Working on My Fitness

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

It's warmed up again here.  I mean . . . it's a relative thing now, at this time of year.  But it's not THAT cold.  And all the snow has finally melted.  (I may even try throwing my bulbs in the ground later this week.  Because what have I got to lose???)  Slightly warmer temperatures and no snow/ice on the ground makes for easier outdoor walking, that's for sure!

Which got me thinking.  I know a lot of you walk outside as your primary fitness activity.  And it's hard(er) to get out there and do it in the winter, when it's cold and there's snow on the ground.  But it's not impossible!  (Just ask my sister, who walks every day -- even in Cheyenne's brutal wind and "sideways snow!")  I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips for winter walking - to keep us all moving -- and moving safely.

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So.  Here we go.  My tips for winter walking:

Stretch a little before you get out there.  When it's cold outside, your muscles take a bit longer to warm up.  Help them out with a few quick stretches before you begin.  Get that blood flowing before you leave the house.

Watch your step.  Mind where you go when it's snowy or icy.  Keep to a moderate (or even a slow and careful) pace when there is ice or snow on the road.  If possible, walk on trails or the sidewalk or less traveled streets.  Watch out for those piles of plowed snow!  Seriously, take it easy -- because you don't want to fall.

Take smaller strides.  The longer your stride, the more likely you are to fall on an icy road.

Dress in layers.  Even though it's cold, a brisk walk can get your heart rate up and make you sweat.  If you're overdressed, you'll be uncomfortably warm, and that's no fun.  (When that happens to me, I usually take off my gloves for a while and unzip the top of my jacket.  I can always pop the gloves back on, or zip back up again if I get chilly.)  But . . . don't layer your socks!  You can better avoid blisters by wearing only single socks.

Wool!  (I don't need to tell the knitters out there about the benefits of wearing wool.)  Wool is your best layer.  Leave the cotton stuff at home!  (Really.  Cotton absorbs moisture -- which never works well when you're exercising.)

Pay attention to your visibility.  Wear something bright -- and something reflective if you're walking in the dark.  If it's dark, put on a flashing clip light.  Carry a little flashlight so you can mind your footing.  Or, better yet, go ahead and get yourself a headlamp.

Try some studded boots or "traction cleats" for your shoes.  When the roads are icy or snow-covered, I pull on my YakTrax.  They provide an amazing amount of stability and make walking outside possible for me in the winter.  My sister has some sort of studded boots that she wears for winter walking (I'll ask her for more information if you're interested).

And then, of course, when you get back home from your winter walk be sure to do a bit more stretching and drink plenty of water!

How about you?  Do you have some tips to share for . . . walking in a winter wonderland?

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Please join us for our Week 3 Read With Us discussion of Just Mercy.  Carole's hosting us for Friday Tuesday Night Snacks -- and you don't want to miss that!


Checking In

It's been a while since I've written a post about fitness and wellness.  (Like with exercise itself, sometimes we get off track, y'know?)  So as I head out this morning for an early spin class and probably some weight work (I don't really feel like it right now, but I really ought do it anyway. . . ), I thought this would be a good time to check in with you.

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How are you doing with your fitness these days?  
What's working for you?  
Or . . . what's not working for you?
Do you have any progress or new goals you want to share?

Let's . . . check in!

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And . . . head over to Bonny's today for more Read With Us.  This week, Bonny is hosting our continuing discussion of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.  (I hear she has pastries . . . )

 

 


Get Strong

I've been harping on about getting fit(ter) for several months now.  I hope that I'm beginning to convince you that adding some fitness to your life would be a Really Great Thing.  And, further, I hope that I'm convincing you that strength training should REALLY be Something You Want To Do.  Because being strong and fit will serve us all well as we age.

So let's . . .

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shall we???

Okay.  So many of you have let me know that . . . yeah, yeah.  You're interested.  
But you don't want to go to a gym.  
And you don't have the time.  (See my quote from yesterday.) (Just sayin.)  
And you don't know where to start.
And can you do this at home?  Without any equipment? 

