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Category Archives: staying in shape
So you made it through the holidays. You stayed up on New Year’s Eve to watch the ball drop at midnight (or you didn’t, in my case) and now you’re making resolutions to lose some weight, get in shape, pursue that better career. If so, you are impressive. You are also probably exhausted.
I’ve got a new year’s resolution for you that I intend to adopt early and often—get more sleep.
Way, way, way too many times I’ve heard students, new mothers and ambitious business people say, “Sleep is overrated.”
Sleep is your body’s way of repairing itself. Sleep is blissful. Sleep keeps you from getting sick and dying early. If your kids are asleep and it’s eight hours before you have to wake up in the morning—go to bed and sleep for heaven’s sake!
Do it. You won’t be sorry when you wake up in the morning feeling good. You’ll function well, your reflexes will be better and you’ll be able focus on the task at hand. Overrated? I think not. All the above claims are made by the National Institute of Health—scientists who do research and know their stuff. Not your boss, not your kids, not your burn-out-early-party-animal friends.
This is what the NIH sleep expert says about different ages and sleep needs:
- Adults need 7-8 hours at night
- Babies need 16 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period
- Young children need 10 hours of sleep
- Teenagers need at least 9 hours. No, they’re not just being lazy.
So go to sleep 2 hours after your young children go down, assuming you all wake up at about the same time. If you wake up earlier than them, get in your jammies at the same time and go to bed shortly after they do. Real Housewives can wait. In fact, I think you could probably chuck it altogether and not feel like you were missing anything of value.
If you have an infant, do like my mother says and ‘Sleep when they sleep.’ The laundry can wait. Then sleep train ‘em. I totally mean it. This does not entail what some people feel is the torturous and medieval ‘cry it out’ method. Convince them gently but absolutely that we sleep at night, we sleep all night (unless we are an infant and need a bit to eat, and then it is not a midnight tea party y’all) and we get enough sleep. It is the third thing that I teach my children when they enter the world after ‘I love you’ and ‘You can trust me to take care of your needs.’
The rest is totally up to you. Aim for at least half an hour before lights out. Have a comfy bed, snuggly pajamas and a relaxing routine. Perhaps it’s a bath before bed, a cup of tea, a good book (don’t stay up late reading, though) or a bit of a magazine or newspaper. It shall not be your phone, tablet or laptop, nor should it be the television. Lights should be minimal as well as the noise level—no techno pop or German speed metal. Meditate if you need to, put on a fan or white noise machine if necessary to drown out city noises. Then turn off the light, close your eyes, take a deep breath and head off to Dreamland.
Join me in this easy, no regrets and no sweat New Year’s resolution. Now go to sleep.
Post twin pregnancy and turning forty, I’m reevaluating the shape of my body—literally. My health is another issue with which I have very little issue. I am, alas in some respects, not the long, lithe and lean dancer that I used to be. Oh I suppose I could join CrossFit and dump my twenty year ban on beef, pork and lamb and go on the uber-trendy Paleo diet. I could work really hard to look really hard in my forty year-old skin. But the truth is: I don’t wanna.
I’ve got better things to spend my time on, like the growth of my children, the expansion of my world of knowledge and experience and the shape of my brain. I spent forty minutes the other morning going out for a run, which was nice but the muscle development in my legs was only a minor side benefit compared to the time spent outdoors in the fresh air and the audiobook I was engrossed in.
I run to keep my brain from short-circuiting and destroying itself, to keep my metabolism high enough to enjoy these scones in the morning and a glass of whiskey in the evening, to ready myself for a ten-day backpacking trek with my dad this summer, and to get my energy levels a fraction closer to that of my kids. A rear end that my husband still admires is a nice touch, too, but I secretly believe he loves me for my mind. I also spent an hour and a half the other night reading photographer Sally Mann’s memoir and drinking the aforementioned glass of whiskey. Screw the Dailey Method, I’m stretching out on the couch.
When I see middle-aged women who are thin and shaped like rails, I think that often times they look brittle. Aging skin doesn’t go over long and lean bodies in the same way. A hard body is just that—hard, sharp and uncomfortable.
When my children sit down in my lap, I want them to lean into the softness of my stomach where they were once housed rather than six-pack abs. My arms are toned into the perfect shape for hugs and my breasts have served their worthiest purpose and been declared perfectly adequate.
Is this ageing gracefully? I don’t know. I think that has more to do with the way I treat people and build relationships rather than the way I treat my skin or build my muscles. Do I worry about how I look? Oh sure. I’m a human being and a woman in the world. But I’m ready to shed my identity of pretty and young, long and lean. I’m not totally sure what my description is after this, though I hope not to disappear entirely. Too often, I think that happens when women have children and then creep toward middle age. I hope that people will see me for what I create and not just the creation of my children.
I dream that someday, fifty will be an age where women are seen as being regal and amazing lifetime creations. At seventy, she is beyond all value, because nothing is as cherished as a grandmother who is a treasure box of adventures, games, rhymes and memories. I will tell my grandchildren that I was once a lithe and lean dancer, but the beauty of the memory is the music, the dance and the swirling of silk and golden coins. This is what I want to hold dear, what I will deem amazing and magical—not the structure of my bones or the percentage of fat that clings to them. A well-shaped body is not what makes up a life. It is the body of memories that make a well-shaped life.
For more about my life and thoughts and other tidbits:
Running in the Rain and Enjoying Nature
The rain sprinkled my face and the wet chill in the air made me feel alive. I went running this morning, not letting a bit of rain (thanks, God, for listening to California’s prayers) deter me from a workout and a little freedom. The sound of rushing water beside me and the honking of Canadian Geese above me– a soundtrack for the morning. Oh, sure, there was the sound of car tires sluicing the water on the city streets, too, my feet were slapping wet asphalt, and the water wasn’t a forest stream, but the rainwater in the drainage channel. Still, it was the sound of water and birds, even in suburbia. Nature’s there, trust me. You just need to look around.
As the rain streaked my face and I pondered the invention of windshield wipers for glasses, a couple of squirrels darted across the path in front of me, as if daring me to catch them. I ran past the Intermediate school, and watched the Canadian Geese (on a stop-over from flying north early or coming south a bit late, I wasn’t sure) necks tall and straight. The were high-stepping across the wet basketball courts, prancing with their black, webbed feet as if they wished they were carriage horses.
I realize that the Northern California suburbs are not the backwoods of Virginia, nor the majestic High Sierra, but I can’t get there right now. I love a good, dirty, sleep-on-the-ground backpacking trip as much as the next hippie, but since I’m still performing as the human cow, I won’t be gone from my babies for more than a day at a time. There’s a backpacking trip in the works (summer 2015) to visit my brother’s final resting place in the mountains, and I hope to get all the kids back to the beach again soon, but right now, we don’t go far from our suburban homestead.
And that’s okay. There are geese and hummingbirds, crepe myrtle and daffodils to be enjoyed right here within the neighborhood back forty.