Fitness and Fashion Collide


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

Life is ever changing. I’ve been on this earth for 6 decades and each decade looks entirely different. Take fashion for instance… the 60’s with the new “bell bottom” look and the hippie culture turned into the 70’s where corduroy pants in all colors with a crocheted vest was a “look.” From there, it just got more and more interesting, with Farrah Fawcett big hair and spandex-wearing rock bands to “spacesuits” during the David Bowie phase. T-shirts and jeans were standard at the turn of the century and then came the leggings! For young people, leggings are all they know! If you’re into health and wellness, you call them “yoga pants.” They go with boots, high heels, and flats. Pair them with sneakers and you must be an athlete. For men, it’s more of the sweat pant look that has taken over. Fancy sweatpants with loafers or boat shoes says you are doing well in life; wear them with sandals and you are laid back and chill. If you wear old sweatpants and sneakers, then you must be walking the dog. So since we are all dressing as if we are working out… let’s take a look at how fitness has changed through the decades too! Just for fun.

In the 1960’s, my father was one of the few people in my town who “worked out.” He would lace up his work boots and go for a jog. They didn’t really make sneakers back then. There was no real organized place to go to work out. It wasn’t a thing. In the 70’s, he started to go to the Y. It wasn’t called the YMCA – just the Y. There he would do martial arts and then go for the work-boot jog. Sports was the way people got exercise—so mostly kids or athletes. I am sure there was yoga back then, too, but all the people I babysat for who did yoga behind their beaded curtains were doing more of what I call meditation. So, unless you were an athlete or a kid, you likely were not working out until the 80’s. This is where it all started, in my eyes. Suddenly there were jazzercise classes at community centers or church halls. The gym was a new thing—for men mostly. Videos were made and Jane Fonda convinced us all to wear ballet style workout gear called leotards. Men wore short shorts. Do you remember Richard Simmons? The 80’s were a fashion disaster all around if you look back. By the 90’s women were starting to go to the “gyms” too, which were now being called health clubs. Women did aerobics and men lifted weights. Brave women lifted weights, too, but I can tell you as one of those “brave” women that the men did not like it at all. Enter the turn of the century –there are health clubs and fitness centers everywhere. Men and woman, are “getting in shape.” It’s a craze. The medical and health industry has decided that a healthy lifestyle is important and so people are hitting the treadmills and the indoor bikes. Spinning becomes popular. First time I did it, I felt my heart beating 3 feet out in front of me. It had left my body. There were all kinds of trends, like step classes and kick boxing. Pilates and a new athletic kind of yoga made an entrance and everyone was all sweaty under one big roof.

So what about now? Well, the fitness industry has morphed yet again, just like the fashion industry did about a decade ago and the word wellness has become the new buzz word. A gentler kind of attention to health is now the focus. Yoga, Meditation, Mindfulness. Here’s where the yoga pants took over. Today, we think more about caring for ourselves in a wholeness way. Getting active, finding joy, eating nutritionally, getting enough sleep, getting enough sleep, getting enough sleep. Did Covid get us there by shutting down the “fitness factories” or were we already headed there? I’m not sure. I feared Covid would make us all complacent and uninspired, but I think for many of us it actually inspired us. I am amazed when I see people I have not seen in a long while and how healthy and well they look in their yoga pants! So, let’s embrace this fashion while we can. If those spacesuits come back, I don’t think we are going to be moving around too much in them.

 

Prost!


