Aging is Ouch

The main physical difference I can see between middle age and when I was in my teens and 20s is that I have to keep up athletic endeavors every day or I feel really sore. Even stuff I do all the time, like riding and jumping, or riding my bike, if I miss a couple of days, I’m sore when I do it again. This is kind of disheartening. I used to be able to go long stretches and then do the activities I do all the time without getting sore. No more. I took for granted that soreness was only reserved for the unusual. I was naive. I guess this means I will have to just not skip days, although my horse needs a break now and then too. I will just have to put up with it.

I wave around a heavy kettle bell to keep my midsection strong. I look like a fool when I do it, but it does help keep my core strength, which I need for racing across fields jumping obstacles on an equine. Actually it also helps with the dressage and stadium as well, but it’s really cross country where I notice if my core is feeling weak. Galloping miles in a half seat while occasionally throwing in a fence or 18 is a lot of work.

Last weekend my horse and I did a schooling cross country show in preparation for the rated one we have coming up in June. I was a little disheartened after dressage. Johann started really fixed and tense. Some days he comes out like butter, soft, and forward, and stretchy. Yesterday was one of those days, the type of day that if we were in competition he would get a score in the low 20s. The show day? The opposite. He was stuck and it took a good hour warmup to get him soft enough for a 37. Not so great. There’s a train! There’s a kid cutting me off! There’s a breeze! Press him into the outside rein. Spiral spiral spiral. Supple, supple, supple.

This was a two day event, so after dressage and a four hour break, we headed over to cross country. I was a bit worried he was going to be fixed again, holding on and wanting to run. Last year we rode a course where on parts it felt like I was riding a steeplechaser and it was all I could do to keep him in control. I just held on for the ride for many of the fences. This weekend, it was bright and sunny. I jumped him over a few warmup fences, which were great, then let him just walk because it was warm and running him around doesn’t make him run any less on course.

As I was waiting my turn, I got the little nervous feeling in my stomach I do sometimes before jumping. A couple of the obstacles weren’t anything we had schooled since last season. The fourth was a bank up and then down to a 3′ roll top one stride off to the right. In the past, before a winter of solid work on rideability and adjustability, this would have been one of those fences that might work out and might not. I still wasn’t sure how it would go because we hadn’t schooled anything like it recently. The other was a narrow triangle fence near then end of the course. Same as the other, in the past it was one of those fences Johann might have just said, “Nope,” and run out the side or barreled at it like a bullet out of a gun. Neither option is fun. We had spent a LOT of time schooling to keep him between my aids, rideable, and light in front, but hadn’t actually schooled anything like these since last year.

I sat there in the sun with my stomach doing its flip flops and thought, why am I doing this again? Then the clipboard holder said time for me to head to the start box, the start box person asked if I was ready for the ten second countdown, I said yes, hit the stopwatch, and Go! We cantered off easily toward the first obstacle. I remembered to keep my hands light and low, crouch in my half seat, let him move forward without getting too fast, settled in 10 strides out, and jumped the first fence, a big, ol’ pile of logs, like it was nothing. The adrenaline kicked in and we were off! The flip flops were gone, we were connected, Johann was locked on every fence, light and forward. It was SO MUCH FUN!!

We popped over the second and third fences easily. One was a coop, the other another log. Then we headed for the bank to the roll top. Johann was completely adjustable. He didn’t hesitate at all. No barreling, but in control and comfortable. It was perfect. I had figured out by the minute beeps on my stopwatch that we needed to slow down on some of the long galloping sections so we didn’t come in too fast. I sat back, pressed him into my outside rein, said, “Easy,” and “Slow,” and he did! All the work this winter was paying off. By the time we got to the narrow, any thoughts he might not jump it were completely gone. It was pretty near the end. I aimed for the left side of what was a pretty narrow jump so that he would be jumping the narrow side of the triangle. He stayed right on track in a perfect line. “Whoo hoo!” I hollered in joy as we carried on.

