Category Archives: Excercise

Feeling Annoyed

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

For the past two years I have played ping pong for exercise. The club
has about 100 members and at the time I play, 9:00 am, many retired
folks, some of whom are completely out of my league excellent and
others welcoming and helpful. I was a newbie for a while, but got
pretty good, certainly mid tier. One of the very regulars is a man in his
80s, who had eye surgery that seems to have failed utterly. He used
to be mid-pack but now couldn’t hit the ball if it were the size of a
basketball. In addition he tells long stories and jokes to cover up his
frustration, which just slows down the game even more. I like him,
and I feel sorry for him, and I know this will happen to us all. But for
me this is exercise time, and I cannot give it all over to kindness, even
though I feel guilty saying that. Is there a gentle way to convey my
need to rotate with other players without offending someone who was
kind to me when I needed it?

Feeling Annoyed

 
Dear Annoyed:

There’s a certain amount of kindness and grace that’s required from us
all, in every situation. Here’s your chance to step up. When you play
with him, gently suggest that stories are great and interesting, but
they slow down your need to keep in motion, something your own
doctor has said is essential. Say you’re happy to hear them but could
he please keep playing while he talks. If he complies, hooray. If not,
try to rotate to a different table after a politely appropriate amount of
time.

 

Most clubs have some kind of manager or facilitator. Quietly take that
person aside and ask if s/he has noticed to decline in this person’s
play. Say that you like him and are happy to keep playing with him a
little while each time you come. But that given the large number of
players, there should be a rotating pool of people to help care for the
elders. Ask him if he would be willing to speak to the man directly,
suggesting that he schedule a follow-up with his eye surgeon. The
difficulties might be temporary, or they may presage something that
requires more medical attention. No matter what, stress your
willingness to be a good person. You’ll need the same grace someday,
as will we all.

Couch Potato

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I need to get off the sofa. I’ve been in a long-term vacation from
exercise after some very traumatic surgery a year ago. I’m finally off
the pain meds but I can’t seem to motivate myself. I pay for a gym
membership dutifully every month. I make dates to go on walks with
friends. I swear to my children every week that I will get back to being
the active senior that I was before the surgery. But when I go to get
ready to exercise, it is simply too easy to pick up the remote or the
phone. What can I do to motivate myself that will work. It’s not my
weight I am worried about, but my overall health, physical and
emotional.

Couch Potato

 
Dear Couch Potato:

Start with a general physical and visit with your doctor. Get reassured
that all your vitals are healthy. If there’s a concern about depression
being the cause of your inactivity, a doctor’s the best person to assess
it. S/he can develop an overall fitness plan for you. Because you’ll
probably have to wait for an appointment, at least a few weeks, start
by some gentle walking. Literally, walk out your front door after
breakfast and walk for, say, fifteen minutes the first day. As you walk
around your neighborhood, don’t forget to talk to people: other
walkers, dogwalkers, gardeners, shop owners. Just a Hi and a nod, a
Good morning, or just a wave will get you in the habit of connecting
with people again. You’ll even start to look forward to the walks which
you can extend for a couple minutes or blocks as you develop the
habit.

 
Another motivating tool is a pedometer. You can buy simple ones for
about $50 that you can wear around your neck. They track every step
(especially if you take it off last thing at night and put it on first thing
in the morning) and will inspire your inner competitor. (I attest that
this is true, she said proudly .) Setting a goal is very useful and
watching yourself get closer to it will inspire you. The traditional model
is 10,000 steps a day for weight loss. But just monitoring your daily
total will help you get closer to that goal. Bonus points if you can
inspire a friend to get one too and to compare notes and progress.
It takes time get back into exercise, especially after medical issues and
a long vacation. But as you begin to generate endorphins from moving
off the sofa, you will find yourself quickly looking forward to your time
on your feet.

Twenty Pounds Over the Line

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m trying to get ready for knee surgery later this year. It’s very hard
sticking to a food and exercise program when you are dating and have
friends who celebrate life. There are too many occasions for eating
out, catching a drink, going to BBQs and graduation parties. I know
you have heard this a thousand times before, but what’s a polite way
to be social and engage with people without compromising my
principles and priorities. To be clear, this is not about vanity. It is
about medical necessity.

Twenty Pounds Over the Line

 
Dear Twenty Pounds:

Unless your friends are unusual, the person who raises a fork or glass
to her mouth and decides what goes in is you. And only you. So all the
advice in the world is no substitute for self-control, commitment, and
focus. Each meal, even each mouthful, is a choice. You may see a
warm fresh challah, inhale its aroma, imagine its pillowy goodness,
and yearn for its sweetness. But that doesn’t mean you have to eat it.
Or if you do, to have more than one appreciative bite. Or slice, or two,
or..….It is a slippery slope. Only you decide what is enjoyed by your
eyes and nose but not by your mouth.

