Adding to my routine

City of Palm Springs Aquatic Center
I miss our beautiful Palm Springs city pool.

For one week, I’ve gotten in the pool each day to kick. Tuesday I went back to the Y for the first time in months and lap swam.

Why did I stop with the lap swimming? Mostly it was the weather. Summer in the Arizona desert is cloudy with daily thunderstorms and lightening. Not ideal outdoor swimming weather.

If it’s not storming it’s brilliant intense sunshine which I tend to avoid. Before I knew it, I was out of the lap swimming habit.

I’ve been following “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron for years. At least most of her routine of morning pages, prayer and daily walks. The thing I’ve been missing is the “artist’s date.”

My excuse before was COVID shutdowns.

Now I have no excuse. The artist date is to go out — alone — and experience something to feed your muse. Cameron’s suggestions are looking in antique and fabric stores, go anywhere that will fill your senses and spark your creativity.

I’m going to try a once-a-week date with myself. I’ve added two days of lap swimming, and three days of kicking — now an artist’s date. I think that’s quite enough for now!

What is your morning or daily routine? What would you like to add to it?

Sights at sunrise

Sun behind the clouds at sunrise
It’s so hot I’m taking my walks at dawn to beat the heat. The clouds are blocking the sunrise.

We’ve had a hot week and I’ve been swimming rather than walking each day. Our pool in the backyard is a nice temperature so I jump in and kick or swim. I swim laps at the Y a couple times a week too.

It’s weird not to walk every morning after not missing a day since I recovered from knee surgery.

The other morning I woke up at 4:45 a.m. and got out the door for a walk at 5:15 a.m. It was beautiful with birds singing, but I felt a little unnerved with coyotes howling nearby. It sounded like a large pack. I almost turned back to the house, but courageously kept moving on. I actually turned back momentarily only to discover the coyotes howling sounded near my home. Onward and forward seemed like the prudent choice.

Here are the photos I took during my early morning walk.

purple mountains and desert plans.
I love the colors of the mountains and desert in the early morning.

bird on saguaro
A saguaro topped by a bird.
Century plant fallen over
I had been watching this century plant waiting for it to bloom. This was a sad sight.
Century plant standing
This was the century plant two weeks ago.
The oldest quail babies hanging out with their mom and dad in our pool bar. We have three families from wee babies to these teenagers.

If I wake up early enough to beat the heat, I go for my walks at sunrise. If I wake up later and it’s too hot — I jump into the water. Thankfully our pool gets a lot of shade during the day, so the water temperature is still cool.

What is your favorite way to start the day? How are you getting exercise?

It’s time to kick

Two mornings in a row it’s been too hot to walk. I convinced my husband to kick with me in the pool. He set his timer for 30 minutes and off we went. I didn’t want to swim freestyle because I had just washed my hair. I know that sounds prissy, but I can’t stand washing my hair every day. So I put my hair up and kicked until my lower back hurt and my legs got sore.

A really cool coincidence is friends from Palm Springs moved one mile from us in Arizona three months after we moved. This was without knowledge of each other moving. The friend and I were school moms at the Catholic school our kids attended. They lived only a few blocks from us in Palm Springs and I golfed weekly with this friend.

We lost touch with each other when we both got hyper involved with our kids’ sports. My kids were swimmers — their kids were hockey players.

Hockey led them out of town to Anaheim where there was a competitive team. We lacked hockey in Palm Springs.

This past weekend they invited us over for a birthday party. We spent a couple hours sitting and standing in the pool while wasps swarmed around us. My friend’s husband stood in the pool with a can of Raid trying to keep the wasps at bay. It was a fun afternoon, but today I have sunburned hands.

My husband said everyone but me kept their hands in the water. I apparently talk with my hands. We were laughing and talking and I was gesturing all over the place. I’ve never had sunburned hands before.

The weekend before we had them over and I cooked sea bass, grilled corn on the cob, asparagus and a brown and wild rice dish. It was another fun night of friendship and laughter.

