Posts Tagged exercise

Do You Have Time?

Mr. HalfFull subscribes to the Economist and often shares articles of interest with me. One entitled “Nice Work If You Can Get Out” piqued my interest. The author begins by comparing the leisure time of the rich and the poor in the past:

Sarah Bernhardt, 1890

Relaxing on a chaise is divine leisure! (Library of Congress)

For most of human history rich people had the most leisure. In Downton Abbey, a drama about the British upper classes of the early 20th century, one aloof aristocrat has never heard of the term “weekend”: for her, every day is filled with leisure. On the flip side, the poor have typically slogged.

But today, the roles have reversed.  Many wealthy people work long hours. According to the article:

Overall working hours have fallen over the past century. But the rich have begun to work longer hours than the poor.

Read the rest of this entry »

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The 100 Year Plan

I’m not the type of person who creates annual goals.  I don’t have a 10 year plan, or even a 5 year plan.  How could I possibly have one when I’m still waiting for my vision?

But Mr. HalfFull has a 100 year plan.  He wants to live to age 100, and be featured on a Smucker’s jar.

That seems like a ridiculously long life to me.  I have no desire to live to 100.  I can’t imagine having much quality of life at that age.

Regardless of how many years Mr. HalfFull and I get under our belts, I want to be the first to go.  I constantly remind him of our pact to let me die first.  But this is the most unlikely of all scenarios.  First of all, women generally live longer than men.  Secondly, he’s already 10 years older than me.  Finally, if you add in family health history, the odds are stacked against Mr. HalfFull.

So those three factors of female longevity, age, and family history are immutable.  But there are things we can change, namely how we live our lives today.  Yet, it seems I’m screwing that up too!

Last week, I told you about how I’m getting lots of exercise and sleep.  On the other hand, Mr. HalfFull wakes up early, works long hours, goes to bed late, and doesn’t have a regular exercise routine.  This formula doesn’t seem to be working out right at all.

Fiona & Shrek

Back before we were an old married couple, we used to dress up for Halloween. In 2008, we went as Fiona & Shrek.

Last week was Halloween.  We never get trick-or-treaters, so I stopped buying Halloween candy years ago in an effort to save me from eating it all.  So I had absolutely no candy on Halloween, which felt strange.  Instead, I inadvertently exercised for 3 hours.  (My days were all confused after fitness classes were cancelled for 2 days during Hurricane Sandy.)

What did Mr. HalfFull do on Halloween?  As a high school teacher, he was surrounded by kids and candy.  He consumed sugar all day long!  After the kids went home, he sat in his office writing a grad school paper and then headed directly to class.  He returned home after 10 PM.  Does this sound like the relaxed, healthful life of a man about to live to 100?

I’m eating well and exercising, while Mr. HalfFull is working long hours and barely has time to sleep.  I don’t think my plan is going to work out at all!  Perhaps I need some more risky behaviors to tip the scales back in my favor.

Motorcycle on Skyline Drive

Yes, I agree that riding in the fog is probably not the safest.

My parents would argue that riding a motorcycle is far too dangerous.  But I generally ride with Mr. HalfFull and we are both brightly colored, me in red and him in Buddha orange.  Of course, anything can happen at any time, but I think we try to be especially safety conscious on our motorcycles.

Maybe I need to take up smoking.  Or perhaps I could become a potato chip aficionado.  Plus, I could start daily training for pie and hot dog eating contests!  (Too bad I don’t like hot dogs.)

I guess need to reassess my new healthful life…

  • How many years do you want to live?
  • How much Halloween candy did you consume?
  • What life shortening habits should I take up?

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Taking Back Control

My jobless summer of attempted spontaneity made it painfully obvious that something was missing.  I wasn’t happy.  (Just in case you’re wondering, I was probably still happier than if I had been working.)  I had all this time and no plan.  I needed some structure.

Even my dad, who retired a few weeks ago, asked me what I do with my days.  Perhaps he wanted me to justify my lack of employment.  But part of me wonders if he was asking for advice.  Not working is a big change.  We once spent our days commuting and sitting in an office.  It took up the majority of our time.  Now we are free.

Self Definition

But what are we free to do?  How do we define ourselves in this new chapter?

