strength

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On the Other Side of That Half-Century Mark…

Published February 18, 2013 by Susan Woodward

Today I enter the realm of the “other side” of the half-century mark… I am 51.  While I did have my six months of “dark time” this past year, there were also some great things to celebrate:

– I went to California for the first time ever (and I even went TWICE!)

– I spent my 50th birthday on the beach of the Pacific Ocean in San Diego;

– I attended and presented at an international Symposium on Mythology in Santa Barbara;

– I helped to coordinate the Celebrating the Mythic Life Conference in memory of Joseph Campbell and his work;

– I survived the sinking of the Titanic as Charlotte Drake Cardoza;

– I took on the Cirque du Rochester 12 Week Challenge and am doing things I NEVER thought I would be able to do (even if they aren’t perfect);

– I QUIT SMOKING!!!

– I actually lived up to my Mayan Sized promises that I made to myself in an earlier post last year… maybe I didn’t have them completed by December 31, but I have done them before hitting 51!

And so I continue with the work I am doing to make a healthier, stronger me!

Even though the workouts are grueling, I do notice that I don’t take as long sit-out breaks that I had been.  I guess I am building some stamina!

stretch

Here I am getting a bit more flexible… I am able to grab and hold my feet during this exercise!  I couldn’t do that at the beginning, so I am feeling happier about that!

swimming

Also something I could not do earlier… get those feet and arms in the air!  It may look like my hands are on the ground, I am in the middle of a “swimming” stroke, kind of like the breast-stroke.  My intention after the Challenge is to join the YMCA around the corner from my house because they have two pools.  I like swimming because it’s easier on the joints.

pulling

Poor Jenn!  I was dragging her across the room, but even worse for her, SHE had to drag ME back!  One thing to point out, though… I could NOT put my arms behind me at the angle when I first started.  I have greater range of motion in my shoulders now, and the pain has gone away.  In December, I could not write on the chalkboard at school because it hurt too much to raise my arms long enough to write anything.  Thank God for LCD projectors and computers!  But if I was to go back to using the chalkboard, I could do it now!

L sit
The face says it all.  It’s really hard to hold that weight off the floor, let alone with legs extended.  This is my first truly successful L-sit… more than just millimeters off the floor this time!  I am able to now hold them up about 10 seconds.  When I first started, I could barely hang on let alone raise my feet at all.

Tonight I tackle Cirque Fit from the other side of 50!  I am determined to keep making changes in my life to make the second half full of health, stamina, and strength!!

My Bathing Suit Thanks You in Advance, Will!

Published February 11, 2013 by Susan Woodward

Change begets change, and so far, 2013 has been a time of changes for me!  It has only been six weeks since the beginning of this new year, but I have felt better in these six weeks than I have in the past TEN years!  And today is the best I have felt in these past six weeks!!

I am in NO PAIN of any kind!  Soreness from exercise is not pain… it’s a reminder that I am alive and transforming myself.  My back does not hurt; my knee is a little wobbly, but it does not hurt; my neck does not hurt.  I FEEL GREAT!

Ok, so Will really kicked up the ab work tonight… AND the butt work…but like I said in class, “My bathing suit thanks you in advance!”  and I came home still feeling great!  (And ok…there was another reason for the smile on my face tonight!)

The Menagerie Workout instead of Cirque Fit tonight!  Duck Walks, Frog Leaps, Doggie Hydrants, Mule Kicks… and no menagerie workout would be complete without grunts and barks (and even some quacking).  Grunts and barks mostly came from this animal; however, I was really into it tonight…and I had some incentive.  😉

I did mention that 2013 is a year of changes.

So far:

I am a non-smoker;

I have lost some weight (not sure how much because I don’t own a scale, but I can see it);

I am eating much healthier and there are no fatty snacks in my house;

I am drinking only one cup of coffee a day;

I have energy;

I feel more confident, even to the point of taking some chances that I would not have done a few months ago (ie. going on a date– JUST in case anyone was wondering what that smile on my face and the incentive I mentioned earlier was);

I am more social (I went to see a show, am going to the Rochester Brewfest, have gone out for coffee);

I feel my creativity returning;

and I am writing regularly.

Yay!!!!!

On Saturday, we will reach the half-way point of the program, and if I feel this great at half-way, I can’t WAIT to see what twelve weeks feels like!!!  🙂

What Goes Up Does Come Down, and Not Always Gracefully…

Published February 2, 2013 by Susan Woodward

What goes up?  Me!  With only some help from Michelle, I managed to get up into the aerial roll-up!  I was so happy to actually get into the position, but what goes up must come down.

