband had to help me up and I felt like a fool. Our friends were worried about me and I assured them I was fine.

Ever since my knee surgery, I have to think about how to get up. It’s like I’ve fallen on a steep ski slope and I have to make sure I’m positioned perpendicular to the slope with my skis below me before I can push myself up. My physical therapist had to teach me how to get up after surgery and had me practice it. I have to put my knees below my butt, sitting on my side before I push myself up — just like getting up on the slopes. That’s why I was not bouncing up after tripping over the cactus. It’s a mental thing but also my knees and hands hurt.

Trail signs on the McDowell Sonaran preserve
The trails have great signs so it’s nearly impossible to get lost.

Fast forward to yesterday and I felt no pain in my knees and only my right hand still hurts, so we went for another hike. We brought a trail map with us and found a loop across the street from our house. It was on the hot side, but there was a nice breeze. I didn’t slip or fall and made it through the six miles of undulating trails through the Sonoran Desert without a hitch.

When we got home I felt tired. So did my husband. We took a cold water plunge and went waist high into our freezing cold pool to get our legs back under us. Then I luxuriated on a zero gravity lounge reading a novel for an hour. What a gorgeous, perfect Sunday.

The cold water plunge reminded me of my daughter during swim meets when she had prelims and finals with a few hour break between sessions. She’d fill the hotel tub with ice and water and soak in the freezing cold ice bath to recover.

Today I woke up and tried to stand up. Yikes. I’m sore and tired. Moving kind of slow for a Monday.

Backyard pool in Arizona
I took a plunge into this freezing pool to recover from our hike.

Do you find it harder to recover as you get older? Or, is everything still as easy as ever. Do you have any tips that make it easier?

What I wish I had stuck with during the COVID shut down

In 11 days we’ll mark the anniversary of California’s order to shelter in place. Looking back to March 2020, we welcomed our daughter back into the nest for a few months. The city pool closed. Playgrounds were wrapped in yellow police tape. The drinking fountains were turned off in the park. We could walk, hike or ride bikes. Then we bought a swimming bungee cord and swam in place in our pool.

bungee swimming in pool
My daughter using the bungee in our backyard.

One of my dear friends — from volunteering at our kids’ schools, being swim moms and eventually joining the swim team as swimmers — came over to try the bungee. I sat 20 yards away from her as she swam in place. Then she told me about Chloe Ting. Who is Chloe Ting? If you haven’t heard of her, she an Australian YouTuber who has free fitness videos among other things. She’s pretty, enthusiastic, energetic and anyone can do her workouts since she offers different levels for every ability. Even an old woman like myself can do them.

I started with the 2 Weeks Shred Start program. I moved on and added abs. I remember doing this in our guest room which had a smart TV. We went on airbnb vacations to Park City, Utah and Santa Barbara and I kept up with the Chloe Ting exercises to add to my daily walks.

Then I stopped. I don’t remember when. I don’t remember why. But just think how good I’d feel if I’d kept going.

It’s time to start a new relationship with Chloe Ting. It’s a little late for a New Year’s Resolution, but since I turned a year older this week, I guess it’s a birthday gift to myself.

masked up
Me in my COVID-19 couture.

What was your favorite way to exercise during the year of sheltering in place?

About those to-do lists…

view of sonoran desert

View from our hike on the Broken Spoke Trail.

As I was writing my to do-list today, I felt frustrated. There are a couple things that I never get around to doing. Why do I continue to put them on my list? Instead of helping organize my day, the list is making me feel like a loser.

I have a choice. I either tackle those pesky things that I don’t want to do — or let them go.

My husband and I had a great hike yesterday on the Broken Spoke Trail near our house yesterday. He said he’s getting bored of not doing anything on the weekends. We are at the point that it’s tough being together in COVID isolation almost for a year. While we were out in the desert — I had an idea. It entailed making more lists.

ancient saguaro

My husband standing next to an amazing saguaro.

One would be a list of places we want to explore in our new state. I want to visit Sedona and the Grand Canton. He wants to see Payson and Puerto Penasco on the Sea of Cortez. All of those places will go on our list.

