Starts and stops

saguaro cactus with a full moom
Full moon view from my backyard. The holes in the saguaro are woodpecker nests.

I find myself starting things like my physical therapy, stretching and crunches — and then just as soon as I get a routine going — I stop. It’s such a natural inclination of mine that it takes me weeks to notice.

Why is that? When I know something is good for me, why do I stop it? With New Year’s a week away, is it possible to make some resolutions that I can stick with?

Is it laziness? Forgetfulness? Too busy? What keeps me from doing things that are good for me?

I do have a positive morning routine I’ve followed for years thanks to “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. I religiously write my three morning pages, go for a walk and pray. I should be thankful that I accomplish those things each day.

Do you find yourself starting and stopping on things, too? What have you started and stuck with? What have you stopped?

Have you heard of “text neck?”

Arizona back hard with pool and pool bar.
My favorite place to read is in a zero gravity chair with this view. I’m looking up, not down.

I hadn’t heard of it. But I’ve felt it. It’s a pain in the neck. I ran across this term last week and since the back of my neck hurts, I wanted to find out more about it.

Text neck is caused by looking down at our phones. I find I look down not only at my phone, but when I’m on my laptop and reading a book, too. I spend too much time doing all three of those. I wonder if I have text neck or if I’ve been sleeping wrong? The other culprit may be the crunches that I’ve added to my exercise routine. Crunches strain my neck.

Here’s an excerpt of an article from NBC that talks about text neck and offers four exercises to help with it called 4 exercises to combat ‘text neck’ by Brianna Steinhilber.

“Looking down promotes a forward head posture. For every inch forward you hold your head, the weight carried down through the spine increases by 10 pounds” says Dr. Karena Wu, physical therapist and owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy in NYC and Mumbai. “Looking down puts pressure on the front of the neck and gaps the back. This is especially troublesome as it can cause intervertebral discs to migrate backward, thereby increasing the chances for disc bulges. It also strains the back of the neck as the muscles on the backside are in a constant state of contraction, trying to pull and support the head (which weighs 8-10 pounds) in this too far forward position. That leads to muscle strain and pain on the back of the neck.” And it doesn’t end there. Wu goes on to say that text neck also “creates tightening on the front of the neck and chest which then leads to discomfort or dysfunction into the shoulders and middle of the back.”

“Because people are so reliant on their phones, they mentally are so lost in their work that they lose track of their posture. If you spend a long time in the ‘text neck’ position, you have to spend at least the same amount, if not more in the opposite position in order for the neck to stay in balance,” says Dr. Wu. “These exercises increase flexibility in the tight muscles (chest), restore postural alignment and increase firing of muscle stabilizers. Wu says we lose 10 percent of our height due to spinal compression and “this one exercise helps to unload our own joints and increase the space between the vertebrae (spinal bones).”

https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/4-neck-exercises-will-counteract-effects-texting-ncna840291

If you click on the link, you can find out about the exercises to combat this pain that is in the back of the next, shoulders and back. I’m wondering if I should find a better place to be on my laptop than the tiny kitchen table in the casita. Maybe I need to raise up the laptop or get a lower seat so I’m not looking down.

Have you heard of text neck? Have you experienced it? What have you done about it? When you’re on your computer or laptop, are your eyes level with your screen? Any other suggestions to combat text neck?

Yikes. Maybe this was written for me?

view of saguaro against the sky
A majestic saguaro I stopped to admire during a hike on Sunday.

I saw a headline in the Wall Street Journal: “Six Exercises to Help Seniors Build Strength, Improve Balance and Prevent Falls” by Jen Murphy. My first thought was my 89-year-old dad. He’s active and does physical therapy to improve balance and strength. He’s always working on getting stronger — especially post shoulder and ankle surgery. He’s worked hard to be where he is today, golfing several days a week, remote yacht racing, and taking ukulele lessons.

I clicked on the headline with the plan to forward him the article, without reading it myself. The photo of a fit woman who was approaching middle age stopped me. Wait a minute! I might benefit from this, too! In fact, maybe I’m considered a senior now? Maybe I’m the intended audience. YIKES. Hold that thought.

It turns out the photo of the woman was of the fitness instructor who works with seniors, not a “senior” herself. Here’s the opening of the article:

Exercises that help us perform everyday activities become increasingly important as we get older.

