Tag Archives: exercise

Stress Relief

I’ve been an active person my whole life and even when I’m not exercising I’m usually fidgeting and moving—probably a pain in the butt to be around.  I was lucky enough to marry an amazing lady who is even more active and we’ve exercised through our 40 years of marriage, she more than me.  The lady has done 9 marathons and probably logged 30-40000 miles of running and dragged me along for most of them.  She really enjoys every minute of a run whereas I am mostly enjoying her company and looking for the finish.  When we’re not running our down time is filled with biking, swimming, tennis or walking.  The benefits of all these years of running weren’t apparent to me until grandkids.  Our fitness level lets us enjoy activities like walking for hours through a zoo or amusement park without having to wait for a shuttle.  Heaven is playing pitch and catch with them or tossing a football or Frisbee and when we go to the beach I can still take off my shirt showing off my one pack.  Exercise has enhanced my quality of life and those miles of spending time with my wife are an irreplaceable gift.

A lot of people look at our lifestyle and think we’re totally whacked and no way would they have the time or desire to exercise that much.  Well you don’t have to be extreme to benefit from exercise.  Due to some breakdowns in my aging skeletal frame I walk more than run these days. And for all you reluctant jocks there are some secret benefits to exercise that might get you to consider taking a walk. Obviously there is the weight-control benefit but there are added under-publicized rewards.  Secret benefit 1 are the running shoes. Years ago when I started running I purchased a pair of New Balance running shoes available in widths to fit my EEs.  Wow!  They are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned like walking/running on pillows.  And your money’s good whether you’re a runner, walker or just need a pair to navigate to the TV room or fridge—they do come in wide widths.

Benefit 2 is the most important—STRESS RELIEF.  I think that today’s world generates more stress than ever in our lives: jobs, family, money, traffic, health, deadlines, weather, wars, crime and all the disasters in the world that are instantly tweeted or Facebooked to make sure there is no relief from the negative in our lives.  Coping with all these pressures is a universal problem and early in my running life I found that exercise is a great stress eliminator.  And the exercise doesn’t even have to be intense.  I put on my sport headset hooked to my iPod and set off for a 3 mile walk often feeling like life sucks.  Magic happens as I walk. The planets seem to realign and suddenly I feel great and just focus on the moment realizing that worrying about problems I have no control over is pointless and that I have probably given trivial problems more importance and stress-inducing worry than they deserve.  I’m just enjoying my walk and all the world around me.

Obama walking cartoon There is some scientific basis for this relaxed, calm feeling in that exercise stimulates the brain to produce endorphins (euphoric inducing chemicals).  As quoted from an article in WebMD on Exercise and Depression: “Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric.” That feeling, known as a “runner’s high,” can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.” I’ve also found that there is a relationship between how energized I feel and the effort I put into my exercise.  You have to break a sweat—sauntering isn’t walking.

I’m not an expert on health but I do know what works for me so if you want to relieve that stress get off your butt and move.  I’m not trying to trivialize major problems that life throws at us, but putting on those running shoes to go for a walk or play pitch and catch is a great sedative and does brighten up my day and control my BP.  And common sense should tell you that if you don’t exercise regularly you should check with a health care provider before you lace up.  To review the remedy for stress relief: life sucks->walk->life is good.  Exercise rocks!

iPeaked-noon work walk

I can’t help but notice that the average size of asses is mushrooming.  The cubicle worker is trapped in front of a computer with only fingers and mind getting worked.  The rest of the body is at rest and all snacks and meals drop like a brick to your bottom resulting in the over-sized cubicle butt.  So are we doomed to overflowing our ergonomic chairs?  Not if youcartoon-chair stuck on butt pry yourself away from that computer and just go for a walk.  I know that it’s a unique concept in our busy working lives to take time, but unless you want to become the guy who people can’t get around in the mall‒get moving!  Besides, it’s usually a whole lot more interesting to get away from your paper landfill and enjoy the sites.  So let’s go on a 2 mile walk to see how easy and enjoyable it is.

