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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cyndi Springford: UNPLUGGED

Yesterday, I had plans to run with my girl, Paula (affectionately known as "PJ" for short).  We try to run together every Tuesday afternoon.  It's nice.  We get a chance to catch up with each other since life often takes us in different directions.  The past few weeks had been filled with work obligations and vacation days on both our ends, which prevented us from meeting up.  So when July 26th came up on the calendar, we were both psyched and happy to resume our weekly running date.  I had a new route for us to try and everything.

We usually end up running around 3:30 p.m.  I was actually ready to get out the door by 3:00 (my PT client had cancelled), so I left word with the front desk to let PJ know I'd be back for her.  It was such a nice day and I figured I could go out and jog around for a while.  A couple extra miles never hurt anyone (knock on wood).  I put my Garmin outside to locate satellites, grabbed my badge and sunglasses.  I hesitated momentarily, contemplating whether or not to bring my iPod.  I opted not to, since I'd only be alone for about 30 minutes.  I'd only have to take it off to run with her anyway (we talk a LOT), so I ended up going without it.

Three miles later I came back to meet PJ.  Shortly after I returned, she comes in with disappointing news:  she forgot to pack her running shoes.  We typically have a supply of running/fitness shoes in varying sizes for people to borrow in circumstances such as these, but she has special orthotics in hers.  So, it looked like we would have to wait another week for social endorphin time.  I ended up walking out with her and put my Garmin back on my wrist.  After exchanging goodbyes, I took off running.

About two minutes into it, I realized I didn't have the iPod on.  Well, screw it, I thought.  I really don't feel like going back for it.  I'll just go out for a couple miles.  If I get bored, I'll just walk it in or cut it short.

I ran in very comfortable temps.  It was probably in the mid to upper 70's, but after the 90+ degree weather I've been slogging through, it felt like spring.  The skies were mostly sunny, and it warmed my skin, but when there was shade, there was also a cool breeze.  I enjoyed the sound of my feet hitting the pavement and focused on long, slow breaths in and out of my nose.  I looked around at the beautiful homes in Lexington (of which there are many) and took in the beauty of the landscape.  One mile turned into two, then three, then four.  I turned right on to Wood Street; which is about one more mile from the lab.  I realized I was thoroughly enjoying my iPod free jaunt.  I felt so light and unencumbered.  I didn't have to focus on the skipping-that-song-that-is-still-on-my-iPod-that-I-really-should-delete-from-my-library-because-it's-really-not-doing-it-for-me stuff.  I didn't have to periodically shove the earbuds back in whenever they threatened to pop out. 

I just...ran.  Unplugged.  And I LIKED it.

Am I going to do it this way all the time now?  I wouldn't go that far.  In fact, I ran 10.5 miles this morning with the tunes.  I had some intervals to do and I figured it'd give me a little oomph.  And it did.

But, it was nice to know that I could bang out eight miles, albeit slightly broken up, iPod free, and it didn't suck.  In fact, it was pretty awesome.

I just might try it again tomorrow.

Maybe.  :-)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My 100th Post

When I was fundraising and training for my third marathon (second Boston) in 2009, someone I was close to at the time suggested that I create a blog on the web to spread the word and generate interest.  Oh, and to provide a medium in which I could beg and plead for your spare change.

I never said I didn't possess a flair for the dramatic.

On January 27, 2009, I wrote my first post.  That was two years, five months and 26 days ago.  When I last updated my blog on July 14, I realized that was my 99th entry.

Next up?  The big 100.

What would I say?  How would I commemorate this special occasion?  Should I just treat it like any other post and wax poetic on the topic du jour?