Our balance declines and we lose muscle, making ordinary activities like climbing stairs more difficult, and increasing the risk of injury and falls, says Rachael Holden, a fitness educator who specializes in older people. She recommends “functional exercises,” which replicate the movements people make in daily activities.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/six-exercises-to-help-seniors-build-strength-improve-balance-and-prevent-falls-11634378400?mod=hp_listc_pos4

I read the article and realized I can incorporate these six exercises into my daily routine. The first one was “Sit to Stand.”

Why: As we age, weak legs, poor balance and stiffness in the back and ankles can make sitting down into a chair and standing up again challenging, says Ms. Holden. The sit-to-stand exercise is a beginner-friendly alternative to a squat and will build lower-body strength and stability.

How: Sit in a chair or on a couch. Keep your spine tall and arms long by your sides. Push down through your feet to stand tall. Slowly lower back down to a seated position. Perform 10 repetitions. “You can do these during commercial breaks when you watch TV,” says Ms. Holden.

Okay. I can do that. Another exercise was “Step Ups.” That was something I did in PT after my knee surgery. The six exercises were simple but should help with functionality. I am not as fit as I was pre ski accident. My balance isn’t great and I could benefit from these “senior” exercises. I’ll admit it. I was believing that because I walk at least 10,000 steps a day, hike on weekends, do my stretches and crunches that I didn’t need “senior” exercises. But they sure can’t hurt. After I’m done, I’ll forward the article to my dad.

What do you do for your balance and strength? Or is it something you’re concerned with? What age do you think is considered a senior?

hiking trail at McDowell Sonoran Preserve
The Stagecoach Trail at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

What changes your outlook?

Sonoran desert view in Arizona.
View from my backyard.

I can’t tell you why, but the past few days I feel better. I didn’t feel bad before, but my attitude has improved. I wake up with more energy and passion for the day.

What have I done to change my outlook?

First, I restarted the “Three Blessings” exercise. In the evening I write down three things that I’m grateful for that happened in my day. And why. According to Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, he’s used this exercise at U Penn on his students and patients and found it to be as effective as anti-depressants.

So, it could be that.

Or, another change I’ve made this week is getting more exercise. I take my morning walk of about 45 minutes. When my walk is over, I either jump in the backyard pool and swim or I hop on my bike for a 20 minutes bike ride. I mix it up according to what I want to do. Yesterday after swimming laps, I treated myself to climbing on the float from Costco feeling the breeze on my wet skin and staring at the sky. It was heavenly.

Today, I biked and enjoyed the breeze and felt good about how much better I did climbing the hill to our house. Yes, I could feel my heart rate rise, but it wasn’t a struggle like it was earlier in the week. Also, I managed to stand up for a few pedals, which I couldn’t do last week. Those are tiny things, but the improvement felt monumental. On the bike, which I haven’t ridden in years, I feel like a kid. I’m not listening to headphones, I’m listening to nature. I get a bit smile as I coast down a hill, trying not to squeeze the brakes, but let myself fly.

Maybe it’s the hard labor I’ve been doing to fix up our rental house before the new tenants come in. Or, the good book I’m reading.

Whatever the reason is, which is most likely a combination of all the above, I like the way I’m feeling today.

woodpecker on a saguaro
I saw this woodpecker on a saguaro as I left my front door.

What improves your attitude? Have you noticed changes in how you’re feeling lately?

A Healthy Update On My Progress

 

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Our gorgeous Palm Springs pool has reopened after replastering.

This week was fun and busy. I had lunch with a couple great friends on different days. I am so thrilled that our friendships continue through the years and different stages of our lives. They’re both inspiring women who are smart and kind. Next, I got the results of my MRI, saw the doctor and started Physical Therapy. I will work on strengthening and improving my range of motion for several weeks and go back to the doctor to schedule reconstructive surgery on my ACL. The good news is it can wait until I go to my daughter’s last home meet and PAC 12 championships. I wouldn’t want to miss them for anything! Not even for a fixed leg.

Earlier this school year, my husband and I flew to Salt Lake City to visit our daughter and watch her swim. On the flight home, things didn’t go as planned and we had to get off the plane and wait for another one, due to technical difficulties. While we waited on and off the plane, we were seated with two young women who looked like athletes—tall and fit. We got to talking and they were a former swimmer and softball player who are physical therapists and own their own business in our area called Dynamic Therapy.  We enjoyed their company and bonded over swimming and college athletics. Now, I’m visiting their office as a patient. It turns out the swimmer has been part of our team’s Masters program and I’m working on convincing her to get back into the pool.