Starting today, I'm going to take those comments on!

Let's begin here:  What, exactly, IS strength training???

Well.  Strength training can be explained by two things:

  1. Movement of any weight . . . including your own body weight.  Turns out that doing ANY exercise that pushes your muscles outside their comfort zone will force them to rebuild stronger.  Y'know . . . to prepare them for their next challenge!
  2. Progressive overload . . . exerting just a little more effort than last time - consistently.  That means lifting heavier weight or doing more repetitions.  You need to make your muscles adapt constantly -- rebuilding themselves to get stronger.

And what does that mean?

Well.  If you do 10 wall push-ups and 10 squats right now . . . you've just done a strength training workout!  (Right there, right now . . . without a gym or a trainer or anything.)

The trick?  Do it on the regular a few times.  And then . . . you need to up your game!  Maybe 11 (or 12) wall push-ups and 11 (or 12) squats.  Or add more days.  Or do them twice with a little rest in between.

Why?

Well.  You need to push your muscles outside their comfort zone.  Regularly.  When you do this . . . pushing your muscles like that . . . you're actually "breaking them down." Kind of "tearing" them (just a little bit) during your workout.  And then, as you rest and recover . . . they build up again.  Stronger and more resilient.  (Rinse.  Repeat.)

What about soreness after you work out?

Yep.  That's going to happen.  Because you're working specific muscles you probably haven't worked in a while -- hard enough to make them "tear" a teeny bit.  This soreness actually has a name:  Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS (which usually peaks on the 2nd day after your workout).   And the best "cure" for DOMS?  Movement.  Getting the blood flowing to those sore muscles.  (I know.  Counterintuitive and NOT what you want to do.  But true.)  So.  You need to work through the muscle soreness (not to be confused with an injury, which is different thing altogether).

So.  Here are my strength training beginning basics for you:

  • Intentional, regular workouts
  • Progressive overload
  • Work through the soreness

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Now.  What about a workout to get you started?

First, I'm just going to say this:  Personally, I think it is best if you can get to a gym and take a strength class (many of them are designed specifically for women or for the "over 50" set) or - if you can swing it - work with a trainer for a while.  Proper form is important, and sometimes it's hard to figure out if you're doing your exercises properly on your own, at home.  (Plus, it is nice to have a personal cheerleader.)  BUT . . . don't let that stop you from beginning!  If you absolutely can't (or don't want to) do the gym thing, doing it on your own is better than not doing it at all!

The best way to get started at home . . . is to begin with bodyweight training -- "lifting" the weight of your own body.  No equipment needed!  You can do it anywhere!  And it really works to build strength.

Here is a great beginner-do-at-home-strength training workout for you to try (20 min).  It's from NerdFitness and includes a video.  (You'll have to scroll down to the middle of the article to the headline Beginner Body Weight Workout Video & Exercises.  They also promote their online coaching services, etc. so you'll have to scroll past all that to find the workout.)  NerdFitness does a great job making fitness accessible for people who aren't "athletic."  I really like their attitude and approach, and if I were beginning at home with strength training, this is where I would begin.

You can also do what Carolyn does . . . and find YouTube videos featuring beginning body weight workouts.  I just tried a YouTube search using the terms "beginner body weight workouts" and a BUNCH of options appeared, so that's a great source of at-home workouts.  (The top video in my search?  The NerdFitness workout referenced above!)

And if you've already doing some at-home workouts and would like suggestions of other body weight exercises to mix things up, here is an "encyclopedia" (pretty much) of 53 different body weight exercises to try.  It takes a while to load because it includes a lot of photos and videos of people doing the 53 different body weight exercises.

And if you have access to the New York Times online, they have a great at-home strength workout option that includes detailed instructions and videos.  There is even a chart of the workout you can click on to save to your computer or print out so you don't have to load the whole article each time you want to do it.  (You need to scroll down to the "Time to Train" headline, and then to the "At Home Workout" headline.)