I feel a connection to this couple unlike the new friends I’ve made in our neighborhood through book club, the newsletter and coffee. It’s because we go back for decades, raised our kids together and have shared memories. It’s also amazing that we ended up in homes so close together because we are out in the sticks a good 30-minute drive north of Scottsdale.

What friends do you feel the most connection with and why?

A few random thoughts

bright yellow blossoms
I saw this in a neighbor’s yard today on my morning walk. I’ve never noticed it before. It must be the blossoms that got my attention. Maybe it hasn’t bloomed since we moved here until recently.

Thursday was a busy day. I had coffee club and I swam in addition to reading and writing.

My son called several times yesterday. He asked me about Wordle. We both got it done in four yesterday. He said “Four is a par and three is a birdie.”

I think he’s correct about the golf analogy. Two is definitely an eagle.

Coffee club was fun. I’m glad I went. I’m getting to know a few women in my neighborhood. We met at a local coffee shop and had breakfast together and talked.

I am reminded of when I was in kindergarten and my mom was in the neighborhood coffee klatch. She quit and said it was a waste of time. Her favorite word back then was “highbrow.” I have a feeling she didn’t think the women measured up.

At the pool I swam 1,200 yards. Just think, pre COVID I was swimming 3,000. I started at the YMCA swimming three weeks ago. I’ve made it twice a week for three weeks. Yay for me. I began with 500 yards, bumped it up to 1,000 and then 1,200. I hope to be at 1,500 soon.

I’m taking barre class later this morning. I’m also doing that class twice a week along with swimming. I feel like I’m getting stronger and in better shape — but I don’t recover like I used to. I guess that’s due to aging and lack of activity during the shut down.

Consistency is my key. I don’t talk myself out of going — I go. No excuses. I’m sticking to this schedule for the next few weeks to see if it gets any easier. Then I may add a third day of swimming or another class.

What random thoughts do you have today? What are you doing to stay in shape? Do you think the COVID shutdown affected your physical health?

Starting over — again

under water swim photo
My daughter swimming years ago in our Palm Springs city pool. The photo was taken by one of my longtime swim buddies.

I’ve been horrible about swimming. The last time I swam was March 3. One reason was we had guests. Another was the temperature got cold for a week. Then I got my hair done — and that means no swimming for a few days — otherwise I’d ruin my “do.”

When we lived in Palm Springs, I was one mile from the pool and I would start and stop — but I was more consistent than I am now. I swam with our Piranha Masters and I had two friends who would text me before practice to make sure I was going. It’s good to have workout partners for motivation.

Our new home is 20 miles from the nearest Scottsdale pool and it takes me 40 minutes with traffic to get there.

It’s easy to NOT go. Especially with gas prices so high. Also, the tiniest bit of wind or cold weather keeps me away.

I feel so much better when I swim. I sleep better, too.

A neighbor suggested I try out the YMCA in Cave Creek. I went last week to check it out and it’s not the greatest pool — it only has three lanes for lap swimming — but it’s only 6 miles from our house. I have a free one-week trial and I reserved a lane Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Monday went swimmingly. I had a lane to myself and the staff and swimmers were friendly and welcoming. Because it’s a beach entry pool and has so few lanes for lap swimming, you have to make an appointment for a lane. Perhaps that will get me to the pool with a set time reserved.

The YMCA has a huge gym with excellent equipment and a ton of classes including yoga, zumba and barre. Who knows, I may expand my workout world and try a few classes, too.

How do you stay motivated to work out? Are you consistent or do you start and stop and begin again?

My celebration

View of Cactus pool lanes
My new home pool.

Yesterday was my birthday and I celebrated in a few unique ways. First, I took a cold shower. Not on purpose, but the hot water was out. We had a plumber run a gas line from the laundry room into the kitchen the evening before. Tomorrow we are replacing the electric cook top with gas! We are so excited, but somehow the hot water got turned off so a cold shower it was. It sure woke me up!

Then I went to my first neighborhood club meeting. It was ladies coffee club with six other women from the neighborhood. It turns out the woman in charge of the coffee club lives right across the street from me. She and her husband stopped and introduced themselves when we first moved in but we haven’t seen them since. She apologized and said they were meaning to invite us over, but they forgot our names. I told her we had a concert and party and were going to invite them, also, but I couldn’t remember their names, either.