My physical therapist said I can get in the pool—but not to swim. She suggested walking and exercise. I won’t have to wear the uncomfortable leg brace and the lack of gravity should make it easier for me to move. My only concern is how do I get in and out of the pool? The walking in water sounds like a great idea, but how do I start and how do I leave? Yes, there is the required handicapped lift, but do I want to use it? No, I don’t. I’ll see how that one goes when I get my courage up to jump in.

I also have a list of seven exercises that I’m supposed to do several times a day. I did three of them, which are done standing, but I have this fear of the ones where I am supposed to be sitting on a mat. What happens if I can’t get up? It’s not the actual exercises that are the problem, it’s my mobility in getting down and off the ground, just like in and out of the pool. Funny problems, if you think about it.

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I’m missing my morning walks but should be able to return to this view soon.

 

In any case, things are shaping up and I’m feeling better getting on track to recovery.

 

Kick It up a Notch! Or How to Build on Last Year’s Resolutions

This year I just might start swimming masters.

This year, I  might start swimming masters.

I sat down to write my New Year’s Resolutions story for my blog when I got distracted by checking out FaceBook. Just for a few mintues, mind you.

What did I see? An article written by a friend of mine, Susan Murphy, published in a local wellness and health publication, called Desert Health. She wrote about New Year’s Resolutions, too. You can read her article here. Susan’s a Ph.D., life coach, business advisor and author of several books.

images-2I tried a couple of her tips last January. I made goals that were small. They weren’t overwhelming. And, they were specific.

Too many people fail at their resolutions. Last year, I managed to make four of my goals happen.

My successes: writing, exercising and reading the Bible every single day. I’m proud to say I did it!  I also started bleuwater a year ago. I posted at least one story a week. It’s rewarding to look back on my work and know that I didn’t give up.

I also have a list of failures. But, I don’t care to discuss them right now.

So what am I going to try to do this year? As Emeril would say, “Kick it up a notch!”

I write my morning pages without fail. I have several writing projects I’m consumed with. But I want to do more. Make more progress.

My excerise is very consistent, but not challenging enough. I am getting stronger, but I need to kick it up. I walk several miles every morning and then in the evening with my husband. I am thinking about either joining a gym or swimming with masters.

What are your New Year’s goals? How did you do with your resolutions last year?

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How Sleep Affects Your Student’s GPA and Other Tips for Academic Success

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My daughter swimming with club teammates during break at the home pool.

My youngest child came home for one week of Christmas break. I’m sad to say, she left already for two weeks of intense swim training at school. She’s a freshman and when she was home, it felt like she had never been away. It was such a great feeling to have her go to morning practice, come back and lounge in her room watching Netflix. I think I was shocked that she had to leave again!

My son, who’s in his fourth year — notice I don’t say senior year — came home for a few days. Left to return to his part-time job. And will be back to celebrate New Year’s with us.

In the meantime, I received a letter from my daughter’s University — The Center for Student Wellness — with interesting information for parents of children of all ages.

They said in the letter that they’ve found on their campus 5 issues that affect academics:

  1. Stress
  2. Anxiety
  3. Work
  4. Sleep
  5. Cold/flu/sore throat

imgresThe letter went on to explain that while sleep is fourth on the list, sleep affects everything else on the list. I’m not quite sure how they distinguish “stress” from “anxiety”  because they seem to go hand in hand.

However, they state that lack of sleep can be mistaken for stress. It can lead to anxiety. It can make your student more susceptible to getting sick. They suggest 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Then your child will be in a better mood. Plus, they will score higher on tests and have a higher GPA!

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As the parent of a swimmer, my daughter gets her sleep. She has had no problem falling asleep. Ever. My son, on the other hand, can’t fall asleep. He stays up until the wee hours, and then we cannot wake him up in the morning. 

My tip for getting enough sleep is simple: Swim!

Here are the tips from the University of Utah:

  1. Go to bed around the same time every night, and wake up around the same time each morning.
  2. Have a quiet, dark space to sleep in that is not too hot or cold.
  3. Be sure to remove distractions like televisions, iPods, computers, and tablets from bedrooms. Beds shouldn’t be used for activities like reading, watching movies, or listening to music.
  4. Begin powering down lights and electronics about an hour before bed.
  5. Avoid large meals, nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol right before bed.
  6. Limit naps to 20-30 minutes a day.
  7. Engage in regular physical activity.

BINGO! There is it. Number seven. If you have a child in athletics — particularly swimming — your child will sleep. Maybe that’s why they say that swimmers have the highest GPAs of all sports? Even though they get up at the crack of dawn for practice–they’ve had a full night’s sleep.

My kids during break.

My kids during break.