I realize this post doesn’t have a tonne to do with physical activity, but let me tell you, jumping out of a plane at 12,500 ft. most definitely affects your physiology (and psychology).
I decided to make the jump for my 27th birthday. I asked my good friends, but they weren’t able to; it was a mixture of reasons – fear, cost, fear, etc. I understood. Yet, when the day arrived I wanted someone up there with me. Evan was watching from the ground (he’s already had his jump), but the thought of being up in the plane alone was starting to worry me (obviously I was not alone as I jumped tandem).
The day prior to the jump, I decided this jump was the perfect opportunity for me to let the past rest – to let go of the anxieties and fears I had been carrying with me for so long. At that moment, this jump became more than a thrill-seeking activity, it became a life-altering activity. I wasn’t sure if it could carry such emotional weight and cause the change I was looking for, but I decided to give it a shot.
My tandem guru ‘Thumper’ (I kid you not) immediately put me at east. He has been jumping since 1989 and has gone all over the world to do it. He was friendly, chill, and confident. I knew I was in good hands.
The training took about 3 minutes. They told us to cross our arms when leaving the plane, open them up when we were tapped on the shoulder, and make sure to keep chin up, back arched and legs up to ensure we didn’t spin / flip. We practiced the move on the group and then got into our suits. I felt intense.
The takeoff and climb were unremarkable. Yet as we neared the top, my tone changed. I wasn’t the laughing, happy person I had been minutes before. I was quiet, reserved…fear was taking over.
When the pilot announced ‘three minutes’ and opened the door, my breathing changed. The cool, buffeting winds were a shock to the system. In the blink of an eye, the three solo jumpers that were sitting ahead of me were gone. Thumper moved us up to the door (I think I moved to). As instructed, I swung my legs out of the door, allowing them to be pushed around by the wind. I looked down at the beautiful patchwork quilt that represents much labour, toil and love, that brings us food, and thought “holy s*** that’s a long way down”. Thumper asked if I was ready. I can’t remember responding, but at that moment we were out of the plane.
We flipped. We came to face the right direction with our bellies facing the earth. At that moment, my brain registered what was going on and I started to scream.
But seconds after exiting the plane, with my senses on fire, everything fell into place, my mind became quiet. I could see the the mountains and the prairies. I could feel the wind pushing my skin upwards. I could feel Thumper tapping me on the shoulder, trying to tell me something. And yet, everything stopped. I felt an unshakable and totally unique sensation, serenity.
I was there, in the moment, for more than just a millisecond. I was in the moment for 50 seconds. My mind was nowhere else but there. Being completely present for a sustained period of time is usually the greatest challenge, but not there. Everything was at peace.
During my free-fall, I didn’t think about the chute. I didn’t think about dying. All fear, all concern, anxiety and worry left when I left the plane door. It is incredible to think an experience so extreme can be so serene.
Once the chute opened we had some fun doing twists and turns up in the sky. I couldn’t stop giggling. Saliva covered my face. While I have experienced great happiness in my life, nothing compares to the joy that circulated through me as we moved over-top the prairies, coming back down to earth.
We landed safely (obviously), I thanked Thumper for an incredible jump, called my parents, listened to my mother have a slight emotional freak out (they had no idea this was happening), got my picture and videos, got a coffee, and came home.
Some of you may be wondering if the jump did what I hoped it would do – did it allow me to let the past rest. Yes and no. The jump put things into perspective and allowed me to come to terms with my existence. The jump pushed me outside my comfort zone and reaffirmed that things usually turn out alright in the end. Did it allow me to let go of my past? I think so, but doing that is going to take time. Rewiring your brain doesn’t just happen after you jump out of a plane. Yet perhaps the jump was the impetus I needed.
Regardless of your motivation to sky dive, the experience is completely unique and I recommend that we all experience it at least once. It is truly transformational.
Here are a couple of gems to make you laugh:
I’m entering day 15 of my 30 day challenge. I’m proud to say I haven’t missed one day yet. Last night I completed 135 squats and 95 leg lifts (thankfully it was a push-up rest).
I have 3.5 people who have committed to the challenge. The 0.5 represents my colleague who does the exercises with me when we run at lunch together. She hasn’t decided to do the full 30 day challenge, but she is annoyingly (I say this with great love) fit enough to just join in the exercises when we run.
What have I noticed? I feel a lot stronger, especially in my abdominal region. Seriously, the leg lifts are a serious challenge for me. And no, I am not referring to the lying on your side, lifting one leg at a time type exercises. Leg lifts in this challenge refer to the exercise when you lie on your back, raise your two legs together up to the sky, lower them down without allowing your lower back to arch and come off the group and raising them up again. I make a lot of strange and unpleasant noises while doing this exercise.
Yet, it’s interesting how this challenge has motivated other change in my life. I’m eating better and a little less. I’m integrating the routine into a Zumba session or a cardio workout (run or bike). I’m sleeping better. That’s a lot of very positive change for only being on Day 15.
If you’re interested in trying out the challenge I’m doing, I encourage you to do so. It is a little hard on the knees so you may need to make a few modifications and that’s perfectly okay. If not my challenge, make up your own. Find a friend to do it with you. Monitor your progress with pictures (I know it sounds lame, but pictures provide very objective feedback).
So I’m entering Day 9 of my challenge. It’s going well. I’ve managed to get in every squat, push-up, and leg lift I’ve been instructed to. Yet, my weight has managed to creep up.
This could be due to a number of reasons: increased muscle mass, water retention, increased alcohol intake over the last two weekends due to visitors. Yet, I think the main reason is I have been eating more since starting this challenge and not good-food eating, like 3 cupcakes in one day type eating (that was only one day and it was yesterday).
