Archive for the ‘ Health ’ Category

 DSC_0003  This morning’s run

Four years ago today I started running the courthouse steps. I had been doing aerobics for many years, and one day while walking my dog past the courthouse, I thought I’d just see what it was like to run the steps; I was instantly hooked.

What I love about running steps goes way beyond the rigorous workout I get.  I wake up just before the sun rises, get dressed in an early morning daze and head out the door with my water and sweat rag on my bike when it’s just light enough outside to see where I’m going. The air is always fresh at this time of day and my senses are on high alert. My neighbor’s sprinkler overflow is scurrying down the street like a river along the edge of the grass, and I pedal faster to pass it up. Sloppily thrown newspapers sit patiently on driveways awaiting to be retrieved. Yellow parakeets chatter loudly as they fly over the rustling palm fronds, and through the slats of the metal fence around the water treatment plant, I see the sunrise glow as it pushes away the pink clouds. The workers at the plant know me now. I wave and speed down the street.

CHS2

At the corner of the busy intersection where I must cross, I observe the blank looks on drivers’ faces as they head to work in the congestion of Metropolitan Miami. Some are looking down at their cell phones, unaware the light has turned green. The courthouse pigeons have moved their perch to the telephone wires on this corner after the courthouse officials installed sharp anti bird spikes along the roof’s edge. I look up at the pigeons for a quick second, but make sure to keep my mouth closed.

I park and lock my bike in front of the courthouse and head to the top of the steps where I remove my sandals and start my stretching routine. The security guard on the second floor nods at me and smiles. Invariably the pigeons on the corner take off and circle over my head, putting on a show as if to welcome me to their former perch. Overhead I can see planes from Miami International Airport ascending, and I daydream about the exciting places where they may be going. The cloud formations are ever-changing.

CHS1

As I start to run up and down the steps I instantly go into a zone of sorts, whereby I no longer think about what I’m doing; it’s as if a force beyond my control is moving me. Out loud I count the “innings” or rather laps up and down as I listen to Mick Jagger singing in my ear. Negative thoughts are not allowed here. Courthouse employees arrive to work early, shuffling their feet, looking defeated to have to walk through the doors. I smile and make eye contact with them.

I see another familiar face. It’s Alaina, an avid walker, a 65-year-old breast cancer survivor, and she chats with me, telling me her dreams about getting rich with her cell phone invention. One day three years ago, a thin woman in a clean, long, white night gown sat in the middle of the courthouse steps and started belting out American songs. “Marines’ Hymn, You’re a Grand Old Flag, God Bless America” and so on. I never realized how many patriotic songs there were until this day. She was protesting something, but I don’t know what. There was no one there to listen except for me. Her off-key singing frustrated me for 30 long minutes before she marched off with her poster that just read “Justice” and her collection of flat tunes.

As the run progresses and I ascend the steps, I manage to keep up my pace and continue to not think about the challenge of what I am doing and that gravity is not my friend. I am competing with no one. I don’t dare acknowledge the heat and humidity of South Florida. Passersby ask me where the entrance is to the courthouse and a whole host of other questions. “Passports – room 160, Parking and Traffic Violations, well that’s room 200. No, there’s no entrance at the top of the stairs – it’s down there behind that wall, but you’ve got a long wait until the courthouse opens.”

Image

People stare at my bare feet. Some men yell comments out their car windows as they whiz by. Thinking I couldn’t hear her, one day a young woman walking past the steps whispered to the young man next to her, “That running bitch is not wearing shoes. What must that bitch be thinking?!”

“That bitch is thinking she can hear every word you just said,” I blurted out as I ran past her.

Sometimes young men, who are on their way inside the courthouse to fight traffic tickets ask me about my workout and my shoeless feet and are looking for motivation to start a fitness routine of their own. I give them words of encouragement and explain that I run without shoes because this is how I keep injuries at bay – especially plantar fascitis, shin splints, hip and knee pain. Read the science of barefoot workouts from Harvard University.

Image 1

Across the street is the Walgreens shopping center where I wave to Alberto, the hardworking groundskeeper there, whom I met many times when I used to cut through the shopping center to get home. On occasion I see my dry cleaner peek out the door of his shop to wave at me and the Coke and Lays trucks making their daily deliveries to Walgreens. Just how much Coke and how many chips can one Walgreens sell? I love it when the doormat cleaning truck pulls in from of the courthouse once a month, bringing fresh mats inside and dragging out the filthy ones.

