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Walking My Way Through the Perils of Stone Pathways in Europe

10 Jul

Shoes are the most important item to pack for a trip through southern Europe! Forget heels. No heels! Sturdy walking shoes are the only reasonable shoe to take and nice flats for the evenings. Believe me when I tell you that walking on stone streets and paths is not for the timid or the unbalanced.

Italy,  St. Peter's Stones/Bricks.

Italy, St. Peter’s Stones/Bricks.

I have learned to hate St. Peter’s Stones. These unusual shape stones make up many of the pathways in Rome. Each stone is about 4 inches wide at one end and tapers to about 2 ½ inches at the other end. Between each stone is about a half inch of grout…if you are lucky. Most of the time the grout is missing. A great place to get a heel caught and trip.   I asked some female Rome citizens how they walked in heels. Their answer, they don’t. I know why.

Stone walkways in the Jewish Quarter of Rome.

Stone walkways in the Jewish Quarter of Rome.

But it isn’t just the St. Peter’s Stones that can wear on the legs. Almost everywhere the sidewalks and streets are made of stone. And it makes sense. These are old cities. In the Jewish Quarter of Rome there were square stones that paved the walkways and streets.   I say this together because in the tight areas of the old city people and cars share the streets and walkways.

I cannot imagine what they are like when they are wet. We were fortunate and never encountered rain on our trip, but I can imagine that these stones cause much misery when they are damp or wet.   The only place I can compare it to is Jerusalem. Also a city paved with stone, Jerusalem is a place where I have experienced rain and snow and it was not pretty! After two days of walking in Rome, even with sneakers and flats, my legs were aching.

In our not quite two days in Rome, we walked 11.8 miles! And over our two-week trip to Europe I walked 62 miles, averaging 4.4 miles a day, including the two at sea days. I know for a fact as I wore my Jawbone Up the entire time! So believe me when I say I became intimate with the stone walkways of some of the cities along the Mediterranean. And I feel fortunate that we all survived intact!

To be honest, the stone walkways were so beautiful, I started taking photos of them. Lovely to look at in every city and island we visited… but terrible for the legs and feet.

Pompeii stone streets... Pretty good actually.

Pompeii stone streets… Pretty good actually.

I loved the incredible stone streets of Pompeii. That they lasted this long through fire and ash and 2000 years shows their durability. And actually the stone walkways in Pompeii were easy to walk on. I was amazed at how the craftsmen took irregular shaped stones and fit them so precisely together. They were just stunning.

Sicilian Stone walkways.

Sicilian Stone walkways.


Sardinian stone.

Sardinian stone.

On the islands of Sicily and Sardinia we encountered larger, more even stones. Rectangle and squares probably made it for easier for masons to install the stonework. They were also a bit easier to walk on in the more modern parts of town.   But still gave no relief to tired calf muscles!

Corsica at the citadel.  These stones were impossible! And yes, it was the only place to walk.

Corsica at the citadel. These stones were impossible! And yes, it was the only place to walk.

After Corsica, I knew the stones were starting to take their toll on people. In Calvi, Corsica, the citadel is located high above the city. You have to walk up a multitude of stone staircases before reaching the path that takes you into the citadel. Should I call it a path, or the stone walkway from Hell? These uneven and rounded stones pushed into the ground must be carefully and diligently watched as you walk. They look like giant river pebbles. When you walk on them there can be no looking up until you take a break. Just watch your feet. I thought going uphill was bad. But going downhill was much worse.

The day after the trip to Calvi, I noticed several people on our cruise ship now in wheelchairs with their ankles wrapped. An older woman, who had been on our flight to Europe, and was on our cruise, fell and was sporting a black eye. She spent two days recouping from that incident. Calvi’s citadel is not for the weak-kneed or anyone who needs help walking!

Monaco, beautiful patterned pebbles to walk on.

Monaco, beautiful patterned pebbles to walk on.

Monaco had lovely walkways, easy to meander through. But near the prince’s palace, where we watched the changing of the guard, there was a beautiful inlayed pebbled area, so beautiful to see, but perhaps difficult for the pedestrians in heels. I just took pictures, and tried to stay off of it. Okay, honestly, I had to walk on it at least once to test it out. It was okay, just a little rough on the soles of my feet.

St. Tropez, more stone for people and cars.