And that’s where I had my problem.  While twisting out of the roll-up, the idea is to let your body’s momentum and gravity un-roll you.  Yup… I had the momentum and I certainly had gravity pulling on this plus-sized body, so much so that my hands lost their grip on the silks, and I came crashing down.  While falling, the momentum kept my body twisting and the knee of the leg that was my pivot point kept in the twist.

Fortunately, there was a doctor in the house…several!  I checked out fine, and it was just the fall and sense of the knee twisting that scared me more than actually hurt me.  After she looked me over, I was able to stand up and walk…hooray!

BUT I DID GET UP INTO THE MOVE!!!

I think it’s probably a good thing that I was pretty loosened up by Cirque Fit before getting on the apparatus.  I’m still waiting for the aerobics to get easier on my body… it has to get easier with time, right?  That is absolutely a killer workout!  However, I do feel myself getting stronger little by little.  I am so looking forward to when I lose the wobbling warble in my upper arms… that is one of my biggest goals for this whole Challenge.  I want to be able to wear sleeveless shirts in the summer without being self conscious about my arms.

Another thing that will be helping with getting to that point of being less self-conscious will be the work of our nutritionist, Patty.  Today she brought us protein smoothies as a treat after our Cirque Fit workout.  I’ve never been one to make smoothies or protein drinks, so maybe I’ll look more into some recipes.  I do have a juicer, so maybe I’ll get that back out and actually use it again.   I’m starting to be more conscious of everything I eat, and at this point I think I have hit a plateau in my enthusiasm.  I’m sure that it happens whenever anyone starts a new program.  All gung ho right at first, throwing oneself into it… but then waning a bit as time passes and I begin to feel a bit more tired.  I am sure that this is temporary, and I am sincerely going to work hard to get through this phase.

And even though I took a fall, I am not in as much pain as I was that first week when I did NOT do any falling (if that makes any sense).    That’s a positive that I am planning on looking at as I get ready to make that climb again on Tuesday!

I may have fallen down, but I am NOT out!

All in the Family at Aerial Arts of Rochester!!!

Published January 28, 2013 by Susan Woodward

Today’s Cirque Fit class was a KILLER!!!  I am wondering if Will was tougher on us because he just liked kicking our asses, or if because a U.S. Marine took class with us…hmmm.  I think it’s because he’s kicking our asses, but Sarah DID go to class with me tonight!!  And so did another daughter, Robin!  Woot!

That was even more of a challenge to me to have two of my daughters in the class… and me trying my best to keep up, not only with our energetic instructor, but with a Marine and a Physical Therapist who is also a yoga instructor.  Mommy really pushed herself to try to do what the fit young girls could do… and I will pay for it tomorrow!  However, pushing me out of my comfort zone is a good thing, and having the girls with me as motivation kept me moving even more.  While I  may be sore, I really am beginning to feel stronger, and my posture has improved.

And I did a plank!!!!  And even walked across the room in plank position back and forth!  I was the last one to make it back, but everyone kept cheering me on and clapping for me that I just had to keep going.  In spite of finishing dead last, I DID finish!

It was a good class tonight, and I wish my girls could be there every time… but I am thankful that I did get to have an evening with them!  It’s not often that we are all together at the same time, so I am especially thankful.

Also, Aerial Arts is great for kids, too!  My granddaughter, Jordan, had her 5th birthday party there yesterday… a superhero themed party, complete with flying and hanging upside down.  Will, the video is fantastic…thank you!

Superhero Themed Party at Aerial Arts of Rochester!

I am so glad that I am part of the Cirque “family.”

Getting Better? Abs-olutely!

Published January 27, 2013 by Susan Woodward

After yesterday’s Cirque Fit workout, let me tell you, my abs are feeling it!  However, the sharp pains have disappeared (pretty much) and soreness is an okay reminder that I am doing good work for my body.   I am still in the “tearing down the house” phase of the project, but it’s less painful now and I am beginning to see a few results!  Yay!!

I didn’t post after class yesterday because my Marine daughter is home after deployment… Ooh Rah!  I headed out immediately after Cirque Fit to be with the family for our welcome home party.  But I did go to the Nutrition Group and the aerobic class first!  Okay… I did miss out on the aerial practice, but Sarah does not come home every day.  Actually, it’s more like once a year… so I am sure Will can forgive me for this one miss.

While I was in class, though, I was able to get into a full plank position for a total of three (yup, that’s THREE) demi-pushups.  I’m not going to win any Olympic medals over that performance, but it WAS a personal best!!!  I am hoping that I can make it to five in tomorrow’s class!

