I feel good, thanks in large part to a strange sounding practice called fartlek. It means “speed play” in Swedish, and it’s a form of conditioning exercise that uses interval training (jogging, in my case), fast walking, and sprinting, which stimulates aerobic energy. I didn’t know it had a name until my officemate said he did it with bicycling. According to Wikipedia, “the difference between this type of training and continuous training is that the intensity or speed of the exercise varies, meaning that aerobic and anaerobic systems can be put under stress.”
The key is that it can be adapted to any form of exercise you like. Though I cannot do a continuous jog because of lower back issues, fast walking isn’t enough. I need the endorphins and bursts of effort that make me sweat. And it has to happen outside, as I’m behind a desk much of the day.
So I warm up at a brisk walk, then start jogging, then walk, then sprint or jog harder, then walk and so on. My “speed” is determined by how I feel while keeping my heart rate at 60 - 80% of maximum rate (max is 220 minus your age) without much discomfort. I dress in layers, and I always breathe through my nose like an efficient energy burning stove for 2 - 3 miles 4 - 5 days a week. All this seems to do the trick.
As we age, our bodies may begin to yell at us if we play too hard, so here are a couple of ways I’ve found to support the joints and back to minimize aches.
Your Back and Intestinal Integrity
If you are having back pain, try limiting most breads, wheat products, and flour in your diet. As strange as that sounds, try it for a week or two and see if you notice a difference. My back hurts within a day or two if I eat too much of these things. Water and flour make paste that can cling on to and weaken intestinal walls. Think doughy sludge in a hose or accumulated crud in pipes, and you’ll get the drift. This kind of graphic explanation helped me to be able to imagine how much the body wants raw fruits and vegetables and plenty of water to keep the intestinal path clean. Put your hands over intestines and lower back. You’ll feel that your back balances with your intestines, so it makes sense that one can affect the other.
Loving Your Belly
Your belly, your chi, your center, your abdominal brain, the place of comfort or agony, the central digestive workhorse that feeds your entire body: this area needs security, strength, protection, and maintenance. It’s vital to consistently strengthen abdominal and back muscles so that they support your physical play.
I remember reading that Billy Bob Thornton does 500 crunches a day. He walks around enjoying the ache in his abdomen. Though that’s extreme, I understand what he means: it feels good to hurt a little. It indicates that your muscles have worked hard—whether you’re doing Pilates or belly dancing. If you, like me, have a hard time remembering to tone, try coinciding exercises with TV time in your household and triumph over couch potato-ism!
After exercise do long, easy stretches and revel in flexibility. Wait, there’s got to be a reward! A warm cup of herb tea or natural hot chocolate is a good idea. Then before you go to bed, stroke your torso with a pure massage oil that contains essential oils of lavender, chamomile, ginger, or peppermint, each very comforting to your belly. While doing this affirm how grateful you are for ________, and you will slip right into a sensuous bedtime or a peaceful sleep. Or if you have time for a hot bath, mix Epsom salts and few drops of those essential oils into your soak.
Therapeutic Food and Supplements
Eat lots of fresh pineapple (bromelain, an enzyme in pineapple has anti-inflammatory properties). Or if you prefer: take bromelain tablets first thing in the morning before eating. During the colder months when fresh fruit choices are slim, and organic pineapple is inexpensive, try whole grain pineapple upside down pancakes, fresh chunks for breakfast, as a snack dipped in yogurt, pineapple salsa* to accompanying chicken or fish, maybe pineapple mojitos or martinis...Just don’t use canned pineapple. It must be fresh or frozen fruit or juice to be therapeutic.
Get plenty of calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and zinc each day. Eat a daily banana, dark greens, and take an efficient whole foods based supplement. Use the anti-inflammatory herbs (turmeric, rosemary, basil) and heart health herbs (garlic, mustard seed and chicory) regularly in cooking.
*Pineapple Salsa: simply combine chopped tomatoes or red salsa, pineapple, red or sweet onion, bell pepper, with minced jalapeno and garlic, and seasonings of choice.
Winter Fruit Coconut Ambrosia Salad
There’s nothing like a fragrant ambrosia salad to perk up your day. By using light coconut milk instead of sour cream or mayo, and fresh pineapple, it’s delightfully topical and vegan. (Unless you add the kosher marshmallows that only use fish gel based gelatin.) Use both red and green organic apples for attractive color. Makes about 8 - 9 cups and can be kept well-covered in refrigerator for 3 - 4 days.
1 can light coconut milk
3 tbsp. agave nectar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
zest from one whole orange
4 or 5 large oranges, peeled and cut into bite-sized sections
1 green apple, cored, and cut bite-size
1 red apple, cored, and cut bite-size
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple, chunked
1/3 cup grated natural (not sweetened) coconut, toasted and divided
Optional: 1 cup mini marshmallows (or kosher mallows chopped into mini size)
In a large bowl, whisk coconut milk, agave, and vanilla. Add orange zest, oranges, and pineapple. Toss cut apples with lemon juice; then add to large bowl with marshmallows and half the coconut. Gently toss all to coat. Cover and chill in fridge for an hour then garnish with remaining coconut and serve cold. (Adapted from recipe on WholeFoodsMarket.com)