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Okay.  I imagine that's probably total overload.  But certainly a place to begin!  Please let me know what you think -- and especially let me know if you try any of these workouts.  And if you're already working out at home, please add your suggestions or tips.  I'll be sure to share them in future posts.

(Next up:  Adding equipment for your at-home strength training workouts.)


So. Why Weight?

Last week, I introduced you to Claudia . . . who made a compelling case for adding weight training to your fitness activities -- and especially as we age.  I thought I'd piggyback on that post today, with a story and some facts about strength training.

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First, a story.

I've been a workout-freak for a very, very long time.  Cardio fitness activities have long been part of my repertoire - jumping, dancing, running, swimming, kicking.  And I did yoga and Pilates to build core strength, flexibility, and balance.  But I was completely uninterested in strength training or lifting weights.  Because . . . boring.  And I didn't want to get "big muscles." And it didn't actually feel like working out to me . . . because you don't really even sweat.  (And I like to sweat when I work out.)

So I ignored the whole strength thing.

And then . . . in December 2011 . . . my mom fell off a counter stool at my house and broke her ankle.  Badly.  She stayed with me at my house for her recovery, and I saw first hand what happens when you age . . . and didn't work on your strength training when you were younger!  My mom had to keep all weight off her injured foot -- which meant using a walker . . . and "hopping."  She couldn't do it!  She didn't have the upper body strength to use the walker to "hop."  (She couldn't hop either, but that's an issue for another day.)

It was a miserable time.  My mom was frustrated and depressed.  Her early physical therapy efforts were completely focused on building her arm muscles so she could use the walker.  It was hard work, and discouraging for her.  Especially because she was in pretty good shape for a woman in her late 70s!  She walked every day and went to the gym regularly, where she swam and took "Zumba Gold" classes.  

She did not, though, do any strength training.

Watching my mom struggle with her lack of strength had me re-assessing my own workout routine.  I decided I needed to work on my strength . . . now . . . before I became that "woman in her late 70s" who was in "pretty good shape."  (And that's when I contacted Claudia.  Because she was the only woman I knew at the time who WAS working on her strength in a serious way.)

Ever since my mom's broken ankle experience, my motivation has been . . . to NOT have that happen to me!

Now, why weight?  (A few facts about muscles and weight training.)

  • As we age, our muscles begin to melt away.  Muscles begin to deteriorate in our 30s.  When we hit 40, we lose an average of 8% of our muscle mass every decade -- and this continues to accelerate even faster after age 60.  Loss of muscle limits mobility, speeds the onset of some diseases, and is linked to premature death.
  • Loss of muscle also has an impact on your bones.  In fact, the factors that help us maintain muscle are the same factors that keep our bones strong and dense.  As we lose muscle with age, our bones become brittle -- leading to osteoporosis, arthritis, fractures, frailty.
  • Most of us just accept that the loss of muscle and bone density just happens as part of aging.  BUT studies show that you can slow and delay these processes by years - even decades - with muscle strengthening programs that work your entire body.  In fact, studies show that adding 2 resistance-training sessions to your workout each week can reverse age-related cellular damage that causes muscle loss and functional impairment.  (Here's a link to the study if you want to get technical.)

And the benefits?

  • Studies are showing that muscle mass is linked to longevity.  There's something called a "muscle index" (muscle mass divided by height squared), and this muscle index is turning out to be a more important predictor of premature mortality than obesity.
  • Resistance training (strength training) improves your cardiovascular health by increasing your blood flow.
  • Skeletal muscle helps regulate and dispose of blood sugar.
  • Muscle acts like a coat of armor against diabetes.  (Something to do with insulin and absorbing glucose, which is too complicated for me to go into here - because I don't understand it to begin with - but if you're interested, let me know and I can send you a link.)
  • Regular strength training - in combination with cardio exercise and eating a healthy diet - can help burn more fat than just cardio and a healthy diet alone.

So.  Strength training twice a week . . . can help you get stronger, live longer, feel better, and burn more fat.
What are you "weighting" for?

(Seriously.  I want to know.  What are your barriers to strength training?)

