Do something this week you have never done before – The Olympic Track and Field Trials

Recently, a FaceBook friend posed this question:  “When was the last time you did something you had never done before?”  There were several responses.  My response – I was attending the Olympic Track and Field Trials for the first time, in Eugene, Oregon.  Not everyone wants to spend time watching track and field events.  But I find that anytime I am able to observe people at the highest level of their activity, I am enthralled and inspired to be the best at what I do.  Regardless of what that is.

Arriving in the town of Eugene, I was deeply impressed with the cleanliness and the focus on fitness.  Everywhere I looked, I saw people running, biking, boating, and participating in physical exercise.  This may be our country’s most fit city.  While I was there, we rented bikes one day, and I biked alone one day.  There simply is no way to be part of this town without wanting to jump in.  That alone encourages the attendee to get out there and do it.

We took a trip to the coastline and saw the dunes of the west coast which are different than the east coast dunes.  On the Oregon dunes, you are encouraged to jump on the grass, unlike our North and South Carolina coasts where one can be arrested for touching the grass.  I did allow myself to tug on one of these pieces of European encroachers.  They have 25 foot roots, so that didn’t work.  The goal for the forestry group is to rid the dunes of these invaders, which they say are menacing the dunes.

At the University of Oregon, the fitness center is situated such that when one gets on an eliptical machine, bike, treadmill, or other moving equipment, the movement generates electricity to run the building.  How brilliant.  Imagine if this was initiated at every childcare facility in the country.  We may have all the electricity we will ever need.

Several exciting moments which we had were while in restaurants.  When the event winners walked into the restaurant, the crowd surrounding burst into applause and cheers.  What an amazing feeling that had to be for the athlete who had previously been unrecognized.  The event that brought tears to my eyes was the final 800 meter for Ashton Eaton, our decathlon winner.  As he rounded the turn on the last leg, the two runners in front of him slowed and waved him on – allowing him to win the 12th event, and setting another world record.  The teammanship touched everyone who saw it.

It is a very good thing to get outside of your life and to experience something that you’ve never done before.  Try it soon.

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Biking

All my life, I’ve been a biker.  As a young girl in the country in North Carolina, it was sometimes my only transportation.  When I wanted to see my girlfriend, who was three huge hills away, I struck out on whatever rickety bicycle happened to be in our yard.  Sometimes it may have belonged to one of my grandfather’s customers.  We had a small country store.  

If I started late in the afternoon, the valleys between the hills were quite chilly.  There was one particular spot where I felt “spooks.”  I didn’t know why this feeling was so predominant.  As I coasted down the first hill, a small decrepit cabin peeked out at me from high weeds.  A rusted screen door announced that no one cared about this building.  I never saw anyone there, but the feeling that a very sad – or mad – ghost was lurking just behind that door pushed me to peddle a little faster.  I always knew what it was like to wonder if Boo Radley would come out and grab you.

Now, I have a lovely bicycle that is lightweight and allows me to speed along, with the same feeling of flying independence I had as that young girl.  I simply love it.  Time to stop writing, and head out on the bike.  I’m taking a camera with me today.  Spring is blooming.

See your path in front of you ~

During one of my earliest trips to Hilton Head Island, I spotted a woman on a bike.  She was wearing a yellow bikingtop and heather grey biking shorts.  Her socks were bright white, but I don’t recall her the color of her shoes.  Black, maybe.  She had a luxurious long grey pigtail down her back.  Tanned and fit, I guessed that she was in her 60’s.

I have maintained that image ever since then.  Perhaps 18 years ago.  I saw what I wanted to be physically at that age. I wanted to be fit.  I wanted to be biking.  A fit and strong woman riding her bike on a beautiful day in a lovely environment inspired me without having seen her face nor heard her voice.  Although I have lost my fascination with Hilton Head (another stoplight??), I have not lost my love of biking.  At some point in my life, I decided that if I took good care of my legs, they would take good care of me.  Even with the feet problems I endure, my legs are strong and vital.

I believe that if you see it ahead of you, you can get there.  If you can imagine it, you can attain it.  If you believe it, then “it” will become real for you.  The universe hears and responds.  I believe that I can stay fit for the remainder of my life.  The amount of miles I can ride may change from year to year, but that hasn’t yet been the case.  I rode 14 miles yesterday, and plan 20 today.  I’m 56 years old.

This is what I find curious.  I see women who apparently spend time and money on hair and nails.  They are completely finished with color and sparkle on the outside of their bodies.  But they are 30 lbs overweight.  Or 50.  I have to wonder if they took those hours which they spend on hair and nails – or a portion thereof – and applied them to walking, or Pilates, or biking, how much better could they improve their lives and their health?  How much better would they look with the glow of regular exercise?