Preschool

Ms. HalfEmpty had no problem defining herself in preschool with all sorts of ridiculous garb. But now it’s a different story.

Especially in an area like DC, when people meet for the first time they ask what you do.  It’s part of the customary introductory small talk, but it also helps to categorize people.  We have expectations of people who do certain types of work — stereotypical ideas of what that person’s life might be like.

But where do I fit?  I’m not retirement age.  What do I do with my days?  What should I be doing?  I think there is an expectation that women in their 30s without children or major disabilities should work.  They should contribute.

And I want to.  I just want to do the right thing for me — something that excites and inspires me, something that allows me to meaningfully contribute, something that makes use of my talents.  I don’t want to be another person clocking time in an office, letting the hours and years of my life pass by.

A friend recently sent me a tongue-in-cheek Washington Post article entitled, “How to completely, utterly destroy an employee’s work life.”  This quote sums it up for me:

What we discovered is that the key factor you can use to make employees miserable on the job is to simply keep them from making progress in meaningful work.

People want to make a valuable contribution, and feel great when they make progress toward doing so. Knowing this progress principle is the first step to knowing how to destroy an employee’s work life. 

-Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer 

Time

I’ve realized that I now have time.  I have more time than most people ever will.  It’s a valuable gift.  But it doesn’t mean I have time to do anything and everything.  That would mean my time is worthless.  I still decline offers that don’t value my time. My time is precious and mine to spend.

With endless options, deciding how to spend it (and not waste it) was daunting.  But after my unstructured summer I learned that I crave a schedule. It can be a rough outline, but I need a framework.

Exercise

The first thing I did to recreate a schedule was to reincorporate exercise.  It was a no brainer for me since I already belong to a gym with a fixed schedule of classes.

BodyFlow

Ms. HalfEmpty launching BodyFlow™ Release 57 over the summer

I used to go to the gym each morning before work around 6 AM to take a group fitness class.  But it seemed ridiculous to wake up that early when I was no longer working.  I loved sleeping in and not worrying about staying up late.

Of course, my gym had later classes, but Mr. HalfFull wasn’t a member.  I thought I should be home to spend time with him during his summer break, and perhaps exercise together.  We did take long walks through the neighborhood occasionally, but summers in DC can be oppressively hot, discouraging outdoor activities.

Once Mr. HalfFull went back to work in August, I started going back to the gym.  This became the anchor of my new schedule.  I would workout for 1 or 2 hours a day.  Plus, I got hired at my new gym to teach  BodyFlow™ again.  So during 2-5 of those weekly workout hours I was getting paid to exercise!

That time felt purposeful because I was doing something good for myself.  Without this break from work, I never would have had the combined time and energy to devote an extra 12 hours per week to exercise.  I was getting stronger and more fit!  Plus the structure of group fitness classes appeals to my need for a schedule.

Coffee

Coffee in German Biergarten

Ms. HalfEmpty with lattes in a German biergarten. No she didn’t drink all of those herself!

I also got my caffeine intake back under control.  I used to drink up to 4 coffees per day on workdays.  I would drink one en route to the gym before 6 AM.  My 2nd coffee would be consumed after breakfast.  Sometimes I would have a 3rd coffee when I got to the office, and my 4th would be after lunch for my afternoon jolt.

These were not huge mugs full of coffee, so it wasn’t that bad.  They were generally 6 ounce servings (whereas a cup is 8 ounces and a Starbucks Venti is 20 ounces).  But now I’m down to 2 coffees per day — one with breakfast and one in the afternoon.

Coffee has transformed from something I needed to survive the work world to something I can enjoy.  It’s wonderful to savor each sip!

Sleep

Santa Monica nap

Ms. HalfEmpty enjoyed naps early and often on the 30/40 World Tour

I used to get headaches to varying degrees almost every afternoon at work.  Now when I think I might be on the verge of a headache, I just take a nap.  Napping in the middle of the week is so luxurious and feels a heck of a lot better than a headache!

I’m getting full nights of sleep (since I can wake naturally), and napping when tired.  Sleep is certainly going well now that I am able to listen to my body’s sleep cues.

Transformation

I have the time to enjoy the world around me.  I am able to savor sunny afternoons outside with a picnic or my laptop on a bench.

