It’s the small stuff that sometimes makes the biggest impressions. This morning I went swimming with a friend at our local pool. I’ve really started to enjoy time in the water, learning new ways to breathe (something that could come in handy for life actually). I’m getting the routine down. She picks me up in the morning, we swim, then I catch a bus to work. This morning, though, as she was driving me to the closest bus stop, my bus was pulling away. “Darn,” I said instinctively. And when I realized she was thinking about what to do I said, “The next one will be here in 10 minutes, it’s fine.” But she said, “I think we can catch it,” and she sped up. I started to giggle. “What are you going to do?” I asked. “Pull in front of it?” “I can beat it to the next bus stop,” she said. I knew I liked her. She’s got moxie. We saw a bus stop so she pulled over. I stepped out of the car and the bus blew by us. “Shoot,” I said. “Apparently, that wasn’t the right one.” Starting to feel self-conscious that we didn’t know what we were getting into now, I jumped back in the car. With our eye on the bus we continued on, wondering where the next stop was. Just then, we saw it was pulling over at a covered stop. There was a group of people waiting to get on. “I think you can make it,” she said as she pulled in behind it. And as I smiled getting out of the car she said, “Hey, 10 minutes is 10 minutes.” Gotta love a good friend!
Everyday I hear talk about reviving the economy. Here’s one great way to be part of the solution, sell a car. Of course, you have to live where it’s possible to own one less car. Or make choices about lifestyle. Or advocate for a more walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly community. Or all of the above. It’s worth thinking about. One of the big draws for me in choosing to move here was the opportunity to experience living where I had more travel options. This morning I rode with a friend to the pool for an early morning swim and then caught a (free) bus from near the pool to the development where I work. Yesterday I ran home. I plan to bike commute at least one or two trips this week. It takes extra planning, but I love the options and the savings. Not to mention the built-in stealth exercise. The graphic above reminds me that I’m supporting the local economy as well. I love the saying that a great solution solves many problems. Seems to me we’ve found one of those solutions.
A friend of mine invited me to go to the local pool with her to lap swim. I quickly agreed! It had been years since I’d been. I’ve been poolside mind you, but mostly to cool off or sunbathe. I grew up on a lake and spent my summers swimming so I was confident.
Before we went into the building we sat in the car and talked strategy. She graciously described the lingo. Down and back is a lap, she said. Or about 50 meters. We’ll do 200 meters of freestyle swimming to warm up (no biggie, I thought). We’ll do 50 meters with a kick board, 50 with a (what was that called…a floatie?) using only our arms and then 100 meters of …(I don’t know…something else). My mind drifted a little; I was ready to swim. I knew I wouldn’t be speedy, but I could do this stuff.
I borrowed a proper suit and goggles (this should have been my first clue). We got into the water and started freestyle swimming. She swam strongly, pulling herself effortlessly through the water. I was in the lane next to her. I felt good for the first 25 meters and then I started feeling winded. She reached the end and did one of those cool turns where you push your feet off the wall and kept going. I went vertical to stand up only to find the water was deep at that end. Now paddling like a third grader, I reached the edge and grabbed on, lifting my head out of the water and breathing hard. She was already half way back to the start. Okaayy…I thought. Here’s a little reality check.
I continued to swim slowly back and forth doing the various options (grateful for the support of a kickboard and floatie thing during those laps). The swimming was really wonderful exercise and I loved being in the water again. (I am a true Pisces.) She was encouraging and I was truly humbled.
It’s so funny how my self-image still throws back to 20 years ago. Guess it’s time to download the software updates and be working from the latest version (even though that’s not always the version I prefer!). Still, the swimming was great and the social support was (yet again) exactly what I needed to try a new type of training. Maybe next week I’ll learn that fancy turn thing and make it 50 meters before running out of breath!
My mother always says she wants to live to be 100 and dancing! My great grandmother lived until she was 102. She played the piano for her own 100th birthday party. Watching a centenarian play the piano (and vigorously) is an inspiring sight! My great grandmother smoked until she was quite old so I wouldn’t say she was the poster child for the granola lifestyle. But I do remember her smiling and laughing a lot, which I am always drawn to. And I have to believe makes a difference. I’ve been thinking a lot about healthy aging lately and have told people that my running routine is really my retirement plan. So I was interested to see what researchers are saying about how these folks live so long. It turns out, of course, that there are no sure fire ways to ensure longevity. But here are some tips to consider.
1. Be social. Having friends (and extended family) is great for the spirit, and also helps lesson the emotional (and physical) burden of life. It helps reduce depression and keeps you feeling young (because by then, your entire social network is younger than you!)
2. Eat sensibly. Not surprisingly, it helps to adopt Michael Pollan’s simple mantra. Eat food (real food), not too much (stop before you get full), mostly plants (reduce the meat and dairy products).
3. Stay active. It’s good for the mind and body. A few articles I read shared many stories of men and women working well into their 90’s professionally and staying engaged in physical activity like gardening and walking.
4. Be chill. Following the above advice helps with ease stress levels, but also having experienced traumatic events teaches one to better cope with stress and poverty. Finding your sense of spirituality is important. And, I believe, learning to live within your means, simplifying life, and appreciating the present are all great ways to ease the stress.
Time Magazine had a cover story some years ago on the subject. They pointed out that today’s centenarian grew up in times when they had to walk miles to work because cars were not yet commonly owned. People labored in fields and ate what they grew. Another great argument for redesigning our communities to make it easier to walk and bike to work and stores. For supporting more small and mid-sized local farms, for community gardens and for slowing things down again.
I love the way they ended their article. “There’s a poetry of common sense in their scheme for immortality. Eat sensibly. Keep walking. Keep knitting. If you can’t keep friends, make new ones. Plan so much invigorating work that there’s just no time to die. And no regret when you do.”
Ideas…easy. Changing habits…not so much. Two weeks ago I said I’d track my trips in an effort to reduce car driving. I proceeded to rush on through life without changing or tracking anything, until today. Today, I looked back over five days and wrote down the trips I made. Turns out, I was in the car for seven round trips. (Is that more or less than average?) And did I need to be in the car for all of them?
- 3 trips could have been better planned (choosing different destinations that were within walking distance or providing more time for taking the bus) to avoid driving.
- 1 trip was taking my dog to meet a friend so we could run together. Impossible to change unless I ran in my own neighborhood without her or left my dog at home and biked to her house. More than likely, with those options, I’d have stayed in bed for extra sleep. This is where convictions collide…exercise or reduced footprint?
- 1 trip was with friends with our four bikes traveling together in one car…pretty efficient so that’s good and necessary because the alternative would have been to bike three miles to catch a bus for a 2-hour ride (instead of a 20-30 minute car ride) one way. I’d rather stay home and eat donuts (and I hate donuts).
- The last 2 trips were social outings. I looked up the public transportation options. They are very limited on the weekends when I need them most (since I walk to work). For these trips, we would have been on the bus from 2 – 3 hours (one way) with transfers and walking or biking an extra 1.55 to 2.42 miles just to get from point A to point B. By car, these trips took 20-30 minutes.
So…going car-less isn’t in my immediate future…but I can go car-light. I could have easily cut my car trips by almost half with better planning. And I can consolidate more trips as well. Long term changes will require advocating for better public transportation options and improved walking and biking facilities. Which I need to do…even though it’s hard work. I feel great empathy for those who have no choice but to deal with the inefficiencies of public transportation and hostile walking and biking environments. And for many, weekends and holidays (like on this Labor Day) when services are even more reduced create greater challenges in getting to work. This is why testing the options and getting involved is so important. May God grant me the courage to really do it.