Part Two of: Health and fitness, diet and nutrition, solitude and occasional melancholy…and a really nice pair of socks

December 26, 2011 at 9:31 pm (Dance, Fitness, Mind/body)

[Click here for Part One.]

To begin with, I never expected anything good to come of my Type Two Diabetes diagnosis. Surprisingly, something did – or rather two, things. I mentioned in Part the First of this disquisition that I lost 37 pounds and kept it off. That’s the first good outcome, and I firmly believe that I’ve kept that weight off because I started – well, I discovered Zumba.

Actually, I began with basic aerobics. I was advised to get regular exercise as a way of keeping my blood sugar low, increasing bone density, and keeping both blood pressure and cholesterol at an acceptable level.. It’s done all that, and more. It has introduced me to a whole new social circle. It has made me feel much better, both physically and emotionally.

Zumba is just one of three types of fitness classes that I now attend regularly. I still go to aerobics, and I’ve also been going to Body Vive for quite some time now. Body Vive differs from the other two in that it is pre-choreographed and doesn’t depend quite so much on the instructor’s inventiveness as do the other two. But the choreography changes with each new “release,” an event that happens every three months. Body Vive is distinguished by its use of the ball, and of resistance bands rather than free weights.

At this point, body vive is not as well known as Zumba and aerobics. I don’t know why; I think it’s a terrific workout and lots of fun.

Zumba in particular has acquired so much renown that it does not need me to further elaborate on its virtues. It began as a Latin dance craze, but in the sessions I intend, other kinds of music have been worked into the routines: classic rock, Middle Eastern (including a rousing version of “Hava Nagila,” which I can’t resist singing along with, as per my ancient past), and even Indian. To wit, this captivating number called “Maahi Ve:”

(Be assured – That is NOT our dance routine!)

The original Zumba has now spawned several different iterations of itself. Click here for an enumeration of them. I’m currently doing Zumba Gold, mainly because basic Zumba proved a bit too rigorous for me. I also very much enjoy Zumba Toning:

I’ve had trouble finding a video version that approximates what I’ve been doing in the Zumba sessions I attend. Most of the videos are populated with shapely young women sporting bare midriffs, gorgeous hair, and high wattage smiles.

This one is closest to the reality I’m familiar with:

My Zumba classes have a rather remarkable mix of ages. We have a fair number of young women, some of whom are already in great shape and others who are clearly working toward that goal. (And some who have had training in dance; they’re invariably a pleasure to watch.)  A goodly number of us are in our sixties; some are in their seventies, still moving well and possessed of the necessary agility. Quite a  few of us have bonded loosely into a sort of community. We figure we’re all together in this fight to stay healthy.

I attend two different facilities for these classes. In one of them, there’s a day care for small children located just down the hall. When the little ones are collected by a parent and they go by the studio where we’re exercising, they invariably pull up short, utterly fascinated by our gyrations. It always gives us a lift and a laugh, to see their little faces pressed against the windows.

Music is a big component of these fitness classes. Its most important attribute is the beat. Admittedly, I don’t care for some of the selections, but actually I like more of it than I thought I would. I’ve enjoyed being introduced to exotic items like “Maahi Ve” (see above). And lately there have been several old favorites that it’s been a pleasure to revisit:

Here, I just have to say to my son Ben: Yes, you were right – I finally “get” this song. But I never needed convincing about The Eagles:

And I’ve long loved “Don’t Stop Believing,” sung by Steve Perry and  Journey:

One of the most important life lessons I’ve learned from my embrace of this activity is that there really is a close connection between mind and body. You’ve got to be attentive to the instructor’s directions, and you’ve got to work hard to make your body do what he or she asks you to do. To my delight, I discovered that I got better at this as the years passed.

Where instructors are concerned, I feel deeply fortunate Mine are generous, enthusiastic, warm, and caring. Deb, Deborah, Vicky, Marie, Megan, George, and Jen – Thank you for making something I thought would be an onerous chore into an activity I look forward to each week. And finally a special thanks to Zumba goddess Robin, who brought each of us socks for Christmas!

