Friday, July 18, 2008

These Boots Are Made for Walkin', but Everything's Too Far Away

I found this website, kind of fun -- put in your address, and it will rate your neighborhood's "walkability" i.e. how many places you need to go that are within walking distance.

My own address is, of course, dismally car-dependent. That's life in the country: you go back to nature, but the whole project is completely dependent upon fossil fuels. Even the places that the map rated as being within walking distance require a trip along rather pedestrian-unfriendly roads. And, of course, there's the time it takes -- for me to walk would expand a short errand into a morning-long project.

Now, the writers of this site claim that there are many small towns that are walker-friendly. I'm sure that's true -- in fact, the address where we lived when first married was rated "very walkable", and I did walk a whole lot more back then. But there's some realities of small town life that are missing, the biggest one being the fact that some goods and services are either limited or nonexistent in a small town and require a trip to a bigger one. The most outstanding one is medical specialists. A person could manage to get to a dentist or a doctor through public transportation, but if they need an endodontist then it means a trip to Chico or Redding.

And if one wants to reach another small town for some reason, then you have to have a car. If you wanted to visit me, you could manage it by public transportation, but it would be very inconvenient. You can take Amtrack from San Francisco to Sacramento, then you'd have to take an Amtrack connecting bus, to a town 10 miles from here. Then, if it's between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. you could catch a local bus that will take you to a connecting point to another local route that will take you within walking distance to my house. Believe me, you're really going to want to come by car, no matter how high the gas prices get. If your starting point is another small northern California town it gets even more complicated.

There are towns you can't even get to at all, without a car, inconveniently or not.

Part of it is that my husband always wanted to live out of town; he'd be even happier if we were surrounded by enough acreage that the neighbors weren't visible. (The other part is that buying a house was more affordable here.) But I'll confess that I find it irritating that nearly everything I want to do requires a trip. If the gas prices get much higher, I'm going to do more shopping by mail order.

Anyway, the walkability maps are fun -- and I can daydream about living in San Francisco, where everything you'd ever want in the world is within a seven square mile area.

Friday, July 04, 2008

How I'm Spending My Summer Vacation

I've often said that there's nothing more boring than someone else's diet and exercise program. On the interest scale, it's like listening to Aunt Martha go on about her aches and pain and doctor visits -- one may resign oneself to being sweetly patient, but there are a whole lot of other things you'd rather be listening to.

However, the same project can be quite absorbing when we ourselves are the subject. It actually requires a certain amount of attention, whether there are calories to be counted, or blood sugar numbers or monitoring one's resting heart rate. Lately, I've had that little warning voice in my mind not to become over-enthusiastic, which leads to burn out and abandonment of what is, at this stage of my life, a necessity.

A couple of weeks ago, I went surfing on the web for local yoga classes. I've gotten to the point where I feel like I can benefit from having a teacher, to make sure I'm doing the poses correctly, etc. I found some at the local fitness center, and Jim says "Why don't you check out the family rates for joining the gym?". As it turns out, we get a deep discount because of his job with the county -- Blue Cross figures they come out ahead financially if they encourage their clients to exercise. I'm especially pleased that Jim is getting involved in this, because his health is a cause for worry.

Anyway, now I'm doing cardio, and weight training, and taking not only yoga classes, but tai chi as well. The classes will necessarily become quite hit-and-miss once school starts, but they're set up so you can just drop in any time. I'm learning a lot, the most important lesson being that exercise drops my blood sugar like a rock. I ate a chili dog last night, just as a rare indulgence, and my blood sugar stayed at such an incredibly low level I thought something was wrong with the tester.

Most days I manage a healthy, pescetarian diet -- sometimes leaning to the super-good and being vegetarian, other times being a bit bad and having a little meat and white flour (as in the aforementioned chili dog). I've discovered that, for me, there are three main diet killers: convenience, boredom, and the "God ,I miss that" moment -- as in "God, I haven't had a chili dog in ages!" The convenience part comes about because my beloved husband thinks the whole notion of vegetarianism is silly, and so he keeps sandwhich meat around, tempting me during hurried lunches, or worse, he decides to make or bring home dinner. And, I give in because it's just easier. The boredom, I suppose, is self-explanatory -- there are times when I just can't look one more veggie stir-fry in the face.

I've actually gained back a little bit of weight, and since my diet has been good, I suspect that I'm putting on muscle because of all this activity. One more reason to stay away from the scale.

I've also been trying to get a handle on my TMJ, which is the painful aftermath of grinding your teeth in your sleep. The mouth guard I paid 400 bucks for is virtually worthless. At best, it keeps me from breaking my teeth, but I'm still enduring a very sore jaw muscle. So, I went to a massage therapist and had a long consultation with one of the yoga teachers. What mostly came out of that is that I am not physically over the car accident I had in January. So, I've been focusing my home yoga practice towards the therapeutic, since I figure I'm getting exercise elsewhere, working on the traumatized and knotted muscles in my jaw, shoulder, neck, and hips. And just trying to relax which, as it turns out, actually requires a good deal of effort.

I was going to put this piece on my private blog, but there are so many folks out there who are looking up exercise and diet stuff on the web, that I figured I'd have my 2 cents out there for the search engines.