Fitness, Home and Living, into suitable

Moderation is the best game in town

April 28, 2014
Inner balance concept: hands holding stones with the word relax

I am not a fitness guru nor am I a qualified exercise therapist. But one thing that makes me a good candidate to talk about fitness, specialized or in general, is that I can speak from experience. I do not have a degree in sports science or sports psychology but I can relate well with fitness in the sense that I’ve played sports with modest distinction. My motivation for writing this post is that I’d like to encourage those of you to tone down your exercise regimes.

Let me begin by sketching my background. In high school I played first team girls’ hockey for a number of years. In my final year of high school I only gave up the sport to focus more on my studies. At that time, I was enjoying my running more and it was a more flexible pursuit that I could practice while still studying. I thought, at the time, I showed more promise in road running than hockey, but little did I know. I played tennis for a while but didn’t fare well, particularly in doubles.

My motivation for writing this post on the need to take your exercise regimes a little less seriously and begin to have more fun with it comes mainly from the personal experience of trying to do too much. Funny enough, while I was obsessed on the road, I was also obsessed at my study desk. And it was only in my last two years that I took a more relaxed approach towards my studies which, of course, helped me excel during my finals. Sadly, it was too little too late for me on the road running circuit.

But by the time I returned to exercising a few years later, I already had a more modest approach towards the regimes. I was now too old to lop chunks of minutes off of my previous PBs. I was never going to run under two minutes ten for the eight hundred on the track, nor was I ever going to break the three hour mark in the standard marathon again. So I thought I may as well relax and enjoy myself and let my body decide how fast it wants to go or how many more circuits it wants to take on in Central Park.

Just two or three times a week, for not longer than thirty minutes at a time, I now do body toning exercises rather than lifting weights in the gym. I do this in my living room on an old mat and put on a bit of light, background music to help me through the minutes. I cancelled my gym membership yonks ago. I gave up waiting in line for my turn to use the equipment. And while I can be a crowd pleaser myself, I did not enjoy bumping into sweaty, frustrated, mean-spirited and stressed bodies all of the time.

And if you like loud, pumping noise, you’re probably far better off going to a late-night club on the outskirts of town. You’ll get a better and far more enjoyable workout forgetting all your troubles of the day dancing on the dance floor. Just make sure the club’s clean, respectable and safe. And make sure you are able to get home safely afterwards in the taxi. Skipping rope is an intensely difficult exercise for those who are a bit on the heavy side. But start with just one or two minutes at a time and you’ve already had a massive cardiovascular work-out.

Swimming does that too. But for most of us, this remains difficult. In Jersey the other day, this guy’s mom asked me whether I could swim. As athletic as I am, I still can’t manage more than a few strides at a time. But never mind that. All you need to do is take your body to the shallow end of the municipal pool, steady yourself along the railings and begin by gently kicking your legs. You can also stand on your feet and mimic swimming strokes with your arms.

Cycling at a modest pace is good too. Although I’d much prefer it if you do this if your neighborhood or nearby park has designated cycling lanes. Cycling on busy public roads, to my mind, is far too dangerous and your mind is preoccupied with dodging traffic and watching out for rogue drivers all of the time. To compensate, you can always get yourself a stationary bike and pedal for a half hour or so in your living room, listening to your favorite music or even watching a show on TV. Some girls even managed to do a bit of reading this way. While the body is being exercised moderately, the mind also remains focused and/or preoccupied.

I have to close with my favorite exercise. No matter what pace you do it at and no matter where, walking is always great. No-one is asking you to lumber up stairs, but do take the stairs at work instead of a crowded elevator. Take advantage of your nearby parks or even your neighborhood (if it’s a safe one). You can walk peacefully in solitude or in friendship with one of your buddies. And if you’re physically challenged at this time, do your walking at a pace that does not put too much strain on you.

Hobbies, into suitable

Blogging for creative and hobby-minded people

April 3, 2014
Businessman look at the group of social people on a pedestal

It’s a tough ask for me to coax some of you towards starting up your own blog because at this stage I’m not privy to what interests you.