(I was unable to resist demonstrating my sock ball making technique to anyone who was interested. Their numbers were small, but they were appreciative of this neat little trick, taught to me many years ago by my sainted mother, who would do anything to make laundry sorting go faster.) 

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Health and fitness, diet and nutrition, solitude and occasional melancholy…and a really nice pair of socks

December 24, 2011 at 8:24 pm (Food, Mind/body)

  With the holiday season comes the inevitable worry of expanding waistlines and depressing weigh-ins. For me this is a year round concern, so nothing is different right now. I avoid temptation  by doing very little socializing. Actually, temptation is no longer a problem for me. I am so frightened of sweets and baked goods that I can no longer partake of them with any pleasure. This change in attitude – and believe me, it was a big, big change – occurred eleven years ago when I first found out that I have Type Two Diabetes. As the potential complications were being enumerated, my doctor got to diabetic retinopathy…and she did not need to go any further. I was scared straight, from that moment.

In fact, I was so scared, I virtually stopped ingesting carbohydrates, convinced that they were my sworn enemy, out to inflict loss of vision on the world’s most compulsive reader. This is NOT what I was advised to do. A moderate intake of carbohydrates is necessary for good health. Note the use of the word “moderate.” A dietician calculated what I should be eating along those lines; her conclusions were based on my sex and my weight. She was being reasonable; I was being terrified. I not only cut out carbohydrates, I drastically reduced fat. What was left? Mainly protein laden foods like beef, chicken, fish, and eggs, and rabbit food – sorry, salads. I quickly got sick of garden salads. I hated – and still hate – steak, though I can tolerate ground  beef. I ate numerous hamburgers (no rolls – those things are loaded with carbs), eggs, and a little cheese – strangely, the sole dairy product almost completely free of carbohydrates. I cared only about lowering my blood sugar to an acceptable (for me) level. I achieved this goal in fairly short order. In the process, in the space of a few short weeks, I lost 37 pounds.

I also lost almost all joy in the consuming of food, up until then my chief joy in the world. Eating became an activity inextricably mixed with anxiety. I was so repulsed by the food I could eat in any quantity, and so filled with longing for the food that I could eat only in minuscule amounts, that the whole enterprise began to seem pointless. I thought I’d take on cooking as a challenge but it soon began to seem like an onerous chore. (And I so missed those heaping plates of pasta!)

Eventually, I stabilized my relationship with food. There are some things I have pretty much sworn off entirely: rice, pasta, bananas, nearly all sweets, most baked goods. I knew I could not give up bread completely, so I still have it, but in very small quantity, and almost always in its multi-grain or whole wheat form.

I’ve always loved what I ate between meals much more than the meals themselves. These are the items that keep me from going crazy when desperate for something to snack on:     .  It’s probably needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway: the aforementioned can in no way take the place of the beloved and still longed for: .

Three other items are of critical importance to my eating life. In fact, they represent to high points of my day. For breakfast, I have one of the Kashi whole grain cereals. Loaded with fiber and occasionally enriched with dried fruit, the taste is one of natural sweetness (though I add Stevia anyway). This is my current favorite:   For lunch, I have a sugar free (or no sugar added) muffin baked by the excellent folks at Butterfly Bakery.   Brenda Isaac began creating these recipes in 1998 with her own mother, a diabetic, in mind: “As I shared my creations with family and friends, I realized there was a real need for these products in the marketplace.” This gifted baker also observed that”….the choices in the marketplace were unappealing and limited.” Well, Ms Isaac, all I can say is that you have earned the everlasting gratitude of this constantly-feeling-deprived diabetic!

Every night my dessert is the same: one Carb Smart ice cream bar from Breyers. Six net carbs!   (‘Net carbs’ means the number of grams of carbohydrates minus the number of grams of fiber. If you’re diabetic, fiber is your friend.)

What I really wanted to write about here is the emotional impact of all of this. Like many Type Two diabetics, I have struggled all my life to control my weight. I have gained, lost, and then gained back more pounds than I’d like to count. It was only the threat of vision loss that was powerful enough to get me on the wagon for good.