 


Back At It

Usually, I am a workout-aholic.  I go to the gym pretty much every day (I'll share my own fitness story someday), and I work out hard while I'm there.  I take my fitness pretty seriously.

I really, really need those endorphins to flow or I don't feel quite . . . complete.

While I was on my trip to Alaska . . . which happened to be on a small luxury cruise ship . . . I tried to keep as active as I possibly could.  Tom and I walked a lot each day.  We worked out on the ship whenever possible.  We went on a couple of higher-intensity treks (hiking on a glacier, for example, or kayaking around islands).  

But.

I did more of this . . . 

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than usual.  (Let's just say . . . we used our premium drinks package more than we used the gym . . . )

I arrived back home craving a diet cleanse, a massage, and a good, hard workout!

So.  I'm back at it.  And feeling better already.

But it got me thinking -- how do YOU get yourself back on track after a break?  As in . . . after a vacation or an injury or being sick or, well, maybe a heat wave?  

What works for you?
(Share your stories in the comments, and I'll follow up with a summary next week.)

 


Right Now . . . November 2016

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November has been a crazy-busy month for me, end to end.  Filled with stresses and emotions and too-long ToDo lists . . . but also with love and gratitude and turkey!

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(These gorgeous flowers are from my mom's memorial service last Tuesday.  Aren't they lovely?)

Here's what's happening in my world . . . Right Now:

Watching - I finished watching The Crown last night.  I loved it.  Tom and I watched Love Actually the other night.  Other than that, not much watching going on.

Reading - But . . . I do have plenty of reading happening!  I finished reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (and winner of this year's National Book Award) just yesterday morning.  This is a powerful book -- one I will be thinking about for quite a while.  I also recently finished Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  Again, powerful.  I have two books on library loan through Overdrive -- and I'm going to have to read fast because they're due far too soon (when it rains it pours, it seems): Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh and Hot Milk by Deborah Levy.  (Luckily, they're both on the short side.)  

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Knitting - I have been finding some time to knit a bit.  Not much, but some.  I'm knitting this sweater, and I'm nearing the end (just one more sleeve and the pockets).  On size 11 needles with bulky yarn, this one is clipping right along (so to speak; it's a relative statement).  I'm anxious to try some of these cute little guys -- and I'm still looking forward to knitting up some of these.

Drinking - Tea.   And plain old water-infused-with-oranges.  And wine.  (Natch.)

Humming - This one.  Four Strong Winds was one of my mom's favorites.  (She was from Alberta, you know.)  Erin sang it at the memorial service last week --- quite a bit different than Neil's version, of course.  Seeing that Erin's voice is classically trained.  And Neil's is . . . not.  Anyway.  I've been humming this song ever since.

Needing to - Resume my usual fitness routine.  Because my life has been so upside-down and inside-out lately that too many of my workouts have, well . . . pretty much disappeared.   (I also need to quit eating so much cheese.)  (But let's not talk about that.)

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Delighted by - Shhhhh.  It's kind of under the radar . . . but I'll let you in on a secret.  My knee has improved enough that I am running again.  Just a little.  And very slowly.  But I'm delighted.  (I'm also delighted by the shoelaces in my new running shoes.  Aren't they great?)

Looking forward to - Bringing light and winter comfort into my house during these dark times (seasonal AND political).  (Stay tuned.)

Celebrating - Something that I can't quite blog about yet.  But it's fun.  And I'll tell you as soon as I can.

Planning - A party.  The holidays.  My dad's move.  What to knit next.  Which book to load on my iPod.  Year-end tax stuff.  Pretty much . . . All The Things.

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Grateful for - These four goofballs.  I was so happy to have them all home last week.  I was happy to buy them drinks and take them out for dinner and laugh with them and listen to their banter.  It doesn't get much better!

How about YOU?  What's going on for you . . . right now?


 


A Little Throwback Thursday with Some Jumping Up and Down, Too

First, the throwback part.  Let's check out this page from my high school yearbook. . .