I also was able to get through the class with fewer breaks for breathing…another personal best.

I am going to take some time to nurse these sore abs a bit this evening in anticipation for more of the same tomorrow… and my three daughters will be joining me in class (even my Marine!).   It will be great to have them to keep me going… I’m sure that Marine will have some of those key boot camp motivational phrases to share with me to keep me on task!

Getting better?  Abs-olutely!!

Trading Old Bad Habits For Newer, Better Ones– and a New Success!

Published January 24, 2013 by Susan Woodward

Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps… but each time I show up at Aerial Arts of Rochester, I get a tiny surprise that continues to encourage me that, yes, this pain is worth it!

The picture may not clearly show it, but I was able to get my heels off the floor about an inch or so while hanging from the trapeze… and I DO have six witnesses who were there when I was screaming my surprise.  I also hung from the bar longer than I was able to last week… about a whole 15-20 seconds longer, but indeed longer!

trapeze

The hip key wasn’t there tonight, but I am not discouraged.  I do know that I can do it… I just have to make sure that I am consistent in getting into it correctly.  Today I was inconsistent, and that’s all it was.  Not a failure.  Laffy Taffy is much easier and actually feels GOOD when I do it because it stretches EVERYTHING!  That’s an improvement.  So I’m not going to beat myself up because I still haven’t hung upside down or been able to climb yet.  That will all come; however, I WAS successful in doing three pushups from my feet and not my knees!

Good things I have done for myself other than keeping up with my training efforts include NOT SMOKING for more than TWO WEEKS so far!!  I went cold turkey from a pack a day to nothing.  Quitting while in the throws of an upper respiratory infection made it easier… but I am happy to NOT go back to it!  The money I am not spending on cigarettes is going into the bank for a trip to Wales this summer.

Another new habit that is working for me is the cinnamon and honey regimen.  I can actually tell that my blood pressure is lower because my chest isn’t pounding and my pulse isn’t racing.  I’m sure that not smoking is contributing to the effect, but I think that the concoction is also helping.

Shopping at the grocery store is also now different.  I’m keeping more to the outer edges of the store in the produce section and the Natural Food section, and I am reaching for organic as much as I can.  I found a new grocery store (well new to me) while out on one of my jaunts to Barnes and Noble (an enjoyable pastime)…Trader Joe’s.  trader joes  It had a really wide selection of organic foods at really reasonable prices.  I found things there I’d never heard of, but was willing to try as I give up my usual Keebler cookies and chips.  One interesting (and surprisingly delicious) item was Chili Spiced Mango; dried mango slices covered with cayenne.  I thought it was a gross combination when I first saw it on the shelf, but since I am in the market to try new and different things, I figured this was as about as new and different as I could get (for now anyway).

I will be going back for more when these are gone… YUM!  I want to go when I have some time to spend going through and looking at all the different imported items they have to offer.  Seems like this might be a cool new place to hang out.

For now, I am providing a link so that you (and I) can check out what’s to offer from the comfort of my computer.

Hanging In By a Hip and a Prayer!

Published January 22, 2013 by Susan Woodward

Hip Keys… our new move tonight!  After trying two variations of climbing and having success at neither, I was happy to learn that, by gosh, I could at least hang from my hip joint!

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, just wrap that silk right in the crease where the leg bone joins the trunk, get another piece tucked beneath the belly button, and you too could be hanging by a hip and a prayer!  I don’t want to think about if that silk were able to slip another inch inward… akin to falling on a bicycle cross-bar, I’d imagine.  I avoided riding on any boys’ bikes for that very reason… bad experience one time!  Hip Key me

Fortunately, that didn’t happen, and I was happily able to dangle long enough for a photo op.  I’m even smiling!

So I can’t climb yet… I can handle that for now.  I am just going to keep building my upper body strength and my flexibility…and work to get my weight down.  I hope to climb before the twelve weeks are up!!  Until then, hanging out is cool.  And I can do a pretty mean Laffy Taffy!  And the operative word is “Laffy” because I am laughing out loud and making noises as I twist about.  I tend to do that when I am nervous/afraid.  You should hear me in a scary movie.  My kids once got up and walked away from me at the theatre during Jurassic Park because I couldn’t help shouting at the screen.  After Freddie vs. Jason, I bumped into a guy wearing a fedora on our way out of the theatre and screamed my head off.  At the end of House of 1000 Corpses, Rob Zombie music is blaring and the very last thing on the screen after the credits was “This film has been rated R” (for a whole litany of reasons) and I screamed “NO F^%*#@& KIDDING!!!” just as the lights came on and the sound cut out. All that could be heard at the point was me.