So, isn’t this a good thing? Of course it is, but it has come at a cost. I’ve made a number of discoveries since embarking on this life of Being on a Diet Forever. One is that you cannot force yourself to love broccoli. (My gorgeous, slender daughter-in-law Erica actually does love it, wouldn’t you know!)

Erica with her "little lamb," Etta Lin!

Another is that it’s the anticipation of eating something you know you love, as opposed to the actual consumption of same, that provides the major mood lift. I’d be thinking happily of settling down on my favorite soft couch reading spot with a good book and a bag of chips. Immediately thereafter I would realize with  a sharp pang that although the former was permissible, indeed desirable, the latter was not. I felt a momentary panic. Would reading, and my joy in it, still be possible without the accompanying, seemingly essential Joy Bringer? Only time would tell….

Time has told. I am reading now more compulsively than ever. And enjoying it. Loving it, really. But as for the rest of life, abstention from chips, cookies, cake, big hunks of crusty French bread, heaping bowls of pasta, rice, and French fried – French fries! – has exacted a price. If you’ve used food for mood control purposes your entire life, and then you have to stop doing that, you do suffer a kind of withdrawal, or at least, I did. You may not be as effortlessly happy as you once were. I’m not.

I have also kept off all of that 37 pounds.

I do not want this little piece to degenerate into a whining plea for pity. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have a terrific primary physician and an equally terrific husband, both of whom have been unstinting in their support. (This is the same husband whose favorite, somewhat modified article title is: “Health and Nutrition, Its Prevention and Cure.” He trots this out every time he feels annoyed at yet another lecture in writing from the food police.) I know that there are people facing far more dire challenges to their health with courage and resolve that I am almost certainly incapable of summoning.

Much more could be said on this subject, but I’d rather, at this point, move on to the fitness component. The fun factor is much greater there. Besides, I must get to work on the Boeuf Bourgignon. This dish is one of the few that I still enjoy cooking. The recipe comes from The Art of Cooking for the Diabetic. . (I’ve written about this before, in a somewhat different context.)

And so: on to Part Two, in which, among other things, the mystery of the Really Nice Socks will be revealed….

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George Sakkal has left the building – alas!

September 24, 2010 at 2:14 am (Food, Mind/body)

For about nine years, I attended an aerobics-cum-conditioning class taught three times a week by George Sakkal. I started doing this not long after receiving my diagnosis of Type Two Diabetes. In addition to drastically changing my diet, I was strongly urged to get more exercise. A better way to put that  is that I was urged to get exercise, period. Up until that time, the only parts of my body getting a workout of any kind were my hands, or more specifically, my fingers, as they turned the pages of the books I devoured. Yes, devoured… along with a generous helping of Doritos, my favorite food group. Then, a terrible reality was borne in upon me: If I wished to continue to gorging myself on these , I would have to stop gorging myself on these . This was a cruel choice to have to make, but there really was no choice. Adieu, my delicious, wonderfully crunchy Doritos… Do I still miss them? You bet I do. In fact, I’m starting to crave them as I write this.

While battling extreme chip withdrawal (along with potato and rice and pasta and bread and dessert withdrawal – pretty much everything that makes life worth living, in other words), I started going to exercise classes. And the most amazing thing happened: I began to have fun. That fun was mostly generated by exceptional teachers – like George Sakkal.

This summer, after teaching aerobics for more than twenty years, George retired. He is still in excellent health – despite some daunting challenges in the past – but he felt that it was time to pursue other passions. I’ve written about George before. In addition to being a fitness instructor, he’s an artist and musician. He’s led a varied and fascinating life.

Those of us who’ve enjoyed George’s classes over the years gave him a little impromptu send-off during his last week. We wanted to thank him for the gifts of health, perseverance, optimism, and humor that he has given us (not to mention invaluable aid in maintaining a healthy weight, at least in my case – I dropped thirty-four pounds on the new regime and have kept it off for ten years.)

Oh – and the music! George took special care in his selection of songs for our workouts. One of his favorites – “Ooh, I love this song!” he would yell out with his customary glee – is “Someday I’m Coming Back.” Here it is, sung by Lisa Stansfield.