Yearbook 1977

See that picture up there?  The one of the girl diving into the pool for the start of a swim race?  Yeah.  That's me.  1977.

For as long as I can remember, I have been a Swimmer.  I took my first swim lessons at age 5, and was pretty much at ease in the pool from that moment on.  Some of my best childhood memories involve swim friends, swim team, and swim meets.

I gotta tell you, though.  Swimming - for regular exercise - is a bit of a hassle.  First, you need to have access to a pool.  Then, there's always a lot of "getting ready" time (before and after a swim).  And, well . . . there's also the matter of those pesky, telltale "goggle marks" on your face (which seem to get worse the older my skin gets).

Anyway.

When I had to stop running and dancing last year, I decided I might as well deal with the hassles and get back to swimming.  

It's been a great decision all around.  I love it.  I'm good at it.  And it's very good exercise, all around.  I generally swim 4 times a week -- with a goal of swimming 10,000 yards per week (just over 5 1/2 miles). (It's still a hassle, though.)

Here's my pool.  (Just imagine it with people in it.)  (Sometimes too many people.)  (Just sayin.)

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One day, last summer, I noticed an adult woman taking a beginning swim lesson in the adjoining pool (a separate poolnot pictured above).  I noticed her, particularly, because you just don't see that many adults learning to swim. She was nervous and hesitant -- but absolutely determined!

Now, swimming is not an easy sport to pick up as an adult.  It takes a lot of coordination to get the pulling and the kicking and breathing (especially the breathing) all working together to propel a person - efficiently - through water.  (After all, humans . . . were meant for land -- not water!)  I am always impressed with - and really in awe of - adults who decide to take on learning-to-swim.  I always try to be as encouraging as I can be when I see a new swimmer.  (I was also a cheerleader in high school. . . )

So I became Miriam's (that's the new swimmer's name) cheerleader.  I tell her how well she's doing and explain that - yes - the breathing is the hardest part.  She tells me I make it look so easy.  I tell her I've been swimming since I was five.  She tells me that she watches me swim to try to figure out the mechanics of breathing.  I tell her she's doing great and that I can see improvement every week.  

It's like that.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed Miriam in the lane next to me.  She told me she had "graduated" from her swim lessons, and was now on her own.  She was practicing in the lap pool, now -- and she told me her goal was to swim one length of the pool without stopping.

She was close.  But she always stood up a few yards before she got to the end of the pool.

I encouraged her.  You're so close, Miriam!  Four more arm strokes and you'll be there!

She took off. 

I watched.

And . . . she made it!  One length; no stopping!

When she grabbed the wall and stood up at the other end of the pool, she turned and looked at me.  I just jumped up and down with my arms in the air.  And so did Miriam.  

It was like she'd just won an Olympic medal!

I swam down to meet her.  You did it! I knew you could!

She was beaming -- just beaming.  Now . . . she told me . . . my goal is TWO lengths without stopping!

I have no doubt! 

 

 

 


Apparently Still a Lemming

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Back in my middle school and early high school years, I was quite a lemming.*

But Mooooooooom . . . EVERYBODY is wearing them.

Oh, c'mon Mom . . . EVERYBODY is going.

Mooooom, I want [my ears pierced] [my hair cut] [my jeans too tight] [to wear incredibly short skirts]. . . just like EVERYBODY.

It's okay, Mom . . . EVERYBODY is doing it.

My Mom (never one to be fooled by lemming tactics) always gave me this line, "If EVERYBODY jumped off a cliff, would you follow?"

Well, DUH.

(Of course.)  (Because lemming.)

And . . . apparently I am STILL a lemming.  Because I hadn't heard about the March Through Time KAL (Knit-A-Long) until Vicki first blogged about signing on.

And then Margene joined.

And Carole.  

And Kim.

So, of course, I looked closer.

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And I discovered that this is a rather unique and very cool KAL.  Because knitting (a cowl) AND fitness (walking).  (But not at the same time.)  (Although I saw MANY knitters doing just that at Rhinebeck.) (Ahem.)

