Monday, August 8, 2016

Olympic Dreams

RHYS BOWEN: Did you all watch the opening ceremony on Friday? I'm always so amused the way each country tries to outdo the previous games.  I expect I'll be glued to the telly for the next two weeks. Actually I've been getting an overdose of sports viewing ever since Wimbledon. I have been watching, in horrified fascination, American Ninja Warrior, Spartan races, Olympic trials in swimming, gymnastics and track and field. Frankly I'm absolutely exhausted. And as for those athletes--how do they do it?

When I was young I was quite athletic. I played tennis quite well. I represented my college in tennis and table tennis and netball.But our training was at most running around the field once before we started playing. Nothing like these supermen and women these days. Those ninjas who can hang on by their fingertips, those Spartans who drag one another up walls, and tiny Simone Biles who can fly through the air as if weightless. How do they do it?

 And then I realize that they spend their whole life doing it. We had tennis practice probably twice a week. No weight training, no distance training, no therapists or ice baths or anything like that. We got on a bus, drove to another school and after five minutes warm-up we played.

Now I have two granddaughters who are water polo players and swimmers. They have to be at school at 5:45 a.m. for weight training. They work out year round for their sport with land exercises, push ups as well as heaven knows how many yards swum in the pool. So it looks as if we're growing a generation of super heroes, doesn't it.

And I'm feeling very inadequate. I belong to a health club. I go and swim a bit every day. I sometimes work on the weight machines--rather gently. I hike with friends when I can. John and I walk (or rather stroll) every evening. But I watch the Olympics and think I SHOULD BE DOING MORE.

So, dear Reds and readers, do you still work out? How fit are you? Do you wish you could do more? Are we too obsessed with fitness these days?

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I was a figure skater when I was younger (it's cold in Buffalo — everyone skates and/or skis) and had dreams of Olympic glory — until I broke a leg and then an arm in quick succession and discovered musical theater (and boys!) in high school. It's amazing how far the sport of figure skating has come —when I was watching, it was a big deal if a woman could do a double axel and then the first triple. Now triples are the norm for women and quads for guys.

Meanwhile, Noel and Kiddo do Hapkido (a Korean martial art form) and sometimes we go to the gym together as a family. Kiddo is really into riding these days, too. I love to watch him on horseback — so thrilling!

These days I'm at the gym at least three times a week (elliptical, stationary bike, and weights) and take a weekly yoga class I love, too. After a difficult pregnancy, multiple surgeries, illnesses, and several bouts with anemia, it feels good to be in somewhat decent shape again. And I don't ever take it for granted!

HALLIE EPHRON: I don't want to talk about this. Because I am throwing away money every month on a gym membership I don't use. My exercise at this time of year is gardening (clipping bushes and pulling weeds) and walking. Not enough, I know. I promise myself, when I turn in my manuscript... You guys are making me feel like a wimp.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Hallie, I beat you, ha ha!! I'm a bigger wimp. I was never athletic at all. I did love to swim as a kid, but not in any competitive way. Horrible at sports, etc., etc. I've given up on gym memberships--I just won't do it. I do, however, love to walk, but I'm even slacking on that right now because it's too HOT. By the time I get up and do an hour's worth of watering, I just want to go in and cool off. Maybe next week...

My Fitbit does tell me that I do miles every day just on all my inside and outside chores, so I am at least burning some calories!!!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Hey, I took beginning tennis (a one semester course) in college for THREE YEARS because I was so terrible. I had no depth perception AT ALL so any kind of sports was demoralizing and impossible.

 I ran for about a year, then my knees gave out. I took aerobic dancing, and got a stress fracture. I can kind of ice skate--but I had on music headphones and decided, inspired by hearing O Fortuna, that I could do a backwards jump. I could not. End of story.

 I don't like to go to the gym because it is too complicated--go in, change clothes, hang stuff up in a tiny locker, do something that's not fun, shower in a yucky place, have wet hair, get dressed again. I mean--why? We have a treadmill and a Nordic track in our exercise room  (spare bedroom) and I love them.  (I worry about upper body strength, though..)

 But now--I am devoted to my Fitbit, and love it, and swear by the walking exercise.

This is the last extant photo of me doing anything physical. I think I had just nailed the 200 meter butterfly. Or something.

