A Walk In The Park

Today marks the ends of my first week of replacing my morning WOD with a walk around my neighborhood. (If you’re wondering why I’m walking instead of WODing, read this post on “The Healing Experiment.”) It’s too soon to notice a significant difference in how I feel, but I have stopped pouting, so that’s a big step in the right direction. Here are a few observations and stories from the first week of The Healing Experiment.

It’s about the Vitamin D Natural Light.
The first day Dave and I went for a morning walk, I was on fire. Arms were pumping, legs were turning over quickly. If I was going to be forced to walk, damn it!, I was going to walk fast. Around day 3, I realized the point of the walk is not “exercise.” Let’s be honest here: a 30-minute walk isn’t going to do much in the way of building either cardiovascular endurance or muscle mass. I was completely missing the point. The goal of the walk – first thing in the morning – is to get me outside and soaking up sunlight so my hormone feedback loops can correct themselves. Now I’m strolling. My arms are still swinging, but instead of thinking move-move-move, I’m thinking breathe-breathe-breathe. Update 11/14/11: I was a little confused about cortisol and Vitamin D. Suffice it to say that everything I’m doing everything I can to get my cortisol and leptin in line. That means Vitamin D in the morning and bright light in the a.m. to tell my body, I’m up and awake and cortisol should be up, too.

I really do like yoga.
Dave and I try to do new things together on a frequent basis. We’ve been a couple for 20 years so it’s important that we both have our own, separate pursuits – and essential that we try new stuff together to have that shared experience. This Saturday, we went to yoga together for the first time… and we loved it. The class is called Hatha Star (the “star” indicates that it’s appropriate for beginners) and included basic moves like lunges, downward dog, warrior pose… lots of lengthy holds and wonderful stretching. And the best part: chanting! At the beginning we did three long, held ohms that sounded like a chorus and some call-and-response stuff. You guys, when the instructor was doing the intro to the class – the general groovy, “getting in touch with the divine… being part of the community,” etc., etc., I started crying. CRYING! And that’s when I knew: I’m exhausted in a way I can’t even consciously recognize, and I totally need these classes. I didn’t feel sad. In fact, I think the tears were celebrating because they were free in that environment to pop out. I felt relief as they made hot streaks down my cheeks because I was finally able to admit that I’m tired on a monumental, deep level.

But that was the only serious part. We did partner stretches that made us all laugh, and toward the end, there was plenty of grunting and groaning as we held a few challenging poses for what felt like forever. After class, we were served spicy herbal tea. Mine was labeled “NSS” for no sweetener, no soy. It was a totally awesome experience, and I’m going at least three times a week… with zero resentment.

My soundtrack is different.
My playlist for running and CrossFit WODs is a study in badassery: punk rock, metal, and a few outliers from the hip-hop world that make me feel like strutting. Now that I’m toning down the attitude and exertion a bit, I’m enjoying the other music on my iPod, stuff with lyrics worth taking to heart. Jason Mraz, Gavin DeGraw, Frank Turner, Mike Ness’s solo albums, and Des’ree. My favorite right now? Duran Duran’s latest All You Need Is Now. Lush arrangements and lots of layering of synth, drums, and bass (Play the f*cking bass, John!), back up dreamy, wistful lyrics and Simon Le Bon singing harmony with himself. It’s perfectly modern and retro at the same time, and it’s hard to argue with a message like this:

It’s all up to you now, find yourself in the moment…

When you move into the light, you’re the greatest thing alive…

And you sway in the moon
The way you did when you were younger
When we told everybody
All you need is now

I’m bad at playing – but I’m looking for light-heartedness.
Yesterday after I did a few sets of sloooooooow stepups and modified pushups on a rock, I sat my fanny in the swing at the playground. I’m not sure how long I swung on it, but it wasn’t long before I was thinking, “I wonder how long I need to do this before it feels fun.” Frankly, it kinda gave me a tummy ache. But I like the idea of it… doing something to pass the time that has no goal or expected positive outcome attached to it. During my walk, I found a large pebble and kicked it down the street as I strolled, like a mini soccer ball, until it disappeared into a pile of leaves. That was pretty fun – and also pointless – so I think that qualifies as play. Who knows? Maybe next week I’ll have reclaimed even more of my silliness somewhere along the streets of  my neighborhood.

This is my stepup rock.

