Saturday, March 31, 2012

Texas Senior Games Update and Goals

In my February 11, 2012 blog I promised a late March update of my participation in the Texas Senior Games. I want to share the results of that effort and expand my thoughts about goals from February’s blog.

Goals should be realistic first of all and meaningful. Failure and disappointment are inevitable if the goals are unobtainable or have no personal value or reason. My initial goal was to participate in the 5K Racewalk and 5K Roadrace. After a few training sessions in Racewalking I decided not to continue that event. Tennis and racquetball are similar but mastery of either involves somewhat different skills. So it is with Racewalking and Roadracing; the techniques are different and I felt that I needed to concentrate on one style, rather than two. I took the easier path (appropriate pun for walking or road racing). The road race only requires the racer to finish (running not required), perfect for my level of training and conditioning. 

Bib Number
This proved to be a good decision. I originally had two basic goals: one was to finish and the second goal was to finish in forty minutes (my best unofficial previous time was 41.5 minutes). My official race time for the Texas Senior Games was 40 minutes and 12 seconds; this was close enough since I stopped once to grab and drink a cup of water. The truth is I finished last in my age group but more importantly my personal goal was achieved. I wasn’t racing against others; I was racing for my own health and self-esteem.

What do you want to do? Do you want to finish a quilt you started months ago, reorganize the kitchen, take a vacation, clean the garage, build a gazebo or do something else? Articulate your desire and proceed to step two.

The second step of goal reaching is to layout the steps needed to achieve the goal, whether it is a race or any other life goal. In my case the plan was to walk three or four times a week and at least one of those walks to be a 5 kilometers long effort. Action items on the road to achievement are needed: items for today, the week ahead, the upcoming months and the year. Sometimes larger goals need milestone events along the path to attainment. Creating and implementing a plan is essential. Write the goal down and the major steps required. If it is obtainable and meaningful creating the written plan should be easy.

Reaching My Roadrace Goal
Goals may change or the plan adjusted because conditions and circumstances change. Most weeks I made plans around my weekly training sessions. When there was a significant conflict I altered my training schedule to fit. Rigid schedules are unnecessary obstacles because things happen. Life happens. 

People are social creatures and having a partner is a plus. My wife was an encouraging partner, my personal cheerleader. She knew my schedule and worked around it, without complaint and would sometimes accompany me on my weekend long outdoor walks. My niece gave me advice from time to time; she lent me her GPS training watch for the 5K Roadrace and met me at the course on race day. She helped set my pace and encouraged my efforts. Writing is a solitary activity but all writers have friends and colleagues to review and help them with their work. Teams have coaches. College students have study groups and advisors. Life is a partnership with others. If you want to take that dream vacation find someone to make the plans with, share the required tasks, set deadlines or just call your travel agent.

Recognition of achievement is important. My wife, sons and niece have remarked during the past two months how proud they are of my training efforts. On race day hugs and kisses waited for me at the finish line. Other runners cheered each participant as they crossed the finish line and their times were announced. Peer recognition was an unexpected and heartwarming surprise at the end of my initial foray into the Texas Senior Games.

Now I look ahead and plan to continue the walking regime as part of my regular routine. I am looking ahead to May and a probable 5k charity walk. My goal is to finish in less than 40 minutes and get one or two others to participate with me. A new plan is needed if I want to reach my new race goal. I’ll now proceed to step 2, creating a plan.

I heard a quote that if you stop someone will run you over. That noise behind you is encouragement to keep moving.

KISS: Kick in Steady Strides.

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Good News. Coffee is Good for You.

How many times have you been told to cut back on your caffeine intake or reduce the amount of stress in your life? Were you ever told to control your temper? Or to be happy, get over it. Take your vitamins. At this stage in our lives I would venture to guess that we’ve lost track of the number and just accept these axioms as fact. Senior Citizens are constantly warned about diet, exercise and general issues that seem to put unnecessary restraints on our lifestyle.