There was always plenty of ABBA:

For the cool down, there was often Rod Stewart and his great American songbook:

I’m especially grateful for this rendition of “Once in a While” by Johnny Mathis. And this video is such an affectionate tribute to a bygone era.

Sometimes, with the lights turned down low, we would soar into the stratosphere with the likes of Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman:


A member of our group came up with this graphic to commemorate the occasion:

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From aerobics, to old – and great – songs, to perversity, to Poe: a post in which Your Faithful Blogger indulges in some free association!

November 20, 2008 at 4:06 am (Mind/body, Music, Short stories)

During this week before Thanksgiving, George, our aerobics instructor, has inserted an additional exercise for the abdominal muscles into our conditioning routine. He explains that he is doing this in an effort “to inoculate us against gluttony.” I find “abs” excruciating to begin with, but one soldiers on, nonetheless.

We were rewarded during cooldown with a delightful rendition of “I’ll take Manhattan,” sung as a duet. I recognized Rod Stewart’s raspy yet oddly compelling vocals, but I couldn’t figure out who the other singer was. To my ears, she sounded a bit like Ella Fitzgerald. Come to find out it was actually Bette Midler:

Rod Stewart’s foray into the “Great American Songbook” has been a wonderful gift to music lovers from an unexpected source.

cole-porter ellarodgersandhartsongbook Meanwhile, though, if you’ve not listened to Ella Fitzgerald singing Cole Porter and Rodgers & Hart, I recommend these albums. They are among the finest recordings of American popular song ever made.


There’s someone in our aerobics group who tends to move exactly opposite to everyone else. Either that, or she’s one or two beats behind. I find that if I’m anywhere near this person, I start following her instead of George, and I too get out of sync. Actually, my eye is drawn to her no matter where in the room she is. This happens even if there’s a room full of people who are all following the routine more or less correctly.

Now, this strikes me as a perverse act on my part. And that in turn puts me in mind of “The Imp of the Perverse,” a story by Edgar Allan Poe. It was recommended by the panelists who discussed Poe and his legacy at Bouchercon. I read it for the first time several days ago. It is one of the shorter stories, but the first few pages are taken up with the question of why individuals feel compelled to act in a manner that directly goes against their best interest. At length, the narrator offers the following summation:

“Examine these similar actions as we will, we shall find them resulting solely from the spirit of the Perverse. We perpetrate them because we feel that we should not. Beyond or behind this there is no intelligible principle; and we might, indeed, deem this perverseness a direct instigation of the Arch-Fiend, were it not occasionally known to operate in furtherance of good.

Up to this point, the story almost reads like an academic treatise, albeit an exceptionally accessible one. But then, you find out just who this narrator is…

Here’s a link to the full text. It’s a powerful, disturbing tale – especially given Poe’s own tendency to act against his self-interest, repeatedly, and, well, perversely.

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

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George Sakkal, polymath

November 2, 2008 at 2:19 am (Art, Current affairs, Local interest (Baltimore-Washington), Mind/body, Music)

The Columbia Arts Center is currently featuring the work of collagist George Sakkal. The show is entitled “The Art of War: Iraq:  Decisions from the First Year.”  On his site Sakkalarts, the artist explains that what he seeks to present in the fifteen works that comprise this exhibit is not a literal depiction of the war itself

” but rather a plethora of visual portraits and hundreds (maybe even thousands) of vignettes that interpret, analyze and evaluate the policy decisions of the Bush-Cheney Administration that resulted in the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. These policy decisions cover a time-frame spanning several months in 2002 before the invasion up to several months in 2003 following the occupation of Baghdad.”

Here, much reduced in size, are two of the collages:

Descent To Ground Zero

Descent To Ground Zero

Sinking the Ship of State

Sinking the Ship of State

The show consists of thirteen additional images; substantive explanatory material accompanies each of them. Books such as these

play a part in the exhibit.

It is an extremely thought-provoking show. The collages themselves are astonishing, all the more so when you know what this artist has had to overcome in order to be able to make them.

George Sakkal

George Sakkal

“The Art of War: Iraq: Decisions from the First Year” will be at the Columbia Art Center until November 15.