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  • Melissa, this is such a great post! So much inspiration here!

    One of my fave lines: “My arms are still swinging, but instead of thinking move-move-move, I’m thinking breathe-breathe-breathe.” I LOVE that!

    We need to remember to just slow down, take gentle care of ourselves and have fun. I actually love to be on the swings. It reminds me of my childhood and feeling free. At first I feel this nervous, tingly feeling in my stomach as I’m going higher and higher but then I start to feel relaxed. It’s an important metaphor, I think, in being still. At first it might feel uncomfortable or foreign or strange, but then the more we stay with it, the more amazing it feels.

    • Mel says:

      If someone had told me 20 years ago that I’d be upset I couldn’t workout hard, I would have thought they were nuts! And now slowing down is the hardest thing to do. But I’m getting there!

      Thanks so much for stopping by.

  • Bill says:

    Good read. Sadly, I can identify with the uneasy stomach that comes with swinging. My 3 year old daughter loves to swing which thankfully takes my mind off of my age during those times. Using that swingset for pullups also helps. 🙂

    • Mel says:

      You know, I thought about some pullups yesterday. I got the greenlight from my advisors today to do mellow bodyweight stuff, so I might be taking advantage of the pullup bars next time!

  • Roberta says:

    DOG!!! Get a dog, it makes the walks oh so much more fun. And I’m jealous that you get vitamin D on your walks. None of the in Seattle at the moment.

    • Mel says:

      HA! Smudge would never allow a dog… and we want to move to Europe in a few years, but I do love doggies.

      I read online this morning that even on cloudy days, we can get about 50% of the Vitamin D of sunny days. Hang in there!

  • Christine M. says:

    Amazing post! I’ve been making a concerted effort to walk more too, usually in the evening (because I’m SO not a morning person). It’s not my favorite thing in the world, but I do it because it’s the only exercise my husband enjoys and hey, the little extra calorie burn doesn’t hurt either.

    That said, I totally need to see if there’s a playground hiding somewhere that we can sneak into on our walks. I like the idea of rock step-ups, swings, monkey bars, etc. 🙂

  • ashley hibbitts says:

    Melissa, I am with you on the new approach. I added yoga a year ago, and meditation recently. Type A, uptight, stress addicted, cortisol filled me really has benefited from a more yogic approach to life. I too am looking for how to add more “play” to my life. ANyway, just want you to know you aren’t alone. I’m glad to read of other’s thoughts too! Thanks for your inspiration and honesty. Here’s to being good to ourselves and to discovering good health- body, mind and spirit!!

    • Mel says:

      Thanks for reminding me that we’re all in this together! It really helps to think of y’all joining me, at least virtually, on this experiment.

  • Jude says:

    I don’t know where to start, I loved so much of this post.

    I imagine that moment in yoga where you finally realised how deeply tired you were was pretty intense?

    Reading over your thought processes involved in trying to have fun really gave me a smile. I wouldn’t have the first clue how to do that and I can almost see you in the park going through that internal monologue. Are we having fun yet?

    I love that you are approaching this with your whole heart, despite the initial pouts. I’d expect nothing less from you! :))


    • Mel says:

      Oh, Jude! It was so odd. I was just sitting there, listening to her talking, mentally rolling my eyes at the grooviness of it all. Then my throat got tight and my eyes filled with tears, and I thought, “OMG. Am I CRYING?! What is happening?” Yeah, I’m wound way too tight right now, and I need to bring it down about a billion notches.

      And yes, I have trouble playing but I know I can re-learn. I was a pretty serious little kid and didn’t play much then either. Lots of books and piano playing,which are play in their own way, but not like kicking a rock, you know?

      Thanks for being so sweet and supportive. XO.

  • I’ve been to those Hatha Star classes. I also like Ashtanga classes because of the flow of the primary series. It’s like music for your body. I miss those classes! I always have a spoken yoga class on my Ipod, in case of a stress emergency.

    And I swear the whole reason to go to a difficult (for me) 90 minute Ashtanga class was for that tea. That little cup of warm tea, the vibrations of the universe, and thou! I’m so proud of you for being brave! I’m glad you are starting to really enjoy it.

    • Mel says:

      I’m looking forward to trying a bunch of classes, but I’m so inflexible and new to it, I’m sticking with the star classes for now.

