Tag: exercise

lucky dragon

E. convinced me to try it as we sat in his living room one night, while eating chocolate-covered figs. He retrieved a Swiffer from the crowded broom closet and taught me how to paddle. He sat down next to me on the couch, handed me the Swiffer, and we pretended we were on a boat. I expressed my doubts. He shrugged and suggested that all the guys who do it are really fit and good-looking. The whole situation was comical, and I bought into it. I mean, there were chocolate-covered figs involved. Of course I was tricked!

The next day, he texted me at like 8:23am and asked, “You awake?”

Ugh. So I pulled on my stupid tiny bike shorts and geeky waterproof shoes to trudge downstairs for my first dragon boat practice. We arrived at the World’s Fair Marina, already drenched in sweat. The heat was nearly unbearable, even for me(!) I felt my hair immediately growing lighter, my skin growing darker.

We got on the water. I felt like I couldn’t breathe after every run. But E. was right in the end. All the common suffering buoyed us, and I just reminded myself what he promised (tricked?) me: “Yeah, it seems like you’re doing to die and you won’t make it through the sprint. But TRUST ME it will make you forget all the suffering your heart is going through.”

… yeah. sho’ did. For a hot minute.


Before we went out on the water, the very fit and good-looking guy in front of me (that part wasn’t 100% a lie) turned around while the boat was still docked and introduced himself.

“Hi, I’m Jack,” he said.

“Hi, I’m Rose,” I replied.

“Oh man. It’s like… Titanic! We met on a boat together!” he ventured, grinning. Which makes this the first time in history a guy has initiated the cheesy part of the Titanic reference with utter sincerity. “Just promise me you’ll never let go.”

You really can’t make this up, even if you wanted to.

So yeah, um. After that, I paddled the sh*t out of that race, my eyes following his paddle the whole time (I got lectured later about the difference between paddling and rowing).

That evening, my roommate brought home a whole bag of Jamaican sweet currant rolls and asked if I wanted any. I told myself, I deserve this.

And yes, I believe I do. I deserve this life. My heart sure will go on.

You can’t have everything at once. But give me one of each: the sun on my face, the water, a way to paddle to another shore, and the ability to write myself out of any storm.

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Staying active while on the road

Exercising while traveling presents a unique challenge, and the solutions (or excuses we make) can depend on a variety of factors such as:

  • Location and terrain of where you’re staying
  • Climate/weather
  • Whether it’s safe to be in the streets alone
  • Budget and cost of gym/classes

It’s too windy to go running! What to do?

Traveling often can be stressful on the body; though you may put your best efforts into staying healthy, it’s easy to cite a variety of reasons for falling off the healthy diet/exercise wagon (i.e.: “I couldn’t fit a 44LB kettlebell in my carry-on,” “Soylent doesn’t come in 3oz travel containers yet,” the grocery store is too far away, Snickers bars don’t spoil as fast as spinach does).

Also, we sometimes adopt an all-or-nothing attitude that can chip away at our resolve. I find myself thinking, “If I don’t have time or energy to complete a full 30 minutes to an hour of exercise, I shouldn’t even start.”

Options seem limited without consistent access to a gym. When I happen to be traveling to a place that is not as safe or has a climate that is not as conducive to outdoor activity, I struggle to find alternatives to running.

Some things I’ve learned so far:

  1. Use your body weight. 
    Calisthenics (squats, lunges, pushups, planks, etc.) and other exercises are great. The New York Times wrote about the 7 Minute Perfect Workout, which can be a good place to start.

    Per a friend’s suggestion, I’ve also been learning some primal-style workouts, such as animal flow. Though initially it looks a bit funny because you’re mimicking animals, it’s an incredible total-body workout that requires no equipment.

