More than Muscle Memory

I am back in the saddle, literally. And damn, it feels great.

It’s been a couple years since I rode horses regularly.  Work, family, my health, finances—ahh, life– all contributed to keeping me out of the barn.

But, I woke too many mornings during this no-horse phase, wishing I was riding. And I kept practicing my two-point position on my bike. Clearly, I wasn’t through with a hobby (an addiction?) I had practiced most of my adult life.

Why is it that some girls never outgrow their love-of-horses-phase-of-life?

After 4 lessons in two weeks, I am in. 100%.

Barn basics quickly came back: brushing, tacking, mounting, handling, riding (walk-trot-canter-low jumps) and yes, a little nerves. As my trainer J says, the muscle memory was still there. And in each lesson, that memory and confidence was a bit stronger. I certainly couldn’t pick up a brand new sport this quickly.

After several visits, I realize it is more than the horses, the lift I get from riding that brought me back. I think I also relished going back to a familiar place for the mental memories I have of the barn, the people, the friends I have made. I feel welcome, like it’s been days since I have been there, not a year.

Resuming riding is also a short reminder of cliché’s—life is short, time goes fast, etc etc.

If there is something you love to do, DO IT. If you want to try something new, make the time now for yourself, your interests, yourself. The joy it might bring is worth it.

The journey continues.



Anatomy of a Bike Ride

Recently I was riding my bike before work—a morning far too beautiful to spend in the gym. Suddenly, I realized I was aware of only my music, my heartbeat, and my hard but steady breathing. It was as if I was riding with blinders on, totally unaware of the landscape, houses, or traffic on either side of me. I was literally going through the motions, just trying to complete my ride.

I was riding like a machine, but this workout was only accomplishing the caloric burn-off goal. No joy. Stress, supposedly released through the pedals. But shoulders to my ears said otherwise.

Breathe out. Phewwww. I slowed up slightly, came back to the reality of what I was doing, then continued moving forward.

I thought about how our weekend rides with friends are much more relaxing, longer, and fun. We ride but can talk, laugh, stop for a few photos. Yes, this ride was shorter in distance, time, and purpose…. but it should be enjoyed too.

Becoming AWARE of my thoughts, my ride, my motions, my morning, my job, my conversations, my night, it makes them all much more real. So busy, it is easy to forget to live the minutes, the details. Sometimes it takes a moment like on my bike to remember that.

Some times we all want to pass fast. Now, without thinking. But when we continually move too quickly we can miss the subtle moments, the quiet ones, some critical ones. We become sloppy, often unaware of the larger picture, thinking only of the task or situation right in front of us.

We should remember that it’s the single moments that make up our life, not just the motions. The Blur.

The journey continues.


Riding High

I really miss riding.  It’s been a month off of most exercise–too busy with work, family, too hot to ride weeks–other than a short bike ride, dog walk, yoga class.

But on my bike, I close my eyes and feel a horse canter between my legs.  I wake in the morning thinking “I wish I could ride today.”  I yearn for the camaraderie of my friends, my trainer pushing me to better, be more, challenge myself.

So today, with the kids back at school, work under control for a moment, I escaped my desk on a gorgeous summer morning for a couple hours to ride.

And how I have missed it.  I didn’t realize until I was back the myriad of things I love about riding:

Greetings with the grooms, the horses, the scent of hay, soft nickers.

  • The Zen feeling of currying Gatsby before tacking up.  I feel myself relax, as I move my arms in repeated circular motion, watching loose hair and dirt escape.
  • The smell of leather, the saddle-bridle-girth in a familiar hold as I carry them from the tack room.
  • A familiar warm up routine in the refurbished outdoor arena, I am enjoying our alone time as we walk and trot through circles and serpentines, move smoothly over poles.
  • Then cantering in both directions, flying-flying-free, smiling.  A gentle pat.
  • Once done, I welcome the sweat streaming down my face, my back.  It’s been a great workout.
  • The routing of lathering up Gatsby, then toweling him off after hosing him off.

I feel lighter as I leave, my spirit lifted.  Tonight, I feel the premature ache of legs not used to this exercise.  I can’t wait to ride again.

I was not going to write about riding today.  But, since the happy endorphins still feel as if they are flowing, I want to capture and try to remember these feelings.

Try it this weekend, to escape a few moments doing something you love.  It will lift you, put a spring in your step. C

First Mud Run

There was a rainbow of tutus, team tee shirts with long socks, fake boobs, long sparkly dresses, headbands, sneakers, smiles, singing, and mud.  Lots of mud.  Last weekend I ran the first IL Dirty Girl run, a 5K run with obstacles throughout the course, and it was a BLAST!   I highly recommend trying an event like this, even if you are not a runner.

Waiting for our wave to start the race!