And it is likely all those factors contributing to an increase in weight, but the main culprit is diet. It always is.
Oftentimes when people start exercising, they believe that the extra calories burned equate with an extra slice of cake. And in some cases, it sure does. But it really depends on the cake. For example, let’s say three cupcakes are consumed. That equates to almost 900 calories. That’s right folks, I took in almost half my daily caloric intake in just three measly, non-filling, but seriously delicious cupcakes. So I would have had to run at a moderate pace for more than 2 hours yesterday to burn that off. Some high intensity workouts will get you close to 600 calories, if not a little more, but hitting a 900 calorie burn is pretty tough.
I’m not saying stop eating cupcakes, or cake, or brownies, or ice cream. Not at all. I would never want anyone to give up those decadent treats. What I’m saying is that we have to be more aware about what we eat when we introduce exercise back into our life and/or make a change to our current workout. We may think we’re able to increase our caloric intake and have another treat, but in most cases we simply shouldn’t (I know, I hate the word should or shouldn’t, but can’t sounds too extreme). In most cases our hour long workout will be lost (not entirely as there many benefits to exercise unrelated to calorie burn) if we look at it solely as a way to burn calories.
And this brings up a bigger issue, our overall diet. When I was at school, I became familiar with the 70/30 rule. Exercise, on average, will account for 30% of a change in weight while diet will account for the remaining 70%. As I said in the title of this post, diet really matters.
I realize I’ve been talking quite a bit about calories in this post, and I want to clarify that I am not a calorie counter nor an advocate for doing so. Yet, I do monitor what I eat (okay, not yesterday) and I am usually aware of the caloric composition of the foods I eat. I don’t shy away from fat, because low fat diets make no sense. Let me clarify, I eat high-fat / good-quality foods such as full fat yogurt, cream, avocados, nuts, bacon (guilty pleasure). I do monitor my simple carbohydrate intake. I do eat as many veggies and fruits as possible. I do consume dairy and egg products. I do drink a lot of water and monitor my caffeine. Yet, I do still enjoy a drink, a piece or two or three of chocolate, and three cupcakes every once and a while. I am usually quite aware when it comes to my diet which is why I know it has been interfering with some of the benefits I’d hoped to have received from my current exercise challenge.
As my birthday has ended (two days ago…and thus does not explain my cupcake intake yesterday) and we have few visitors for the next month, I plan to get into a better routine with monitoring my diet. This will entail making a crock pot dish for lunches throughout the week, not bringing chocolate into the house or ice cream or cupcakes, having a drink on the weekend, and increasing water intake.
Again, diet really matters, but so does enjoying life (not that these are mutually exclusive, but sometimes it can feel that way). So every once and a while treat yourself to three cupcakes in a day. Trust me, it felt great.
So I’ve decided to do a 30 day challenge. It involves a whole lot of squats, pushups and leg lifts. You start out by doing 50 squats, 4 pushups and 25 leg lifts and end with 250 squats, 40 pushups and 100 leg lifts.
It’s a little intense, but over a 30 day build-up period it shouldn’t be too bad…I hope.
I’ve also managed to recruit a friend to join me in the challenge. We start today.
During this challenge I still plan to run, hike, and get at least 1 weight workout a week as this challenge will largely fulfill my ongoing challenge with my good friend in Ontario (me: 3 weight workouts per week; her; 3 mindfulness sessions per week).
Why? Because since giving up teaching Zumba, I have become less toned and I would really like to change that. I was the most fit I had ever been while an instructor and I would like to return to that level of fitness, if only a little.
If you’re interested in doing the challenge with me, let me know and I will send you the outline. I encourage you to do some sort of challenge as we move into the new school year. It will help to focus you after a summer of relaxing, get you excited and energized for the school year (especially if you have kids), and help to manage stress during a period of change and higher work volume. Whatever you select, do something that is achievable and realistic for you.
p.s. if you’re a woman between 40-65 years young living in Calgary, check out our upcoming challenge, Ladies Get Active at http://www.ladiesgetactive.wordpress.com
Feeling groggy? Feeling less awake than you did last night right before you fell asleep? Sleep for a long time?
If you said yes to any of those questions, you may want to pay more attention to your precious z-time.
We all understand that sleep is important – if it wasn’t necessary, we likely wouldn’t spend almost 8 hours everyday doing it. Yet, we often aren’t too sure why we it’s so important and thus, like to play around with it a little…or a lot.
We may decide to pull an all-nighter (which is the worst possible thing you can do before a test or exam…I will explain next post…if I remember), or party until 3 AM, or take sleeping aids (this includes alcohol), or drink more caffeine to make until the wee hours. To make up for lost sleep we may squeeze in a nap during the day, but more likely, we’ll just drink more caffeine.
All of the above mess with either the quantity or quality of our sleep, making us less effective the following day and likely a few days after. Sleep aids actually prevent you from getting into REM sleep, an important and necessary part of sleep for brain growth, development, and restoration.
So what can you do?
- Keep a consistent sleep and wake time (I know this is hard, but it will reduce the likelihood of sleep debt)
- Watch your alcohol intake
- Don’t drink caffeine after 2 PM (and limit it to 2 cups)
- Get away from using sleep aids
- Don’t eat a large meal or sugar close to bed time
- Try to limit television, iPad, and laptop use 1-2 hours before bed
I encourage you to make some adjustments over the next couple of weeks and document what happens. If you’re still waking up exhausted, it may be time to talk to your doctor and participating in a sleep study. You may have a sleep disorder that’s preventing you from getting some decent zzz’s (or however you spell it).
p.s. if you’re a lady between 40-65 years young living in Calgary, register today for Ladies Get Active challenge at http://www.ladiesgetactive.wordpress.com.