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

A few years ago I was visiting friends in Bavaria. There was no itinerary—no plan, just a day-to-day “whatever” laid back visit. My friends really enjoyed surprising me, so I never quite knew what the day would hold – well, except for beer and a tray of meats and lots of bread. One morning I woke up and was told we were going on a little drive, but to wear comfortable clothes. No other hints. We drove through the hills and valleys of Bavaria until we came to a little dirt parking lot across from a lake. Ammersee Lake the sign read. I couldn’t tell how big it was and I don’t remember it being a busy lake, but, then again, it was late September and a little cool. Again, with no explanation, we crossed the little street and went onto a dock where a handful of people were waiting, until along came a small boat. A mail boat it turned out to be. Apparently, I was going to be part of the mail route around this lake. Off we went. The first stop was a little village where a few people got off and a couple of people got on. The mail bags were given and then the boat puttered off. Much the same happened at each stop, until about an hour or so later, when my friends told me we were getting off at the next little village. “Great,” I am thinking—”lunch!” What a nice ride to get lunch! As we walked along a pretty street, lined with quintessential Bavarian houses with their peaked roof lines, wooden accents, window boxes, and picket fences, I felt like I had stepped into a fairytale. My friends opened a gate at one of the houses and led me into the side yard. “Oh, this is nice,” I am thinking… “we are visiting their friends for lunch.” Nope. On we went through this side yard to a small trail and into the woods! None of this made any sense. But now the comfortable clothes did. We proceeded to hike up a mountain trail, complete with tree roots and moss and all the other things you find in a dense forest. As we hiked up, others were hiking down, most with walking sticks and a common greeting, “Gruss Gott” (think – it will come to you what it may mean… sound it out…notice the G is capitalized). After what seemed a very long time, we finally reached a clearing—a meadow actually—with a towering ornamental, onion-shaped steeple rising above a line of trees. Magical. So, across the meadow we walked, like Dorothy and her friends to the Emerald City. Only Emerald City in this case was a monastery. Kloster Andechs is a monastery where they make beer! Of course. And there were meats and breads. Of course! We sat at long wooden tables and made toasts and made friends and had a jolly time. They sang German songs and I pretended to know the words. As the afternoon shadows grew longer and I knew dusk was coming, I started to get a little nervous about hiking back down through those dark woods and catching a boat and getting back to the car safely. I expressed my concern to my friends and they repeatedly told me not to worry. But I admit, I did. As it got darker, they finally said, “time to go,” to my relief, and led me through the monastery to… a big tourist bus! YUP… the little dirt parking lot was actually no more than a ¼ mile away!!

So, why do I tell this long story? My friends gifted me a wonderful lesson of life. They took a simple tourist attraction and made it into a full on adventure. What if I just took the bus to and from? I would have missed the surprise of it all—the tiny storybook villages, the people I met, the smells I smelled, the feelings and emotions of awe, and, later even a little fear. The magic of seeing that steeple in the distance. And then entering the monastery mid-party! So this is my message—take the long way, the adventurous way… Don’t rush an experience. Go for the surprise! Create memories. Look for the magic, see the wonder and feel the awe! Unless you’re tired… then take the bus. 🙂  Prost!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bloom where you’re planted


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

Many years ago, I reluctantly sold a house that I helped design and build and moved to another property. It wasn’t a choice and I was very lucky to find something that could work for myself and my sons. It was a transition property in my mind and that helped me to accept the situation. It was March. With spring around the corner, I could almost start to envision my new home, but I sorely missed what I had left behind. A good friend of the family dropped by with a housewarming gift. It was a small plaque. Four words. “Bloom Where You’re Planted.” She understood because she had gone through something similar. It was perfect timing. That plaque inspired me with those four simple words and the message it brought. I lived in that “transition house” for 13 years and made some great memories. I bloomed where I was planted, and I never looked back. In fact, I moved again two years ago and have planted and bloomed yet again.

Every March we start to look for signs of spring. Some years the buds on the trees appear early and some years, it’s a bit of a wait. A big part of the readiness for spring when you have a yard or garden area, is the clean-up. It so happens that my entire front yard is nothing but one big garden that goes totally dormant in the winter. It needs a lot of care to spring back to life. This is a chore for most, but not for me. I love it. I love uncovering the tiny sprouts of what is to be a flower or bush that will eventually fully bloom. I love to see how clean and happy it looks when all the dead leaves and leftover winter storm damage is removed. What intrigues me most though are the tiny little trees that seem to grow randomly in my garden every spring. I have no trees in my front yard, yet there are tiny trees that pop up each year. I assume the seeds of nearby trees have somehow made their way to my garden and that they have decided to bloom where they’re planted. For me, it’s just another reminder that the winds can blow the seeds wherever and once they find fertile soil… they can and will grow.

So here we are…nearly a year later, after months of uncertainty, change and challenge. It is March again and that means spring is right around the corner. Sunnier and warmer days are in our future. We may yearn for what was left behind as we muddled through 2020. That is okay. It’s how we learn to accept what has become our new here and now. We were tossed by the wind like the seeds of a tree and now we are ready to find that fertile soil where we can bloom. We need to clean out our winter gardens and tend to the new life that is right under the soil. Yes—that is all a metaphor! For those who do not relate to or care for metaphors, in plain speak… folks… it’s time to accept that we are where we are supposed to be so take a moment to look for the joys in life. We need to celebrate that we conquered the winter. We had no choice. We need to stop the negative talk and see that we are lucky to have found a new home that works despite leaving behind and missing our old one (oops, another metaphor). You know what I mean. Had we known a year ago what lay ahead, we could not have envisioned that we would come through it. But we did. So wherever you find yourself…may I suggest you “Bloom Where You’re Planted” and enjoy the sun.

