Duck Feathers

After I got over the initial pain of being a beginner and settled into my workouts I found that biking was making me feel amazing. I was in the best health ever and things that normally would have thrown me into a funk during my day just weren’t happening. I found myself not sweating the small things. I told my best friend there was no way that I could be depressed while riding my bike and surprised myself when I said it.

Just a year ago I was a dark cloud raining on everything that came my way. I couldn’t see past my various moods they colored even my best days. I was addicted to foods that didn’t nourish my body and spent all my time sitting on my kiester stuffing my face. It was a terrible way to react to the world and treat myself. As I increased my health through my bike rides I found the clouds parting and the weather clearing. Now it’s darn right sunny even on the rainiest days. I never imagined how well exercise worked as an antidepressant.

Now I feel immune to things that would have brought me crashing down in the past. I have found what I affectionately call, “my duck feathers.” Anything that threatens to bring me down just repels off of me like water off a duck. My problems haven’t gone away, I’m still the same person making the same mistakes I’ve always made, but now I have an inner happiness that keeps me going on a positive note.

The health benefits of exercising eating right and good sleep are astounding. My body is slowly changing for the better I can see and feel it. I have a waist and my stomach hasn’t been this flat in decades. My skin has cleared up, my hair is soft and shiny and my energy level is through the roof. My bad knees are so much stronger I don’t need my cane anymore. Overall, my legs and core feel strong. All the hours of riding have improved my heart and my doctor tells me with vitals like mine I’m going to live a long time. After only a year of working out, that’s music to my  62-year-old ears and I’m not stopping anytime soon.

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While all these things are wonderful side effects of an aerobic exercise like bike riding, the thing that surprised me the most is the good mood that won’t go away. A good mood that didn’t require drugs just riding my bicycle regularly. With so many people having problems with depression, syndromes, and unhappiness I would think exercise would be worth trying.

Discovering “my duck feathers” is something I’m thankful for this year, that, and the fact that I found a good reason for riding my 30-year-old bicycle. Getting this twice as old woman functioning, healthy and moving again!

Join me! If you’re lucky enough to be able to ride your bike year round do it and feel thankful for it.

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Sleep 101

If you’re going to bike or do any kind of exercise sleep is something you’ll want to get enough of. Without sleep, you won’t have the energy or concentration needed for your day or ride. There are things your body needs to do that it can only do while you sleep. Many people have trouble sleeping or take sleep for granted but it’s one of the most important things you can do for your body and future health.

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This is a screenshot from my Jawbone UP3 showing a typical night of sleep for me. Let’s see what we can learn from it. As you can see there are 3 kinds of sleep cycles during the night.

Sleep cycles are important.

Not everyone gets the same amount of REM, deep or light sleep a night. It depends on age, the individual and quality of sleep but everyone has these cycles of sleep during the night.

When we are in REM our bodies are paralyzed and we dream. This is why our bodies don’t try to run when we dream about running. REM is not only for dreaming it’s when the mind does it’s sorting of what’s happened during the day. Whether you remember your dreams or not everyone has deep sleep. Our mind needs REM, it makes up sharp and helps us to learn complex things.

For more information on REM sleep: http://www.howsleepworks.com/types_rem.html

Deep sleep helps our bodies repair themselves. During deep sleep, our bodies chemically do all the good things we’ll need for the daylight hours. There are functions our bodies can only do at night while in deep sleep. Cells repair themselves and hormones are released. Deep sleep restores us physically and mentally. Deep sleep heals the daytime wear and tear on our bodies.

For more information on deep sleep: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sleepless-in-america/201010/the-mysterious-benefits-deep-sleep

Light sleep makes sleep cycles possible. During light sleep our bodies transition between deep and REM sleep. The body rests during light sleep and we can wake up easily.

For more information on light sleep: http://www.sleepdex.org/light.htm

For all of this to happen, we need to get enough sleep each night. We need a full 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Finding the time for this in our busy lives isn’t easy but if you want the benefits that sleep offers you’ll have to make the time. It takes good sleep planning.

Bedtime is not just for children. 