Start slow.  Start small.  But start.  Walk to the mailbox, walk around the block, go to the park with your dog, walk. Walk.  Walk.  Cut down slightly on portions.  Notice eating habits after 9 PM or 8 PM or whenever you realize that eating is just about a habit or emotional need.  Give your body the attention you offer your hair or nails.  I think that the delight you will see and the health you will create will add great satisfaction to those lovely nails and that gorgeous hair.  You don’t have to be an athlete.  You simply have to decide what you want to be in 10 years.  Or 20.  Look ahead, find that image that inspires you – a realistic magazine photo, a picture of you in a fit condition, a cartoon – find something that inspires you.  And go get it.

Dang, this is not what this post was supposed to be about.  I’m going to get my nails done.

Just watch the sidewalk right in front of you

I have a new bike.  It is fabulous.  I think it is one of the greatest bikes every created.  Did I mention its fabulous?  A Trek – lightweight, responsive, pads on the handlebars on which to rest the pads of my hands.  I’m in love with this gorgeous bike.  When I ride, I feel like all the cobwebs of burdens, uncertainty, self-doubt, and fear are blown from my mind away in the wind as I sail down a hill.  Pumping my legs up the hill is another thing entirely, but the focus remains so intense that I have a feeling of bike-induced meditation.  It is a wonderful experience.

In Greenville, SC, we have a new “rails to trails” bike path, named the Swamp Rabbit Trail, in honor of the former Swamp Rabbit train that cruised the same path.  This is a 14-mile-long path that has slight inclines and gorgeous sites as the trip takes you from Cleveland Street (on the south side of downtown) back through the breath-taking Falls Park in downtown, meandering through an older section of town, winding among trees and along a small river, along the backside of Furman University, and then onward and slightly upward to Travelers Rest, SC.  On warm evenings, and Saturday mornings, the trail is filled with bikers, runners and walkers, strollers, dogs walking their owners, and families.  People that appear to have never ridden a bike before are precariously teetering on pedals that push their knees to their chins.  Finding a bicycle that fits can be a challenge in itself.  I love the whole scene.

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Several weeks ago, my husband and I were riding the trail, but we decided to take a detour.  Hundreds of runners were participating in a local marathon.  26+ miles.  I’m not a runner.  I like my bike.  The runners deserved their space and dodging bikes can be difficult on the 20th mile of a marathon, so we headed off the trail and up Hunts Bridge Road.  Sometimes, when you ride, you encounter mean-little-hills.  These are not the lengthy heart palpitating inclines that will make your legs burn with pumping, but a simple mean-little-hill that will lure you with its short length, but bite you as your breath comes in ragged wheezes and you realize that the hill might win.  Mean-little-hills are almost always a surprise, even if you’ve ridden them before.   I’m not crazy about riding on 4-lane highways, as this one is, so I got off on the cracked and gravel-covered sidewalk.  Not a good place for a lightweight trek.  A new lightweight beloved trek bike.  On a mean-little-hill.

I noticed immediately, however, if I shifted my attention to the sidewalk right in front of my bike, I didn’t fear the hill so much.  I could stare at the two feet or so that was directly in front of my tire, and the “idea” of the hill went away. (was Plato speaking directly to me?)  This was not about beating a little hill, but it became the process of peddling through the two – three feet that were right in front of me.  And I also noticed that with that kind of focus, I didn’t notice the hill part.  All I saw was that short amount of cracked sidewalk that, with this kind of focus, would allow me to miss the particularly deep cracks and huge rocks.  Hmmm.

This felt like an analogy to life.  If, on a day-to-day basis, I focus on what I need to do that day, and not what the longterm scary goal is, I don’t notice that the goal has not been reached that day.  I only notice that I’m doing what needs to be done.  On that day.  In that hour.  In that moment.

This is referred to as mindful living.  I haven’t actually looked it up, so I can’t see that is what anyone else calls it.  But it is what I call it.  It is paying attention to the person to whom you are speaking at that moment.  Sincere undistracted attention.  It is finishing the creation of one quiz for my history class.  It is writing the next 2000 words of my book for today.  It is making that appointment that I wrote in my daybook that I will make today.  It is being present in my mind while I hold my grandchild, talk to my son, or read a book.

Just watch the sidewalk in front of you.  The rest of the hill does not have to be conquered at the same time.  You won’t even notice it is a hill.  Because your daily bites and successes can come two – three feet at a time.