Now, I am already a very regular fitness person.  I swim and I spin and I do Pilates and yoga.  I also walk my dogs.

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(Sometimes.)

(But I get lazy about walking them when the weather is not so great.)

So I decided that this KAL might be a great way to motivate myself to walk the dogs daily - and especially when it's rainy or chilly or I'm busy.

Lemming.

But also happy and healthy dogs!

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Big WIN all around!

(Join us.  EVERYBODY is doing it.)

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* I was going to include a video clip of lemmings plunging over a cliff.  But, oh man.  Too horrifying.

 


Working on My Fitness: A Fresh Start

(Okay.  So you may wonder what this photo . . . 

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has to do with fitness.)  (Read on.  It will become clear.)

Way back in January, when I was setting my intentions and goals for the year and thinking about the whole JOURNEY thing, I stated that I wanted to "shake up my fitness routine this year."  At the time, way back in January, I knew this would be a challenge.  Not the fitness part (because that's easy for me) -- but the shaking it up part.  Because I liked what I was already doing:  running, dancing, kickboxing.  But it was beginning to feel a bit . . . automatic.  (And besides, I was noticing a bit more arm-jiggle and knew I needed to add some weight training.  Or something.)  So.  Shake it up.

But how?  Because, as it turned out, I didn't really want to give anything up. . . 

Enter:  LIFE.

First, there was the ankle tendinitis issue.

Then, there was the knee issue that flared up as a result of fixing the ankle tendinitis issue.

That'll do it!

No more running.  No more dancing.  No more kickboxing.

BIG shakeup.  Nothing BUT shakeup, in fact!  I needed to strip everything away (except yoga and spinning) and start from scratch.

I started swimming again.  I got back into Pilates.  I discovered that the elliptical machine can be okay in 30 minute bursts.  I found another good spinning instructor.

And this morning - at 5:45 AM, mind you - I found out that I like Power Yoga.  (I might like it a little more if it were offered a bit later in the morning, but oh well. . . )

And THAT . . . is how the photo of the sun rising over my butterfly garden relates to a blog post about fitness.  Because this morning, after Power Yoga and some time on the elliptical machine, I arrived home in time to SEE the sun rise over my butterfly garden.

Although it has been a disappointing year, fitness-wise, in many respects (I really did love my dance class, y'know, and I was kind of getting into the running thing), it's ending out just fine.  The forced time off - and the resulting "re-thinking" about how to protect myself from further injury - have paid off with a fitness Fresh Start.

I'm finally getting that 'shake-up' I was looking for back in January!  (Still trying to get that arm-jiggle under control, though. . .

 


Gittin' r 'Dun

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There's nothing like a 3-day weekend for . . . gittin' stuff dun!  Here's what I did this weekend:

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1 - Planted my herb garden!  (I think it's safe from frost. ) (Finally.)  (But I still didn't put in the basil.)

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2 - Cleaned up some of the messiest of my garden beds.  (The worst one is yet to come, though.)

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3 - Lent Tom moral support while he cleaned out my ponds and got them running again.  (A really messy job.)  And then cheered HURRAH when Tom got my rain barrel set up again.  (And just in time, too!)

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4 - Pointed and directed as Tom wielded his shovel to move hostas and ferns and daylilies.  (It takes a village.)

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5 - Dealt with this kind of help.  (You should see the hole. . .)

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6 - Finally put away the Christmas china.  (Yeah.  I know.) (I also installed my external hard drive and backed up my lap top.) (In case you were wondering.)

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7 - Got to this point in knitting a sweater.  (This one.)  (Trying to decide if it's time for ribbing.)  (It's not.) (It's also not this color.)

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8 - A bit of work.  (Nearing a deadline.)  (I'm totally in charge of my own schedule.)  (But still.  Deadlines.)

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9 - Ran a bit.  (Without pain.)  (First time.)  (Woo-hoo!)

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10 - Some reading.  (But not enough.)  (And I've finally found a really great book, too.)

How about YOU?  What did you do this past weekend?

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