I’ve Got the Moves Like Grandpa

Have I mentioned how much I hate being sick?  Because I do.  Passionately.  This weekend is a thoughtful, reflective weekend, as a result.  A sneezy, runny nose, no exercise, overly-facebooked weekend…

My OB/Gyn who delivered Jude was top notch.  I happened to find myself in his office, on his table during his first day of work at the Everett Clinic in his first post-residency position.  As a newer teacher I totally trusted him to be on the up and up.  Knowing that new teachers have boundless enthusiasm and an up-to-date knowledge base, I figured the same would be true of a newer doctor.  He would be up to date and fresh.  I’ll admit to asking him questions about ‘how many of these surgeries have you done’ and stuff like that, because this was my life and body after all, but we fell into some pretty serious ‘like’ with that doctor as we continued on.  We would have liked to have been real friends in real life had we not had that whole pesky patient/doctor relationship in the way, but we accepted it for what it was- a year of regular meetings with a pretty cool guy.  As firsts, I think he took a special interest in us, too, and we exchanged Mickey Ears with his name on them from our Disney vacation at 5 months gestation for Seaworld souvineers for our girl from his vacation (which we still have).  It was a pretty special relationship that I missed as soon as my six week, post delivery appointment ended.  I’m lucky enough, now, to be friends on Facebook with him and we continue to trade articles and life events in that casual Facebook kind of way.  He is also a runner and I wonder, sometimes, what he thinks of me as I went from 340 pounds, sickly and pregnant during his care to a runner and healthy life-liver.  I would imagine that it’s frustrating, sometimes, to see patients and recognize what is possible, but for the sake of being kind and preserving the trust in the relationship you don’t feel like you can say something…  It’s like a kid who leaves my class as a challenged reader but then passes a hard assessment in fifth grade- there’s a sense of relief, on my part, “Phew.  She did it!  She’s going to be ok.”  I wonder if he feels that, too.  

Anyhow, this morning I was paging through my feed and happened to see a post my Dr. put up and it was about which kind of exercise is best for the brain and it’s neurogenesis– or ability to repopulate the brain with neurons.  As my goal for my body project is all about longevity, maintaining my brain definitely works into my plan.  In essence, the study looked at rats who were subjected to three different exercise models: forced interval/high intensity running for 15 minutes of sprint/jog-repeat, a strength training plan where the rats climbed walls with weights on their tails and the final plan of moderate jogging on a wheel at the rat’s own will.  The study found that the rats trained at intensity levels had added stress from training that undercut the benefit to the brain of the exercise, making their bodies stronger but adding no benefit to brain neurogenesis.  The strength training rats got stronger, but their brains didn’t repopulate at all.  The rats who ran a few miles at their own will, however: 

“Those rats that had jogged on wheels showed robust levels of neurogenesis. Their hippocampal tissue teemed with new neurons, far more than in the brains of the sedentary animals. The greater the distance that a runner had covered during the experiment, the more new cells its brain now contained.”

I find this to be incredibly exciting.  It’s actually brain-smart to be pushing for mileage like I have!  I feel validated at my nine miles pushing 13!  Plus, when I’m out running, I find that my brain just wanders.  My mind explores things and goes on walkabouts that surprise me.  It’s during my longer running sessions that I’m struck with genius, a new post is prewritten, a problem as school is solved, I imagine a new way to share information with my students.  It’s during my runs that I think I’m hilarious and really enjoy being with myself.  It’s where I rebuild my spirit and find my power.  It makes absolute sense that during these times of peace with optimal oxygen flowing and my muscles working in symphony that I feel most whole.  It makes sense, then, that my brain would also use that time to rebuild.  To heal.  To renew.  To refresh.

