Thursday, September 22, 2011

Long Road to Life Style Changes (Part 3 Final)

Lessons Learned from Second 5K Walk Event

Three weeks ago I went to the park again with my wife, son, niece and assorted children. The kids ran the half mile and the mile courses. My wife, son and niece joined the kids on the mile run. I saved my energy for the 5K course. I waited patiently for over an hour for the warm-up events to finish.

Just as the runners were lining up for the 5K event my niece (and pace setter) announced that it was too late for her, she had to get the kids home and get to an eleven o’clock appointment. A moment’s disappointment, then the start was announced.

There were two lessons learned Saturday. The first was act, don’t waste time thinking. There was no time to consider possibilities or alternate plans. No time to think or cajole my son to go with me. I was there to walk/slog a 5K course and that was what I would do. I don’t remember when I started to slog, but I slogged intermittently during the first mile. A group of young teens and their youth leader formed a pact just in front of me; once or twice I passed them during one of my early slogs. Then I would fall back, but they were always just ahead.

It was a very hot and humid morning and the middle section of the course was on a park road, not on the interior paths and the heat began to sap my energy. But I managed to maintain a good walking pace despite more runners passing me. Several glances back spurred me on.

Just Yards from Finish Line

I was not last. As it turned out the participant right behind was a young man pushing a stroller. At one point he wife came back and joined him. Then further behind him was a man I passed very early on and had chatted with briefly. He was a race volunteer and 72 years old. Later I reviewed a picture that my son took of me near the finish line and discovered another participant behind me. Perhaps there were more even further back.

The second lesson I learned was that in races (and in life) there is always some ahead of you and always someone behind you. Perhaps you can catch the ones ahead or allow them to outdistance you; or allow the ones behind to run you over or leave them in your rear view mirror.

How you view your position is a matter of attitude. At least for races my outlook is to catch the one runner ahead me. He or she has a target on their back. The ones behind are out of sight and out of mind.

This time my 5K time was 41 minutes and 40 seconds. Much better than the first try just four weeks ago. The group of teens I had slogged behind very early in the run waited for me at the finish line; they, along with my wife and son, cheered me on as I crossed the finish line and rewarded me with a bottle of Gatorade.

See you next month at the park. Keep moving.
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Monday, September 19, 2011

Long Road to Life Style Changes (Part 2)

First 5K Outdoor Walk Event
Recently, with my niece’s encouragement and guidance, I found myself a local park on a Saturday morning participating in an organized 5K Walk / Run event.  My youngest son joined us and the next stage of my exercise regime began.  According to my marathon running niece I walked at a good pace and I even managed to shuffle along a few times.  Not quite a jog, but certainly not a walking pace.  We finished the course less than fifty minutes.  Not too shabby for my first outdoor attempt.  Of course, another 67 year old man ran past me.  (He earlier told us he started running at 64, and had completed four marathons).  Rather than depressing me, his performance gave me a little mental boost.  This run began six months ago and took less than an hour.  But it was a significant milestone in my changing health efforts.
Before the Event

Monday found me back on the treadmill; however, at that session I mixed walking and jogging.   Twice more that week I repeated the same routine.  These two sessions resulted in a two mile distance, of which I probably ran a half a mile.  Business or personal events that cause me to miss a day are just slight interruptions.  Missing a day doesn’t mean stopping. 

I looked at the event schedule for the local running club and decided to participate in another 5K event.  I plan to shuffle, jog or drag myself about one third of the course.  I have four weeks to get ready.   

My wife decided that she too needed to add exercise to her health improvement efforts.  She too started a treadmill routine at the health club and is determined to continue. 

My simple goals of basic diet and exercise changes created an unintended consequence.  My wife and I occasionally walk together.  We have another common activity to share.  Having a partner in lifestyle change programs is an important factor with its success.    

I’ve redoubled my diet commitment and my exercise regime will be reexamined.  I don’t believe that a marathon is in my future, but certainly more 5K events and perhaps longer distances lay in the road ahead.  Longer and faster, and simple has proved successful so far.

Look for a progress report soon.  In the meantime my advice is to KISS.  Keep it Simple Seniors.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Long Road to Life Style Changes (Part 1)

Taking the First Steps (to a 5K)

I was more than fifty pounds overweight and led a mostly sedentary life style with a few burst of activity that left me stressed. Body mass index charts rated me obese. As my 67th birthday neared, I decided to improve my health through diet and exercise changes. Not withstanding that my past efforts generally failed or had limited success, I knew that changes were needed. Previous attempts at lifestyle changes were limited to exercise or diet only; this time I embraced both simultaneously.

My two part program for change started in February. At first, I cut out desserts, excessive amounts of carbohydrates at dinner and late night snacks. I had no problems controlling breakfast, lunch and daytime snacks and meals. Dinner and late night snacks were my weaknesses. But I managed to bring these under control and I actually added fresh fruit to my diet and eliminated junk food lunches. My modest efforts began to pay off; I lost eleven pounds the first month.