But, believe me; I’m well aware that many of you have your own hobbies that you don’t always have time to pursue. This is understandably due to the need to prioritize more time for work and putting in extra hours to pay the bills on time. Take me, for instance, I’ve done nothing but work this last year or so. I’m not complaining, just saying and fully acknowledge that I only have myself to blame.

One reason for blaming myself is that I know fully that I’ve not been the best of planners and organizers. Now, if you’re going to be successful with your hobby crafts, not necessarily in the money sense, you’ll need loads of organizing and planning and preparation anyway. This blog, by the way, is not entirely my own doing. We’ve got a team going here. I’m one of a few writers or content creators. We also have a content manager on board. She works in the city as a magazine editor.

So, she’s got all the experience and know-how to advise us accordingly and help with the planning of our blog diary. She gets rewarded for her tasks but it’s minimal in comparison to what she does during the day. This, she says, is one of her hobbies, so helping us out isn’t about the money. We’ve also got a traffic manager who pops in to her office every now and then or sends us updates on how much readers we’ve managed to attract. Previously, when I started all of this on my own, I had all the necessary enthusiasm that could turn this into a great hobby.

The thing about hobbies is this. Whether you’re doing dressmaking in your spare time or heading out to the Park or out of town to do bird-watching and take great pictures of the different species that you spot, you need to share these with others. What better way to do this than by creating your own multi-functional and multi-media blog. Think of the ancient world of stamp collectors. I remember from high school days how a few boys used to gather around and share their valuable mementos with each other.

Often being ridiculed as geeks by ignorant others who had limited interests which only went as far as football and big-breasted girls, these guys just quietly and solemnly got on with their hobby habit of collecting rare stamps and pasting it in their albums. I watched with admiration and noticed that they were onto something that went a lot further than simply pasting minute pieces of paper into a book. You can also compare this to a popular hobby doing the rounds of the hobby-centric blogosphere. Many of you should have heard of this by now. It’s called scrap-booking.

And it has one thing at least in common with stamp collections. Whether it’s personal, on a much broader scale culturally-speaking or confined to a specific niche, these two hobby habits have history in common. And when I think about it, it does have much in common with my own interest in art. There’s history in that too. And, of course, arranging stamps in a functional order, cataloguing them into relevant files and arranging them chronologically are an art on its own. So too, scrap-booking.

Hobbies also offer you great opportunities to be both versatile and original. Like our quirky rituals, hobbies can be perceived by others to be awkward, unusual and even downright silly by others, who remain, in the main, dullards in their own lives, plodding unimaginatively from one day to the next. Hobbies can even transcend generations. Here, I can easily use one of my old neighborhood friends as an example. At high school he would have also been classed as one of the school geeks by the ignorant jocks mentioned earlier. He’s the type of guy who camps overnight at the downtown cinemascope to snatch up his tickets for the premier of the next big chapter in the Star Wars saga. And because she loves the heroes too and is old enough to tag along, the guy’s daughter goes along for the adventurous ride.

In fact, he and his wife shared his nostalgic experience with us last Thanksgiving. I may as well tell you about it too. Sitting down with his twelve year old daughter in the cinema, his wife told us, brought this man to tears. While his daughter was enjoying the latest space adventure with her father, the father was reliving his past, thinking to himself how awesome it is to still hold an interest in things that kept him awake at night as a young boy. When gifts were handed to the child after the Thanksgiving dinner, the father looked longingly at the girl’s new toys. Well, there’s only so far a grown middle-aged father can and should go; says the convention of those who don’t care too much about hobbies.

But why not, I say. Why not keep your mind imaginative and youthful? What better way from keeping yourself ageing prematurely. Many of you may have witnessed this in others who suddenly aged rapidly after leaving work for the last time and heading off into the sunset for what should be their golden years. These folks aged too quickly, some of them even became ill and died, because they suddenly had nothing to do with their lives and there was nothing that could preoccupy their minds. Some said that they were too old to try new things. If you are one of those, that’s nonsense and I think, deep down, you know it too.

Anyway, it’s time go. I’ve really had a great time with this post. Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I had in writing it up too.