So, yup, that’s what it’s like to be hanging next to me at silks!

At least I was laughing today.  That’s better than the crying I was doing yesterday once I got home.  Yeah, you probably noticed that I didn’t post after Cirque Fit.  That’s because my body wasn’t fit to post.  It was beat up.  Badly.  Love you, Will!

However, I followed Will and Chris’ advice for how to help my lower back, and I was feeling much better today.  I also had a little help from my lovely daughter, Illy.  Thanks to you all, I am moving much better today, and no tears!

Things I am noticing:

– the five pounds I’ve lost in two weeks!

– I can do 25 modified pushups without landing on my face (still have to get to the balls of the feet yet)

– I am very conscious of what I eat, and have been eating healthy lately

– I can BREATHE because I am NOT SMOKING!!!

– I do have more energy

– I sleep better and wake up even better than that!

These are changes I want to maintain, and there are a whole list of things just waiting to be added!  I’m happier than I have been in a long time (even though it feels a bit like torture…in a good way), and I have met some terrific people!  I am planning to continue long after the Cirque du Rochester Challenge is over!

Today Was a Tough One…

Published January 19, 2013 by Susan Woodward

Well, I had lots of great intentions, and in spite of the excruciating pain in my lower back, I dragged myself up and out of the house early tbest_of_PUBLIC_MARKEToday.  I really, really wanted to go to the Rochester Public Market to get my produce for all the new recipes I am trying.   We truly are blessed to have what has been voted the #1 Public Market in the U.S., and it’s open year round.   With the price of produce skyrocketing in the grocery stores, we are fortunate enough to have a public market that offers such a wide variety of, not only fruits and vegetables, but meats, fish, grains, pastas, teas, coffees, and so much more.  It’s my absolute favorite place to go on Saturday mornings in the summer and fall, but I’d never been there in January.   How great to see the venders out there still bringing us bargains in spite of the cold temperatures!

My trips to the market have always been wrought with good intentions to eat more produce, yet sadly, I have to admit that I do not always eat everything I buy.  Mostly this is from pure laziness in not cooking it all… or reaching for a not-so-healthy snack instead of the fresh fruit I’d bought.

So to make some changes… there are currently NO not-so-healthy snacks in the house.  There is, however, a very large bowl filled with fruit sitting on the counter.

After the market, I went to our group meeting with our Nutritionist.   This is really helping a lot by having a support group that’s in the same boat!  We shared success and fall-backs… we shared some recipes, and Patti even brought us an energy treat for after our workout!   I also have 16 bean soup for lunch thanks to Michelle!  This is a great group of women taking this Challenge… and I am so glad to be a part of it.

And then it was time for Cirque Fit… and for me, that’s when things started to spiral down.  My back was already in pain, and even though I stretched and did some warm-ups (thank you, Chris, for the tips), I managed to make the lower back even worse.   Thank you to Lisa for recognizing and empathizing with my situation!   She brought me a roller and showed me how to lay on it to try to stretch out the lower back.  Well, that’s where I pretty much spent the rest of class, except for re-joining once the intensity of the workout dropped.

When class was over, all I wanted to do was go home and hit the hot bathtub… but we had aerial practice first.  Needless to say, I didn’t do nearly as much as I’d planned on earlier in the day when the mind was all pleasantly plotting out how great today’s workout was going to be.  Great intentions…but I didn’t want to argue with my body that said, “Hey… take a break here!”   This was more than soreness… that actually has been feeling good to work through!!  This was sharp and scolding!

In spite of my crying (and yes, tears were falling), I did manage to get my foot into a wrap all by myself and pull up on the silks!!  I only got up once, but it was one more time than I’d ever done before!   Laffy Taffy was a bad idea, though… once the body got swaying in circles, the back started screaming, “What the f#@* are you doing?”  I managed to circle three full rotations before stopping.  And I tried hanging from the trapeze… I thought it might stretch out my back.  The hanging part was okay, but when I tried to lift my legs, they weren’t going anywhere today.  One thing I DID manage to do fairly well was the stretch against the wall… sitting with my hips right up against the wall, legs straight out, and arms/shoulders/head flattened out.  The stretching in the shoulders took all the attention away from the lower back!!

But I did survive.

I was advised to continue moving around today (thanks to LOTS of folks!) in spite of the fact that I really wanted to crawl into bed with a heating pad.  So when I got home, I had to unload all the stuff I’d gotten at the market.  Once I did that, I decided it might be a good idea to make soup.  I figured that once I sat down, I wasn’t going to be getting up again any time soon, and having a pot of soup cooking would be a great way to be ready for when I DO finally nestle in with my Netflix!