LUCY BURDETTE: I am still annoyed that title nine came long after my time. In high school, very few girls played actual sports. We wanted to be cheerleaders! When I wasn't selected for that, I had a short stint as a highlander dancer for our schools all girl bagpipe band. I exercised on and off through my 20s, with little periods of running and lots of Jane Fonda tapes (remember those?)
Then in my 30s, I decided to take tennis lessons with a friend who was also single. I caught the bug and got good enough to play USTA tennis. I also found John at a singles tennis event. Here's a photo of us before we even started dating.

Then I took up golf because he loved it, and and skiing because he and his kids loved it. I did not love it – too cold, too much clunky equipment, too high, too scary, too icy. And I hurt my knee. To this day, John insists that was my best sport!

These days I think it's super important to stay strong as we get older. So I walk (having a dog helps a lot), go to Pilates class, and go to a personal trainer for weight training. With someone else cracking the whip, I am pushed in ways I simply wouldn't do on my own. But I don't want to end up as one of those old ladies who can't get up from the toilet LOL.

RHYS: Okay, confess... who is still super fit and what fun activities can you suggest for the rest of us?


  1. Like Hank, I have no depth perception, so I was horrible at all of those gym class sports and games. I still have no depth perception and I still do not participate in sports.
    I do try to exercise every day [but I’ve never been tempted to join a gym].
    When I was growing up, I took dancing lessons [for about fourteen years] and I still do some of those ballet exercises along with my daily aerobics. I also walk; it may not be the perfect plan, but it works fairly well for me . . . .

  2. I was never athletic in school but did enjoy track and field, soccer and volleyball. I don't do any of those sports now, though! I do either solo or group walks and cycling almost every day, except when it's super hot and humid. Although play some tennis but I have a wonky ankle. And some weight training and pilates to keep supple. And, as mentioned in an earlier JRW post, I love snowshoeing (day or night-with headlamps) and some skating!

  3. I don't even have the excuse of it being 'complicated' to get to the gym. I life 4 blocks away so I can throw on my my clothes, walk over, and walk home and shower. I type really fast. Does that count?

    I've never showshoed but I'd love to try. Loved cross country skiing the one time I did it but we don't get consistent snow and there's just too much equipment.

    My real exercise question: How do I get rid of an old stationery bike with seat that won't lock?

  4. Put the bike out on the curb! Someone will take it right away. And good riddance I say!

    And I continue to be thrilled that I no longer bicycle, and I won't let Jonathan do it either. Did you see that race?

  5. Congratulations to the jocks amongst us. I am not one of you. I was one of those chosen last for any school team.

    A decade ago I joined a gym, paid for a year, went at least eight times. Pftt.

    I have osteoarthritis that has resulted in bionic knees. Five years ago I needed a revision on one of the prostheses, acquired an infection, nosocomial of course, and had half a dozen surgeries, was immobilized for months and gained 40 pounds.

    But that is all in my past. I walk every single morning, including those western NY -5 days, with 20 inches of snow. I've lost 80 pounds, have boundless energy (yeah, right), and am getting ready to fire the cleaning lady.

    But I do use a walker outside the house. All those surgeries left me with a short leg, and my balance is not great.

    Life is good, sans gym.

  6. Hallie, maybe you could lure yourself to the gym with audiobooks? I listen to a lot of podcasts, which makes things seem easier. If you haven't tried Serial, it's amazing. Perfect for crime writers/mystery lovers.

  7. In a surprise to no one, I not a huge sports fan - at least in terms of participation. I cleared out my required college credits with golf and bowling, both of which I am half-way decent at. But it's never going to be my activity of choice.

    As for going to gym? Please! That is not going to happen.

    I do enjoy watching some of the Olympics, even though I was expecting this year's to be a disaster. So far, I got sucked into a bike race down a crazy scary mountain, water polo (which only make me wonder exactly what the rules were; and can they stand in that water or is it too deep?), gymnastics (where I thankfully missed that horrible injury), and some swimming (Michael Phelps is a local hero, who I respect for his athletic ability, but who does not impress me with his repeated disregard for the law).

    I am sure I will watch a few other things over the next two weeks. But I can always hear those books calling to me. ;)

  8. Fitter in the summer, thanks to twice weekly water aerobics and other swimming. As a kid, I always loved swimming and eventually was a life guard. I was an active kid, but never did "sports." High school gym class was dreadful, and in college we had modern dance, fencing (!!!), and tennis.