My mom has always admired my grandfather, who is 94 and the captain of the living long like a badass club.  Here’s a man who maintained golf appointments until cancer stole his painless days, stays active in the Eagles, works doggedly with the Shriners, plays bridge, dominoes, gin rummy, cribbage and poker regularly. He organizes the people and solves problems in his apartment community, still winks at the girls- and he just never stops.  On top of that, we call him The Colonel to friends because he is a military man in many ways, but one of the most important ways was that he ran 2-5 miles daily when he was on active duty, which was most of his life.  He stayed active in brain and body and today he’s still sharp as a tack and, while he has his mobility issues, most of us would feel lucky to have the quality of life he has at his age.  In fact, he advocated and fundraised for a new piece of exercise equipment at his apartment building and is presently on a plan to improve his mobility, and it’s worked.  He can now walk better!  He is a role model to me and many others, for sure.  He’s outlived so many, he’s seen many stories unfold in his lifetime, he has children, grandchildren, and even his great grandchildren who are getting ready to step out into the world and possibly provide another generation for him to see in his lifetime.  My wish is to see as much of the story as possible, just like he is able to, so I really look up to my grandpa and the healthy way he’s chosen to lead his life.

I think I am looking for the balance.  Everything has its place- the long slow runs rebuild and refresh.  They keep our brains active, alive, healthy, responsive.  But without the body, without the strength, you can’t keep your head on right.  If you have a weak hip at 85 and you end up slipping and shattering it, that can be an endgame.   A shattered hip can result in someone going in the hospital and going through a series of procedures that can break a person’s spirit down until they give up, give in and slip away.  There has to be both- brain and brawn.  Strong memory and joints.  I think the high intensity stuff has a place, but perhaps not as much now that I’m in my 40’s.  I’m getting older.  Maybe that’s for the young’ns and I’ll happily let them have at it…  At least until I see another article that disputes this one.  😉

Yes, I know it’s not always a choice, some people have lupus or diabetes or Alzheimer’s or….   But for many of us it is a choice.  Look at that.  Who do you want to be more like?  It’s a real question- I know people who look forward to the moment when they can finally sit down and quit pushing themselves so hard.  Finally, at 74, they can sit down and catch up on all that TV they missed out on without feeling guilty…  But I am banking on travel in my 70’s, like my grandpa, The Colonel, did.  I think I can, too.   I want to still be out and about, bossing people around, getting my finger into all the pies, just like he did and still does.  I want be an active Grammy who takes her grand babies on hikes, to museums, zoos, to lakes, to rivers, who enters them into 5k’s and runs it with them, accompanies them to Disneyland to ride the scary rides while mommy nurses the baby and all that.  I don’t want to sit until my grandpa does and he’s still going so I don’t know how old I’ll be when I finally will get to sit.  I want to be amazing like him, so I’m planning on never stopping, like him.  My time for sitting will be when I stop breathing, and he and I are both hoping that’s a ways off yet.

 I’ll allow my little sick day today, but then I’m going to get right back to it.  It’s my life.  It has to be.  😉


  1. Lesleigh

    I totally agree with what you said and love the study you cited. It’s good to know I’m doing something to help myself in my later years. My first grandchild was born a few days ago and as I was holding him I realized I really wanted to be one of those grandma’s… Like what you mentioned.

    • Tamara

      Congratulations! I’m so glad you’re going to be one of ‘those’ grandma’s too! That’s just wonderful news! I’m nowhere near that yet, but I have to confess that I’m already secretly excited to grandparent. I get it, now! 🙂 enjoy your baby, you lucky lady!!!

  2. Shannon

    I found your blog this weekend through “Runs for Cookies” and I’m really enjoying your posts 🙂 The Super Power section had me nodding my head and thinking “Yes!” It was like finding a list of all of the nebulous things I’ve been trying to pull together to really make this time stick. I’ve found it especially hard to “look cute even when your not at goal” I’ve been operating under the assumption that I’m not allowed to do that yet.

    I’m also in my 40s and my kids are around the same age as yours so it is inspiring to see another woman who is a mom doing this. I know we’re more than just moms but I’ve been home for almost thirteen years and it’s really hard for me to see beyond that at times.

    I’m excited to see how you continue to love life and participate so fully. Thank you!

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