 
Make a list of your food principles. There’s the obvious about low
sugar, low fat, maybe even low gluten. But there’s also the idea of
portion control within whatever food program you choose. If you are
going to a party, ask the hostess what’s going to be served. Don’t be
shy about saying That sounds lovely but my doctor has me eating
veggies. I hope you don’t mind if I bring a platter of fresh veggies and
low-cal dip to add to the offerings. When you dine out, order a salad
and an appetizer, not a full meal. Control your alcohol consumption.
Talk your diet plan over with your doc and get a sign off and set goals
together.

 

 

Don’t neglect the exercise part of the equation. Find a low-impact class
that you can tolerate, or learn to love water aerobics. Again, your
docwill have ideas. But once you have a plan, stick to it like glue until
after the surgery. You will be very happy later when you are light and
svelte and can embrace life more fully in your newly bionic body.

Serious This Time

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I did what you said but it is not working. I asked a friend of mine if she
wanted to be my exercise buddy. We are both mid-sixties, too
sedentary, and want to lose 20-25 pounds. Previously we took a class
together at the university so I know she is a hard worker when she
puts her mind to something. Also, she is one of the bluntest and most
honest people I know, so when she says she is going to commit to
something I take her at her word. It has been two weeks since we
agreed to meet Tuesday and Friday mornings at 10 for an hour for
hand weights, tai chi, stretching, and balance ball exercises. I have all
the equipment we need and the space. She has been late twice,
cancelled once, and seems much more interested in talking than
moving. In addition she brings over kugel, blintzes, etc, all of which
are delicious but are not on my diet. How can I tell her this is not what
I had in mind?

Serious This Time

 
Dear Serious This Time:

Nothing works as well as the truth when you’re talking to a friend. And
if she’s not a good enough friend for you to feel comfortable talking to
honestly, you should look for someone else to see twice a week.
Retired or not, time is too valuable to spend waiting for someone who
is not as committed as you are or who you don’t feel close enough to
to speak honestly.

 
The next time you get together, work out as hard as you want. Then
talk to her Ask how the agreement is working for her, whether she
feels on track with her goals, and whether she feels she is following
through on your agreement. Listen to her answer. Then tell her the
contradictions you have observed. Tell her you plan to start promptly
at 10:00 from now on when you have scheduled to meet, whether she
is on time or not, and that you are going to stop at 11:00. Say you are
in it for your health and are treating these tow hours like doctors’
appointments. Tell her you want to make this work, and hope she does
too. Only time will tell if she steps up.

Bigger Than Chubby

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I can’t even look at myself in the mirror. I have no idea how many
times I have said, I’m never eating sugar again. I’m going to exercise
30 minutes each day. I am off carbs. No more burgers and fries. Etc
etc etc with everything my mother told me for years: Eat less and
move more! I’ve paid more to Weight Watchers than my synagogue.
And here I am, fat again. Fatter than most of the clothes in my closet.
Fatter than I should be with spring looming. Hellllpppppp….

Bigger Than Chubby

 
Dear Bigger Than Chubby:

Any time this side of the grave is not too late to get healthier and
lighter. Your question suggests you know what to do, but lack the
motivation to actually do it consistently. Assuming you don’t want to
invest in a new wardrobe one size larger, try this motivating tool, an
exercise is best done when no one else is home. Pull everything in
your wardrobe out of the closet. Turn all the lights in your room on
bright. They won’t be as bad as a department store dress-on room,
but you’ll get the same ugh! effect. Divide your closet into three parts:
fits now; would fit if I lost 10-15 pounds; and maybe it&'s time to
donate this. One by one, try on every piece of clothing you own, from
jeans to party wear. (Note: Allow yourself a glass of wine along the
way. It’ll help you laugh and complete the exercise.)

 
Once you see how far you’ve drifted from where you were and where
you want to be, set up a program for yourself to start ASAP, as in
today. Find 30 minutes each day to walk. Wake up earlier; walk at
lunchtime or before or after dinner. Consistency matters but most
important is doing something every day. Studies show that folks who
move from sedentary to active get a bigger impact for their time than
already athletes who add 30 minutes to their existing routines. Set
some food absolutes, like no fries ever, and sugar only once a week.
Eat more veggies and less fat. Fruit not chocolate. If Weight Watchers
is your program, read the rules like you’ve never seen them before,
including all the tips and community posts. Or go to meetings. Get on
the scale at least once a week. Avoiding and fearing your scale is one
of the surest tip-offs that your clothing exercise will slowly but
inexorably shift towards the Eeek doesn’t fit! side of the closet. Many
of us will be doing the same things as days get longer and clothing
tighter. See you on the walking paths.