About 7 years ago, I decided to ignore my busy schedule for a weekly walk and hope that some of my sedentary co-workers would join their wacky but entertaining office mate.  Remember that I run 25 miles a week so this was purely for a little attitude adjustment and camaraderie.  Some others might need more of the exercise part so I started spreading the word in our 200+/- University department.  I put a sign on my doorwalk sign below my beloved pre 911 “I love NY” poster providing the info about the walk.  As in most University environments, the potential walkers from my department are a diverse group from programmers to PhD researchers.  When you mix average to beyond smart and from zero to off the charts social skills, the conversations have the potential to solve all the world problems or bore to tears.

So let’s see what the 2 mile walk is like.  Here’s my desk, not really all that hard to leave for 45 minutes.  “If you build it they will come” is true as people actually showed up for the initial walk.  We meet downstairsmy desk outside the barbershop whose patrons watch the eclectic group pose for my mandatory starting line photo and we’re off.  I’ve done these participant photos on every walk for the past 7 years and am still trying to figure out what to do with them.  Hundreds of photos of bureaucrats standing in front of the same sign and landmarks every week may not have as much value as Ansel Adams stuff.  I believe that any neighborhood you walk in has its own treasures and even the worse work neighborhood has to be better than staring at that computer screen.

I feel especially blessed since my office is on the famous Franklin Street in Chapel Hill North Carolina and the 2 mile walk route winds through the beautiful University of North Carolina campus.  Let’s walk.  We start up Franklin Street and a right on Columbia (theTop of Hill Franklin Street intersection where all the Tar Heel victory celebrations and huge Halloween party are part of the world news).  The “Top of the Hill” restaurant is our first walk marker with home brewed beer and the best view in town.  100 feet and we pass the Ackland Art Museum, houses a diverse collection of painting, sculpture, and drawings from Eastern, African, and Western traditions, a world class collection of old stuff.  Straight ahead to the Carolina Inn, a beyond upscale place to eat and crash after a UNC sports victory.  We have figured out that the best way to cross this 4 way intersection is diagonally as opposed to the perpendicular cross, stop, cross again‒we’re brilliant.  Onward to South Rd and the famous Bell Tower is in sight with the hardhats lunching and admiring the coed view.  We pass one of many scooter motorcycle parking areas for the green amongst us and continue to see the best part of the walk-students‒I love young and smart/smartass!  Student protest signs,students noon soccer and of course the “No Parking” signs, a staple of Chapel Hill that propels towing to a premiere business and keep the free fare UNC buses full.  We continue pass outside and inside historic theaters, where you can watch high end performances for free or next to nothing.  We recently watched a Lewis Black comedy performance for 10 bucks!  Close to the end of the walk and we stop at the famous Chapel Hill Old Well for another photo op to be filed for future use.  We loop back to the Top of the Hill and we’re ready to restore our link with our computers.

So this is a dream 2 mile walk, but I think any form of outside exercise is magical.  Try your own version of the 2 miler and you can lose that cubicle ass.  In addition to the fitnessold well benefits you might even make some friends that were never on your radar.  I’m probably a whole lot more conservative than most of the faculty and staff I walk with so I love talking politics and news on our loop and enjoy the outrage over my sometime borderline redneck views‒some genuine and some to just piss people off.  The walk clears my head, lets me hang with some really smart people, and hopefully inspires others.  The more people we can get off their butt to run, bike or walk, the more people will peak and not block the malls.

iPeaked-riding with the big boys

As my wife and I drive up our street, we stop to talk to our neighbors Margie and Peter.  Peter knows that I have a new road bike and invites me on a ride with him and some other neighbors who regularly bike together.  “I don’t know, I haven’t ridden very far and am just getting use to my new bike”.  Peter “no problem, we’ll just do 20 miles at an easy pace”!  This statement is now officially added to the greatest lies list with:  “the check’s in the mail”, “You look like you haven’t aged a single day” and other more perverse classics.  I’ll elaborate on this white lie during the post.

Sunday 6:30 am, I hop out of bed (hop?) throw water on my face, brush and sit down like atom leaving for the ride NASCAR driver to put on my cool new biking jersey, padded shorts, shoes, and helmet.  I pack the back pockets with GU, my cell phone, and since I know that this is probably going to be blog material, my Canon Elph.  7:25 my wife takes the traditional send-off photo and I pedal the 2/10 mile to our meeting place to start my first real bike ride without stopping for a root beer float.