Shortly after my feeble start, my wife joined Weight Watchers and I reaped the benefits of her efforts. Within a short period of time we began to lose weight consistently. Having a partner in this effort helped us succeed. I must give her credit for the careful planning that is required to have a successful diet program; she certainly paid more attention to the diet program than my merely portion size approach. She knows the values of carbohydrates, fat, protein and fiber components in our meals and the relationship of each in the Weight Watcher point system far better than me.

Rather than start a complex exercise program, I decided to start simple. I would just walk. No machines, weights, formal classes or ridiculously early morning sessions would be part of my program. The Jewish Community Center health center became my first stop after work two or three times a week. I added one day on the weekend and soon found myself in a regular routine.

The walks started with a mile in twenty minutes and I gradually increased both my total time and pace. My walking time increased to almost 40 minutes and over two miles by April. I added a little more time and reached the three-mile mark with ease on the weekends. Often I go twice on the weekend and on occasion I managed to squeeze in a forty-five minute walk during the week.

Both approached to a healthier life style began to show great results. In six months I have lost over thirty pounds and my walking distances are considerably longer.

Not me and not to scale, and I have more hair.

In addition to the measurable results, I feel better. My pants are falling off, my double chin is almost gone and my gut has shrunk. I have always slept well, but now I sleep even better. Soon, I must make the formerly dreaded visit to the mall for new clothes; I now actually look forward to this trip because I will go down in size, not up.

Look for a progress report soon. In the meantime my advice is to KISS. Keep it Simple Seniors. More on this effort in a few days.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

What age do you want to be?

“I wish I was young again’” is a frequent lament most of us have either heard or said at one time or another.  If we hadn’t said it, we thought it, wished for it or perhaps even prayed for it.  Sometimes we wish for the things other people have: their car, their house, their job or their latest gadget.  We usually never want to be them; what we really want is to be our old selves again, to be young again.  Wishing to be young again is natural.  We want to turn back the clock.  The question is how far back?  What age do you want to be?
High school was an uneventful time and place for me.  My family came from the wrong side of the track, or rather the wrong side of Clinton Avenue.  Most of my classmates were from middle class families who owned small businesses or were mid-level professionals and some were the offspring of fairly wealthy families with who I had little in common with.  In addition, I entered high school in the tenth grade; most of my new classmates came from a different junior high school and started high school as ninth graders.  Many of my junior high classmates went to a different high school filled with the children of working class families; crazy school boundaries made me an outsider.  However, a few of my really good friends from junior high school made the same trek to the other side of Clinton Avenue with me; those good friends made up for the lack of a wider group of close classmates. On the positive side I received an excellent education which laid the groundwork for my acceptance into Rutgers University and other institutions later.
Warren Lieberman
US Army 1964
In my early twenties I joined the army.  While it was a great experience, the male communal life style and bursts of youthful adventures (or rather misadventures) didn’t suit my personality and I’d rather not repeat that experience.  Some forty-five years later only one friend from the army remains in contact with me.  I married my girl friend, who waited while I served out my enlistment, and returned to college after my three years in the army.Being a married college student meant I was either going to class, studying, working part-time jobs or living the usual life of a low income married man with ample tuna casserole dinners.  There was one year between my graduation from college and the birth of our first son that was ideal.  A few years later the birth of our second son enlarged our family and we moved 1500 miles from our lives in New Jersey to Texas.  My military experience and life as a married college student created a strong work ethic that continues to the present day.  The greatest wonderment of this time was my marriage and the birth of two sons.  Those years were essential to my development as a mature, productive person, and laid the foundation for a strong, loving long marriage.
From thirty to my mid-forties I was either worked sixty plus hours a week, or barely made ends meet, and raised a young family.  I think we went on one vacation to Disney Land during this time.  The four of us packed into our station wagon for over a week.  Our car needed a serious cleaning when we returned home; week old food wrappers, soda bottles, and worse will cause strange odors to permeate inside.  One of my sons has no memory of the trip, my oldest son and I only have a few clear recollections but my wife remembers every ride and our reunion with friends from New Jersey.  While daunting times, these years strengthened our family bonds which are still vibrant today.  I came home every night to a warm home, a hot meal, helped my kids with homework and held my wife tight for fear of losing a good thing.
Not our station wagon!
My children grew up and created lives for themselves, and my married life seemed ideal as the late forties hit.  I worked at a great job, took a few vacations, and spent time at wonderful conventions with a side benefit of taking my wife with me.  Again, I endeavored in a sixty plus hour a week position, with meetings and calls seven days a week.  Community respect came with this work and a large measure of internal reward.  Major surgeries made my wife and I experience the frailties of life.  Thankfully, we both recovered.  I guess I had a late-mid life crisis because in my mid fifties I moved on to another satisfying position.  When I remember the good times I think I want to be fifty again.    
Now at sixty-seven I still work full time and love it.  My children live nearby and my wife is reading next to me while I pound away at the computer keyboard.  We’ve gone on thirteen cruises in the last seven years.  We both have active lives of work, volunteer activities, friends and hobbies.  Life is great.  I pray that it continues.
Each of the different periods of time in my life had pluses and minuses; each period built on the previous experiences and that carried me along life’s journey.  As I reflect on the great memories and wonderful times past I don’t want to relive them, not out of disappointment, regrets or thoughts of lost opportunities but with expectations of new and exciting times yet to come.
I wish to stay sixty-seven, except without two a.m. bathroom calls and the aches and pains in the morning.
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Friday, September 2, 2011