DSC_0009 - Version 2

I run up and down the 28 steps 20-25 times and then take a 90 second walking break on the top landing. In between sets I often do 10 pushups. I run between 3,360 and 4,200 steps each visit. When I finish, I text before and after running selfies to my daughter, who is in grad school in Colorado.

On the ride back I’m treated to an endorphin rush; it should be illegal to be this happy and energetic – not to mention sweaty. I’m 4 ft. 11″, middle-aged and strong. It’s only 7:30 am and my workout is done. Soon I’ll experience a calmness that only devoted yogis speak of.

DSC_0008

Other than, “Why are you not wearing shoes?’ the most common question I am asked is, “How do you motivate yourself to keep running?” Running for me is a habit – like brushing my teeth every morning – and if I don’t workout at least 5 days a week, I don’t feel good. There’s always a long list of excuses not to run, but I won’t entertain them. I have never been athletically inclined – actually more accident prone and was the last girl picked for teams in gym class in school. It’s uncomfortably hot and humid most of the year. I have chronic asthma and debilitating allergies; luckily the only time my nose and lungs are truly clear is when I’m running.

So today on my four year anniversary, I am grateful to be able to continue to run the steps. I’m 55 years old, and as long as I can walk, I can run. And run. And run.

DSC_0007

 

 

 

Leave your Comment

Celebrating a Milestone

This weekend I’m celebrating a milestone. Two years ago I began running on the steps in front of my local courthouse. In these two years I’ve run up and down about 2,000,000 steps – between 3,400 and 5,600 steps per day, depending on how I feel and what the weather is like. On my 53rd birthday in October I challenged myself to run 10,000 steps. I did it in one hour and 38 minutes!

 

Why I Love Running Steps

Running steps more than anything is meditative.  I walk about a half mile from my house to the courthouse, through my alley and down a semi-busy street. I watch the sun rise every morning, listen to the birds chirping, often flying overhead. I pass by morning glories opening and alley cats that scamper as I approach. I arrive at the courthouse while no one else is there, except for the security guards. I count the number of laps I do up and down, which I like to call “innings.” I don’t really focus on counting, it just happens naturally and keeps my mind light and free.

I live in Miami, so it’s hot here – really, really hot and humid. That adds to the challenge of keeping up my energy. But it also allows for a really good sweat, providing that feeling that I’ve sweat out the toxins and have accomplished something worthwhile.  It may sound crazy, but the hard work is worth the euphoric feeling you get when you’re finished. I leave with happy, positive thoughts. Running the steps is free. No club membership! Plus it doesn’t take much time – about 45-minutes of time from start to finish.

I run barefoot because shoes cause injury to my feet and knees. Here I am running the Rocky Steps in Philly.

 

 What Motivates Me to Run

When I was a child I was always the last one chosen for sports teams whether at school or at play. I wasn’t an athlete; in fact I couldn’t hit a volleyball over a net, hit a baseball or golf well. But as I got older I realized that not being athletically inclined didn’t mean I had to be unfit. My father passed away when he was 40 from a heart attack and my mother had two forms of cancer suffering for 9 years before passing away at age 70.  I can’t change my genetics, but I realized I could get and stay fit, eat right and do what I can to stay healthy. Thinking about my parents’ health challenges motivates me every day. I live by my motto, “Shut your pie hole and move your ass!”

It’s Not Discipline

In the beginning, running steps was really challenging. I was already doing aerobics for years at home, but running up and down steps is really a strenuous workout. It took a lot of self-talking to get up and out of the house early every morning. But then after a few months, gradually I began to look forward to going. Now I can best describe running as a habit. It’s sort of like getting up and brushing your teeth. You just do it. I do have sluggish days when I just don’t feel like running, but I go anyway. My husband calls those “bonus days,” because although your time may be slower or your step numbers may be lower, you went out there and did something on a day when you just didn’t feel like doing it.

A white layer cake I made to celebrate.

What Running Has Taught Me

It’s wrong to label yourself in any negative way. “I’m not athletic,” “I’m too old,” “I’m uncoordinated” or “I don’t think I can or should do this or that.” Running has taught me that I can have as much energy as a 25-year-old, and that if I can stick to something athletic and challenging, then I can transfer that success to other areas of my life. The only boundaries are the ones we put on ourselves.

 

 

 

Comments (1)

Running the Rocky Steps in Philly

Even more than January 1st, I look upon the day after Labor Day as the first day of my “new year.” Children are gathering new school supplies, leaving them with that wonderful feeling of a fresh start. Along with them, I feel like starting over too. But it’s not always easy to get motivated. I am disciplined with my healthy diet and workouts, but there are other areas of my life that need some motivation. For that I’m going to take what I’ve learned from what I’ve accomplished and apply it to these new uncharted territories.