The other is a to-do list for our new house. On the second list, I’ve decided to spend one hour a day working on the guest room. Sitting on the carpet are 10 boxes that I’ve avoided unpacking consistently for the two months we’ve lived here. It’s probably stuff I should have thrown out, rather than moved. Also, the artwork is leaning against the walls. We have the rest of the house almost put together. We’re just waiting for the living room furniture we ordered in November. 

woman on hiking trail in the desert

On our Super Bowl Sunday desert hike.

So, I’m not giving up on lists. I just want to figure out how to not let my lists hurt my feelings.

Any suggestions?

 

Exploring my new hometown

standing next to saguaro

This saguaro must be 200 years old.

I walk every single day and have for at least six years — except for 2018 when tore my ACL and meniscus skiing. I had surgery and months of recovery. Other than that lovely experience, I get out seven days a week without fail.

In Palm Springs, I’d walk downtown among the shops and restaurants or around the neighborhood and park. In my new Arizona home, it’s a wilder landscape full of saguaro, brush, shrubs, hawks and quail. At first I walked every morning in our development but that soon became boring. So I ventured outside to a sidewalk between our development and wild federal land.

saguaro in the sun

The wild views across the street.

I made a pledge to myself that every weekend, my husband and I would explore a new trail and go hiking. I was excited to get off the sidewalk and see more, but not willing yet to do it on my own. Moving into a new area during a global pandemic makes hiking the perfect way to explore safely. The first weekend after getting somewhat settled, we drove 10 miles to Cave Creek Regional Park for our first hike, which was challenging and gorgeous.

To find more trails, I googled moderate hikes in the county and discovered our house was across the street from a conservancy with trails — the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. We’re miles from the main entrance but there are trails literally across the street. A trailhead is two miles down the street from our house. We decided to drive to the trailhead instead of wasting four miles round-trip on the sidewalk. The other choice is to cross the street and walk through the brush and cactus until we ended up on a trail. I nixed that.

During the hike, as we got further into the wilderness, I felt a little anxious as we passed coyote scat and other signs of wildlife. I told my husband that next time I’ll bring my pepper spray or a hiking pole. My husband, of course, thought I was silly.

The hike was easy and we marveled at ancient saguaro and wanted to learn more about other cactus and plants. The landscape is so different from what we’re used to, it’s breathtaking. I wonder if I’ll get used to it and take it for granted? We missed the trailhead that led to our car. We kept going thinking it would be around the next bend. Pretty soon, we were close to our house. So we backtracked — adding more than a few miles to our hike. Not so easy, after all.

Saguaro

It takes a saguaro 100 years to grow an arm. I wonder how old this guy is?

Do you hike or walk during COVID-19 to get exercise? Where are your favorite places to go?

Does illness influence negative thoughts?

I wrote this last year when I discovered a connection between not feeling good and my own negative thoughts. With all the focus on COVID-19 in 2020, I felt I needed to repeat this post.

Palm Springs pool

Hoping to dive in again soon.

I’ve noticed a correlation between how I feel and negative thoughts. I’ve been battling a nasty cold since I got home from my Seattle trip. With my body feeling weak, achy and my head stuffed through and through, I’m catching negative thoughts entering my brain.

Maybe it’s because my brain isn’t up to speed that I can stop them in their tracks? Or, maybe because I’m not feeling well, my brain is producing more negativity than usual? I feel like my weak body is a target for the negativity swirling in my brain.

It reminds me of a webinar about “managing thoughts” that I heard lately and wrote about here. It was by David Benzel of Growing Champions for Life. He talked about how your brain is a tool and it’s not who you are. A summary of what he said was if you don’t use this tool called your brain, it will use you. He explained how we’re bombarded with 55,000 thoughts per day. If we can separate ourselves from those thoughts, we can evaluate them. When a negative thought pops up, like “Who am I fooling?” or “I’m really not very good at this,” I can stop it and say, “Where did that come from?” or “How is this helpful to me pursuing my goals?” After separating ourselves from the thought, it is less likely to get inside and take over our psyches.