The big celebration for me was to drive 30 minutes to the pool and dive back in. I’ve been talking about doing this and haven’t made it there yet. We went from snow and freezing temps a little over a week ago to 80 degrees today, so I had no “it’s too cold” excuse. I set my birthday as my goal date to return to lap swimming. It was fabulous. I love the sensation of floating and gliding through the water. I met other nice swimmers who were so positive and friendly.

The downside to swimming was how out of shape and tired I got. Swimming is not a sport to drop for months at a time. Consistency is the key. My new goal is three days a week. It also makes me super hungry.

What special things do you do to celebrate yourself on your birthday or any day?

What’s the antithesis of placebo?

swimming pool in Palm Springs
Palm Springs pool where I thought I needed a fitbit to keep track of my laps. Reality check — I can count higher than the number of laps I can swim.

My fitbit died a sudden death in Sept. 2021. From tracking my every step and swim stroke it went dark. My first instinct was to order another one online and strap it back into my life ASAP. Then an idea hit me. I decided to try an experiment. I’d go one week without it.

I wrote about the first week HERE.

My daughter sent me an article this morning called “Beware That Nocebo Strapped to Your Wrist” by Tim Culpan from Bloomberg.com. It’s premise is this: “Fitness gadgets are supposed to improve your health, but often end up making you feel worse.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Most people are familiar with the concept of a placebo, where merely providing positive information can improve perception of well-being. Yet the opposite also occurs, with negative data making people feel worse about their own health.

That’s a nocebo — Latin for “I shall harm” as opposed to “I shall please” for placebo. And there’s a good chance you have a nocebo strapped to your wrist.

A wave of health-tech gadgets — from fitness trackers to Apple Inc.’s Watch — means hundreds of millions of people are hooked up to real-time feedback devices. They’re designed to measure your steps, encourage you to exercise more, and give daily updates on your mental and physical health. Apple wants you to “close your rings” — the three colorful circles the Watch uses to monitor your progress — and Garmin Ltd. helpfully tells you when your health is “excellent.”

They make for popular gifts and are bound to be stocking-stuffers this year. Various models of the Apple Watch occupied four of the top 10 most popular items in November’s Black Friday sales, according to Business Insider.

But there’s also good reason to think twice about whether you, or a loved one, will truly benefit from 24-7 monitoring, arbitrary goals served up by an algorithm, and regular notifications telling you that you’re stressed, tired, fit, or simply “unproductive.” 

In fact, research on the nocebo effect — first conceptualized in 1961 — has shown that perceptions of pain can increase with shifts in information and detail. Patients with suspected concussions have shown poorer neurocognitive performance when their history of traumatic injury is called to attention. Concentration falters when unpleasant data is provided. Sometimes, even a change in the color of a specific signal associated with health can trigger discomfort.

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2021-12-15/wrist-size-fitness-gadgets-make-for-great-gifts-but-beware-of-the-nocebo-effect

It’s been a little less than four months since the nocebo left my wrist. I no longer wake up to immediately check my fitbit. I’d check to see if I had a good night’s sleep or not. If it told me I had a bad night’s sleep, it changed my outlook for the entire day. I felt tired, cranky, and I didn’t know how I’d get through the day. Say good-bye to getting into my creative space. I was becoming a slave to the nocebo.

I haven’t replaced it. I don’t need it. I know if I’ve gotten enough steps from years of walking 10,000 steps or more each day. I know if I had a good night’s sleep or not. AND as for swimming laps, I count higher than the number of laps I can swim. It’s not too much to keep track of laps in my head. Maybe even good for the old brain power.

What type of device do use to keep track of your health, steps and sleep? Or do you use one at all? I hear people say the Apple Watch has all sorts of other benefits, but I can’t figure out if I need another device to alert me about calls, texts, and emails with a laptop and cellphone at my side? What are your thoughts? What are the benefits that you like the most?