The final fence was challenging because it turned sharply to the right away from the crowd and other horses. Near the end, the horse had to be still listening and willing to ride away from the herd. Several kids had issues with horses bulging too far left on their approaches, which gave them crooked tracks for the finish and a few run outs. I held my left rein and leg and made the turn, pressing him into that outside rein. Johann didn’t even bulge against me, but rode straight and true to the final fence. We galloped over and done! Only 13 seconds over the optimum time, which was such a major improvement over last year, and the speed at the rated event is going to be 400 mpm, while this was 350, so we were doing well.

I felt high and excited after the run. THIS was why I did this! I answered myself. Why? Because it is the most fun in the world. I LOVE it! Johann loves it! He was prancing and arching his neck, soft and delicious in the bridle. I hugged him and got off. He rubbed his head on my shoulder, his way of saying, all good, Mama!

The next day for stadium, he was absolutely perfect. Funny, he’s often the most rideable after a day where he starts out with a ton of tension in his jaw and shoulder. We loosen that up, then he’s a dream to ride. It helps that I have been figuring out that I hold tension in my arms and shoulders, which I’m sure translates to how he goes. I’ve been riding with my arms like wet noodles, and he has been going much more relaxed from the beginning. It doesn’t take a half an hour of lateral work to get him soft, he starts out soft. It’s teamwork, and I definitely fit into the equation.

We have another schooling event coming up in two weeks, then Aspen the week after. It’s getting close! In the meantime, I’ll keep riding my exercise bike and waving around the kettle bell and taking maybe only one day off so I don’t end up sore and sorry–like I am today, which prompted this little post. The muscles above my knees are screeching at me. What did you do that for?!? Ride two horses, ride the exercise bike, wave around a hunk of metal 40 times? You trying to kill us? Um, no? Trying to keep from being a blob with no muscle tone. I’m not taking any of it for granted any more.

Advertisements

Ouch

There is a scene in the movie 17 Again where the main character wakes up in Zac Efron’s body and realizes he no longer has any aches and pains. That is the most realistic part of the whole damn thing. Waking up old is painful! Boy, I wish the young one could be me. I’m still extremely active, but after an afternoon doing strength training, I sure hurt. Johann, my horse, is in his prime. He is a true athlete. I hope that he feels more like Zac Efron than Matthew Perry after a solid workout. Me? Not so much.

Dear Shaun T

Dear Shaun T,

I can’t say if I’m getting ripped. I look the same to me. (Body dysmorphia, much? Nah, I just can’t tell close up.) First I did your Insanity workout and I truly thought it was IN-sane. Now I’m in the Beta phase of T-25, and all I can say is that it kicks my ass to insanity and beyond. I thought 25 minute workouts would be a cakewalk after Insanity. Hell, most of the time those workouts near the end were a full hour. What I didn’t realize was that all those breaks in Insanity are a Godsend and the lack of breaks in T-25 is cruel and unusual punishment. My forearms are quivering as I write this and sweat is dripping down my ribs. My headband is soaked. I feel like I’ve been beat up a little.

I hope to hell I’m getting fit, that’s all I can say. Not because I want some ripped body everyone will envy, but because I want to be strong to live long for my daughters. Arghhh!

Ibuprofen is My New Best Friend

Ambivalence is not always a useful thing.

That’s an aside. Here’s the real story:

My oldest daughter is in Arizona visiting her dad. This can make running difficult because I also have a 4 year old. Usually I leave the 4 year old home with her sister while I run. But sister isn’t here, so if the 4 year old is not interested in going running with me in the jogging stroller, I don’t get to run. Yesterday, my 4 year old did not want to run with Mama, so I decided to do some of my strength training exercises instead. I went through the routine, then felt really pumped up and wanted to do more, so what did I choose? Squats. I used to do a lot of squats every other day. Then my dog died and the whole routine went out the window (and running too, for a bit there). Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that yesterday I decided to do squats.