I almost thought about assembling a retrospective of my own personal favorite posts in one entry.  Kind of like "Cyndi Springford's Top Ten Rambles...Rants...Rebuilds and Runs".  After all, don't some television shows do a "best of" to celebrate their 100th episode?  So, I thought about it, but decided not to.  It just seemed a little recycled (I have a thing for "r" words) and unimaginative.
Instead, I chose to share with you how I (and life in general, really) have changed since I first put my metaphorical pen to paper.  In keeping with the true spirit of this blog, these observations of mine are in no particular order of importance:

  • I guess the most obvious change is that I finally got my BQ in May of 2010.  I can now say that I have run the Boston Marathon as a qualified runner.  I had invested so much angst, anxiety, energy and time in that aspiration.  It just goes to show that the expression, "it's not the kill; it's the thrill of the chase" is true, for me, at least.  I still love to run and I will probably always run 1-2 marathons a year, but if I never do Boston again, it's okay with me.  I intend to get better and better with every footstrike, but I'm not hard over on doing it again.  Been there, done that.  :-)
  • I feel much better about myself.  There has been a certain love/hate relationship with my body over the years and I'm more at peace with it now than I have ever been.  Some of that may be due to aging, but it doesn't really matter how or why it happened.  I love the body I was born with:  the long, thick, naturally lustrous hair, my infectious laugh, calves that could kickstart a Harley...well.  I could go on.  And that's the best part.
  • I think I'm starting to "get" what life is all about.  At the age of 37, I was still experiencing growing pains of a sort.  There were still painful parts of my personality that I hadn't acknowledged and made peace with.  I had moments of anger, envy, frustration, and overwhelment that I wasn't sure how to handle.  Now that I have a better understanding of what our emotions are and what they're meant to tell us, I can take it as face value and use my current mood to bring me to a more peaceful, serene and balanced state of well being.  
  • I am learning how to let go of things, whether they be of a material or nonphysical nature.  This is a work in process, but I'm looking forward to figuring it out.  I can visualize a clear, uncluttered environment a lot easier now than I ever could before.  I am also giving myself permission to take as much time as is necessary.  I am not imposing limits on myself.  I am setting myself free from expectations.  
  • I have completed seven marathons and am currently training for my eighth.  I am most focused on enjoying the training, taking it one day at a time, and looking forward to visiting a new city.  Training for a marathon is a big commitment and it takes lots of time, but it doesn't have to be drudgery, nor should it be.  No one is holding a gun to my head and making me do this.  It's my choice.  If I'm going to take on a 26.2 mile run, I might as well make it as fun and meaningful as I can.  
  • I'm staring down the barrel of turning 40.  It doesn't seem to phase me at all.  I don't know what 40 is supposed to look like.  I've seen 40 year olds who look 25 while others look 55.  It's really just a number.  I can say that with a reasonable amount of sincerity.  When I entered my 30's, I couldn't say it with a straight face.  Instead of lamenting that I'm not a twenty (and soon to be thirty) something anymore, I'm celebrating a new decade.  Did you know that women reach their sexual peak in their 40's?  Just thought I'd throw that one in to see if you were still paying attention.
  • And finally, the blog itself.  I had one follower in January 2009.  I now have 15.  People in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Brazil have viewed my page.  I created a folder in my inbox titled "positive feedback".  Whenever someone sends me a note about how what I wrote resonated with them in a strong way, I save it.  And there are days, where I really need to immerse myself in all that flattery and praise.  It makes me feel good to know that people enjoy what and how I write.  I take a lot of pride in that.
In closing, let me say thank you to everyone who has contributed in some way.  Maybe you starred in one of my stories, like Christine, John and Ted or perhaps you are a frequent commenter who cares and genuinely looks forward to the next post, and the next, and the next.  It's been fun and therapeutic for me to communicate in this way and I'm happy to see it's taken off.  I look forward to creating another 100 posts and connecting with more people all around the world. 

"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." -- Thornton Wilder

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Three Decades, Two Sides and One Country

    (I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die-Rag by Country Joe and the Fish)

    I've always been somewhat interested in the 60's/70's and hippie culture, even if I playfully poke fun by referring to them as tree huggers, dirt worshippers and birkenstock wearers (it's all in good fun, really).  My Uncle Lou was a self-professed member of the counterculture, having attended Monterey Pop in 1967, Woodstock in 1969 and sported hair so long, it practically went down to his waist.  I used to have chats with him when I was a teenager about what it must have been like to be around in the midst of so much social change.  As I've mentioned, I REALLY love music.  It's no wonder that I'm more than a little fascinated since so much important folk/rock/pop music was born during this time.

