Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Different Kind of Workout

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My folks are here in Florida to visit for a while--how long is yet to be seen. They got here on Wednesday, and each day we have visited, watched some TV, had a little excursion here and there, and generally enjoyed each others' company. I was born 27 days after my mom's 42nd birthday, so my parents are a little older than other people's my age. My mom is 78, my dad 73. As much as I enjoy seeing them, each time I do, I must adjust to their physical and mental decline from the way I see them in my mind. In my mind's eye, my dad can still reach out and wrap his arms around a fencepost, waggle it around a little bit and pull it out of the ground. My mom is still the best crossword solver in the world. And I am still 20...
(pics taken with my iphone)
But my mind's eye is wrong, and seeing the decline breaks my heart. The physical is hard enough, but the loss of mental sharpness is what really gets me. To some degree, such loss is predetermined by genetics, but it is by no means an inevitability for most people. We can fight it off much the way we fight so hard to keep away the physical decline. In honor of my wonderful parents, I thought I'd share some ways you can work as hard to keep your mind as sharp as your physique.

Just like our muscles become conditioned to our workouts, and we must change things up to continue to challenge them, our brains become conditioned to our patterns. Each and every part of our bodies will do everything it can to make its job as easy as possible. That is simple survival. The patterns of our actions form pathways in our brain that allow us to perform those patterns with as little effort for our brain as possible, on autopilot so-to-speak. Think about your drive home from work. How many times do you get home and not remember much of anything about your drive? You were on autopilot. When you break out of this pattern, you force your brain to construct new neuronal pathways, to literally fire new circuits that weren't being used, just like a new workout recruits new muscle. Use a neuron, and it is more likely to keep firing. Let it sit dormant, and well, it's harder to get going again.

So how does one keeps as many neurons firing as possible as frequently as possible? The first step is to use as many senses as possible as frequently as possible. Consciously absorb all of the sensory input you can as you go through your day. Shut one sense down in an attempt to heighten another. Close your eyes and focus, really focus, on the sounds around you, the way the room or the yard or parking lot smells. Focus on the textures of your surroundings. Slow down at your meal and truly taste your food, feel the way it pops between your teeth or smooshes on your tongue. Don't just float through life, BE AWARE of everything. APPRECIATE everything. For what it's worth, the mentor who taught me this concept believed sex was the best way to stimulate all the senses at once. :)

The next step in keeping the brain sharp is staying out of the proverbial rut. If you usually drive to work in an automatic, every now and then borrow a standard transmission vehicle and drive it. Occasionally ride with the windows down or drive with gloves on. Take a different route to work. Try new foods. Sit in a different chair in your living room. Do your nightly routine out of its usual order. You get the idea. Shake things up. It forces your brain to stay awake.

Give it a try. It's actually refreshing.

TODAY'S WORKOUT: 16kg Swing Practice with a focus on keeping it sharp. 40 sec of swing/20 sec of rest x 30 rounds.
I had planned to do my grind routine today, but my head wasn't in it d/t some minor family strife. I almost ditched the workout entirely, but decided to just go with something simple and trudge on.

3 5-rung ladders
Black and Purple band-assisted pullups/Perfect elevated pushups.
1st ladder--feet together squat into one-legged pulse on each side with each rung
2nd ladder--partial pistols from the top
3rd ladder--30sec of plank.

VO2 max 80 sets of 7 with the 12kg.

1 comment:

  1. Great ideas, Jen! I'm with you -- it IS hard to see parents decline.

    I can't find your address, but there's something I want to send you -- a short story that felt comforting to me, and I think you'll like it too. Can you get me your address so I can send it?

    The other day I was practicing mindfulness as I emptied the dishwasher. I felt like Rainman as I was thinking "bowl bowl plate plate plate..." :)