The course started deceivingly simple, climbing over a wall of hay bales.  Then the baptism through the muddy pool crawl teased of what was to come.  There were walls to climb over–the first one a bit slippery and scary, mud hills to conquer, tires to jump through, ropes to climb both up and down a hill, a short burst through up-down-up-down terrain, lots of muddy baths to crawl through, and my favorite: a giant rope wall to conquer.

Throughout the untimed run women were cheering on strangers and friends, helping people stuck on obstacles, non-participants took pictures, we were handed water from volunteers.  The mud tightened and itched on our skins as it dried, so we welcomed the next muddy crawl to soften it up.  If you thought you made it through the course almost unscathed, near the end of the course there was a mud-only pool you belly-moved through under ropes.  Oozing,  I left plenty of room to avoid the person kicking in front of me.

Run completed with Ann and Mary

During the race my headband was used to clean mud from  my eyes, my ears, my mouth, and completely covering my body.  After the race there were freebies from sponsors, and a huge mound of filthy shoes to be cleaned and donated.  And an icy hose off and cold beer reward.

Wanna clean these??

A fundraiser for breast cancer, this very social event included my daughter Devon’s group who ran the whole course to people who walked most of the race.  It didn’t matter how quickly you went–everyone was covered in mud by the end of the run.  The promoters said that almost 10,000 women ran the course over 2 days!  I expect more next year, as it was such an inclusive event.   C


Never Hide from the Shadows

I feel like the groundhog who saw his shadow last week.  But, instead of six more weeks of winter, I have five more weeks of only walking.  Bummer—I was expecting that the six week post-op appointment I would be released to do some heavier cardio like the elliptical or exercise bike.  But no, to avoid relapse I am to hold to my walking for another five weeks.  That, plus the upper body work out I created using the whopping 3-lb. weights and stretch band.

Is it a dirty secret that I LIKE to exercise?  I feel restless, bored, stress buildup, physically tight (and let’s face it, we ALL get fatter if we don’t move—that is NO secret) when I sit still too long.  So, this news depressed me for about a day.  I want to really sweat.  I want to get ready for my spring break beach trip!

But, as I walked the treadmill the next day—too icy to be outside, for risk of slipping—I realized those were selfish thoughts.  I vowed to banish them from my mind.  At least I CAN walk.  There are so many people unable to walk, others who choose to remain sedentary. To the latter, I ask why?

I realized that I have been actually eating better since restricted to walking, trying to  avoid gaining weight during my twelve week respite. I have really paid attention to what I am eating throughout the day, without the heavy exercising option.  I have planned healthier meals, snacked less, indulged in fewer sweets, and managed to even lose a couple pounds while walking around my neighborhood and on the treadmill.

So if you have to modify your routine,  break your step, let yourself wallow a moment, but don’t let that stop you.  Slow down a pace and think:  How can I change it up?  Improve what I can do?  Increase my knowledge about myself?  Stay happy?

Then surpass myself?

Six more weeks of winter?  Throw a snowball and smile, even if you can’t strap on those those beloved cross country skis, don’t hibernate.  What’s the fun in that?  C


The Horse and the Floor

Riding horses–16 years.  Yoga–3 months.

I started doing yoga several months ago to vary my workout routine. While I am now practiced in some of the poses–now knowing the differences between the downward facing dog, monkey, happy baby, child’s, forward and reverse warrior poses and others I can but some I would never attempt to pronounce, I am more flexible, the class flies by (and I HATE gym glasses, always have except for my riding lessons) but I cannot fathom doing yoga without an instructor right now.  I am still a newbie, basically a clueless follower.

A far more skilled rider, during my lesson this week with a new instructor while mine is traveling, there was an instruction of “relax your back” that immediately made me think about how much these two seemingly differing sports are alike.  They are both mind sports, as well as grueling physical sports that use muscles once unknown to me (and are both sports that people question “is that really exercise?”)

To succeed in both, I need to be truly “in the moment” leaving all troubles, issues, work, family out of my mind. I have to think–but clear the mind–to be free.  And it is possible. One small physical change–flexing the feet in yoga-dropping weight to the ankles in riding, walk the fingers to stretch to wide straddle-loosen the fingers on the reins, breathe, can have a huge impact on the experience.  Core strength is critical for success in both, one reason I began yoga. And I feel a sense of peace, of contentment, of completeness when complete with both.

I still don’t get as much endorphin-high after yoga class as I do when I have a great ride–less to conquer, less danger, less adrenaline rush; there are no warm-blooded animals to routinely brush and outfit and clean up after, but I truly enjoy yoga: the search, the poses, the stretching, the camaraderie.  Both sports are centuries old, and I can see why they have endured  for many years as recreational pursuits. C