I thought that it might be a good idea to practice my hip tucks while standing at the counter cutting vegetables.  By tucking the hips under, the pressure on my back was alleviated.  I also pulled in my core and squeezed the butt cheeks.  It is still a workout and it makes up a bit for the partial-Cirque-Fit earlier.  There’s also something very therapeutic about cooking.

So… what’s for dinner?  I’m making a veggie based bean and pasta soup.  I chopped up and sauteed (in olive oil): 8 tomatoes, 2 green peppers, a large red pepper, three onions, 8 stalks of celery (with the greens), three cloves of garlic, and a generous handful of cilantro.   I am cooking them down right now, and as soon as I finish writing this, I am going to put the veggies through a blender to puree them.  Then I will add a box of organic tomato soup (to stretch the base).  To that I will add black and pinto beans.   Then I will add some cooked Italian-pesto pasta (courtesy of Pappardelle’s, the BEST pasta makers in the world–in my opinion anyway– and available at the Rochester Public Market).

Here’s their website… do yourself a favor and try some!!  default_03

The last step will be to put chopped kale into the soup bowl and then ladle piping hot soup over it.  That way it will wilt, but not get all soggy and stringy like it would if I boiled it right in the soup itself.

Off to get the blender to finish the soup!!  Then I shall take a bit of “me” time with some Netflix or maybe that new murder mystery I just got!

Up, Up, and Away… Sort Of!

Published January 15, 2013 by Susan Woodward

I got off the ground on silks!!!  Well, not by myself… William had to help me get my leg into the foot hold (double rond de jambe and a tuck), but I did manage to use my arms to pull myself up to standing once my foot was in place.  Thank you, William!!

I cannot write much tonight… I will expand tomorrow.  My arms are like rubber!  But here are a couple pics… more to follow when my arms stop shaking.

Up!

I am “flying” in these next two… arm pits are now aching!!!

flying

       Bat Girl

Cirque du Rochester Challenge…Me? I Accept!

Published January 6, 2013 by Susan Woodward

What a way to begin the new year and to start coming out of that self-imposed cave.  From “underground” to Aerial Silks!  Aerial Arts of Rochester has issued a challenge for eight people from all who applied… and I am one of the lucky eight!  And I am also scared to death!!

I have never, in any way, been considered an athlete.  I never felt strong enough, coordinated enough, or confident enough to play sports other than couples’ soccer (it was more about the wings and beer afterward than it was about playing… I mean, how seriously can you take a team that calls itself the Bakers’ Dozen, and all the players have cute names like Peanut Stick, Sticky Buns, or Cheesecake?  psst…I was Cheesecake and my husband was Sticky Buns!).   I ran myself back and forth and basically did whatever I could to avoid the Bruce-Smith-serious guy that would charge my way whenever the ball happened to find its way into my part of the court.  Believe me, I wasn’t going to argue with him if he wanted it!  That’s the extend of my athletic ability so far!

I am ready to change that.  Yup, at 50 years old, I am going to train in Aerial Silks!  For one thing, Bruce Smith won’t be chasing me down!  It’s just going to be me and Mr. Gravity.  Ummm…yeah.  That’s the scary part.  I have a lot of mass for Mr. Gravity to pull on!

During the next twelve weeks, I will be taking FIVE one to one-and-a-half hour fitness classes a week, as well as meeting with a nutritionist.  By the end of March, I hope to have a lot less mass and a lot more strength.  I have never been able to do a pull-up in my life, yet I will have to build the strength to pull myself off the floor onto silk drapings.   You can click on the picture to link to the Aerial Arts of Rochester.

aerial_panorama

My motivator?  My daughter, Illy Welden.  I have seen her blossom in the past two years since she began Aerial Arts training.  Her strength, her physique, and her confidence have soared!  When the opportunity to apply for the Challenge came up, I realized that I wanted what Illy has for myself.  Maybe I won’t be the graceful aerialist that she now is, but I can get my behind off the couch and into the air!  I can become stronger and more fit as I pass through these “Golden Years” and hopefully with a lot more grace.   Illy will also be my teacher for one of the five classes each week…talk about role reversal!  But she will keep me motivated when sore muscles and bruises come.  She will keep me going when I first fail at hanging upside down (and I am sure that I will have other failings…but I will work through them!).

This is Illy’s first Aerial Performance after studying for less than a year.  While I’m not sure that I will ever be able to be as good as she is, I certainly aim to try to do my best, and I hope that one day I will be able to post from my own performance!

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