St. Tropez, more stone for people and cars.

St. Tropez’ older areas had more St. Peter’s Stone’s as well as larger rectangular steps. And I do not like St. Peter’s Stone! To be honest this was my least favorite stop on our journey. However it had the best story about the paved roads. The walkways in the ancient area are all made of stone, slippery when wet. Our guide told us that when people tried to invade the city, the citizens would pour olive oil into the street, which made the hilly stone paths impossible to navigate. I wish I could have seen the invaders’ faces as the olive oil came oozing down the roads. The slipping and sliding was not funny to them, I am sure. What an ingenious idea!

The beautifully stone paved Rambla.  Easy to walk on.

The beautifully stone paved Rambla. Easy to walk on.

We ended our trip in Barcelona. The new parts of town have easy to walk on streets. And we loved walking on the Rambla! The stonework was so pretty with waves of color. And the stones were even and comfortable for walking. But the old, gothic city also had its stone and uneven pathways. However, I understand that these streets and paths are over 1,000 years old. So I am not complaining, I am just saying BE Careful.

Notice the difficult walking through the trails at Montserrat.

Notice the difficult walking through the trails at Montserrat.

Our final stop was Montserrat, a beautiful mountain and Monastery about an hour from Barcelona. This area is so breathtaking with its views and buildings. It has three main walking paths. We took one.   You can see that they are trying to repair the paths in some areas, in others it was quite the challenge.   But so worth the effort!

My legs are still recovering from the hard walking. To be honest, I went for a leg reflexology on the cruise ship. It was wonderful after all those stone steps. I gifted myself an extra long 75-minute leg and foot massage. I figured that my legs had done me well, and they deserved pampering. When I got home, I went for a pedicure with massage at Old Town. It helped as well. Sixty-two miles of walking on stone paths was perilous, but worth every step!

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My Rebounder Caused Concern And Created A New Exercise Routine

12 May

For my 60th birthday, I wanted a rebounder. These little trampolines are supposed to be excellent for exercising. And I wanted something new to add to my ever-expanding exercise routines. If I get bored, I might stop my daily exercises and I need to continue exercising. It is good for my health and for my life!

I found the rebounder at a local Target. It came in pieces that needed to be put together. I will tell you now that putting together a rebounder is exercise in itself, and somewhat dangerous!!! There were all sorts of warnings about getting your fingers caught in the springs. That would really hurt!

My husband works on the rebounder.  My son was there helping as well.

My husband works on the rebounder. My son was there helping as well.

I was lucky, my husband and son agreed to put my rebounder together. But it was not an easy process. There were moments of extreme agitation and aggravation.   I had to help at several points. But for me, the most interesting and amusing part was listening to my son and husband as they put the rebounder together.

“Dad, I do not think it is a good idea for Mom to use this.”

“Yea, I am a bit worried myself.”

“I think she might fall and break something. She might hit her head on the ceiling or the floor.”

“I know, but she wants it, so what can we do?”

“Hey,” I interrupted their conversation flow, “I am standing right here. I hear you!” Not that it mattered to them, as they continued, worrying about how I would actually use the rebounder.

I finally said in frustration, “I am not going to just jump on it! I am going to start slow! I will do it correctly.”

It took a good 45 minutes for them to complete the task of putting it together. Pulling those springs and getting them in place took power and the three of us working as one. We successfully completed this complicated job. After it was finished, they put the rebounder in the basement for me, where I have a treadmill and other exercise equipment.

They did it! My rebounder is together.

They did it! My rebounder is together.

I did not get on it in front of them. They had me so crazed with their worries. I waited for a friend, who has a rebounder, to come over and teach me some of the moves to use on it.

At first it was really difficult. If I finished rebounding for two minutes, I felt successful. The first two weeks I used it, my legs felt like jelly when I got off. Walking up the basement stairs took effort!

Since the start, I have been using it at least twice a day. I use it as part of my kitten feeding routine. It started as kind of a joke. I have to feed our new kitten in the basement so that our older cat does not eat the kitten food.   I thought I would try out the rebounder when I went down to feed the cat. I did this several days in a row.

On Day five, I decided I did not need to use the rebounder, I would just feed the kitten and go upstairs. It did not work out that way. Once I started up the stairs, the kitten bounded up the stairs as well.   She was not going to eat if I was not there.