THE CAST: This is an amazing group: diverse, athletic and genuinely smart guys oozing competitive testosterone.

Peter:  About as perfect a technical rider as you’ll find so just riding with him makes you better.  He has his GPS for speed, distance and cadence with all the cool local bike routes recorded in his head or electronically.  He is a very experienced rider commuting the risky traffic congested 12 miles to work on his carbon road bike several times a week and surviving!  This is definitely a guy you’ll follow anywhere.

Juan:  Like a steam engine, pure power, his legs are like pistons and once he gets going jump in that draft because you’re going to fly.  Juan is an accomplished triathlete who has a new Cervelo Tri carbon bike that seems to have an engine hidden in that frame.  Juan really loves biking!  As we’re riding Juan, with a boyish smile pulls alongside me ‒ “this is the closest thing to feeling like you’re flying”

Ted:  Ted is a strong biker with long legs that seem to effortlessly propel him.  He adds a lot of fun to any ride with his playful sarcasm and wit.  It’s obvious that this isn’t just a bike ride but an adventure as he points out the heron fishing on Jordan Lake or the beautiful scenery that you might just pass by without his tour bus commentary.  More people should see the world through his eyes.

Andrew:  As the rest of the crew, a very strong biker but over and above his biking talents is the secure feeling of having him on the ride since he is a biking Mr Goodwrench.  He has a toolkit on board and the knowledge to fix any bike problem.

riding groupTHE RIDE

We slowly ride out of our development and the pace quickens immediately.  Peter rides next to me advising me about riding safely, expounding on subjects like where to ride on the side of the road and advice on shifting to make the ride easier and not end up as a speed bump.  My adrenalin is flowing but so is the sweat at about 90% humidity.  A few miles into the ride we meet up with Andrew and the ride continues with me trying to mimic the techniques of this experienced group.  I’m keeping up but pedaling a lot harder than the rest when each pulls alongside me and tutors me in the art of drafting‒a little scary at 20mph staying within a wheels length behind the other rider and trying to get use to the concept of having to follow a guy’s butt.  My drafting technique is erratic but when it works riding is effortless.  Andrew “Just keep your eyes on my back and a little over my shoulder to see what’s ahead”.  Ted “Just remember that I’m not going to slam on the brakes” and Juan “Tuck in behind me and come along for the ride” (flight).  I kind of feel biking group cartoonbad because riding protocol is for each rider to take a turn at the lead and work harder for the group, but I am content to milk my rookie status and get pulled along.  We slow a little to take in the beauty of Jordan Lake, sights missed if you just speed by in a car.  A quick look and the push continues as we make the next turn.  Peter “we’re averaging 18.3mph” and surging.  Note he said average which means some slower and some FASTER!  We stop for Ted to put his dislodged chain back on which would freak out most, but I barely haveted putting his chain back on enough time to flash a photo before we’re off.  You’ll notice a few foggy photos which is just the moisture in the air fogging anything with a lens.

The moment of truth arrives as we stop to let me take another group photo for your entertainment.  Peter asks the group if they’d like to head back the way we came which would be about a 23 mile ride or we could take a left and ride a few more miles (Peter miles) and after a gradual climb reward ourselves with a long downhill.  The thought of the downhill lights up all their faces like Christmas morning and I’m not sure if I’ll get coal-hell what’s a few miles at this point.  I don’t have an odometer but I think Peter’s malfunctioned or was ignored-a few miles my ass.  We finally get to the hill and it’s worth the extra effort and as per Juan “we’re flying”!  Peter and Juan are quickly out of sight and I’m pretty impressed with myself descending with a huge smile at about 40 miles per hour only to have Ted scream by me (literally).  The rest of the ride is quick with Juan andgps mileage 36.9 Peter racing ahead and patient Ted gives me a final lesson on drafting and shifting “never butt pedal (pedaling in the wrong gear and working too hard)”.  We pull into our development and Peter announces the final stats: 36.9 miles at an average of 18.3mph.  So much for the 20 mile easy ride!  “If you come again we just want to let you know that we never go much faster than that”.  A little tired but amazed at my accomplishment‒I learned a lot and iPeaked.  I’m hooked and I’ll be back with the “DC Gentlemen’s Club”.