 

 

 

 

 

What if


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

On Monday, February 1, we were expecting a big Nor’easter with snow and winds and possible power outages. Monday morning, I put a snow shovel in my car, expecting I would need to shovel myself out later that afternoon to get back home. Schools and businesses were closed. Sunday January 31, I went to the grocery store with all the other storm procrastinators to buy food that I may or may not be able to cook, depending on power outages. Knowing that same food could also go to waste if we lost power, I shopped very carefully—I bought mostly chips. I also filled up my gas tank. Saturday, I did all my laundry and house chores. I had my phone charged with a back-up portable charger ready; flashlights with batteries at the ready, and wood for the fireplace. I made all the preparations for the big unknown… a storm in New England. And. It. Rained. That was it for me. No snow. Not windy. Power stayed on. I am not complaining… it was a nice surprise!

I grew up in a town that is often featured on the news during any storm predicted. The reporters go to the windiest part of town, which is a peninsula, so they can be blown around a bit while on camera. I was there in the Blizzard of ’78 and I walked along the seawalls, looking into the houses along the shore whose backs had been ripped off and left like big, huge dollhouses. I remember what a big storm looks, feels, and smells like, so I am not a fan of the pre-storm drama on the news; or on Facebook with all the “gloom and doomers.” I usually just roll my eyes when all the big meteorological words come out like bombogenesis which, by the way, is not yet in the dictionary. I scoff at the reporters standing in water up to their ankles as they talk about the storm surge, knowing that it floods there daily and has nothing to do with an incoming storm. I talk back to the meteorologists when they yell the weather at me, as if the louder they say it, the worse the storm will be. I am not a fan of the hype.

But “what if”? What if it had been a bad storm Monday and I was not prepared? If 2020 taught me nothing else, it taught me to be prepared for the “storm,” while being hopeful it would pass on by. Don’t listen to the hyped-up info, follow the facts. Have a plan. As we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel from the year 2020 and all its “storms,” I will continue to prepare. I will continue to wear my mask and wash my hands. I will not listen to the loud talkers who are yelling to scare me. I will not fall for the hype that is not backed up by facts. I will distance myself and follow guidance. And to avoid the big “what if,” I will get vaccinated. I will always remember February 6, 1978 as the day of the Blizzard of ’78, but this year I will also remember February 7, as the day I got my second Covid vaccination. Covid-19 is like a storm, it may or may not hit. It may or may not cause damage. But why take the risk of the “what if?” What if it is a Blizzard of ’78? For me, the vaccination is the shovel, the flashlight, the wood, the clean laundry, the full tank, the charged phone, the stocked kitchen and most importantly … the chips! I am very grateful! Just my opinion….

 

 

 

Popcorn and a Movie


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

We did it! It is 2021! We should all congratulate ourselves. Honestly, I’d like to just stop right there…but that would be the easy way out and we all know I have lots to say! This morning, a colleague who shares my visions gave me a copy of a positive thinking quote. The first line grabbed me, and I knew it was how I needed to start off my 2021. The line was: “where your attention goes your energy flows.” That makes sense to me. Think happy thoughts and voila! – You’ll be happy. Think negative, and you’ll end up glum or in a rut. So, there you have it—my job is done. But wait… what about those days when you just cannot shift those less than positive thoughts into blissful, joyful, magical, Disneyworld reality? This, my friends, is where we need tools—tools to shift anything we do not desire towards things we do. I am not talking about material things (but you can); I am talking more about setting up for the best year ahead in our thoughts and expectations, and not dwelling on the year behind. I won’t even say the year. It’s gone. Like the song says, “Let it Go.”

So back to the tools. How do we shift our less than positive thoughts? I have written dozens of monthly blogs for a few years now and mentioned meditation numerous times. If you are not doing it now, perhaps you never will; or perhaps you will give it a go this new year. I’ve talked about exercise and moving. Either you are or you are not; either you will or you will not. I have written about eating healthy. Hopefully, now that the holidays are over, you can find a way back to the nutritionally sound way of feeding your body or you’ll set your mind to starting now. Sleep—it’s huge and without it, we are all cranky pants and we know it, so I won’t say anything more about that. So what is left in my tool box that I have not already shared? A couch, a TV, and a bowl of Popcorn. Movie Night!!