I went back downstairs and started rebounding, while the kitten went back to her food. The routine was now mandated. Instead of Rome burning while Nero fiddled, my kitten eats while I rebound.

For the past three months, I feed my kitten twice each day and so twice each day I use my rebounder. Now I  rebound about 10 minutes each session. It gives me about 1500 steps for my UP, so I win doubly!

I have started watching rebounding exercises online to learn new routines. I take my time and modify the routines to make them fit my exercise level. The voices of my son and husband are still in the back of my mind, so I make sure I do not do anything that might throw me off balance, or cause me to fall. However, even though my rebounder caused concern for my husband and son, it created a new outlet for exercising for me. One that I really enjoy!

http://www.shape.com/fitness/cardio/fat-blasting-rebounding-routine

Aging, Wisely and Joyfully

21 Feb

I spoke to my daughter a few days before her 29th birthday (yesterday). She lives in Israel and I live in the Kansas, so we spoke through a video chat. (Always makes me think of 2001: A Space Odyssey, when the astronaut calls his family from space.) My daughter was bemoaning her advancing age.

“I am going to be old!” She cried. “I am almost 30!”

“That is not old!” I insisted. “Look at me, I am 60. I am not complaining about being old.”

“Well once you are old, you are old!” She said. “I am not old yet, just getting there.”

We both laughed. But the truth is, I do not feel old. I feel pretty wonderful.

I recently participated in a two-day workshop on “Wise Aging” presented by instructors from the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. Although it was presented in Kansas City, there were participants from through the Midwest. We all learned how to be facilitators in this new program to help people transition in to the next stage of life.

I was surprised when I was called by our rabbi’s wife and asked to participate on behalf of our congregation. But she told me that she thought of me immediately when she realized she could not attend, as I was aging so wonderfully. That was two weeks before my 60th birthday, and I will admit to a bit of concern. But okay, I would do it.

The two-day workshop was intense and exhausting. Fourteen hours of learning and interacting with the other trainees as we attempted to learn about the Wise Aging program, bring this program to life and learn to teach it to others.

I loved the idea of helping people see themselves as elders as opposed to elderly. As we age, we have so much to give to others. We can mentor and teach from our experiences.

There was one part of the program I found distressing. There was much discussion about teaching people how to let go of bitterness and learn to forgive those in their past who might have hurt them. It seems many people, as they age, hold on to old hurts and real or imagined insults.

I say, “let it go.” As does this program. Let go of these feelings because bitterness only makes you feel worse. I am a firm believer of the rule of Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur to say I am sorry to any one I might have hurt and to forgive anyone who has hurt me. It is so much easier than carrying all that baggage around. And it makes life so much more joyful.

This workshop opened my eyes to how others see themselves as they age.   Whereas my husband and I are really enjoying our lives as empty nesters, others seem to have a difficult time.

So I say. Go to a lecture. We try to go to a program at least once a week.   There are many free lectures and programs available. Go to a concert. Take a weekend trip if you can. Get a kitten. Having a pet does wonders for people as they age. Travel with friends.

Yes the body starts to give out a little. But exercise is wonderful for keeping your body healthy. You do not have to run marathons like my meshugganah husband. But you can walk. I walk two to three miles almost every day.

Soup

Do something different. Yesterday, in honor of my daughter’s birthday, a friend of mine and I went to the new IKEA store in Kansas. I had not been there yet. We walked all around the showroom and the marketplace and the warehouse. I got lots of walking in and bought a few accessories. Then we went out for a bowl of chicken noodle soup and shared a black and white cookie at a deli. Happiness can be a bowl of soup and a cookie!

Find things that make you happy. And be happy. You have so many experiences to share and so much good to do. Volunteer for an organization you love. Meet new people. Keep being curious. My curiosity has led me to investigate further into my family history and I have found cousins I did not know I had. I love a mystery and solving it. Now I am focus on the mysteries of my family.

There is so much to do and so much more time to do it, now that I no longer have children at home.

So I plan to continue to age wisely and joyfully. I hope my example will help my daughter accept her almost 30 years and age joyfully as well.

My Jawbone Up Is A Healthy Obsession, I Hope

22 Jan

On the news I recently heard that people whose spouses exercises are more likely to exercise. And even more important is to have an exercise partner. I am blessed, not only do I have a husband who loves to run and encourages me to exercise, I also have three walking partners, three devoted friends who exercise with me to keep ourselves healthy!