    This past Saturday, I was relaxing at home, just reading my kindle and chilling out.  My husband came home from work around 2 p.m. and turned the television on (it's his way of unwinding).  After flipping channels for a little bit, he settled on Woodstock:  Now and Then, which is a documentary that was released to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the three-day festival in Bethel, NY.  I found myself watching the tv screen more and the screen to my e-reader less.  After about 45 minutes of this, I finally put the kindle aside and gave the show my undivided attention.

    If you've never seen footage from Woodstock or heard the stories of some of the +/- 500,000 attendees, it's worth watching (it's a co-production of VH1 and the History Channel, so you're bound to catch it on one of these channels, particularly around August, the month the festival was held).  There are lots of good behind-the-scenes stuff from the organizers of the festival as well as recollections from the musicians who performed.  The Country Joe and the Fish tune in particular, (which was a huge anti-Vietnam War protest song) got me thinking a little about history.

    About Vietnam, mostly.

    I realized that, at the age of 39, I didn't really KNOW much about it.  I was born at the tail end of 1971 and didn't start school until 1976.  The war was over by then.  The textbooks I used in junior high and high school, at least to my recollection, didn't contain a whole lot about that particular period.  Maybe it was because it was "too recent" to be included.  I don't know how often books are updated/replaced in schools.

    That could probably be a whole other blog post right there.

    Anyway, it had aroused my curiosity.  Why it hadn't before now, I can't say.  When popular films that chronicled aspects of Vietnam like "Platoon" and "Hamburger Hill" were released in the mid to late 80's, I was not standing in line at the theater to see them.  They were both rated "R" and I wasn't old enough to get in anyway.  Even if I could have, I'm still not sure I would.  I never really enjoyed watching war movies.  Watching the media sensationalize events is one thing, but learning about how, where and why the war started is another.

    So, I decided to give myself a little history lesson.  Before I started the reeducation of Cyndi Lou, I wrote down what I currently knew about the Vietnam War:

    1)  There was a draft.

    2)  There were draft dodgers who fled to Canada.

    3)  Some people thought we shouldn't have been over there; that it wasn't our war to fight.

    4)  Veterans were not given a heroes welcome upon returning to the states (probably because of #3).

    5)  It started in the 60's and ended in the early 70's.  I think.

    Now do you understand why I needed to do a little reading?  Not a whole lot there, huh?

    As much as I am a retro girl and wave the flag of nostalgia, I also embrace the information/technology age in which I'm fortunate to live.  Instead of making a pilgrimage to my local library and burying myself in microfiche and encyclopedias, I can just type in "Vietnam War" in my Google Search Engine.

    Which is exactly what I did.

    In less than one second, it had found 36,300,000 results.  Pretty impressive.

    Whenever I want to get more information about something, I go to Wikipedia.  It was the first link listed in the search results, so I'm sure I'm not alone in that choice.  I read that link first.  Here, I learned that the Vietnam War actually spanned almost twenty years.  It began as a Cold War era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.  It was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and South Vietnam, supported by the United States (and other anti-communist nations).  To quote wikipedia:

    "The U.S. government viewed involvement in the war as a way to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam and part of their wider strategy of containment. The North Vietnamese government viewed the war as a colonial war, fought initially against France, backed by the U.S., and later against South Vietnam, which it regarded as a U.S. puppet state."

    I have to confess that I didn't know what the "wider strategy of containment" was, so, back to wiki I went:

    "Containment was a United States policy using military, economic, and diplomatic strategies to stall the spread of communism, enhance America’s security and influence abroad, and prevent a "domino effect". A component of the Cold War, this policy was a response to a series of moves by the Soviet Union to enlarge communist influence in Eastern Europe, China, Korea, and Vietnam. It represented a middle-ground position between détente and rollback. The basis of the doctrine was articulated in a 1946 cable by U.S. diplomat George F. Kennan. As a description of U.S. foreign policy, the word originated in a report Kennan submitted to Defense Secretary James Forrestal in 1947, a report that was later dominated as a magazine article. It is a translation of the French cordon sanitaire, used to describe Western policy toward the Soviet Union in the 1920s."

    Ah, okay.  Now, I'm starting to get it.