Told Her So

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

One of my best friends just turned 50. She’s upset because (in her
mind) she is 15 pounds overweight. She decided to diet and throw
herself into exercise. She joined a gym and started taking any class
she could both before and after work and on weekends: step aerobics,
Nia, Zumba, Spin, and things I’ve never ever heard of. She was really
excited the first few weeks, and then got quiet. It turns out that’s
when she hurt herself but decided to “push through.” What a bad
decision! That’s according to both me and her doctor, who has told her
she now has tendonitis, in both her right arm and both legs, and needs
to totally back off from all exercise, ice, and go to PT. Also to take it
slow when she does start again. But she’s morose because that’s
months away. She’s grumpy and whiney and not taking any
responsibility for the damage she inflicted on herself. I want to be
supportive of her setback but also to make her realize her
responsibility and that she has to do things differently to avoid a
repeat in the future.

Told Her So

 
Dear Told Her So:

No one likes to be hurt. No one likes to be told, I told you so. Instead
you’re going to have to swallow what you want to say and say what
she needs to hear in a way that she will actually hear it. Like most
people who have committed some form of self-sabotage, your friend is
probably carrying a strong degree of shame and anger at herself as
well as pain and frustration over this setback. Yes, 50 isn’t 40 or 30 or
20. She’s learning that the hard way and you don’t need to, and
shouldn’t, rub her face in it.

 
It’ll be counter-productive to tell her not to repeat what she did again.
It’ll also be counter-productive to speak retrospectively. Instead, talk
in questions to which the only possible answers will be what she needs
to hear herself say. Things like: What did the doctor say caused it?
What did the doctor say to do now? What did the doctor say to do
about starting to exercise again later? What can you do now? Add
supportive things like: I’d be happy to do your PT exercises with you
and learn the stretching that I need to do too. The hard part will pass
and she’ll learn, or you’ll both get to practice these lessons again.

Stand My Ground?

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I have been searching for the right place to exercise. Finally, I joined
the local Y and have been enjoying it. I start my day with 8:00 tai chi,
a class with many people who have been doing it together for years.
On Fridays the class is participant-led; the oldies gather at 7:30 to do
a long form the rest of us don’t know. But the routine takes until 8:10.
Each week the rest of us stand around each week waiting. Last week I
said “Consensus is you should start sooner or end on time so we can
start our class on time.” They got all huffy but then said they would
move to a different room and came in when they finish. This week
they started making catty remarks about “Sarah says…” I spoke up
because the other women were intimidated. Not much intimidates me,
but I feel disssed and vulnerable in a place that had been a welcome
retreat. I’ve pre-paid for a year.

Stand My Ground?

 
Dear Stand My Ground:

The alternatives you posed were quite reasonable. Given that the
oldies were being selfish about wasting other people’s time, it was
appropriate to speak up. But I can understand your feelings of
vulnerability. An alternative strategy might have been to ask the Y
staff to say something or post a notice, or to just start doing your
regular routine on time in another part of the room. No matter what,
you would probably have been tagged as the complainer simply for
being new, if the others had been putting up with the rudeness for a
long time.

 
You don’t say how you’ve responded to the “Sarah says…” comments.
It sounds as though you’ve been quiet and internalized them. If you
want to continue tai chi there, and end the verbal abuse, consider
responding the next time with: For the record, it was not just me who
was standing around having my time taken. This class is for
everyone’s participation. So it seems reasonable that at 8:00 we
should all be equal. It’s great you know something special. If you
prefer this room, perhaps begin at 7:15. Or else, please join us when
you’re done in the other room. But name calling seems antithetical to
the spirit of what we’re gathered here to do.” It’ll be uncomfortable for
a little while. But then it will blow over. They can’t like you less and
may respect you more.

Shortie

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I am 59 and have just been diagnosed with osteopenia (the precursor
of osteoporosis). I used to be almost 5’3”. Now I am 5’11/2. Eeek I am
shrinking! I hate gyms but know that I have to do exercises to halt the
process. I am scared and feel motivated but also know that I am not
very disciplined. I know I can’t get taller, but when I saw a picture of
myself recently I looked like a short child sitting at an office
conference table with all the grown-ups. Everyone else’s head was a
foot higher off the table. How can I grow?
Shortie

 
Dear Shortie:
There’s an app for that! It’s called weight-bearing exercise. It’s
something you can do at home or at a gym. My best recommendation
is to see if there’s course designed specifically to counteract
osteoporosis at a local community college or parks/rec program. Most
communities have services specifically for seniors and this is a pretty
popular topic and problem. Start there and see if you can learn, and
sustain, a program with weights at home. There are also likely DVDs
that you could work out with, but better to learn the correct
movements in a class first so you don’t inadvertently do some damage
and not be able to follow through on your program. If you do fail to
exercise, then a gym or a personal trainer are very viable next steps.

 
The other thing you can do, to quote my dear departed mother is to
Stand up straight, Pull your shoulders back, and Look up not down.
You could also hire a posture coach, someone who might say the same
thing but also help you know how to do them. I’m not talking
schoolmistress with a ruler rapping your knuckles, but maybe a dance
teacher to act as a tutor. As one short middle-aged Jewish woman to
another, I’m proud of Elena Kagan for standing tall and representing
the rest of us as bright and competent, if short.