    Now, with arthritic knees, overweight, and almost 70, I wish I had taken up some form of vigorous exercise. And, who knows, maybe I will.

    Grandchildren keep me active.

  9. I agree that snowshoeing is really fun! On the other end of the spectrum I enjoy boxing class at the gym, probably because I get to throw my weight around and hit things. I wish I had the discipline to exercise at home (the NY Times has laid out a complete workout in seven minutes) but besides walking, jogging, or hiking, I don't. This all makes me sound much more fit than I am.

    I agree with Susan about books as motivation. If I can't put a novel down sometimes I'll tell myself I can only read it at the gym on the bike.

  10. You got to keep moving, I tell myself. I walk a lot and I ride my bike in the summer. Or I was riding my bike to work until I had a crash about 4 weeks ago and I banged up my knee. So I've been doing PT and building up enough mileage on the bike so I can to ride to work. I don't ride in the winter because I don't have that much health insurance so instead I do yoga and fitness videos and walk. In my younger adult days, I studied kung fu. I did a triatholon with my daughter a few years ago and now that I can say I did it, I don't need to do that again. I used to lift weights but now all I do is fool around with them from time to time until I strain something.

  11. Hank, like you--no depth perception, which makes me a massive klutz. I blame it on very poor eyesight until I had LASIK, but my brain still can't perceive where the levels change. I just fell last month again, unable to see peripherally where a curb was.

    In my twenties I started running, and it was such a fun activity, until I was pregnant with my second child and pulled a muscle. That meant walking, until age 55, when I mounted a horse for the first time. I took lessons and every chance to ride for six years, until yep, another accident. This time I broke my nose and three ribs, and creamed my left arm. I will still trail ride, but no more dressage lessons! It was grand fun, though.

    Now I'm pretty much limited to walking and gardening. Yesterday I moved and spread three bags of topsoil and fifteen bags of mulch, after a week of weeding, planting, and transplanting. And I've been cutting the grass on a half-acre section of the yard with a no-motor pushmower, the old fashioned rotary kind, just to get some real exercise. I've had walking partners over the years, which make it a lot easier to get out there daily, but they've moved away, etc. Steve likes to walk, but he always wants to walk after work, and I prefer to walk in the morning. It's never easy.

    While gardening, by the way, I've been listening to Pandora on my phone, with a headset. I thread the wires through my clothing so it doesn't get in the way. We don't have close neighbors to hear my singing along, thank goodness, or they'd probably request an autotune!

  12. I liked swimming when I was younger. I did synchronized swimming in high school. Played a bit of basketball until I injured my hand right before a concern in which I was supposed to play piano (I suffered through it, but the music teacher was really angry with me) and again in college until I hurt my knee (seriously, ladies, it was a club-level game, no need to turn it into full contact).

    I did taekwondo and earned my second-degree black belt. I'd love to go back. Maybe when I get my hip/knee back in shape.

    I walk right past a yoga studio. But after the introductory month it's so expensive!

    I found the steps app in my phone and I'm kind of amazed at the number of steps I take (of course, it only tracks when I'm carrying my phone, but then again I carry my phone a lot).

    Bottom line, I should be more active. Maybe after PT when I can, you know, move better.

  13. You all are making me feel very guilty... My walking routine went south when I was under such deadline pressure--which, of course, is when walking is even more important. And I know I can't put off getting back to my walks until September, when the morning temperatures start to go down a little. Now, I get up and try to get all my watering and outside chores done before it gets too hot.

    And then there's the dogs. I feel horribly guilty if I walk without them. But, I learned from past experience with the previous two German shepherds, a little 5'2" person walking two 80 lb dogs is not safe or smart. So I walk one, then the other. I guess I need to start alternating dog days, but how to explain to them?