  1. Make a list of reasonable goals, but not too many.
  2. Research meeting those goals. (For example: You want to lose weight. First check the BMI Index to see what a healthy weight for you would be.)
  3. Write down the final goal, but also break it into steps. (For example: Lose 30 pounds by Christmas. Lose 8 lbs per month, 2 lbs per week.)
  4. Research and write down your plan to achieve your goal. (For example: Do 5 45-minute aerobic workouts per week. Introduce more fruits and veggies to diet. Omit fried foods, cut way back on sweets. Drink more water. Stick to 1500 calories per day)
  5. Share your goals with a friend or family member and ask them to be a stickler about checking up on you. Sign a document stating what you plan to do to reach your goals by a certain date so your partner can hold you to it.
  6. Surround yourself with the tools you need to get the job done and get rid of the things that might prevent you from reaching those goals. (For example: You want to lose weight so you stock your fridge and pantry with fresh, whole foods and lots of fruits and veggies. You get rid of the junk food and sweets. You make a small investment in workout videos or join a class.)
  7. Find what motivates you best – either positive or negative. (For example: I run the steps 5 times per week, 1 million steps per year. Every day I wake up and feel like staying in bed. I motivate myself to get up and do it by thinking of my parents, who both passed away prematurely from bad health issues. That motivates me to fight my bad genetics and get moving and stay healthy.)
  8. Track your progress and celebrate your accomplishments, both big and small. (For example: There are days when I get to the courthouse steps and just feel lethargic or have an injury and struggle through the workout. I may do less repetitions, but I still go out there and do it. Then I celebrate that despite my lethargy, I did it anyway.)
  9. Concentrate on the benefits. (For example: I am 52 years old and weigh the same as I did in my 20s. I am right on target with my weight on the BMI Index. I can wear skinny jeans. I have a lot of muscle and a ton of energy. I look younger than most people my age.)
  10. Remind Yourself of the Consequences of quitting. (For example: If I quit this new habit of running steps, I will turn to mush and gain weight and have health problems. I will look back and remember how fit I used to be and will be so angry at myself that I didn’t keep it up.

Like everything else positive you set out to accomplish in your life, you’ve got to have a plan and find out what motivates you to get it done. If you fall off track, it’s not the end. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and remind yourself of the incredible benefits you will have when you reach and maintain your goals.

Leave your Comment

I went to Philly this weekend and ran the Rocky Steps. The weather was perfect, and it was such a pleasure to run in cool temps with no humidity! I ran up and down 65 steps, 30 times.

Leave your Comment

Milestones

To celebrate this great milestone, Maria and I went to Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlour and ordered the biggest sundaes we could find

Monday marked my One Year Anniversary of Running Stairs. I have been doing aerobic workouts for more than 17 years, but a year ago I started running up and down the courthouse steps with my neighbor, Maria. She and I had been walking our dogs together for a while and decided to try running the stairs after my husband told me he tried it while on a midnight run.

There are 28 steps. We call it an “inning” when we run up and down once (56 steps). The first time I ran, I strained to do 13 innings. Stepping of this sort is one of the most strenuous exercises. Over the course of this past year, I ran more than 1,000,000 steps, up and down, that’s more than 17,850 innings! The most innings I ran at one time during that year were 100, or 5,600 steps. It took about an hour. On a regular basis (5 X per week), I ran 60 and sometimes 80 innings, 40 at the least. We ran in the rain, extreme heat and some cold (for FL) weather.

Some tips if you want to try this: Bring a towel for sweat and plenty of water. Buy a cheap stopwatch to time yourself so you can mark your improvements. Stretch your calves on the steps before you run. Have a cell phone in case of emergency. Take 60-90 second walking breaks between innings. We break after 20 or 25 innings. Don’t stop moving when you take a break or when you have just finished! We walk 1/2 mile to and from the courthouse, so it is a great warm up and cool down. Make sure you stretch when you’re done or your calves and quads will get very tight. I run barefoot due to plantaar fascitis. When I wear any type of shoes it causes heal pain and even knee pain. No shoes = no pain for me.

Let’s see how many steps I can run in the next 12 months and hopefully I can accomplish some other milestones unrelated to working out.

 

Leave your Comment

Driving through rural Alabama, I noticed the quaint little doctors’ offices tucked away in historic buildings and the pint-sized medical centers built to serve a variety of small communities. In essence, residents don’t have many choices when it comes to finding a doctor or health facility in these remote areas; they just appreciate that there’s a doctor in their small town.

