Sara Godwin

Archive for the ‘Fitness’ Category

It’s Winter: Sleep Well!

In Fitness, Health, Travel on December 22, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Winter’s long nights make it easier to sleep well because people sleep better when it’s dark. Lack of sleep has some really nasty downsides: Fatigue, irritability, lower productivity, and a greater likelihood of driving accidents.  Yet even when people feel tired, they often have trouble getting to sleep. Here are some techniques for getting a good night’s sleep.

1. Prepare for tomorrow tonight.  Lay out your clothes (and the children’s), make sure your car keys, your purse, your wallet,  and transit passes are set out in front of the door so you can’t walk out without them.  Make a list of what needs to be done the next day.  Put any dirty dishes in the dishwasher so the kitchen is ready for you to make breakfast when you wake up in the morning. Mute the ring on your cell phone, and charge it in any room but your bedroom.

2. Turn on the bed.  Electric bed warmers that go under the sheets are widely available on-line and at shops like Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Just push the button to the setting you like best.  I generally set it on high, and turn it to low just as I crawl into my warm, toasty bed.  Flannel sheets are soft and warm, and the help you — and the bed — stay warm through the night.

3. Take a hot shower. It’s amazing how hot water relaxes your body and rinses away tension and stress.  A warm bath or a soak in the hot tub will accomplish the same thing.  Your muscles relax, and your head follows suit.  Besides, it’s especially pleasant to go to bed feeling fresh and clean.

4.  Put on your pajamas, bathrobe, and slippers.  They should all meet the criteria of clean, soft, and warm. Bribe your partner — chocolate usually works — to rub any or all of the above: Scalp and face; neck and shoulders; feet and calves.  In the absence of a bribable party, try one of those massage vibrators with round or concave discs.  (They are especially effective on the face and forehead when your head feels tight and stuffy.)

5. Make yourself a warm drink. Hot chocolate, a fragrant herbal tea, or simple hot water with a slice of lemon are all perfect for sipping quietly. While you’re sipping, breathe slowly and deeply.

6. Brush your teeth, brush your hair, set the alarm clock, turn the bed warmer to ‘low’, and snuggle into your warm, comfy bed.  Make sure you get to bed early enough to get eight  or nine hours of sleep. That means into  bed by  9:30 or 10:00 pm, up and out at 6:am or 7:am.  Adjust as needed.

7. Close your eyes and relax each part of your body individually: Head, face, shoulders, arms, torso, legs, and feet. Mutter a mantra as you do this. “I release, I relax, I let go”  works. Breathe slowly and deeply.

8. Think of five things that make you happy or five things for which you’re grateful.

9. Kiss somebody good-night.

10. Drift off.  Sleep well!

Having a bedtime ritual helps people fall asleep more easily.  Having a place that’s dark, warm, comfortable, and quiet helps, too.  If  there is  noise from neighbors or traffic, mask it with soft music or white noise recordings of rippling water or waves lapping.    Shut out really loud noise with earplugs.  If stress and worry are keeping you awake, remind yourself that whatever the issues are, worrying won’t resolve them. Comfort yourself that a good night’s sleep and a new day very well may. You will waken to a bright morning feeling refreshed. Have a great day!


Ponce de Leon, Fitness, & the Fountain of Youth

In Baby Boomers, Fitness, Florida, Health, Travel, Wildlife on June 21, 2012 at 4:41 am

Ponce de Leon, Fitness, & the Fountain of Youth.

Ponce de Leon, Fitness, & the Fountain of Youth

In Baby Boomers, Birding, Fitness, Florida, Health, Travel, Wildlife on June 21, 2012 at 2:31 am

Adjusting the bike to the rider for a custom fit

Ponce de Leon believed that hidden somewhere in Florida was the fountain of youth.  If, by ‘fountain of youth’, he meant that you could drink the water and remain young, he was wrong.  If, on the other hand, he meant that  you could go to Florida and recapture the physical fitness of youth, he was right.  The essential difference is that while you can’t drink your way to youth in Florida — or any place else —  there are  a number of things you can do in Florida that will stave off some of the less attractive aspects of aging.  For example, loss of muscle tone, flexibility, mobility, painful  joints (as in hips and knees), and excess weight. What’s Florida got that makes this miracle possible?  Lots of lovely weather, which makes being outdoors a very pleasant place to be; Citrus County boasts 264 days of sunshine a year.  That’s a lot of Vitamin D. Plus the fact that along the Gulf Coast, Florida is blessedly flat.  Think Citrus, Hernandez, and Pasco Counties.  Now add in recumbent bikes.  Voila! Fitness forever.