Did I mention that when I do strength training I use a Tabata timer so I can do more? What’s a Tabata timer you say? It’s this handy device that measures time increments. 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, for a total of 8 intervals. The idea is that you work out really hard and fast during the 20 second interval, then rest 10 seconds, then another 20 second workout, then another rest, and on and on until the 8 are done. Doing this increases the overall total of really hard and fast exercise. It works great. I can knock out 100 situps in 4 minutes, as opposed to about 70 in that same amount of time without rests.

So…back to yesterday. I got the genius idea to add squats back in using the Tabata timer. I was pumped up. I was ready to go. It’s only been 3 months since I did some. What could a few squats hurt? I did at least 120 of them. I was doing 15 a set and felt great. A little wobbly at the end, but great.

I forgot something when I did this. I forgot that I was going to jump a horse over a fence today. When I got up this morning and felt my thighs give a little shriek, I wondered how this would go because riding horses over fences requires a bit of thigh work. Let’s just say I did not plan well in this. I should have thought things through and not been so caught up in the gungho minute. I should have realized the impact my actions would have on my overall body. I should have considered the feelings of my thighs. I did not do this, and here we are now, 8 hours later, and  my thighs are quite upset with me.  They are not allowing me to make simple movements, like sitting. They are telling me that I am a mean person and that what I did was cruel. I agree with them. I will never do this to them again. I promise.

I am going to take some Ibuprofen now. In the various classes of NSAIDs, Ibuprofen works best for me. For some it’s Aspirin, for others Naproxen. For me, Ibuprofen. I will be taking it and hopefully tomorrow my thighs will have forgiven me. I can certainly hope.

Getting a Great Summer Body

So Yahoo says I can get a summer body in 4 weeks. Wow! A summer body. Just what I always wanted! I’m going to have to get me one of those. I’m not sure if I have to order it from Yahoo or if I can search around for a better deal on the internet. I’m hoping if I shop around, it won’t be terribly expensive, especially with gas prices what they are.  I’m hoping the summer body I find is tall. I like tall bodies. And not terribly muscular, but toned. Yes, toned would be good. Of course, that would mean the body would probably have to be somewhat young so the muscles haven’t atrophied or anything. I don’t particularly care what color skin it has, as long as it’s not scraping off or something like that. I really would like my summer body to actually have skin.  And tan would be good, but not fake orange tan, real tan, if it’s still fresh and not peeling.  I would prefer my summer body has not been mutilated or otherwise defaced. Bodies like that are probably cheaper, but yuck, you know? I wonder what they do to the bodies to keep them from smelling bad. Summer deodorant? And I’ve heard finger and toenails keep growing. I wouldn’t want my summer body to have icky nails. It might be kind of cool if my summer body has hair that has grown longer. I could braid it or maybe even turn it into dreads.

Overall, I’m pretty excited about getting a new summer body. The winter/spring one is starting to decompose and I was considering moving it into the compost pile. This will be a great way to start the season!

My Poor Ass

One of the best reasons in the world not to stop exercising once you have started is that you will have to start again.  It’s hell on the body and seems to get worse as one gets older.  I have always been active, had to be for sanity’s sake.  I just have one of those high functioning, high energy metabolisms and brains that suffer from lethargy.  Luckily, growing up, I had no derth of exercising options.  My parents’ driveway is literally a mile long and I had to walk it to the school bus stop rain or shine, sleet or snow.  My sister and I were like the post office: through rain or sleet or dark of morning (not night, we weren’t vampires) we always had to deliver.  We walked or ran that driveway twice a day every day the entire time we went to school.  Nearly daily we would beg our sweet bus driver Annie to drive us up our driveway.  Her answer was always no.  One year for Christmas she gave me a chocolate N and Melanie a chocolate O.  At least her answer was consistent.  One time a bird pooped in my sister’s hair on the way down.  She was pissed off.  I laughed.  For some reason, we weren’t always cordial during those years. Gee, I wonder why… ?  I used to run the driveway on the way home.  It was mostly uphill and I liked getting home quickly.  I got to where I could run up in under five minutes.  Maybe that’s why I was so good in the 1500 m in high school track.