    I read about North Vietnam, the Viet Cong, and Ho Chi Minh.  I learned that our involvement with the conflict began to escalate in the early 1960's and ended in August of 1973 due to the passing of the Case-Church Amendment by Congress.  This piece of legislation "prohibited further U.S. military activity in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. This ended direct U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War, although the U.S. continued to provide military equipment and economic support to the South Vietnamese government."  The war officially ended on April 30, 1975 when the North Vietnamese army captured Saigon, South Vietnam's capital.  North and South Vietnam were reuinfied the following year.

    These are the facts I unearthed.  I learned the "how", and the "where" of the Vietnam War, which were two out of the three points of my research.

    The "why" is not so easy to answer.  Some say it was to protect the people of South Vietnam.  On the flip side, a memorandum prepared by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Secretary McNamara (with an eyes-only copy to George Bundy) on US War aims: 70% to preserve our national honor,; 20% to keep South VN territory from being occupied by the Chinese; and 10% to the South VN to enjoy a better and freer way of life" (thank you, Wikipedia).

    There will never be total agreement on a topic such as war, particularly one such as this.  So why revisit it?  Why talk about it?  What can possibly be gained?

    To me, it's just another example of creating through contrast.  People in the 60's saw something they did not want:  WAR.  Sometimes, knowing what you don't want helps you to become clearer about what it is that you do want.  If you don't want war, you want peace; if you don't want hate you want love.

    So, they focused on peace.  They gave their attention to love.

    These pioneers created some pretty amazing music.  They drew their inspiration from the events of the day and used their creation to counterbalance all the politics and issues of control that surrounded the country of Vietnam while participating in a movement that has it's own important place in our history:  the peaceful gathering of a half million people on Max Yasgur's Farm.  They couldn't control the war, but they could come together and celebrate life.

    I'm glad I read up on this topic.  It helped me understand the war a little better, but it also put things in perspective for me.  It also showed me just how far we have come.  When our military brothers and sisters came home from the Vietnam War, some of whom were wounded/disabled, they weren't shown the love and support that our troops get today.  In some cases, they were spat upon and disrespected.  I don't see that kind of thing happening now.  People that have been serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are welcomed home with open arms.  Not a day goes by where I don't see a "support our troops" bumper sticker that proudly displays a yellow ribbon.  Had we not gone through Vietnam, this might not be the case.

    What started as a desire to learn culminated in a feeling of peace, acceptance and appreciation.

    I wonder if that's what Woodstock felt like.

    "I see light at the end of the tunnel." -- Walt W. Rostow, National Security Adviser, Dec. 1967

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    No "News" is Good News. Or IS it?

    "It's the menace that everyone loves to hate but can't seem to live without." -- Paddy Chayevsky

    As you may or may not remember, I decided not to voluntarily tune into the news anymore about a year or two ago.  This decision is strictly my own, that is to say that my husband still watches it every morning. 

    Which is fine.  It's that whole "live and let live" thing that I'm working on.  Just because I choose not to watch it doesn't mean everyone around me has to follow suit.  The reason why I mention this is because, since we live together, I am sometimes in the proximity of the broadcast.  I may not be "watching it" but, as we know, sound travels. 

    I hear stuff.

    Because I don't tune in on the regular, I'm not up on the day to day.  However, when "news breaks", it's kind of hard to completely get away from it.  Take the capture of Whitey Bulger for example.  It was all people could talk about for days.  Unless you live like a hermit, you're going to hear the big doings that are going on in the world.

    People love to talk current events.  That's just how our society is.

    The Casey Anthony trial also comes to mind.  Let me emphasize that I did not follow the trial, nor am I privy to the ins and outs of the case.  All I know is she was arrested and tried for the murder of her 2 year old daughter, Caylee. 

    That's all I know.

    Well, the verdict came down this week, and it didn't sit well with a lot of people.  From what I've gleaned, it should have been an "open and shut" case, meaning that she did it and got off.

    I can't confirm or deny that assertion.

    This is a very sensitive issue for people.  May I once again say that I did not watch the media coverage, therefore, I'm not qualified to offer an opinion on WHETHER OR NOT SHE DID IT

    Nor do I want to.  In fact, I don't think I want to talk about it at all.