Benzel talked about living in the now. He said worry and anxiety are based on thoughts about the future. Our regrets are thoughts about the past. There is only one here and now. That’s all we have control of. Don’t dwell on the past. Don’t dwell on the future. Take advantage of the now.

I’ve spent two days mostly in bed, trying to get over this cold. I don’t feel much better today. But, I’m guarding myself against negative thoughts taking over. I know that I will feel better soon because I’m taking good care of myself. I also think that when people get older and are in pain, or if someone isn’t feeling well, they may be filled with negative thoughts. Maybe that’s why they are grouchy or may bite your head off. It’s something to think about, isn’t it? I can empathize with their hurt bodies being inundated with negative thoughts from their brains. They may not realize it, but their physical condition is allowing their negativity to take over.

Do you notice a connection between negative thoughts and illness? If so, what do you do to manage your thoughts?

Beautiful long hair tabby cat.

My constant companion while feeling sick.

 

 

 

How to stay focused when overwhelmed

view of swimming pool

The pool where I swim Masters.

Do you ever wonder why sometimes life is slow and easy and then bam! We get overwhelmed with everything? I’ve been feeling that way all week. There’s a lot of stuff going on in this crappy year called 2020. I’m having trouble dealing with all the emotions hitting me.

Here’s how I try to cope when I’m feeling overwhelmed:

ROUTINE

I try not to mess with my established routine. For going on six years, I have followed Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” and it’s served me well. I start the day with three pages of journaling, a long walk and prayer. Even when I’ve got a crazy schedule or upheaval in my life, there’s no way I’ll cheat myself of this time to get my head and body refreshed and ready for the day.

SWIM

Exercise is so important to staying stress free and to keep your mind clear. Unfortunately I have a tendency to let go of swim practice when I’m too busy. It’s my hope to be consistent with three practices a week. I’ve got a good start until this week and I took a few days off and it’s not helping me.

PRIORITIZE and ORGANIZE

Figure out exactly what you need to get done and let go of the other stuff. When I’m juggling a bunch of projects at once, I figure out what is most important. If I do the harder tasks or work I don’t want to do first, the rest is easy. Getting the clutter out of the way helps, too. My daughter is big on color coding her work and putting it on a white board or calendar. I’m going to try color folders for each of my projects so I’m not searching through papers on my desk.

WORK AHEAD

When I have a few minutes of free time, I work ahead. Last week I was waiting on work, so instead of surfing the internet and reading news online, I made a list of everything I needed to get done for this week — and jumped in on it. Lists are my saving grace. I start each day with a list of to dos and work my way through the day. Then, I make a list for the next day, and start in on that, too. One of my friends told me she crosses things off her daily lists with a red pen. I’ve adopted that and it’s so satisfying!

beautiful view of mountain and park

Views from my morning walk.

What are your methods to stay on track and focused when things seem out of control?

Views from my morning walk

This morning was clear, gorgeous and colorful. I stopped several times to take photos of the glorious day.  I was feeling slightly beat up because I overdid it yesterday and I worried myself silly over the missing kitty. I tried to squeeze in as many laps as I could in the 45-minute swim time slot enforced by the city. To do that I put on fins and today my legs are sore! Since returning to swimming two weeks ago, I’ve found it really wears me out. Plus, I walked too much if that is possible. More than 22,000 steps according to fitbit.

So today, I did a rambling slow-paced walk and took note of the beauty around me. I’m sharing it with you, including a friendly roadrunner I filmed a few blocks from home:

 

A view of Mt. San Jacinto from the Wellness Park

sunrise through palm trees

Watching the sun rise through the palm trees

When the walk was over, I felt able to take on another day. Also, I didn’t freak out when kitty took off outside. I realized she’s found a safe place to hide out and will return to my side, once the strangers take off after painting and fixing things around the house.

bougainvillea wall of red flowers

A wall of bougainvillea brightened my day.

What beautiful sights do you see when you slow down enough to enjoy them?