Linda: The Musical Realtor

“Exciting, unpredictable, creative, absurd, confident, reflective, don’t look back, and fun” could be words pulled from the review of a new musical just opening in New York. I can’t wait to see it, sounds wonderful. But wait, those words aren’t from a review. They are Linda Kaufman’s own words about her life today. Or they could be phrases used to describe Linda. I met with Linda recently to talk about her life for this blog and I came away with a greater insight into her personality than I could have ever imagined.

I became involved with Linda on a professional level when she volunteered to be the pianist at our synagogue’s casual style High Holy Day Services in the early 1990’s. Linda was to play an original song she wrote for our youth choir for the new style morning service and act as music director. The music was beautiful and inspiring when Linda played the songs and music written for the service. From this awesome start our friendship and sometimes adversarial relationship grew. Linda then was in her mid fifties. At that time she was really just getting started with her local run as a piano teacher, humor columnist and play director.

She went on to co-produce a number of dramatic plays and lively musicals at the synagogue. They were mostly original productions that utilized her talents and the talents of synagogue members in exciting productions that ran several times a year for a week or two. During this time my position as administrator of the synagogue put me in close contact with Linda and the other players, sometimes cordial, sometimes not. But they finally converted me to their cause and I eventually participated in one production (a minor reading part in a serious production). If you can’t beat them, join them is an old cliché that snared me into Linda’s troupe.

Nothing remains the same. The only constant in life is change and so Linda’s life took a dramatic shift in 2007. Her third husband, Al, informed her that they had serious financial problems and that there would be a dramatic drop in their income. Linda’s sole income came from her piano lessons, not nearly enough for both of them. Al is much older than Linda and was in no position to return to the work force. Her first husband, father of her children, was a scoundrel and they divorced. Her second husband died in an auto accident that seriously injured Linda. Now Al is struggling with financial setbacks. Others might be broken or depressed and have difficult times ahead. This could have happened to Linda, but a fortunate opportunity came to her at the right moment. A casual acquaintance, a successful female realtor, told her she was “waiting for her.” The rest is a story-book success tale; Linda took real estate classes that summer and received her real estate license. By the fall she was working as a realtor.

Linda possessed high expectations from the start; she reached and exceeded those goals right from the beginning.

With practical help and leads from her family she sold three homes during her first year; now four years later she lists homes with a total value of four million dollars and sold seven houses during the first half of 2011. I am sure there were doubters when she started her new career as to the wisdom of her decision to relegate piano lessons to a minor role. Her positive attitude gave Linda the confidence to know she would be successful, but her definition of success has changed in four short years. She would not be satisfied with three sales in a year now, unless they were million dollar sales. Al told her when the got married he wished he had a product to sell because she could sell anything. She was very persuasive and a natural salesperson.

Linda believes that everyone should have goals and dreams, even if they are absurd. She admits that is not easy being a realtor but she utilizes years of other experiences and her keen people skills to make her new career choice a slam dunk. She loves that every day is different, every home is different, and each buyer or seller has a uniqueness that makes her happy to get up in the morning and see what challenges await. Each day brings excitement and passion that makes that day the best day of her life, until the next day.

Linda harbors no doubts about her life now. Linda is very reflective about her life and in her yet unpublished memoir, “What’s a Nice Jewish Girl Doing in a Place Like This”, she recounts her life as a spiritual journey rather than a series of events. She is confident everyday and sees no end in sight.

When I asked her about what else she would do or if she was considering any vacations she answered quite frankly. First, she told me she would love to transform one of her musicals into an animated movie and has ideas for implementation of that project. She went on to add that the idea of travel and vacations is fascinating but she’s not interested in any trips unless she could take her entire family with her; she was bored on a recent cruise. Her ideal mini-vacation would be an evening out to a wonderful restaurant, with good company, a bottle of wine and a night of thoughtful conversation. In fact, that evening she was having her children, grandchildren and perhaps a few others for dinner and was rushing back to work before going home to prepare a sumptuous meal for the happiest day of her life, today.

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