Friend one, Lynn, has been walking with me for 18 years. But not only walking, we meet occasionally with a personal trainer to work on upper body strength and balance. It has been a great plan. We work out Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. We have decided that we will continue walking until we are 92!  I hope we really make it.

Then there is Friend two, Roseann. We walk outside with her dog whenever the weather is nice, usually on Monday, Tuesday and Thursdays if possible. We have walked together for almost ten years or more. Friend three is, as she calls it, my Plan B. Marti walks with me when Lynn cannot. I text her at the last minute and she often comes with me.

I have many other walking buddies as well over the years and depending where we are.  Sue Ellen loves to walk the hills.  Vero is my great vacation walker.  Marcie walked with me when she lived here.  And of course my sister, daughter and sister in law have all spent many hours walking with me.

It has been great fun besides exercise, as we talk and walk. But my relaxed walking recently changed!

In October I was gifted a Jawbone Up from my husband. I got him one two years ago for his birthday, and he loved all the information he now had to help with his health. He knew how long he slept, how much exercise he did and with his My Fitness Pal, how many calories he was taking in.

I did not want one, as I had a bad history with pedometers. I think I broke or lost about ten over the years. I had switched to an app on my phone to register how many steps I took. But since I did not always carry my phone with me, it was never accurate. I had been using My Fitness Pal as well to keep track of my calories, but it did not interface with the step ap.

Finally, my husband said, “ Get a Jawbone Up. It is the best.”

But first we looked around. I checked out the Fit Bit, the Jawbone Up, and the Fitbit that clipped on instead of the wrist band. And finally I made my decision. A blue Jawbone Up. It is now my constant companion.

When I first started using it, I just wanted to walk between 4,000 and 6,000 steps each day. I had no idea how addictive walking and keeping track would become. I slowly worked myself up to the point where I work between 7000 and 10,000 steps a day. On the days I work and I know I will be sitting, I make an effort to walk around at home and use a treadmill to get some steps in.

The little messages reminding me how many steps I walked and how many more I need to make my average inspire to keep going.

But what really inspires me is my own obsessive needs. If I am at 7800 steps when I am ready to go to bed at night, I walk around my house to get 200 more steps! I hate being so close to another 1000. I just have to do it. It almost hurts to be so close.

I also love seeing how much I actually slept. And to be honest, since I started keeping track of my steps and my sleep, I am sleeping longer. I think the extra exercise is making my nights better as well!

I love my Jawbone so much that this holiday season I encouraged several people to get one. And three of them did. A small red, and two medium black Jawbones are now worn by people I know.

The small red one is worn by my neighbor and walking partner, Roseann. And If I thought I was obsessed, she is worse!

My Jawbone has to be plugged in to get my information, but hers is Bluetooth. And today when we were walking, she had her phone out and was checking her steps as we walked. I told her to STOP. We were walking. That was ridiculous.

She told me that her daughter informed her that she was obsessed about steps. I agreed to a point. I am obsessed, but she is crazed.

She has a rebounder in her basement. She informed me that using that gets her many steps. I use my treadmill, but perhaps something else would help as well. She has been averaging about 4000 more steps a day than I have been. But then I sit at an office when I work, and she moves.

However, with my birthday coming up, I decided that I needed a rebounder as well. These little trampolines help with balance and exercise, so I did not feel too bad about buying one for myself as one of my birthday gifts!

As for my other walking partner, Lynn, yesterday she informed me that she planned to get a Jawbone Up for herself as well! Another addict iniatiated!

As for me, yesterday was my all time high. I walked an astounding 7.1 miles, or 16,438 steps. I hope my Jawbone is happy now! Four times my original plan. I do hope this is truly a healthy obsession.

The Chicago Marathon as a Spectator Sport

12 Oct
The non-elite runners lined up to start the Chicago marathon.

The non-elite runners lined up to start the Chicago marathon.

My husband is running the Chicago Marathon for the 8th time in ten years. When he turned 50 he decided he wanted to run a marathon. So he started training and at age 51 ran his first full marathon.   Over the years he had to miss two Chicago Marathons due to travel or injury. But he continues to train. And this year, at age 60, he is running again. I also prepared, for my role as a marathon spectator.