As well as being an artist, George Sakkal also plays jazz guitar. And for some of us, he is George, the aerobics instructor!

George’s classes are characterized by an aggressive approach to having fun as well as getting and staying fit. He has certain movement modules that he repeats in each class, but you never know quite when he’s going to swing into one of these time-honored routines. Thus, there’s a nice balance between repetition and variety. I’ve tried to analyze the reason why these sessions are so enjoyable – even addictive – but I have failed. I only know that whenever I’m able to attend one of them – they’re offered three times a week – it makes my day. (There are ten or twelve other people who attend more or less religiously. I think of us as “George’s groupies.”)

I’ve learned many things about the mind/body connection since taking up aerobics. When I began some eight years ago, it never occurred to hyper-cerebral me that following the routines would engage me mentally as well as physically. Let your concentration lapse – even for a few seconds – and you risk colliding with your neighbor. But when you get it right – it’s exhilarating!

In some exercise classes, the music is simply there to provide a beat to move to. But George selects his music with great care. His taste is eclectic and runs from oldies from the fifties and sixties to Caribbean to country. Not long ago he gave me a priceless gift during cooldown by playing a doo-wop arrangement of the old standard, “Once in a While,” sung by Johnny Mathis. I was immediately reminded of why I remember that style of back-up harmonizing with such affection. And Johnny’s voice – those effortless, soaring vocals! I had never heard this before; now, I can’t hear it enough. Follow this link to the video. Then just listen yourself (and enjoy the great visuals). See if you don’t want to grab someone you love and start dancing!

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All hail the ancients! (And we moderns, as we try to keep our bodies from falling apart!)

October 20, 2007 at 2:07 am (books, History, Mind/body, Mystery fiction)

sappho2.jpg apuleius.jpg I continue to enjoy the experience of traveling to and from aerobics while listening to Professor Elizabeth Vandiver of The Teaching Company as she lectures on the literature of ancient Greece and Rome. Such great mental and intellectual stimulation! Then I get to the gym and it’s all physical, all the time – I knock myself out, and then some, and have great fun in the process. To think, in my previous, pre-Type II Diabetes life – I thought exercising would be such a drag… [Pictured above: Sappho and Apuleius]

Today we kicked off the class with the song “Old Time Rock N Roll” by Bob Seger. Well, just try to stop yourself moving when that nifty little number is blasting away! I really love that song; to me, it represents the essence of what rock music at its best should sound like – pure, uninhibited joy, with an irresistible beat.

Anyway – Back to the classics! plutarch.gif ovid_lg.jpg Now that we’ve progressed to the works of the ancient Romans, I’m able to reminisce happily about my ninth grade Latin teacher Mrs. Gelber. I remember dressing up dolls in tunics and togas as she regaled us with stories of life in ancient Rome. She really made that period live for us, her lucky students! [Pictured above: Plutarch and Ovid]

saylor2.jpg saylor_roman_blood.jpg If you too have similar fond memories, or if you’re just generally fascinated by ancient history, I highly recommend Steven Saylor’s mystery series, called Roma Sub Rosa. You’d best begin with the first book, Roman Blood. Then you’ll have the other eight novels in the series ahead of you to enjoy, plus two volumes of short stories. Saylor is a scholar of the period, but the historical background always stays where it should: in the background. You’ll quickly get involved in the story of Gordianus the Finder, his complicated (and never dull) family, and his fascinating cases, which often involve the rich, the famous – and the secretive. arms.jpg rubicon.jpg

harris-robert.jpg pompeii.jpg I also recommend two novels by Robert Harris: Pompeii and Imperium. Of course, the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD is a hugely dramatic story by itself, but Harris has peopled his novel with characters both invented and historical in a way that I found convincing and absorbing. The action is seen through the eyes and experiences of the Aquarius Marcus Attilius Primus who, as his job title suggests, is charged with making sure system of aqueducts operates as it should. And indeed, it is the element of water that provides advance warning that something terrible is about to happen. (In the area around Pompeii, seismic activity and earth tremors – even earthquakes – were not unknown.) There is a scene in which the Aquarius is seated at a table with a jug of water. The surface of the water begind to ripple and tremble. I read this book when it came out four years ago, but I have never forgotten that scene, with its dreadful portents, whose meaning the reader knows all too well.

imperium.jpg Imperium is the story of Cicero’s rise to fame and prominence, as told by his amanuensis and confidant, the slave Tiro. I had trouble getting into the book at first; it moves at a more stately pace than Pompeii. I switched to the audiobook, beautifully narrated by Simon Jones. The novel became increasingly vivid and absorbing; I really loved it!