I now try to act out of desire and joy.  In the past, I generally lived a life of obligation.  I was the kid who never wanted to miss a day of school even if I was sick.  I always did the thing I was supposed to do.  But there comes a point when you are on such autopilot that you no longer want anything.  You merely stay the course.

Another great benefit of not working in the afternoons is that I’ve been able to attend almost all my husband’s home games.  I’ve felt connected to his team as I’ve watched them grow over the season.  I got to be a part of their success as they finished the season with a championship!

People have commented that I smile more and seem happier since leaving my job.  I don’t think that was true over the summer, but it is now.  It’s a lot easier to be happy when you feel rested and unhurried by the pressures of the working world on a taxing commute with deadlines looming.

Mr. HalfFull has even commented that perhaps I have become Mrs. HalfFull (instead of Ms. HalfEmpty).  Maybe I’m finally coming into my married name!

In our relationship, he has always been known for his humor, while I was more of the straight man.  But now Mr. HalfFull is worried that I might be taking over his comedy domain.  Hum…I’m not sure I could do standup comedy at the DC Improv like he did, but perhaps humor comes more naturally to those who are well rested.

More sleep, more exercise, less coffee, fewer headaches…sounds like not working is doing a body good!  I’m probably the healthiest I’ve ever been.  I’m still waiting for my vision, but at least I’m back to living the spaces in between.

  • Do you need a schedule?
  • How do you define yourself in quick introductions?  Does it affect your self-image?
  • Are you the master of your time?  How do you spend it?  How would you like to spend it?
  • Have you found exercise, caffeine, and sleep to impact your well-being?
  • Have you noticed transformations in yourself?  What prompted them?

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Bummin’ It In Mauritius

Mauritius beach

Belle Mare

Water, volcanic rock, sand, and grass meet in Belle Mare

Mauritius was beautiful. Of the entire 30/40 World Tour, this was our most relaxing stop.

Our hotel was right on the beach in Belle Mare.  Even though we had already been to beaches on the 30/40 World Tour, as my feet sunk into the sand in Belle Mare, I remember thinking the sand was so soft.

La Palmeraie

La Palmeraie bar area and overflowing pool

In fact, our entire stay made us a bit soft. I think there were probably more employees than guests at the hotel since it was the off-season. Our breakfasts and dinners were included, and we had an assortment of goodies to taste daily. When returning to my seat from the buffet, a member of the staff would often intercept me to grab my plate so I could walk unencumbered. How’s that for soft?

New Zealand Butter

Mr. HalfFull holds New Zealand butter against the backdrop of the gorgeous beach

Speaking of food, remember how we told you that dairy was a big deal in New Zealand?  Well it’s such a big deal that they had New Zealand butter in Mauritius!

There was often entertainment during/after dinner. One night, the band played, “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”  I’m starting to wonder if that is the first song that all non-native English speakers who work in hospitality learn.   We heard the song in Fiji too!  It’s kind of ridiculous to hear a song about West Virginia while in Africa. It reminded me of the days when Mr. HalfFull and I were driving to West Virginia from our home in Virginia, and my dearest husband played (and sang) that song 10 times before I got a reprieve.

La Palmeraie

View of our Moroccan-inspired hotel from the beach

While in Mauritius, we spent much of our time lounging, but also ventured out to snorkel via a glass bottom boat, swim, paddle boat, and play volleyball.  One day we even decided to do the group fitness class on the beach. Mr. HalfFull and I constituted 2/3 of the participants. The instructor was a wiry man who was all abs and muscles. Needless to say, we were pretty sore afterward.

What’s the best way to recover from soreness?  Massage!  I love massages, so we decided to indulge in a couples massage at the resort spa.  It started out with a bath of coconut milk and lemongrass.  It smelled wonderful, but made us a bit leery that perhaps we were getting prepped for the grill and not a massage!

Thankfully, the massages did occur.  I was very glad that Mr. HalfFull and I were in the same room.  There was virtually no draping as is customary in the US, and the strokes did not neglect the inner thighs or breasts.  I was surprised!  Did she really just go there?!?