      Good news! I got the green light to do some strength training so on Tuesdays when you’re lifting at CFA, I’ll be at the craptastic lifting, too. We’ll have to do our vulcan mind meld at 6:30 a.m.!

  • Great post! I love how honest you are.

    I have recently picked up yoga. What I bring home from the yoga experience yoga is much more than the deep stretching. I love that it slows me down. I get to focus on what matters and I am often redirected to appreciate the smaller things in life.

    I love this quote from Ann Voskamp… “Grab these moments because they are fleeting and we aren’t entitled to a bit of it.”

    • Mel says:

      Nice quote! Thanks for sharing… and I agree. The slow down is really, really nice. My favorite part was the end, when we were just lying on the floor breathing — and then it made me sad that I have to make a big fuss over something so simple because I just don’t usually do it.

  • Holly says:

    So I love this.

    As someone who really struggles with balance I can relate to the idea that taking a calming approach is a challenge. When I read that you were taking a break from CrossFit I felt some minor anxiety thinking of how I would react to that — you are courageous to listen to yourself!

    I’m looking forward to hearing about all of it. The pursuit of wellness has some spectacular scenery — I always like to hear other people’s travel tales. 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Thanks so much for the support, Holly! And thanks, too, for understanding my anxiety about taking a break from CrossFit. I know it will be there in a few months, waiting for me, so I’m getting more comfortable with the idea.

  • Kelli says:

    Just wanted to let you know that UVB is what gives you vitamin D and it is strong in the middle of the day, weak in the morning and evening. So, you aren’t getting much Vitamin D by walking in the morning, walk at noon. FYI UVA rays are the same strength all day and are the not so good rays:)

    • Mel says:

      Thanks for the clarification — I was confused. My wise ones explained to me (again!) why I’m doing what I’m doing. Walk in the a.m. in the bright light is to tell my body cortisol should be up. All errors are totally mine 🙂

  • Lisa G says:

    I love this read! I also think you are pretty amazing so proud of you for listening and slowing down! It’s hard to do
    I have a 3 year old and after dinner each night we do whatever she wants. That means I put away my technology and just give all of my attention to her. We have great dance parties! I bought glow sticks last week and we turned off the lights and just danced to ridiculous music and laughed a ton. Tonight we played with hoola hoops, set up an obstacle course and built a fort 🙂 ooo build a fort out of pillows make it cozy and fun and snuggle in and read a book! I’m going to try that next!
    Have fun! I hope I gave you some new ideas!

    • Mel says:

      Hoola Hoops! So fun! Also, love the impromptu dance party. I need one of those right now. I’m gonna do it! Duran Duran is about to get loud.

  • jane says:

    Thanks to your experiment I went to my first yoga class in years tonight. Sitting here on the couch dorking out with my computer and sipping my coconut water I’m simply hoping I wake up wanting to go back since I was a little hard on myself for a first practice. tomorrow i hope to start my day with a walk. not to get my heart rate up, not to prove anything other than starting my day with some quite time to ease into the day is a feat in itself.

    Knowing that you are seeking similar ease and balance gives me something to lean on…and keeps me giggling, thanks!!

    • Mel says:

      Congratulations on going to yoga! Right ON.

      One of my favorite things I heard at a yoga class was “There is no ‘good at yoga.’ There is practicing yoga and doing yoga. But you can’t be good or bad at yoga. You just breathe and move and show up.”

      Awesome, right?

  • Mraz is so catchy – nice “unwind” choice. 🙂 I’m reading your self experiment in relaxation/hormone adjustment with great curiosity. I hope that you find out lots about yourself! 😀

  • APayne says:

    Add Beachhouse’s “A Walk in the Park” to your playlist! Love!

  • AustinGirl says:

    I tried yoga for the first time in a looong time today, and also found myself getting teary. For me, it was child’s pose. Apparently I’ve got some stuff going on that I wasn’t aware of too. Thanks for providing such a great example to all of us. This “take time to slow down” thing ain’t for wimps!!

    • Mel says:

      I really enjoy child’s pose, too. And I find the tears very rejuvenating, now that I’m not surprised by them. Isn’t amazing how that stuff comes out when you get really quiet and still?!

      I agree: slowing down is definitely not for wimps. We gotta be brave to stop the noise and chatter and accept whatever comes up… but we can do it! And then when CrossFit is back on the menu, it will be even better than before, because it will be in balance.