This year was different. In January my husband herniated a disk in his spine.   It was at the most inconvenient location, but with the miracle of surgery, he was able to have a microdiscectomy and recovered. However there were some issues he had to battle. First with no exercise for eight weeks, his right leg muscles had atrophied. He battled to get his leg back into shape. Even with all he did, that leg is still a bit weaker than it was before and his training took a bit of a hit.

Second he is a drop slower than he was before. As I watch his progress in the marathon on text message alerts, I can see that he is running about 20 seconds a mile slower than he did last year at the beginning of the race. Not a major difference, but when you are going 26 miles…that adds minutes. And as the marathon progresses, I know he will slow down. So I am a bit worried in my role as spectator.

I do not run marathons. I do not run. I walk. I enjoy walking. I try to walk 2.5 to 3 miles daily. Yesterday, as we are in Chicago I walked 8.9 miles all along the waterfront, in the Field Museum and along Michigan Avenue. Over 17,000 steps, but that is my limit. I have no desire at all to go 26 miles. In fact, to a degree, I think my husband is mildly insane. As is his friend who is running the marathon as well.

The night before I went online and set up text messaging alerts so I would know when they started, hit 10 k, half way, 30 k and finished. It is important as a spectator to know when these events occur. I will admit, this year the notices were much more timely than they have been in the past.

They started out together this morning. At 7:00 in the morning, they left the condo and walked to the corrals. I got up for a few minutes to take their annual pre-marathon photo. Then they left. They would start about the same time, but since his friend runs much quicker, (his starting pace was 10:41 per mile), he will be done at least an hour earlier than my husband if he keeps this pace.

They prepared for this. They trained for this. They ate their pasta dinner last night. They have their special shoes, socks, clothes, their energy foods and drinks. They want to run. But at age 60 and one week; and age 59 and 10 ½ months, the training and the running take a toll.

Before my husband ran this year, his cardiologist ran a new test. And my husband’s heart was fine. The doctor turned to me and said, “I wanted to tell him he could not run this year. But he looks great.” And that is all my husband needed. He brings me doctor reports each year to prove all is okay, because I am nervous about this 26.2 mile run. But as a spectator, I had to go along with the doctor’s decision.

I fill out the back of my husband’s number bib with emergency numbers. I go to watch to make sure all is okay. They both know not to rush and to stop if it is too much. But with the weather as nice as it is, I know they will both finish this year.

As a marathon spectator, I cheer on everyone I can. If I see someone with their name emblazed across their shirt, I scream for them. I figure if they put their name on they want the encouragement. I love watching for those who are newly married or engaged. They often wear veils or announcements on their shirts. This year was not different. I saw a couple wearing bright yellow shirts. One said “she said yes.” The other, “Newly engaged.” This year I saw someone wearing a Royals t-shirt. Of course I cheered him on. As a citizen of the Kansas City metro area, we are all Royals right now.

There were people dressed as comic book heroes, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. There were people wearing capes, skirts and costumes. There was a man juggling as he walked.

Some were running, some were walking, some were stretching, some were drinking energy drinks. All were intent on their goal.

My friend and I always wait about the 16-mile marker to cheer our husbands on their trek. This year was a bit different. Usually we are part of a crowd of their children, spouses and a grandma. This year they all could not come. So it was just my friend and I. But we kept tradition. We waited till both of our husbands ran past. We gave them extra energy food and water. We provided each with encouragement. Then we completed another marathon tradition for us as spectators and walked to Athena Restaurant in Greek town for a delicious lunch.

We had roasted lamb and potatoes. And talked about our children and our husbands. Then we slowly walked back to the condo. Along the way I congratulated everyone we saw who was wearing a medal or a silver blanket. I figured if they ran that marathon they deserved a little praise. They all responded with a “thank you.”

I took a photo for a young couple who were taking photos of each other. Of course they wanted a photo together with their medals and silver blankets, so I took it for them.

When we returned to the condo we waited. The first text arrived. My friend’s husband was done. An hour later he returned. Tired, but happy. A short time later the other text arrived. My husband had completed the marathon. With his arrival back the marathon was officially over.

They both ran faster than they had the year before and were both pleased with their run. They were tired and sore. But had a great sense of accomplishment.

Now they start the plans for next year and another marathon. And I am ready to continue my role as marathon spectator. A job I enjoy!