Sunday, February 26, 2012

Routine or Rut?

I have given serious thought to my earlier blog, “Things Seniors Need” from October 15, 2011 when I wrote that Seniors need a schedule, things to do, they need to keep busy.  My schedule then consisted of going to work, going to the health club a few times during the week, Friday night dinners out and weekends of whatever came up.  More of a rut than a routine.

Over the last several months I have unconsciously developed a more productive routine.  The dictionary definitions of routine could apply to my activities a few months ago or now.  Merriam Webster defines routine in an ordinary way: regular, repeatable, and mechanical.  My thought then and now is that developing a life routine would give purpose and pleasure to my activities, allow them to be productive and be flexible to accommodate change.  Both results and the activity should be productive and satisfying.

Yes, going to work everyday can be a rut to some degree.  Shopping Saturdays is an activity that I avoid whenever I can.  Getting up early on a Saturday morning to write a personal blog doesn’t seem important.  Getting up early on Sunday mornings to take a long walk can be difficult at times.  But each activity produces a meaningful end result. 

Work gives me a chance to be productive in an organization that provides a meaningful service.  I get to interact with my co-workers and clients, use years of experience from several previous careers, and derive a feeling of self worth.  Did I mention I get paid which allows me to go on vacations, enjoy my family, have dinners out on Friday night and feel secure for the years ahead?

My after work and weekend walks make me feel young, energetic and healthy.  While moving on the treadmill or on a path I tune out the distractions and the problems of the week seem to slip away.  I just know it is good for me.  During the walk I can calm my mind of the noise of life (no music or TV sound allowed) and think.  Thinking is actually part of my writing process.  Thinking time without a computer, pen or paper is essential.  While I walk I am focusing my mind on a specific concept or idea.  Random thoughts work their way in and out.  A word or idea rattles around for the later process of expanding the idea into more than just a few sentences.

Shopping must have some worth, but I find that shopping it is not pleasant.  Perhaps if I give it a lot of thought I might be able to put a positive twist on shopping, a LOT of thought.  Not today.  Today is for the blog; more accurately this morning is for the blog and watching the birds swarm around the feeders that hang on my patio.

Rather than try to squeeze in time whenever I can to blog I have gravitated to getting up at 6:30 am on Saturday to put the idea of the week onto paper (actually a computer), but paper sounds more “writer-like.”  The Saturday morning routine is working.  A scheduled item has priority.  Of course, I fed the dog and enjoy a fresh brewed cup of coffee first.  I am at the kitchen table now with my laptop; the blinds are open letting the light of a gray morning seep in and fleshing out whether I am in a routine or a rut. 

Ruts have no value or purpose.  Routines produce results.  This morning I drafted the blog and then went to a local farmer’s market to people and dog watch with Iris.  Later we located and photographed a wonderful example of public art in San Antonio, a large outdoor mural gracing a church featuring Martin Luther King. 

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As usual we found an old time Mexican restaurant and enjoyed migas and huevos rancheros.  Three activities (blogging, eating Mexican breakfast and photography) enjoyed in one morning, what more can I guy ask for? 

Last minute update:  I went to the health club late Saturday afternoon on the spur of the moment and walked 5K at a fast past.  We went out to dinner with friends.  We stayed up late, slept late and I missed my Sunday morning walk.  My routine is flexible.  But one thing I do know is that we’ll go out again for huevos rancheros this morning after I post this blog.  

Life is great if going for out Mexican breakfast on weekends is a rut.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Walking and Writing Goal Updates (Changes)

No sooner than I posted my last blog, which was filled with boasts of my intentions to test race walking and with anticipation of upcoming race walk training sessions, than an email came with notice of the informal training session’s cancellation.  The weather forecast had gotten worse.  But in typical San Antonio fashion the threat was worse than the reality.  It was cold the next morning, but no precipitation.   The rain, sleet, freezing rain and snow missed us.  I went to health club instead to walk on the treadmill and then met Iris for breakfast.  Going out for a good plate of huevos rancheros after the workout lessened my disappointment and was a much more pleasurable learning experience.  Lesson one: plan B is sometimes more enjoyable in the short term.
I did meet the guru of local race walking on Wednesday night and commenced my first training session.  No one else showed up and I enjoyed the benefits of a one-on-one lesson.  Without going into details the guru spoke and I listened, he walked and I followed, and most importantly I learned.  Any activity is best learned under the tutelage of a good teacher, the real challenge is finding a good teacher.  I may have found the guru of race walking; the question now becomes am I a good student.

Today was class two.  I showed up early to get the lay of the area; not surprisingly the guru was already present and had been at the university campus long before I arrived.  Again I was the sole attendee and the next 45 minutes we walked and talked alone.  Observations about health, exercise, and race walking were the morning’s lessons.  My technique needs work, my general conditioning needs work, and my personal training goal has yet to be articulated.  Perhaps, I will continue as am doing now, or add more regular 5K walks and events, and possibly the addition of a longer event.  Is a half-marathon length walk possible?  I have decided not to decide until after the Texas Senior Games at the end of March.  Barring injury or inclement weather I will participate in both the 5K Race Walk for technique work and the 5K Road Race for time.  Wish me luck.