Beauty, into suitable, My Dailly Rituals

Environmentally sustainable beauty products you should be using

January 25, 2014
Hands holding a young green plant

Some of these products I’m already using. Some of these products you may be using too. I thought I’d take a swing at this subject today by creatively blending in my own thoughts on a short list of no more than four essential beauty products mainly used by women.

If I’ve used one or more of these products already then I’ll share my personal experiences of how it makes me feel and what it does for me. If not, then you are more than welcome to share your own thoughts (if you’ve used the highlighted product) in the Comments field provided.

One of my favorite things to do in the evening after work or during weekends on both days, when there’s time enough, of course, is to meander through the many arts and crafts markets across the city. I have also long lost the desire to browse among cosmetics counters in our city’s remaining major department stores. What they sell has taken on a veneer of being utterly plastic and most of the things that appear to be attractive are frightfully expensive too.

A lot cheaper are the home-made soaps I’ve collected over the last few years from my market expeditions. What attracted me to them in the first place were their freshly scented smells. This was made possible by keeping the soaps loosely wrapped in brown paper and not with tight-clinging plastic. I can only really use one or two bars of soap at any one time, so the rest of my soap bars serve as decorative elements and adds a lot of pleasing scents to the bathroom.

I think what makes these smells and the soaps’ colorful variety so appealing is that they’ve all been hand-made from natural ingredients. There’s not a whiff of chemical pungency among any of the bars which add still more variety through their different shapes and sizes. Sometimes, I get a lot of joy just looking at them. I use all my bars so sparingly, not out of a concern to save money but more to do with not wanting to spoil their beautiful unused looks.

An import eco-friendly note worth making here is that none of these soaps include chemicals and none of them are packaged in or with plastic. Then there’s the labor of love that goes into making them. As you let the soft, moist soap caress your skin, you can almost feel this.

A personal favorite of mine, practical for everyday use is the so-called shower to shower combination of shampoo and body wash. I’ve mentioned this before; showering daily is now an essential replacement for the luxurious ritual of hot water baths. It uses up a lot less water and saves on the costs on the excessive amounts of energy your geyser generates. Vanilla is one of my favorite scents, I use it almost daily, but sometimes over weekends I indulge myself from my lavender collection.

There’s just one difficult poser here. The bottled varieties cost so much more than the plastic packaged shampoos. One is still forced to make savings and the shampoo and body wash mixture gets used daily and is quickly replenished. But all in all, the products I’m using are biodegradable and, interestingly enough lather a lot better than the commercial lines I used to buy before. Also it’s a lot healthier for both my hair and skin. Not that I’m planning to have kids any day soon, but I read that these natural lotions, some of them anyway, are so gentle to the skin that they can even be sparingly applied to the baby’s soft skin.

Now, for reasons that I’m sure most of you will understand, I cannot at this stage mention any one product by name. It’s business, sorry to say it. Also, we could get into a lot of trouble describing in detail what others have already written about certain commercial lines. But if you’re in or near Brooklyn, see if you can challenge yourself and hunt down this specialist store that I discovered. They have an entire range of beauty products specifically produced for women.

One particular product I happen to like is their make-up remover. I use this sparingly because I generally don’t use make-up much anyway. But what I’d like to say is that this store’s entire range is organic. Some of the eclectic mixtures of ingredients and its scents include jojoba, almond and olive oil. Oils, in the past, were frowned upon by most women who were concerned about achieving the perfectly toned and clearest skin. But the skin needs its oil, not too much of it, mind you, and all these oils are natural anyway.

Most women, understandably, are also heavily concerned about their facial skin. Many still spend hours trying to perfect their skin, trying new products all the time. To achieve near-instant success with this essential practice of removing dead skin cells, simply use natural and organically produced products. They also do well in at least reducing the visibility of blemishes and premature wrinkles. One last thought on beautifying yourself the natural and healthy way.

Using organic materials to cleanse your skin is good and well. But the job is only half done. You still need to pay a lot of attention to what you eat each day. Eat natural ingredients wholesomely and in a balanced manner three times a day and drink lots of water and much of your work is done.