There is no better way to change your mindset from glum to cheered up than to watch a good old-fashioned, “feel good” movie with a bowl of popcorn. Usually, the main character is not in a great place but ends up in a happy place. We get to go through the journey with them seeing all the… wait for it …TOOLS they find along their way. Watching them changes the way we think and where our attention goes. We see that we can find joy, magic and Disneyland too. We have to believe that “where your attention goes your energy flows.” If you can take your mind off negative thoughts for even just a short while… you can lift your spirits and start heading toward the positives by re-wiring your brain to feel those happy thoughts. A “feel good” movie can do just that!

So, here are a few critically acclaimed “feel good” movies to put on your list when you need a boost.

Devil Wears Prada, The Bird Cage, The Help, Princess Diaries, Sister Act, The Pursuit of Happyness, Forrest Gump, LA LA Land, Mamma Mia, Wizard of Oz, The Parent Trap, Grease, Ground Hog Day, Love Actually, When Harry Met Sally, Jerry Maguire, Little Miss Sunshine, The Sound of Music, and it’s never the wrong season to watch It’s a Wonderful Life! If you’re reading this and know other movies – share them with me, your colleagues, and friends. Passing along positive tools also creates positive thoughts!

Cheers to 2021 and getting back to the theaters soon!

 

The Zzzz’s Contest


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

As a lifelong New Englander, I tend to pride myself on resiliency like my fellow Yankees. We try to outlast each other with who can hold off turning on the heat or air-conditioning, who does their own yardwork vs. hiring it out and, of course, who slept the least over the past few days, but can still function. Well, I am having a change of heart! I have “hired” a 10 year-old neighborhood kid to help me with my yardwork; I turned on the heat already because being unnecessarily cold is stupidity; and I quit the lack-of-sleep contest because it just feels terrible to lack sleep. But joking aside—it’s a real problem for many of us. I, too, have had some bouts of insomnia over the past few months. When I was younger, I could fall asleep anywhere. Trains, planes and automobiles were naptime for me. Not so much these days. I get jet lag without even flying. So, of course, I have been researching sleep and what it means, and I am here to share some pretty cool stuff I am learning.

First of all, it’s not really all that valiant to be able to function on the least amount of sleep. In fact, it’s downright dangerous. Less than 6 hours of sleep or 19 hours awake on consecutive days makes your cognitive ability equivalent to being legally intoxicated. More car accidents are caused by drowsy driving than texting and OUI combined. And speaking of alcohol…it may help you to initially fall asleep, but it will most likely cause a fitful night sleep. You will wake up feeling tired. If you had a nice big meal with your adult-beverage, then you are really pushing the limits of digestion. If you want to sleep, stop asking your digestive system to keep working when you need to sleep. But if you insist on winning the contest of who slept the least, be sure to add in caffeine! You don’t drink coffee? Well, what about tea or carbonated beverages that may have caffeine? Double check that you are not inadvertently adding caffeinated beverages. A rule of thumb is to avoid alcohol, tobacco, large meals, and caffeine up to 4 hours prior to bed.

So now what? Well, a consistent routine is very helpful in setting up your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s sleep, eat, energy cycle. Research finds that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep for optimal functioning during the day. So, if you have to be up at 6 a.m., then 10 p.m. would be an ideal bedtime. The more you commit to that bedtime, the better chance your body and brain will start to wind down at that time. Creating a routine can increase your chances of falling asleep quickly. By the way, electronic devices work against sleep. Blue screens are sleep killers. I am guilty of watching TV until I am tired…raise your hand if you are too. Try to add a buffer between turning off the TV and going to sleep, like reading a book (not a kindle—sorry, but that’s a blue screen device) or listening to sleep meditations/adult bedtime stories, which are easily found on Youtube for free. Or watch TV in one room only, that is not where you sleep. Please don’t kill the messenger! I’m only trying to share what I know.

By now, if you are still reading, things may be popping out that you are doing that affect your quality of sleep and you have to “give them up” if you really want to commit to better rest and restoration of those brain cells. But there are also things we can add to increase our chance of better sleep, such as foods that have natural melatonin benefits. Foods that contain melatonin include: kiwi, milk (yup – that warm milk trick is for real), nuts and tart cherry juice. Melatonin also comes in a supplemental form in most grocery stores and pharmacies. Ask the pharmacist the best dosage because more is not always better!