Good news, a recent Women’s Day article (9 Bad Habits) states that some of these Don’ts can actually be good for us. Halleluiah! Google the story for the complete list; it’s on the Internet and therefore true (just ask anyone under thirty for their source of information). The article lists nine bad habits with brief reasons why they may actually be good.

All these years we’ve felt guilty when we’ve either indulged or skipped them. Or have been miserable when we’ve not had that morning cup of regular, full-strength coffee on doctor’s orders. Now the good news is that caffeinated coffee is a legal, mood altering drug. We don’t have to sneak a cup on the way to work, or buy on the black market from a dealer. Three cups a day can lower depression by 15%, gives an energy boost and contains antioxidants. Healthy? Who knew? Certainly not the last batch of physicians I’ve used. My wife and I believe that coffee can act as an appetite suppressor. What more can a person ask of a drink? Is it covered by my health plan’s drug plan?

I must confess that I fell off the decaf bandwagon about two years ago. And it now feels good that my action has been vindicated. At our house we have two coffee systems: one Mister Coffee and one Keurig single cup brewer. Mister Coffee brews decaf for the late night cup and for iced coffee during the day. The single cup brewer is for my morning cup of regular with breakfast and a second cup for the drive to work. These two cups are often followed much later at work with a third cup to give me a mid-day surge of energy.

Coffee is one of life’s best simple pleasures. A well brewed cup smells great with a heavenly olfactory sensation delivered before the cup reaches the lips. Anticipation heightens the pleasure. The taste changes as the cup is drunk and starts to cool off. I can have it hot or iced, black or with cream, but never without a sweetener. A pound of ground coffee can eliminate odors if stored in a paper bag in the offensive area or put in a refrigerator that will be off and closed during moving. A true multi-purpose item.

We now know that wine and chocolate are also good for you. But that statement comes with a disclaimer, indulge these with moderation. Recently we’ve read stories or seen on the TV news that many processed vegetables can become contaminated in the factory or by wild animals in the fields and can cause serious illnesses. And all these years I’ve believed my mother: eat your vegetables they are good for you and you’re too young for coffee.

Excuse me while I pour myself another cup of coffee to go with a piece of Iris’ delicious, homemade chocolate cake (see March 18 blog).

KISS: Kaffeine is Simply Spectacular

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Cake is Calling

Lent, Yom Kippur and Ramadan (LYR) share a common ritualistic component despite the obvious theological differences.  Achievement of a spiritual goal is reached through self-denial.  Humans possess a trait that animals don’t; we can delay immediate pleasure for other non-tangible gain. 

LYR occur for brief periods of time and end with the resumption of normal life.  We give up something pleasurable for a period of time or fast entirely for a single day and feel better because of that action.  The difficulty of the LYR self-denial period is eased and shared making it palatable as a communal effort.

We can drill down these actions to our daily lives, stripped of religious significance.  We can go on diet to loose weight for health or image reasons.  We can exercise for the same purposes.  We can pass up making a purchase today waiting for the sale or the next model, or trying to decide if we really need the coveted item.  We give up something today for an intangible tomorrow.  Lots of “we’s” in that paragraph but meant in the singular “I”.

Some of these tasks are easy and others are more difficult.  Part of the problem comes from the personal nature compared to the communal structure of LYR.  Sometimes we don’t see the value in our efforts; whereas, in the LYR model there is our God view of the world and the perceived consequences of failure, or at least not trying.  Or peer pressure to conform to specific behavior expectations.

I contend that if we value our lives and actions then we must internalize the importance of our actions for our own benefit and not contingent on external spiritual reward.  Inner spiritual awareness is the motivation to remaining on the diet, continuing to exercise or act with financial self-control.  The voice in our head is us, not some higher power. 

Of course I hear a voice calling me to go to the freezer for a piece of my wife’s delicious chocolate cake.  Some days I hear the call; on other days I remember that my wife is saving the cake for company and her voice is the one that matters most.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Quirky Random Thoughts

Facebook is the party-line from years ago. Everybody knows your business.

