Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Stairway to Fitness

Ye gads, it’s hot, but I love it. It really feels like summer, although I know it will “gloom” down next month and then perk back up again in July. But I’m enjoying it as much as I can even though it probably isn’t long-lived.

I feel great, now that the root canal was finished this morning. The endodontist said that things are looking good. The tooth is all cleaned out and sealed up, and he put my temporary crown back on. Once the final crown is made, my regular dentist can put that on and I will be finished with this. [The endodontist just called me a few minutes ago and asked me how I was doing. “Great! Just great!” I said, very enthusiastically. Then I added, “And I’m not on drugs!”, because I sounded to myself kind of like I was (and I have them), but I haven’t taken any of them. I’m sure my claiming to not be sounded even more like I was, but he just laughed and said he was happy that I was doing so well.]

In my previous post, I wrote about starting back on an exercise program once we move into our summer schedule (end work at 2:30 and Fridays off). However, with this good weather and my feeling so good, I started it today. I have a great book, Stairway Walks In Los Angeles, that maps out 18 different walks in the Los Angeles area that take the walker into hidden, beautiful, and sometimes fascinating neighborhoods that one doesn’t normally go through or really even know about. Despite being such a “car town”, L.A. can be quite fascinating when experienced on foot. I decided to use those different walks as a basis for the walking phase of my program.

One thing that links the majority of these walks is that most of them feature some portion of the route that includes stairways. You wouldn’t think there would be that many (or any), but there are many, many locations in the hilly areas that have public stairways that connect sections of the streets, going inbetween the houses and saving pedestrians the trouble and distance of having the follow the switch-back road down out of the hills (or up them), but can, instead, make quicker descents down these stairs. So this maybe tells you that these walks are much more intense exercise than simply walking down the street, because you walk up and down very steep roadways and stairways. It’s also quite scenic, due to being up in the hills, and the houses in these kinds of areas tend to be beautiful, cool, unusual, impressive, or in some other way worth seeing and mentally “oohing” over as you walk by.

For my first stairway walk, I chose one that I could do right from my apartment, so I didn’t have to drive to it. It was walk number 11, “Lower Beachwood,” subtitled “Churches, Temples, Monasteries, and Mosques.” Interestingly, that is something you definitely do find on this route, including the Vedanta Meditation Center, a house where Krishnamurti once lived, the Hollywood Presbyterian complex that covers two and a half city blocks, a Russian Orthodox mosque, and a Dominican monastery. Beyond all the religious buildings were countless houses of all shapes and sizes, each one amazing in some way, including shaded courtyards with fountains (very inviting-looking in this heat), awesome decks on various levels, and unusual examples of archtecture (lots of Spanish and Moorish architecture). Despite the crowded maze of streets and very difficult parking (although it seemed that most of the houses had garages or plenty of parking room on their property), I can see why people like to live in the Hollywood Hills. Technically, I, too, live in the Hollywood Hills, but at the very brink of it and about as “lowland” as you can be while still officially being in the hills.

I took in too much hot air as I panted up pyramid-steep hills and pretty soon the entire inside of my mouth and throat felt like a dry, cracked leather boot. Note to self: Next time, bring a water bottle! (I quickly filled my water bottle up after I got home and now have it chilling in the refrigerator, ready for my next walk.)

As I walked, I thought of how I should organize my exercise, and figured I ought to alternate something aerobic with something weight lifting. So tomorrow is weight lifting, although I will start doing this with equipment I have at home instead of going to the gym. I’m sure I’ll start going back to the gym in a few weeks, but for now, I like the convenience of doing this at home until I really get into it.

To make the aerobic phase more fun, I want to do other things besides simply walking all the time. I love swimming and there is a convenient public swimming pool quite close to where I work, so that’s a place I can go to on the way home. I checked out their website to get the scoop (hours of operation, cost, etc.) and saw that Los Angeles has a whole aquatics program that includes, among a lot of other things, kayak lessons and rentals at the Hansens Dam and Balboa lakes. Yeah, that sounds like a great idea for the weekends, so I am going to check that out. I’ve wanted to do some kayaking, but didn’t really know how, or where.

Bicycle-riding sounds like a good idea, too, and I can easily fantasize how great it would be if I could get into riding a bicycle to work. I could imagine how much weight THAT would help me to lose, and with gasoline on the brink of $4.00 a gallon, the money savings is a good draw, too. But all that’s a HUGE if. It is a very difficult ride to the school, because first I have to get up to Mulholland Drive and that is a very long, steep, curvy hill up Cahuenga to there...and then there is the remainder of the eleven-mile journey on this up and down and curving all around mountain road. (I don’t know how long such a trip would take, and it would have to be done twice a day.) I do not at all have the fitness for it and can almost imagine that I NEVER would have the ability to get up Cahuenga to Mulholland Road. I’m not sure how to even develop that ability. Practice, practice, practice with going up hill, I guess, but for me, that would have to be in frustrating five-minute increments, I think. But sometimes one has to accept success coming in miniscule increments (that’s what I learned from physical therapy), and success DOES come.

Riding a bicycle on the streets of Los Angeles sounds horrible--too much crowding traffic, very dangerous. Mulholland is a different animal altogether and there are several bike riders up there that I see every morning when I am driving to work (you know, the arrogant frou-frou kind, all covered in multi-colored spandex, thinking they are Lance Armstrong but will squeal like stuck pigs if you drive too close to them). So, if I can’t handle Mulholland, I wouldn’t want to ride a bicycle except at the beach or on mountain trails. So this puts me in a quandary of not knowing what kind of a bicycle to get--a mountain bike, a road bike, or a hybrid? Oh well, I’ll figure it out.

What’s great is that the mood is on me and I am excited. I need to get going and keep on going so that I get addicted. If this great weather holds out, that will be no problem, because I WANT to be outside.

Meanwhile, as I wrote before, I’m enjoying my home-made (non-diet) meals! Tonight I had a great dinner of left-over Amish creamed chicken and corn souffle. I heated up some tomato basil soup, but the other dishes filled me up, so I didn’t take any soup (gee, it probably had minus 10 calories). Good appetite control, but honest. Anway, exercising like this is one way to pay the piper. But it’s gotta be fun, that’s the key for me.

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