    Talking about it won't bring Caylee back and it won't change the verdict from not guilty to guilty, if in fact that is the appropriate judgement.  Talking about it prolongs the agony of the tragic death of a two year old girl.  Talking about it gives more power to the media to rent space in our heads that could be used for loving others and channeling our energy in a way that can effect positive change.

    Perhaps that IS the true power of the press.  It's there to point out all the "undesirable stories", so we're more aware and can then focus ourselves on all the good things that we do want.  We can combat hate with love, violence with peace, and intolerance with acceptance. 

    My decision to disengage from this topic is mine and mine alone.  Some of my friends and family do not share my opinion, nor do I share theirs, and that is okay with me.  Everyone processes their feelings differently.  We fear what we don't understand and the coping mechanisms associated with that vary from person to person. 

    So, in memory of Caylee Anthony, I'm going to express as much love and appreciation for all children.  I will focus on what I can control instead of what I can't.  I'll allow her short life to inspire me to appreciate the exuberance, innocence and joy that is in a child. 

    And I plan on doing that every chance I get.  For Caylee.  For all little ones.

    "While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about." -- Angela Schwindt

    Friday, July 1, 2011

    Battle of the Sexes: Extreme Ab Challenge

    A few days ago, I received an invite on facebook from my friend, Sheryl, to a public event called Battle of the Sexes:  Extreme Ab Challenge.  I clicked on the link and read this excerpt:

    The Battle of the Sexes 6,000 Sit-Up/Crunch Challenge starts JULY 1st! The idea is to do 6,000 sit-ups.crunches in ONE MONTH! Ideally this means that you'll do about 200 each day and you can break them up into whatever is a manageable amount for you. I plan on doing 100 in the morning and 100 more at night, but some people might need to break that down and do sets of 50 throughout the day. You can do sit-ups or crunches and you can vary the position ( ie, feet on the ground or up in the air).....the point is that you get down and DO THEM!!

    The administrator of this event also went on to say that this challenge is NOT designed to get you a six-pack in 31 days (that won't happen just by doing ab work), which I agree with.  It's just a little healthy competition to get you committed to something that could be construed as "good for you".

     (Now THAT'S my idea of a 6-pack.)

    In order to keep track, he suggests posting your running total at the beginning of your facebook status.  At the end of the month, all participants send him the total and he sees who "reigns supreme" (his words, not mine):  the men or the women; hence the "Battle of the Sexes" moniker.

    Okay, now, I am going to let you in on a little secret.  

    I do not enjoy ab work.  At all.

    Yes, I'm a fitness professional and have been training clients and instructing group fitness classes since 1993.  I have no issue whatsoever telling other people to work their abs, however, it is my LEAST favorite body part to train.  I won't say I "hate" doing abs, since my mother always told me that hate is a very strong word.  Sooooooooooo, I'll just say that I "strongly dislike" them.  Very strongly.

    Besides, this whole idea flies in the face of my personal trainer philosophy.  I don't believe it's necessary, or effective, to train one body part EVERY SINGLE DAY.  You wouldn't do bicep curls every day, would you?  Or bench presses?  So, why would you do it with your abdominals?  Somewhere along the line, maybe sandwiched inbetween the "no pain, no gain" battle cry and that low carb nonsense, we picked up the notion that this particular muscle group was the exception to the rule and that it needed, or could be, worked every day.

    Despite my disenchantment with ab training AND the fact that I disagree with training any body part more than 2-3 times per week on non-consecutive days, I'm doing it.


    Well, because, truly, I like a challenge.  I am not expecting any physical gains from it, necessarily, and I don't think that is the point.  I'm doing it to see if I can make friends with my abs once and for all.  I have 31 days to find a way to love spinal flexion and spinal rotation.  Maybe the plank will replace the push-up as my new favorite exercise of all time.

    Honestly, I don't think that will happen, but I said the same thing about running once upon a time.  I swore I'd only run if "someone was chasing me".

    Seven marathons later, here I am.

    After work today, I'm going to run 10 miles, and then start my daily habit of 200 crunches/sit-ups/whatevers.  

    Care to join me?