Who we are

I rode the elevator to work this morning with a woman who used her cane to hold the door open for me. 

"Thank you," I said. "That's one use for the cane."

"Oh it's got a lot of good uses," she quipped as she stepped out of the elevator when we got to her floor, pointing the cane at me.

"When you get old vanity goes out the window." 

Really? We lose our sense of vanity as we age? Why would we want to do that?

I'm happy there are issues we toss aside as we age, and I definitely know people who, after turning 50, say whatever's on their mind to pretty much anyone.

But giving up vanity? That's almost not fair as I've just discovered how to self-admire. 

I can't train for a triathlon or even a marathon without getting mildly narcissistic. I've accepted I need support and have a team looking out for me: a personal trainer, a running coach, a sports nutritionist, a physical therapist, a sports medicine specialist. I think that qualifies as vanity, which takes superb focus and organization and, at times, at the expense of other interests and even other people. But in the end what I get, especially now, is an enormous sense of self-achievement and power that makes me nicer to be around and better at practically everything.

 Love the new goggles but I'm going with the full wetsuit at the Bethany Tri. 

Love the new goggles but I'm going with the full wetsuit at the Bethany Tri. 

A few years after my grandfather died I asked my grandmother if she was dating.

“I am finished with sex.”

“I didn’t say anything about sex.  I was just thinking you might enjoy going on a date.”

“I had plenty of years having sex with your grandpa, and I am never having sex again.  I did my job. I'm done.”

As my grandmother aged – she died at 101 – she had so little to talk about and it was hard to engage her.  But even when she was a much younger woman, she seemed to worry a lot about the day to day.  

My grandfather was a truck driver for his sister’s dairy company so he was gone a lot.  To me he was the sweet one with the big, warm personality, great big smile, and he was an easy conversationalist.  He never graduated high school but taught himself to read as an adult.  I learned at my family’s reunion last year that his father, an Orthodox Jew, might have been the worst kind of bully. 

What reminded me of my grandmother’s sex life was the recent media coverage of the new FDA-approved Addyi, the so-called sex pill, or pink pill, for women.  The drug is also widely referred to as Viagra for women even though Viagra doesn’t do anything to trigger or control sexual desire.  The two drugs could not be more different in the way you take them or the way they work and what they’re supposed to do. But because both of them are putting the conversation about sex out in the open, or at least in doctors’ offices, they make a good tag team.

Addyi is also coming out at a time when we're addressing a culture of sexual assaults related to the pervasive use of alcohol by both men and women on college campuses.  Sarah Hepola writes in her new memoir Blackout: Remembering The Things I Drank To Forget that she used alcohol to feel empowered during sex because blacking out unleashed her inhibitions.  I’m not 100 percent convinced you can use a drug to trigger sexual desire but I am sure how you feel about sex or how inhibited you are during sex is connected to how you feel about pretty much everything else, including your sexual identity and your sexual freedom.

Adin usually prefers a yoga practice that gets right to it, but the other night he was compelled by the teacher's opening words. We didn't have a big conversation about the class but the ideas lingered with him long enough for him to mention them to me.

She chose to center the class by talking about how throughout our lives, and throughout the regular workday, so often we give up our power—in meetings, in choosing what to wear, in conversations with our family members—and that yoga class, or for me running on the trail, is a time to reclaim that power.

Adin and I talked briefly about this idea that often we are at war with our bodies, that sometimes it seems our bodies are working against us and are trying to take us down as we age.

Coming back from an injury we have a tendency to blame our bodies for assaulting us.

Fitness then becomes an act of empowerment as we learn how to work with our bodies and take ownership of who we are, what we desire, how we feel, and our experiences.

She told the class to find a way during the practice to reclaim their power, recognize it, have it.

That’s how I think about sexual desire.  Not power in the sense of powerful but more like energy.  The factors that affect my libido, other than cyclical or hormonal changes, are mostly mental, as they were when I was younger, but also definitely physical now as I am older. When I strength train, and especially when I’m running, I am keenly aware of my power, my energy, me.

Is this vanity? 

I’ve talked with friends about this and all of us are aware of how much energy, or power, it takes to nurture your libido but there are women, like my late grandmother, who are not convinced it’s worth the effort.  Maybe that’s where Addyi comes in.

Or maybe that's where just having the conversation becomes clutch. 

Brick workout no. 2

For my second brick workout as part of my Bethany Tri training last week, Nancy arranged a swim lesson with trainer Alex Brown at the Equinox pool.  I had rented a full wetsuit and a sleeveless version to use for the weekend.  I swam much higher on the water in the wetsuit. I was definitely moving quickly but my upper body was doing all the work because my legs were too high to kick efficiently. 

Alex pointed out (of course) that I don’t use my hips and core when I turn to breathe, which could be contributing to my shoulder issues, so he gave me some drills to try.

After the lesson I swam a few lengths with a buoy between my thighs, which forced me to engage my core as I swam, before doing a hard swim without stopping for 30 minutes. 

After I finished I quickly changed into running clothes and ran 3 miles on the Capital Crescent Trail.  Overall this was a better experience than the previous weekend’s brick but then again I went from the pool to the trail and not from the bike to the trail. 

The idea was to have the experience of going from one mode of exercise to another. So that was good but my hair was definitely a wreck by the time I jogged through downtown Bethesda on the way to the Equinox locker room.

Playlist highlights

After seeing Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson One in Las Vegas this weekend I've got MJ all over my run mixes. For warmups I'm loving his "Earth Song" and Sara Bareilles's "1000 Times." Mia and Adin just turned me on to the hipster band Ok Go. Their tracks also include conversations. Very cool!! 

See you next time !!