Give up the late TV shows, get off of the computer and if you go out, plan to get home early. Pick a bedtime you can do every night and stick to it. Set an alarm so you can get ready for bed and be in bed when it’s time to go to sleep. Now that we have On Demand TV it’s not important to stay up for TV shows or movies. Life has its ways of getting in the way be firm about your bedtime.

Before bedtime read or meditate in the dark. 

Some people have problems quieting their minds before sleep. To make sure you’re relaxed enough to sleep after getting ready for bed meditate or read a book for a 1/2 hour or more before your bedtime. Turning the lights out in your bedroom ahead of time and lying in the dark can help bring on a good night’s sleep. Drinking alcohol can help you get to sleep but will play havoc with your sleep cycles giving you a bad night’s sleep.

Here is a good article with tips for better sleep. It states that you shouldn’t read before bed but new studies have found that it can actually help. I read before bed and it puts me right to sleep. It still gives a lot of good information: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20011004/12-tips-better-sleep-troubled-times

Set up your bedroom for sleep.

The bedroom should be as cool and dark as possible. Keep your blinds or curtains shut. I have a window open even in the winter, a stuffy hot room will not help you sleep well. It’s good to keep your bedroom around 50 degrees. I love being warm under a big blanket in a cold room, makes me sleep like a baby.

I make sure all electronic devices with LED’s are off or I put tape over the LED’s so I can’t see them. Blue LED’s or TV/stereo box lights can keep you awake by stimulating your mind just by looking at them in the dark. The darker the room the better.

Make sure your bed is comfortable. Dress in something loose and cool you want to be as comfortable as possible.

If you still need help getting to sleep.

Scent can help you sleep. Lavender is wonderful for sleep I have a spray I can spray on my pillowcase and it puts me right to sleep. Before you go to bed you can take a hot bath and put lavender in it. Either way, it’s heavenly.

Nature sounds of any kind are very relaxing and playing them while you go to sleep can help. There are many applications for cell phones that include timers so you don’t have to turn them off after you fall asleep. This is good if you can’t relax, or if your bedroom tends to be noisy. Do not play music it will keep you and your mind awake.

Make sure you get enough sleep.

I like to get 7 1/2 to 8 hours of sleep a night including weekends. The recommended amount is a full 7 to 8 hours a night. I set my alarms so I go to sleep at 10:05 and get up at 7 am. That leaves me about 9 hours leeway and most of the time I can sleep 8 hours or more. Part of that time is spent reading. I used to be an insomniac now I sleep like a baby but it didn’t happen overnight it took some time and planning.

It’s up to you!

You need to find what is right for you and stick with it. It might take you as long as a few months to get settled into it. Sleeping well is hard work for us folks that have trouble sleeping. It will happen! Things will come up that mess with your sleep plans but the next day get right back at it. As long as you leave time to get ready for bed and have your bedroom set up for sleep you’ll be doing awesome in no time.

Sleep has super powers.

There are new studies coming out all of the time about the powers of sleep. It’s been proven that getting enough sleep makes you live longer. People who get enough sleep actually eat 300 less calories a day when they were well rested. Sleep brightens your mood for the day. People who get enough sleep don’t get sick as much. Your blood pressure goes down when you sleep giving your heart a break. Sleep helps you make better decisions and boosts your creativity. It also gives you more energy. They are finding out new things about how sleep helps us all of the time.

Let me know how you’re doing or if you have any questions about sleeping better.

Now, get some sleep!

Links from howsleepworks.com, psychologytoday.com, sleepdex.org, and webmd.com.

I Want To Ride My Bicycle

My bike is a 1986 Schwinn World Tourist bike. You don’t need to ride a vintage bike there are all sorts of bikes to choose from. It doesn’t really matter what kind of bike you have as long as it fits your needs and you enjoy riding it. Find one that you like or it will be a chore to ride.

What kind of bike do you have?

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So you want to ride your bicycle, what should you expect?

Even on a sunny day when starting out you will hate the hills, the wind will push you around and you will wonder what the hell you are doing on a bike. You may feel like you forgot how to ride! We all feel these things but after a few days, you will gain confidence and start to feel a difference.

I suggest biking 2 to 3 times a week to start. You don’t want to let too many days go in between or it will take longer for the good benefits to happen. You will want to let at least a day go by without riding to let your body rest. Getting a good nights sleep is a must because when your body is in deep sleep it heals.