Why go to your high reunion when you could meet on Facebook with pictures from twenty years ago?

Returning soda and milk bottles for the deposit money was the original form of recycling.

Do you remember trick or treating without your parents lurking nearby?

Did you ever ride a bus as a child without an adult?

When was the last time you sent a handwritten letter or note to someone? (My 90 year Aunt still does)

Can you still go to the library and get a question answered?

Did you ever ask a young relative how to do something on your smart phone?

When I was ten my father sent me to the tobacco shop for his favorite blend, now he’d be under investigation for child abuse.

I had a scooter made from a wooden crate and old roller skate wheels as a child.

My first bike had no gears.

Do you remember round TV screens? Wasn’t the test pattern beautiful?

Oreo cookies are a 100 years old.

Remember tube testers?

Remember when the post office changed from zones to zip codes.

My favorite street in Galveston Texas is “O and ½.” Not quite P.

What is Ovaltine?

Is penmanship still taught in schools? Push/pulls?

Did you ever hitchhike or pickup a hitchkiker? Would you let your grandchildren do it?

Did you ever have your feet X-rayed at a shoe store?

The ideal apartment had cross ventilation.

Read both the morning and evening editions of the same newspaper.

I lived at home until I got married.

Sit in the balcony of a movie theater.

Feel free to comment on any of these thoughts or add your own quirky ones.

Today I am at the Crop Walk, is that like Crop Circles?

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

When will I be Old?

March 7, 2012 Update
5k Crop Walk

On Sunday, March 11, I will be participating in my first charity 5K walk. I mentioned to friend who happens to be the Executive Director of an agency that provides funding for Senior activities that I would be participating in the Senior Olympics. His organization had fielded a team in an upcoming Crop Walk (an event to fight hunger) and his agency would also receive a percentage of the money raised. The funds raised for his organization would be minimal but the overall amounts donated to local and nationwide organizations would be significant. He asked me to participate in the Crop Walk.

At that moment I couldn’t say no. I signed up the next day and also managed to get a few friends to donate to my team goal. Sunday will be a bonus day: raising money for a worthwhile cause, exercise, and chance for some good photographs. My friend probably won’t be able to participate because of bad knees but he’ll be there along with my wife cheering us and all the others in the event.

When Will I be Old? (March 4, 2012)

My normal pattern of using the Internet as a research tool and following links to reputable web sites found me downloading an article this week from the American Psychological Association (APA) titled “Practitioners Working with Older Adults.” While this article is meant for mental health professionals I found it very enlightening. This article is a source of inspiration for this blog, and probably more in the future.

I was drawn to several sections of interest. Initially, I was attracted to the breakdown of older adults into three categories: younger-old (65-75), older-old (75-85), and oldest-old (85+). This contrasts with the public view AARP promotes; AARP membership starts at 50 years of age. When I was 20 years old anyone over 40 was old; as the years went by my definition of old changed. Now that I am almost 68 years of age my definition continues to shift. I like the APA category I am in now because it has the word “younger” in it. I know that I am not middle-aged and I don’t feel like a senior citizen or an old gezzer. I am a “YOUNGER-old,” according to the APA. If that isn’t an Oxymoron I don’t know what is.

This classification validates my current my mind set. I am young. I walk 2 plus miles several times a week, work every day, don’t go to Senior lunches, or participate in any event labeled “Senior.” Wait a minute; I forgot that I am registered for the March Texas SENIOR Games. To my chagrin I am old, but with the modifier of “younger.”

The term “younger-old” gives me another 7 years until I reach “older-old.” Maybe by then the shifting or expanding definitions will change. One can only hope to be around until then to find out.

The article goes on to state that many older adults don’t even label themselves as old.  Age categories are meaningless as long as Seniors (me included) are active, participating and contributing self-perceived value to society.


Of course, I will still ask for Seniors and AARP discounts whenever I can or remember.

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