  14. Debs, morning dog and afternoon dog? =)

  15. Not athletic? But, Debs, I have it on good authority that you have gone rowing with an Olympic champion!
    Also, I have to come to your defense on the morning dog/afternoon dog thing. Right now, our afternoon temperatures are 100 degrees or more, and the pavement can burn a dog's feet. Nobody walks the dog in the afternoon. Add to that, Damned Daylight Savings Time keeps it light, and therefore hot, until sometime around 8:30 pm, when the sun goes down and the temperature drops from 100 to 98.
    I must confess that, when I had a tiny, useless back yard, I walked all dogs at least once a day, often in shifts. Now I have a large, grassy, tree-shaded back yard with plenty of squirrels to keep the dogs amused, and I rarely suit up to walk even one of them. I keep saying that will change when it gets cooler in the fall, but will it? I'm not so sure.
    As for the Olympics, about as close as I get to greatness on that front is that my band recently recorded John Williams' "Olympic Fanfare and Theme." Since all I did was the pre-recording organizational drudgery, not the actual (and quite brilliant) playing, I don't think I can cover myself in gold medal glory.

  16. Mary, brilliant!

    Trisha, that is a great idea --to limit the book to exercise!

    Kristopher, I have a photo of me bowling. It's hilarious. xoxoo

    OH! forgot to tell you I am a pretty darned good softball pitcher. Really good. HOWEVER. I cannot catch. Our "coach" interacted me to "pitch, then duck." Seriously.

  17. The Olympics is strictly a spectator event for me...I have no illusions. When I was a kid I broke my arm playing Tarzan on a loose tied rope and again, playing Crack the Whip on roller skates. I had to be rescued on graduation day of swimming lessons. Someone had to stand behind me and yell "Swing" when I batted at softball and I prayed I'd never have to catch a flyball. I once ran three miles and never felt the need to repeat it. I paid for two years of gym membership long after I quit going because I thought I might go back sometime. I used my Exercycle as a clothes rack. I did walk on the beach for a few months until my plantar fasciitis kicked into high gear. If reading becomes an Olympic sport, I'm in.

  18. My hand/eye/moving object coordination is horrible, which meant I was another one "always picked last" in gym. Swimming, though, has always been a pleasure. When a new gym opened on the route I take for the afternoon school run for my granddaughter, I signed up and now do about 800 meters 3 or 4 times a week. Building it into my routine was the key. Eases my arthritic knee and just generally makes me feel good.

  19. In my 50's I'm more "athletic" than I was as a child. Couldn't touch my toes. Picked last for teams. etc. In college I started doing aerobics and have been, off and on, involved in fitness since then. I push play in my living room and love it. I roll out of bed half asleep, pull on some workout clothes and stumble down stairs. Get a little bit of nourishment and do a workout streamed to me over the computer. I keep thinking I want to start trail running (running in the mountains) but that's silly because I don't particularly like running on flat ground. I just like the idea of seeing a lot of nice scenery in a short period of time.

  20. I was a tomboy and athletic through junior high. Remember the President's Physical Fitness challenge in the early 60s? I got two patches for the first two years of that in gym. I asked my gym teacher why we girls couldn't jump hurdles on the track like the boys. Her answer? If a girl got hurt her parents would sue the school board. So I guess the boys could go kill themselves and that was okay because boys will be boys.
    Anyway that kind of blew it for me. In high school I was in a drum and bugle corps until we moved. I never really got back into athletics of any kind. Although I really enjoyed my semester of fencing in college. I keep thinking I wouldn't mind taking up fencing again but I don't want to drive to who knows where and pay who knows what to do it. I'm supposed to be walking for exercise these days. I am a night person and my hub is a morning person. I don't like to walk at night because my night vision is poor. It is too freaking hot to walk during the day. We have Debs' heat plus humidity. So my mantra is I'll walk when it cools down.

  21. Kristopher, in water polo you can't put you feet on the bottom. It's too deep.and it's very rough. A lot goes on under the water. You should see my delicate little granddaughter turning into a tiger. It's fun.
    I am so lucky that I went to an all girls school. We had all the sports we needed. My school had 18 tennis courts. I loved my tennis until a damaged disc put an end to it

  22. Growing up, we kids were always outdoors riding bikes, running, expending energy like crazy. Then, as I got into junior high and high school, there was cheerleading and golf. And, there was my mother fixing homemade meal with veggies and other good food. So, it was a great, healthy start to life. I only wish that I'd stayed active. Kids kept me going and active in the sense of expending energy and burning calories, but no organized activity just to take care of myself. Right now I'm in a most depressing state of unfit, and I'm hoping to start doing a little more each day to address that. As Debs said, the heat is a big deterrent to walking, which is my exercise of choice, and I haven't had a dog to walk for a year and a half. I really think I need to get another dog to force the walking even when I don't feel like it.