What are some of the benefits of riding your bicycle?

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Ok so these aren’t exactly the physical benefits but all are good examples of how awesome bikes are. I love how quiet it is when I ride and I notice things that I wouldn’t when driving my car. Little critters cross the path in front of me and birds glide on the wind alongside me. The other day a crow flew over me with a dead mouse held in its beak dripping blood happy to catch lunch and I saw a hummingbird as small a large bug. I feel like I’m flying through a wonderland when I ride my bike.

What about the physical things that happen to you in the first hour?

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  1. 10 Minutes-A sense of freedom hits your system. You immediately grin from the joy you’re feeling as you pedal faster and faster.
  2. 20 Minutes-Your enjoyment spikes, causing a burst of activity. Your body is ridding itself of the stress hormone that can prevent deep regenerative sleep. You start to smile.
  3. 40 Minutes-Blood flow and oxygen to the brain is boosted. Keep smiling, because if you’re riding 5 days a week for 40 minutes at a time you’re likely to take half as many sick days as couch potatoes.
  4. 45 Minutes-Serotonin and endorphins are released into the blood system, helping improve your mood. This is the addicting part that I love because it lasts even after you stop riding.
  5. 60 Minutes-With every mile you tick off you’re helping reduce your risk of heart disease to less than half of those who don’t exercise. You’re burning fat and getting stronger.
  6. After an hour, your mind comes into play. To me, it’s like meditation I even think of poetry and music. As a side note, I’d like to say that this is a good reason NOT to listen to music while you’re riding it’s extremely dangerous not to pay attention to your surroundings on a bike. We all need time to think in this crazy world and this is an excellent way and time to do it.
  7. As the rave inside of you continues you might want to think about how much longer you want to bike. I bike about 2 hours at a time roughly 20 miles and I take along an apple or pear. Nothing beats choosing a bench and noshing on the trail not to mention you’ll burn it off going home.

These are just some of the things you have to look forward to. Chemically there are many changes going on inside that only an expert could explain. Speaking of doctors, if you haven’t exercised in a long time you should consult your doctor first to be safe. Nothing feels worse than hurting yourself just as you are getting used to riding, then having to take the time off to heal.

What kinds of bikes are there?

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Even with enlarging and sharpening this didn’t come in as well as I’d of liked but it gives you an idea of all of the different bicycles there are. If you want to know more about one of these styles a search would be good if you can’t read it. The “at a glance” info is interesting.

I’d like to point out that my “touring bike” is not on here. My bike is 30 years old and the other day I did a search on them only to find out they have changed like everything else. My bike is a cross between a “City Bicycle” and a “Mountain Bike” and has 10 speeds I can shift into at any time. A touring bike was made to take in the city and the country before the mountain bikes became popular making it special now. The handlebars are upright and the wheels sturdy enough to take off road without being a daredevil. I enjoy my bike very much and won’t be trading it in anytime soon.

Whether you buy a new bike, a vintage or a used bike be sure and try it out first. An old bike can always be fixed up like new so don’t neglect your old bike it can be your best friend again by taking it into a shop or doing your own work if you know how.

Your bike should be tall enough so that you have room to stretch your legs when pedaling as there are different size frames, wheels and the seat and handlebars are adjustable. Fenders become important when it rains if you don’t want water on your back. A new bike may not “fit” you perfectly have an expert help you figure out what works for you.

Having a fixed speed bike or many speeds is another personal choice. If you are older, like me, you may not want to bend over with 10-speed handlebars. There are different kinds of breaks and shifters to consider. There are large cushy seats if you don’t like the tiny ones and no matter what kind of bike you get you can always change these out. Get what you want not necessarily what the store tries to sell you.

It’s good to have a holder for a water bottle (a must) and a saddlebag of some sort to keep your things in. Saddlebags come in all shapes and sizes. Taking your cell phone is important (not so much for calls) for reasons I’ll get into at another time. I’d get a saddlebag big enough for a lunch, your cell phone, and a few extras. I even carry a small first aid kit in mine.

Now that you have a bike that fits you to a T it’s time to start riding it. When you do you’ll be glad you took the time to get the right bike it will carry you well and make you insanely happy and healthy.

Do it right and it’ll do you right!