It made me grateful too, for all the choices I have in healthcare at home in bustling South Florida. This includes the fact that I live 3 blocks from Memorial Regional Hospital, one of the best hospitals in the country. I guess I have to give up the quiet, wide open spaces for the modern conveniences (and myriad of choices) of living in a very populated area. But I’m fine with that.

Should you ever need a list of the Broward and South Palm Beach hospitals, their specialties and contact info – and I hope you never do – here’s my article on About.com. I’ve done a lot of the homework to make it easy for you to find the hospital that best suits your healthcare needs.

Leave your Comment

 


Photo courtesy of Frank Toral

Please read my article on About.com about Frank Toral, an extraordinary Fort Lauderdale attorney who established The Toral Family Foundation to help people and their families challenged by Traumatic Brain Injury.

Leave your Comment

  1. Get Moving – Find a building in your community with a lot of stairs and have fun walking up and down them (obviously not with babies and toddlers!), get in the habit of taking a walk or bike ride before dinner, or think of another way you can all exercise together.
  2. Fiber, Fiber Fiber – Add more salads, veggies, brown rice and beans to your diet. They are not only full of fiber and vitamins, but they are delicious.
  3. See What Your Garden Grows – Plant a veggie garden with your kids this summer and you’ll all be eating healthier, and you’ll learn a lot about growing food.
  4. Clean Out Your Pantry – Start phasing out processed foods – white flour, hydrogenated oils, etc.
  5. You’re Sweet Enough as You Are – Sugar is unhealthy and we Americans eat too much of it. Start cutting back in small increments and over time you will stop craving it.
  6. Drink Up – Stay hydrated with water and get rid of the sodas and sugary fruit drinks in your house.
  7. Practice Yoga – Kids love doing yoga. Start a nightly ritual of doing some relaxing yoga poses with your kids before bedtime. There are plenty of books out there about yoga for kids to help you get started.
  8. Catch More Zzzzs – Lack of sleep can lead to a series of physical and mental health issues. Get your kids and yourself on a routine sleeping schedule.
  9. Don’t Forget to Brush (and floss) – Dirty teeth equals a dirty mouth. The bacteria in your mouth can lead to health problems you don’t want to even think about. (Okay, I have to admit I have OCD when it comes to brushing because I cannot stand the feeling of dirty teeth. My dentist just told me I had the cleanest mouth and healthiest gums he’s ever seen.)
  10. Have a Good Laugh – Happiness is an important part of excellent health. So lighten up and have a good laugh with the entire family.

Leave your Comment

I just read this article about the amount of sugar consumed by children in America. It is shocking. The average American eats 3 bs. of sugar every week and for some children it can be even higher.  If you poured 3 lbs. of sugar on your kitchen table for every member of your family, I think you would be shocked. Sugar; we drink it, we eat it, and often we don’t even know we’re consuming it in additives to everyday foods.

Even if you do not feed your children a whole lot of desserts, they may still be consuming too much sugar. In addition to cakes, cookies, donuts, candy and ice cream, sodas are also among the top sources of sugar in the American Diet. And what about hidden sugar? Here are some foods that often contain added sugar in some form:

  • Bread
  • English muffins
  • cereal
  • yogurt
  • vitamin water
  • dried fruits
  • lunch meats
  • bottled tomato sauce
  • bottled salad dressings
  • soy milk
  • ketchup
  • canned baked beans

Added sugar most commonly comes in the following forms:

  • granulated sugar
  • brown sugar
  • corn syrup
  • raw sugar
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • honey
  • evaporated cane juice
  • glucose
  • dextrose
  • maltose
  • sucrose
  • molasses
  • fruit juice concentrate
  • turbinado

The safest way to avoid excess sugar is to read the labels of every product you buy and eat a diet rich in whole foods. That means fruits and veggies, legumes and lean protein. Most foods that come out of a box or a can are not whole foods.

If you have the opinion that your children are young, and high quantities of sugar will not hurt them, it is important to know that an excessive amount of sugar in the diet can lead to obesity and whole host of diseases. Habits that are formed early in life are difficult to change in adulthood. I know this first hand, as I am a former sugar addict who decided to kick the habit and live a healthier lifestyle. I’m not saying you should never eat sugar again. What I am saying is that you should eat a whole lot less of it.

If I can do it, anyone can do it.

Leave your Comment

If you are a smoker and have children at home, read the abstract School Absenteeism Among Children Living With Smokers in Pediactrics, the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

http://www.pdclipart.org

Leave your Comment