Christian Shrine

Christian shrine along the beach

Hindu Shrine on Beach

Hindu temple on the beach surrounded by offerings placed on the volcanic rock

We also took lots of walks along the beach and discovered various religious shrines — Hindu and Christian.  We also saw local boys playing a game of pétanque on the beach.  This time it wasn’t men on their lunch break.  We witnessed the smallest boy throw the winning shot.  Immediately, all the older boys went over to verify the proximity of his ball, while the little ones jumped up and down with excitement.

Arsha Vidya Ashram

Arsha Vidya Ashram along the beach

Pétanque

Boys playing pétanque on the beach

One evening, I inadvertently created a security incident at the hotel.  We were down at dinner when a manager came to tell Mr. HalfFull that there was a security problem in our room.  We had no idea what happened.  It turns out that I had left the safe open when we went to dinner, and the maid had entered our room to turn down our bed.  She noticed the open safe and alerted the security guard.  By the time Mr. HalfFull got there our room was being guarded by security and they asked him to verify that nothing was stolen.  It turned into a huge incident.  Oops!

Mauritius Taxi

Ms. HalfEmpty on the taxi ride to the airport

After our week of relaxation, it was time to head back to the airport en-route to Dubai.  Check back to hear about our adventures in the United Arab Emirates.

  • Where was your most relaxing vacation?
  • In what country have you heard, “Take Me Home, Country Roads?”
  • Do you exercise on vacation?
  • Have you had a massage that made you uncomfortable?
  • Have you ever left a hotel safe open?  Did the staff alert you?

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Observing Noumea

Noumea city view

Sometimes you have to stand on a tagged trash can to get a good panoramic photo

It was nice to be back in a warm beach climate after the winter weather in New Zealand.  The beaches in Nouméa were beautiful despite being marred by graffiti.  Everything was tagged — trash cans, park benches, picnic tables, bathrooms.  I find tagging ugly, unnecessary, and uninspired.  But when we ventured into the city, we discovered that some of the graffiti was actually art.

Noumea graffiti

Some of the graffiti in downtown Nouméa wasn't bad

We soon began to notice that we were surrounded by triathletes in the beach areas.  We would often share the sidewalk with runners, see others on expensive racing bikes in the street, and watch swimmers in caps and goggles training in the ocean.  When you’re on vacation, it’s strange to be surrounded by exercise fiends.  It made me feel like a bit of a slacker.

Speaking of sharing the sidewalk, Mr. HalfFull and I had to retrain our brains after 1 week in Fiji and 3 weeks in New Zealand doing it the British way.  New Caledonia is French, so they drive and walk on the right side of the road, like us.  It was surprising that this was actually a retraining exercise, since walking on the left had originally felt so unnatural.

The other surprising thing we discovered on the sidewalk was a complete disregard for other humans.  Fiji was an exceptionally friendly culture where strangers yelled, “Bula” as they passed us on the sidewalk.  But each time we said, “Bonjour” in Nouméa, we were met with silence.  Perhaps it’s the cool aloofness inherited from the French.

We were also bewildered by another unfriendly sidewalk practice.  Generally, Mr. HalfFull and I walk next to each other.  But if we see another person or group approaching, we move to single file until we pass the other party.  In Nouméa, no one else did this!  They could be walking with five people across and make no effort to move over and allow us to pass.  Eventually, it became a game to see if they would actually run into us; I put Mr. HalfFull in front for those experiments since he could block better.

Noumea pétanque

City workers play pétanque in Nouméa

On the other side of the spectrum, we witnessed the relaxed, playful side of New Caledonian culture in the form of daily pétanque matches.  Pétanque is a French game similar to bocce.  Around 11 AM each morning, we would see the city workers park their trucks and congregate to play on the court adjacent to the beach.  They played for hours; I wonder if they were on the clock.  Mr. HalfFull thinks this might be his next career.

I have mixed impressions about Nouméa.  At times, people made it feel cold, but the joy of the city workers meeting to play was a nice contrast.

  • Does graffiti change your impression of a place?
  • Do you exercise on vacation?
  • Did you need to retrain your brain after travel?
  • Do you acknowledge and/or greet strangers on the sidewalk?
  • Do you practice sidewalk etiquette?
  • Are the pétanque players lazy or are they fostering meaningful camaraderie?

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