  23. Maybe some of you saw the link I posted on Facebook about the study that proved people who read at least 3 1/2 hours per week are 23% less likely to die then nonreaders. How's that for good news?

    I forgot to tell about the triathlon I entered about five years ago. Mini of course. You could either do the three legs yourself or as a team. So I got on a team with two guys, I was the swimmer, and they were running and biking. The swimming was in the Long Island sound and the water was rough and I swear they put the buoy about a mile out. I wondered if I'd ever finish. But I finally did, me and one old man straggled in together. John (who is doing all three legs on his own) said he'd never before seen a triathlon swimmer doing the backstroke LOL.

    Maybe we need a jungle red support group for getting motivated to move? Or maybe I'll just be quiet…

    Ann, hooray for you on turning things around!

  24. I think we need.a Jungle Red retreat to Canyon Ranch spa

  25. No athlete here. But I did pass the required bowling quarter in college by being the best pin setter (no automatic lanes there!) and, although the credit should have been my mother's, passed high school phys ed by having clean sox and a clean gym suit every class.

  26. John's comment made me laugh, Roberta!

    Reminding me of the first running race I ran, back in about 1977, a 10k. I came in third last, only beating a 10-year old boy and an elderly gentleman (probably my age now!) who was racewalking. An ignominious result for a 26-year old!

    By the way, this is the Thanksgiving Day Race in Cincinnati, one of the oldest road races in North America. My kids have all run it, and they're all planning to run this year, along with my son-in-law and my 11-year old grandson, who'll run his first time. I'm going to try to walk it this year.

  27. I grit my teeth and run. 5 miles three times a week in the winter. 3 once a week in the summer. This summer at least. It's hot enough to melt you. I have a Garmin watch that is going to figure out a way to desert my wrist and go to someone who will actually give it tender loving miles. Sigh. I have good intentions and a lousy work schedule. Someday I will live in an area with convenient yoga and Pilates classes. Can I have some cheese with this whine???????

  28. There seems to be a theme emerging here--Wendy, I am howling with laughter.

    PlumGaga, so great to see you!

    and Kathy V, I am SO impressed. (Lucy hey, you too. I'd NEVER have done that. COULD never.)

    Canyon Ranch. I am IN.

  29. I fell of the bars - spotter not doing her job ! beginning of my knee issues

    I use to dream of not falling off my bike ;)

    I am totally uncoordinated, if they had an event for that, I'd win the Gold

  30. It's a "tale of two cities" here.

    At home, I had a jungle gym, which I loved. I loved playing upside down on the "trapeze". When I was 5 years old, I loved to play baseball with the high school team. My babysitter was on the high school baseball team and invited me to play baseball. it was so fun! I loved playing all kind of sports.

    I also ice skated at the local rink. I started at the age of 2, though it took me 4 years before I could skate on my own. I always needed to hold someone's hand. Because I had meningitis at the age of 2, it affected my balance. I still enjoy ice-skating. And at the age of 5, it took me months of trying again and again before I could swim on my own. I still enjoy swimming.

    At my school, I HATED sports. It was brutal! Think Quidditch from Harry Potter. It was that brutal! At my school, I refused to play sports at all!

    Now I still exercise. Anything can be exercise, in my opinion. Even if you do not go to a gym, just getting up and moving around every twenty minutes or so, is exercise. I remember one celebrity author said she never exercises and she is very slim. However I know that she gets up and moves around all the time. She does not sit for hours and hours. She takes frequent breaks.

    Great comments, everyone!


  31. I was on the swim team in high school. I was not one of the fastest swimmers. However, I was on the freestyle relay; swam butterfly on the IM relay; and swam 100-yard butterfly. I had always been overweight as a child, but when I got to college I hit 166. This forced me to make some changes. I joined a gym and started watching what I ate more closely. It took me nine years, but I went from 166 to 120. A size 16 to size 4. I have kept the weight off since then. I go to the gym four days a week. I lift weights; run on the treadmill; do the elliptical; and take a spinning class. I will never be a Victoria's Secret model. Some parts of me will never be svelte, but I try to be disciplined and above all, healthy.