  2. Just 10 minutes of exercise will make you feel good.
    Pick 3-5 exercises and do each for either a certain amount of time or a certain number of reps. Tabata and other types of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) only take a few minutes and, trust me, you’ll get a work out. You don’t have to work out for an hour to reap the benefits. Doing a little bit daily will get you in the habit!
  3. It’s okay to take breaks in the middle of workouts. 
    I often feel the pressure and urgency to do a lot of cardio or a lot of exercise concentrated in a period of time. If you’re traveling for vacation, use this luxury of time to pause in the middle of workouts. Survey the beautiful landscape, meditate for even a few seconds. I’m writing this during a pause while sitting in the middle of a yoga mat before I finish up today’s workout.
  4. Low impact movements can have great effect. 
    Taking the time to do just a few sun salutations or pilates series leaves me feeling refreshed and it helps me accomplish my goal of daily movement. Your daily routine doesn’t have to include burpees and heavy deadlifts to be effective! Learn modifications for exercises to fit your fitness level and body type.
  5. Pair exercise with another habit.
    One of the oldest tricks for developing habits is pairing it with one that is already pretty solid in your life. I’ve always done my “toothbrush dance,” but my electric toothbrush now provides 2 fully-timed minutes of standing around, twice a day. So I do little barre-style squat pulses (very safely) while brushing my teeth. Embarrassing, maybe, but kind of fun  and productive for the perpetual multi-tasker.
  6. Set measureable (and reachable!) goals. 
    I loved a friend’s suggestion of doing a small amount a day and making the goals reachable. I try to do at a minimum 20 lunges on each side, 20 pushups, 1.5 minutes of plank, and of course my toothbrushing squats. I also try to practice my headstand or handstand at least once daily.
  7. Ask others for help, suggestions, or accountability. 
    I’ve learned so much from friends just by asking for help or suggestions on what they do while traveling. It’s also nice to have travel buddies who want to stay on track, and we can keep each other accountable for doing regular fitness activities.

Being able to travel has been (and still is) one of the most amazing and life-changing privileges in my life. I am grateful for it every day. More than anything — have fun, watch the sun rise and set, and rejoice in feeling the wind on your face no matter what direction it takes you.

Traveler, there is no path.

On the subway ride home, I stumbled across a familiar quote in the book I am reading. The quote is from a poem by Antonio Machado, one of the great Spanish poets of the Generación del ’98.

Traveler, there is no path.
The path is made by walking.

Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.

I had just finished my workout, during which I had muttered under my breath with exasperation, “Yeah, remember? I can’t do single-leg deadlifts with my left leg,” and he looked at me sternly.

“Of course you can. I’ve seen you do it. Maybe your left leg doesn’t do them as well as your right leg yet. Maybe it doesn’t look how you want it to look. Maybe it needs more help and support from time to time. Maybe it feels shitty. But I don’t want to hear you say you can’t do it. Every day, just by doing, you’re getting better. You’re learning, you’re practicing. Walk the path.”

I got home and stumbled upon Maria Popova’s reminder about Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece, “a minimalist, maximally wonderful allegory at the heart of which is the emboldening message that true love doesn’t complete us, even though at first it might appear to do that, but lets us grow and helps us become more fully ourselves.”

I thought about being able to walk on my own, roll out my edges on my own. Taking shape before ambling down the path of life side by side with someone else.

Though he never answers it, Machado writes:

Between living and dreaming there is a third thing. Guess it.

themissingpiecemeetsthebigo24  themissingpiecemeetsthebigo23

Images from Shel Silverstein’s book, borrowed from Brain Pickings. 


from Times Alone: Selected Poems

Cielo y tierra pasarán.
Cuando cielo y tierra pasen
mi palabra quedará.
¿Cuál fue, tu palabra?
¿Amor? ¿Perdón? ¿Caridad?
Todas tus palabras fueron
una palabra: Velad.

Heaven and earth will pass away.
When heaven and earth have passed away,
my word will still remain.
What was your word?
Love? Forgiveness? Affection?
All your words were
one word: Awaken.

post postscript:

For fun,

The absence of vices adds so little to the sum of one’s virtues.

— Antonio Machado