Our parents NEVER let us stay home from school.  I mean never.  I had chicken pox in 8th grade.  My parents sent me off to school even though I felt like shit and was itching like crazy and the school sent me home.  I dislocated my shoulder after having a horse land on me when it crashed through a fence rather than jumping over it.  Again, I went to school the next day even though I was in my own personal hell.

Needless to say, I got lots of exercise without even trying.  Plus I rode horses and ran on track and was even on the dance team a couple of years (that was a hysterical laugh, I can assure you).  Then when I moved away I kept riding and took up running and basically kept moving for the next decade, again, without really trying.  In college I started swimming.  My lifestyle kept me on the go.

Then I got pregnant and felt like a lumbering beast.  It hurt to move after a few months.  Walking was torture.  Everything I read said that if you’re fit going into pregnancy then pregnancy would be a breeze.  I was fit going into pregnancy and if that was a breeze, being unfit while pregnant must be sadistic torture.  My hips hurt.  My back hurt.  And I was as big as a house.  I’d always been stick skinny and suddenly I couldn’t fit into bathroom stalls.  After pregnancy I had to work a bit to get into shape.  It wasn’t as fun.  But I had the baby and bought a jogger stroller and got back into the swing of things.  I started riding again when she was 5 months old and that made all the difference in the world.  You know, all those people who use thigh masters and butt exercisers should just start riding sport horses.  It’s athletic as hell and gives you great abs, tight thighs, and a butt without much effort.  I’m not talking fat western saddles waddling into the mountains riding, I mean sport horses, jumping big fences and dressage on the flat.  It’s good for the body, I can assure you.  I started using a gym at one point to get strength training because I had always done aerobic exercise.  On all the equipment, I was pretty pathetic, using one or two of the little weight bricks.  But on the inner thigh weight lift, I could lift the entire stack!  Those inner thighs become little killers when you ride sport horses a lot.

Anyway, as is often the case, I digress.  In March 2005, I was jogging and sprained the shit out of my right ankle.  Seriously reamed the damn thing.  This killed my running career for the time being.  I was able to continue riding, but I wanted more.  So I took up biking.  I have kept it up.  I love it.  I put a rack on the back and drug Milla around with me until she learned to ride her own bike.  There’s nothing like climbing hills on a bike with a 30 pound lump on the back of your bike for getting strong, I can assure you.

But for some reason this fall, I just kind of stopped exercising as much.  Last year I had the excuse of stress and cancer and all that shit.  I had to sell my horse a year ago to pay the mortgage so I wasn’t riding.  But in the spring after radiation and everything, I started back easy and it wasn’t too terrible, but it wasn’t much fun either.  And I didn’t exercise as much last summer as I had always before.  It probably had something to do with our miserable ass weather.  It rained most of August.  What the hell is that?  We got sun for June and July and that was it.  We got screwed.  It started raining in August and has basically not given us much of a breather since.  During September I ran, doing interval training where you run like hell for a quarter mile or so then slow down then run like hell again.  But once it really started raining again, that was that.

So what brought on this little soliloquy?  Today I went riding again and it KICKED MY ASS.  I’m tired as hell and although I don’t feel those muscles yet, I can tell from the weakness in my hips, back, and abs that I’m going to be so sorry tomorrow and the next day.  Lucky me.   And a few weeks ago I went cross country skiing.  Again, kicked my ass.  And last summer, when I actually had been doing some bike riding, I rode in the Providence Bridge Pedal.  I did the middle distance.  I think it was 12 or 14 miles.   Not much compared to what I have done almost daily in the past.  Kicked my ass.  All these times, the ass kickings have manifested as my being tired as hell afterwards and sometimes lasting a few days.  It’s like my stamina is cracking or something.  I wonder if it has to do with the stress of last year, which was enormous, of if I’m just getting old.  Maybe it’s both.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that tomorrow my ass is going to seriously hurt and I am just not looking forward to that.