If you are suffering from chronic insomnia (3x per week sleeplessness for at least 3 months), then seeking a physician’s advice is recommended. If you are like me and just have those nights where a good night’s rest alludes… then the above-mentioned tips may help. You can also download a sleep tracker (I use Sleep Cycle) or I recommend Mathew Walker’s book, “Why we Sleep.” We spend 1/3 of our life sleeping, so why not make it a priority? A good, healthy sleeping pattern boosts the immune system, reduces anxiety and depression, and keeps the brain sharp! It’s easy to win the ridiculous least-amount-of-sleep badge of honor… let’s change the contest. Starting in November… who slept the best?

The Covid Way


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

If Covid has taught me anything it’s this: I get rather stuck in my old ways sometimes. To be clear, my old ways are not necessarily bad. In fact, I had a good healthy balance between work, family, social and self-care before COVID. And I still do. But it’s very different and I find I sometimes have high expectations that my old ways will still work. Most recently, I found a new challenge as I started to teach virtual fitness classes. Since I have been teaching in person for 25+ years, it comes rather natural to me and I need no preparation at all. I just need some great music and some people who like my style and are happy to be a student. It’s like hosting a party. I entertain. It’s my fitness teaching style. I’ve always taught the way I speak which is fairly off the cuff and I’ve enjoyed the banter that follows. My worst fear was getting into the class and the music not working or people not giving me any feedback.

Teaching virtually has brought it all to a screeching halt. The old way just does not translate through a Zoom meeting. First of all, it is super difficult to align the music with the device. I sought help. Spoke with people who have had some success. Learned most do not use music due to the complications that occur trying to stream it. After multiple “promises” that music was coming soon, I’ve had to let go of that expectation and accept what would normally be a huge fear for me with teaching in person—there shall be no music people!  And forget any banter because the only person who has a mic on is me, the teacher, and everyone else is muted. It’s my nightmare coming to life. No feedback? I feel like an actor on stage giving a monologue—terrifying, actually. In fact, it is so very different that I found myself getting “nerved up” before the virtual classes due to all the things that can go wrong when you rely on a device, Wi-Fi, and your students navigating the sign-in process. I held on so tight for the first month trying to re-create what I did “in person” that I felt each week I had failed. This past week I finally made peace with the idea that I can teach a quality class without it being the same as in person. It just sort of washed over me on a walk. I let it sink in that things are different now. Time to see things as they are… the new Sheriff in town is Covid and we have to do things the Covid way.

Does this sound familiar? Are you trying to hold on to the old ways that worked and you’re finding it is causing stress or upset? You know, it’s truly our own expectations that cause us to feel a failure when most of the time, those around us do not see a fail at all. As we try to bring kids back into the schools, the teachers are realizing that the old ways do not translate into this new world. As we bring the adults we support back to day programs, the staff is prepared to let go of the old ways and try a new version of what works based on the guidance we must follow. Hair salons look different. Stores are different. We are all learning a new way to do the “old things.” The Covid way is doing the best we can do with what we have. This philosophy is really no different from pre-Covid and it won’t be too different when we are post-Covid. If we are doing the best we can with what we have, then our expectations are in order. It is not a fail at all to not meet the expectations of the old ways … in fact it is a huge success to find a way to continue on in any way that works! That’s far more than anyone expects and believe me, it is appreciated! Remember to thank those who continue providing a service, even if it’s the Covid way, because it means they did not give up and they found a new way!

 

 

 

 

Tale of Two Donkeys


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

One of the most well-known donkeys in storytelling is good old Eeyore from the Winnie the Pooh series.  Eeyore is pessimistic and gloomy—he just cannot see the “bright side.” We all have our Eeyore days. Over the past few months of challenge and change, we may have found ourselves stuck in an Eeyore state of mind because, let’s face it—misery loves company and you can get a lot of people to join your band wagon if you talk negative. I once did an experiment with a youth group I led. I gave them bundles of newspapers and asked one group to cut out all the negative articles and put them in a box. The Continue reading

Sailing Advice- Are you Pro- or Re- “Active”


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

As we enter the dog days of August, I decided to look back to the last time I felt active and in control of my routine. That day was March 11th for me. It was the day my routine began to change. Many, like myself, rely on a routine for well-being. We like to feel actively involved with our daily life. In the dictionary, active is defined as “engage, participate, do Continue reading

Deadhead


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

Depending upon who you are, the word deadhead will likely conjure up an image of the Grateful Dead, an airplane or a garden. For me, it’s a garden. And if you’re wondering how I am going to intertwine deadhead with wellness, hang tight because that is exactly what I am going to do. Continue reading