For now my routine and goals are flexible.  If I can’t write Saturday (those reasons will be written about soon), Sunday will work.  If the weather is too bad for an outdoors walk I’ll go to the health club instead.  But always have huevos rancheros for breakfast, which I did after my walk with my wife Iris at one of our favorite local restaurants.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


In my October 15, 2011 blog I wrote about Things Seniors Need. Once after that I wrote about one of those things in greater detail (finding a good book). Today I will touch upon another item from that list: having goals.

Goals combine present actions with a future result. Sometimes the future result is just next week, next month or it can be next year or beyond. Goal implementation also involves many steps along the way and a plan implemented by personal effort to achieve that goal. And the realization that detours, obstacles and potential changes will occur.

After one of my early January 5K walks at the Jewish Community Center health center I came home to a waiting email. It was the announcement and registration link to the Texas Senior Games (aka Senior Olympics). I immediately registered for two events, both of which I sounded similar and familiar and events that I believed I could complete. One event was the 5K Racewalk and the other the 5K Roadrace. I completed an on-line registration form, entered my credit card information and bingo I had a goal of participating in the Texas Senior Games. Easy, or so it seemed.

My euphoria was reinforced when a Google search of past event results revealed that I had a chance of coming in 10th place in my age bracket. Not bad considering I never Racewalked or Roadraced competitively before. That euphoria was short lived when I discovered that Racewalking is an event that has rules and later learned that judges could disqualify the walker. Was I going to walk 5K and then find out my efforts might not count?

Roadracing was a different event. It was running, walking, shuffling or even crawling. Just start and get to the finish line. This was definitely an event I had done and could do again. In the back of my mind I still was intrigued by the Racewalk event. Now I had to decide if I was going to find out what Racewalking is or just forget about it. The goal of participating in the Senior Olympics had expanded beyond just the event to a search for information.

Soon after realizing that Racewalking was a unique event there was an email informing me of a Racewalking clinic scheduled for early February. Timing is everything. No need to decide now. A plan now began to develop. Needless to say I attended the clinic and learned more about the technique and perhaps more importantly I learned some of the advantages of Racewalking over running. Part of the clinic included information about a local Racewalking group that had training sessions. Normally they conduct two training sessions per week; one session is early on a Sunday morning and the second on a Wednesday evening. Both times suited my schedule and I planned to attend a few of the training sessions before the March Senior Olympics. Now the goal was expanded to include attendance at these training sessions.

The ultimate goal is not really to participate in the upcoming Senior Olympics but to maintain a healthy lifestyle and possibly include Racewalking as part of that lifestyle. As I look out my kitchen window writing this blog I realize that having a routine (another one of my things a senior needs) has crept into my life without realization. I write blogs on Saturday mornings, exercise after work regularly and now possibly add Racewalk training on Sundays and Wednesdays.

My resolve to walk Sunday and Wednesday this week is soon to be tested. Sunday’s forecast is cold and rainy, and Wednesday’s forecast is rain.

I hope to blog in late March about my successful Racewalk and Roadrace experiences. Otherwise, I’ll write about changing goals (the wimp’s way out).

KISS: Kick in Steady Stride.

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Father Knows Best

Father Knows Best.  But only in the 50’s and 60’s world of radio and TV sitcoms.  Robert Young played the father who would come home from work and solve the family’s problems.  He’d offer advice and the show would have a happy ending.  The show and others like it portrayed an ideal world that never existed, then or now.  Father Knows Best took place in the Springfield, I wonder if it is the same Springfield of the Simpsons.  We know that the Simpsons are pure fiction, but many of us grew up watching Father Knows Best and believed that the family’s problems would be solved in 30 minutes or less.
My father came home with problems that as a pre-teen I didn’t know existed.  I remember getting our first car (used) and a TV well after all my friends.  My mother worked, none of the other mothers worked.  I lived on the wrong side of Clinton Avenue during high school and was clueless as to how the “other” side lived.  Many years later I told an acquaintance that we were so poor I didn’t even know what I missed growing up.  My father’s problem was a gambling debt that created financial hardships that caused my mother to work at a time when most women stayed home.  Even after this situation was eliminated my mother continued to work as hedge against future problems.
There were many other fathers who came home drunk, violent, depressed or with an assortment of work or life related problems.  Granted many came home just tired from a long hard day at work.  They brought these problems home with them with little expectation of a waiting solution.  These fathers come home to problems and didn’t have a clue how to solve them. 
Mothers never come home in either fantasy Springfield.  Many women of that era stayed at home with problems and struggled with them.  Solutions are elusive and we hope for someone to show up with wisdom and a quick solution.   
Life is full of problems.  Problems can’t be pushed away.  If left unresolved they can grow into monsters that rule our lives.  Rather than wait for a knight in shinning armor we need to face them ourselves.  We can seek assistance or advice but we must face life and what comes with it.  Life belongs to us.  It is our life and we are responsible for resolving the issues.  Sometimes we can fix things, other times we need to adjust and accept.  We need the foresight to figure when to hold or fold. 
I prefer to replace the word “problems” with life situations which sounds less ominous and some what more hopeful.  It may sound like I am fantasying life with my hopeful and upbeat attitude.  Iris sometimes thinks that I ignore issues and hope they go away.  Perhaps on occasion that is true but I think that I know things will work out, in my own 50’s vision of Father Knows Best.
KISS:  Keep inventing skillful solutions.  

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