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Work for the body; food for the mind

October 6, 2007 at 3:36 pm (History, Mind/body, Poetry)

Musings on aerobics:

It is fatal to look at someone who is out of sync – you too will get out of sync along with him or her! It’s best to have an unobstructed view of the instructor. If that’s not possible, fix your gaze on another “regular” – someone who you know has the moves down. There’s a strange and interesting affect that I get if I’m doing the latter: I feel as though I am moving around in someone else’s body!

abba.jpg bocelli.jpg The music: sometimes the most banal ditties take on a new life as you move to the beat: This even includes ABBA songs!! Instructors often save the really interesting stuff for the final cool down and stretching. Sometimes the music is very New Age, with crashing surf in the background. But the other day, Geroge played an Andrea Bocelli CD that nearly had me in tears. How, I wondered, as Bocelli belted out aria after aria, can someone be unmoved by this glorious music? And speaking of the cool down…

Usually the instructor lowers the lighting or turns the lights off altogether at the end of our session. As the stretching component begins, we are lying on our backs, and so, of necessity, staring straight up. Gradually the details of the ceiling are revealed. I have been thinking lately of the singular miracle of the human eye, in particular, the way the pupils enlarge and contract. It occurred to me yesterday, while stretching my quadriceps, that we don’t take nearly enough advantage of our eyes’ remarkable capacity to adjust swiftly to differing levels of light. (Don’t ask me what I mean by that last statement because.. I’m not sure!)

Meanwhile, while coming and going from the various gyms I patronize, I have been listening to a set of lectures entitled Great Authors of the Western Literary Tradition. These lectures are produced by the The Teaching Company; the CD’s are accompanied by an excellent course guide containing outlines of the lectures and bibliographies.

Professor Elizabeth Vandiver begins the series by laying the foundation of the civilizations of the Near Eastern and Mediterranean. She goes on to discuss the epic of Gilgamesh and certain books of the Old Testament, specifically Genesis, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, and Job. (The section on Job was particularly profound and thought-provoking.) From there, we go on to the great Homeric epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey. That’s as far as I’ve gotten at this writing.

These lectures are mesmerizing! I had made a resolution that when I retired, I would go back to reading the classics. By “classics,” I had meant the great novels and stories of the 19th century; now, I am thinking of really going back – way back! Lucky the students at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, where Prof. Vandiver teaches. Her incredibly deep knowledge of classical literature is matched by her passion for it. There is nothing as galvanizing as being taught by someone who genuinely loves his or her subject. vandiver.jpg Professor – you rock!

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A precious gift, unexpected

August 24, 2007 at 12:49 pm (Mind/body)

There is an area in one of the clubs where I exercise that is quaintly called the arena. The large central area can be used for basketball or volleyball; around its perimeter there is a track for walking, jogging. or running. I like walking this track; I tend to zone out pleasantly while I am there. I especially like it when there are people in the central area shooting baskets; I like that sound, and I like the way the players flit in and out of my peripheral vision as I make my circuit.

Well, that was happening yesterday morning, and the people in question were little girls – lots of them. They were receiving what seemed to me to be fairly rigorous training in the fine art of playing basketball. They were not only shooting baskets; they were practicing ball handling techniques, doing calisthenics, etc. I particularly enjoyed watching them practice their footwork. At one point, following the instructions of their very serious and intent coach, about ten girls were jumping back and forth across a line on the court, over and over again. Their little bodies were taut with effort and concentration, while their pony tales and pig tales swung back and forth. Small groups of girls were training in various locations all over the court. They and their coaches were completely inside the process, not suspecting for a moment how enchanting they appeared to the outsider walking the track.