Here’s how it has worked:  Baby Boomers were the first TV generation, and among the best-educated, which allowed them to have desk jobs as opposed to working manual labor jobs. Desk jobs + TV = Sedentary . And Baby Boomers have cars which allowed them to drive to work rather than walk.  Desk jobs + TV + cars = More Sedentary.    Forgive the pun, but don’t think the Baby Boomers took all this sitting down. No, a great many of them took up jogging or running as a way of combatting a sedentary lifestyle.  While healthy exercise can be highly beneficial,  jogging on paved surfaces resulted in a startling increase in joint damage which led to a truly shocking increase in hip, knee, and ankle surgeries. A great many Baby Boomers now find themselves facing hip and knee replacements, or worse, the loss of mobility . That’s a vicious cycle that can take them right back to a  sedentary lifestyle. (I’m not even going to get into high-calorie fast-food and processed food diets, or their consequences, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and a host of other unpleasant subjects. No, we are going to stick with the solution rather than the problem here.)

The key to achieving healthy fitness is low-impact exercise. Walking briskly is one way to do it; swimming laps is another, and so is recumbent biking.

Regis Hampton, the owner of Hampton’s Edge Trailside  Bicycles, faced this dilemma after an accident left him with a  serious hip injury.  A lifelong bike builder — he started repairing and rebuilding bikes at the ripe old age of 11 — he realized he had to  find a way to build and strengthen his leg and thigh muscles without interfering with the healing of the hip bone.  He built himself a recumbent bike, and the rest is history.  The muscles healed strong and flexible, and  Hampton’s Edge Trailside  Bicycles opened its doors at 8294 East Orange Avenue in Floral City, FL (352/419-4809) along the Withlacoochee State Trail, 46 miles of paved trail that  runs through Citrus, Hernandez, and Pasco Counties.

Recumbent bikes aren’t at all like what were called ‘two-wheelers’ when I was a kid.  They’re stable, so you don’t need to wonder if you can still balance a bike.  They’re as comfortable as a good armchair, so  getting ‘saddlesore’ isn’t even an issue. They’re easy to steer.  Best of all, they’re great good fun.  The fact that recumbent bikes provide healthy, low-impact exercise is a fringe benefit to the fun.

Regis led our group, which ranged in age from 23 to pushing 70, down the Withlacoochee Trail and back, about five miles.  The Trail is part of the national Rails To Trails program, converting abandoned railroad tracks and right-of-ways  to multi-use hiking and biking trails, safe and separate  from car traffic. Lined with a full complement of Florida’s oaks (Quercus spp.), scuppernong (fox grape) vines, and roadside wildflowers, the green hedgerows function as perfect cover for birds and native wildlife.  Exotic creatures included a farmyard of llamas. Wildlife sightings ranged from a spectacular piliated woodpecker (prototype for Woody the Woodpecker) to a scattering of squirrels.

Let us pause a moment to raise a small song of praise to the squirrels and the jays. (Florida has several native jays, including the Florida Scrub Jay which is rare enough to qualify as a life list bird if you’re a serious birder.) Why praise  jays? Because they and the squirrels are nature’s foresters,  busily burying the acorns that into mighty oaks will grow, an essential element of the great North American hardwood forest, a forest  that once covered much of the eastern third of the United States.

Along the Withlacoochee Trail, a local octogenarian has devoted his retirement years to building bluebird houses that he personally sets into the center strip green space.  One box we peeked in had a nest with five eggs.

On the ride back Regis and I discussed how useful recumbent bikes  could be for our aging population in terms of  improved health, increased mobility, reduced pain,  and less expense.  While recumbent bikes must be custom-fitted to the rider, they’re still probably less costly than the panoply of prescription pain-killers and mobility devices insurance companies cover for people with joint problems.  Wouldn’t it be cool if health insurance paid for a bike that solved those problem?  And wouldn’t it be even cooler if Ponce de Leon turned out to be right since Florida really can offer the fitness of youth?

Thumbs up for recumbent biking!
Ed Caum photos