Then several of the girls came out of the court to do some walking. One girl came up next to me. She had a on a purple shirt with ruffled sleeves. I was going to comment, “That looks like hard work!” But her smooth little brow was furrowed in concentration, and I said nothing. She pulled ahead of me. I could not help but think of all that these girls had ahead of them. I would say that I was like them decades ago, but I never would have submitted to such a training regimen at that age. I am so very glad to see these youngsters doing this, though; among my dearest hopes for them is that they grow up strong and healthy, unplagued by the problem of overweight that his been the bane of existence for so many women of my generation. womens-basketball-2-_0021.jpg [Women’s basketball, Concordia College, Minnesota]

At any rate, these girls looked, for the most part, lean and fit – and beautiful, to my eyes.

[I was having trouble deciding on images for this post But once I saw this, I was hooked. After all, what better illustration of the “I Am Woman” theme than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I!! Follow this link for more portraits.]


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And now for something completely different…

August 21, 2007 at 3:30 pm (Mind/body)

doritos-10206.jpg I was going to call this entry “Fitness and Health,” but then I thought, people will think they’ve landed on the wrong blog. Fitness and Health??!! This, from a person whose favorite food group was – and actually still is – Doritos Nacho Flavored Tortilla Chips (though alas, I can now only admire them from afar)? A person whose idea of exercise has always been turning the pages of a really good book? Is is possible?

tolstoy.jpg golean.jpg Well, yes it is. The metamorphosis began seven years ago with my being diagnosed with Type II Diabetes and being told, among other things, that the illness could lead to blindness. Oh, great – I, who read so compulsively and relentlessly, everything from War and Peace to cereal box copy, bereft of sight! I was advised to make two major changes in my life: stop the junk food, start the exercise. At first, I was not sure I could do either, never mind both. I had eschewed, my whole life long, any form of exercise more rigorous than reaching for a bag of potato chips. Not only was I averse to it – I was contemptuous of it, I am now ashamed to admit. Give me the life of the mind any day over all that sweating and grunting!

Ah, well, that same life has much to teach us. To make a long story short, I tentatively dipped my (chubby) toes in the waters of fitness and found…joy! Yes! Once I stopped feeling like a clumsy idiot – and stopped caring if I looked like a clumsy idiot – I began enjoying myself hugely. I prefer the classes to the solitary workouts. In the classes, the energy of the group becomes a shared phenomenon – the synergy of energy, if you will. And the instructors! They have been a revelation. I had no idea the degree to which the individual personalities of the leaders affected the ambiance of the class. Utter snob that I was, I thought of these folks as automatons, merely beating time and shouting out orders. Boy was I wrong! Their enthusiasm, their preferences for certain moves and routines, their choice of music -all is highly individual, even idiosyncratic, and almost invariably interesting and fun. And I really must say a little more about the music. I worship at the shrine of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and all the rest. I particularly venerate Tchaikovsky and Mahler; I can barely listen to their powerhouse symphonies without weeping. But yes, this is the same person who moves to the beat of ABBA and ZZ Top, among others. Who would have though that “Sharp Dressed Man” would be such a great dance tune!

aerobics_class_lg.jpg I am always one who is in advance of every trend: just as the fitness world was moving on from aerobics, I discovered it. And now I would follow it anywhere! One of the great revelations for me about this type of workout routine is the degree to which takes over your mental processes. Let your mind wander even for a few seconds and you’ll find yourself about to collide with an unsuspecting fellow group member. It has happened!! You must Listen Carefully and Do What the Teacher Tells You. Is it like being back in grade school? Yes! And how refreshing, what a relief from the cares of the moment. Just tell me to do a double grapevine with a half turn in the middle and I’ll do it – gladly, and many times over!

I could go on, but you’ve probably gotten my drift. Besides, I have to leave for Total Conditioning soon. But before I go, I want to express my gratitude to the instructors at The Athletic Club and Supreme Sports. You’ve saved me in more ways than one, and have undoubtedly done the same for others as well. Thank you, THANK YOU!

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