“Whose woods these are I think I know… The only other sound’s the sweep, of easy wind…The woods are lovely, dark and deep.” – Frost
When we moved into our home 10 years ago, there was one young Aspen tree behind the kitchen window that had recently been planted by the previous owners. I loved the way the leaves flipped back and forth, like broad green coins in the wind. Every year, I eagerly look out to assess its growth. Ten years on, that tree hasn’t grown an inch. Not one single inch! And, it hasn’t sent out a single shoot. It is completely solitary and small. It has aged however. There’s something sad about a tree that ages and yet remains small. It looks worn out, just as a child hunched over unmoving on a park bench would look.
Here’s why it hasn’t grown or reproduced… Well, first of all, Aspens need full sun and this one sits shaded in a woodland of pines, like towering, overbearing giants. But, more than that, Aspens need other Aspens to grow big and beautiful, send out shoots and become groves. Gardeners Galvan and O’Meara said this about Aspens, “They want to be a grove. They can’t help themselves.” My poor tree is alone and, as a result, its growth has been stunted. It struck me as I looked out at my tree and washed the dishes, feeling the warm suds surround my hands….. Without my closest friends and family, I wouldn’t be any different.
At the end of last week, our family was like a weary team of loggers who come home from a week in the drizzling Washington woods, hands full of splinters, aching muscles, cold right through and a belly longing for hardy beef stew. You know those Friday’s? So, we planned a family bbq with lots of food, some treats, a fire pit and a movie. It was like a piece of heaven. But… it was not quiet and peaceful. It was loud, rambunctious, and chaotic at times, with Joseph whipping up his delicious specialty of Hurricane Spinach, Poppyseed and Strawberry salad (called “hurricane” because it was soaking wet and, let me tell you, that was just extra special with strawberries in it), a teenage child of mine walking and then stopping short in front of me over and over with his size 12 feet out of a middle school sense of humor, the scramble that happens as everyone vies for leftover Hershey Bars or the arguments over who is more justified in getting the most comfortable seats during the movie. The creative reasoning in how to avoid being other-ly is astounding. 🙂 I don’t know about you all but our family is always the gifts of the spirit incarnate (patience, self control, goodness). Lol! Despite all that, being around the people closest to us grows us, produces little Aspens like us and surrounds us with health, family and faith.
I heard a story this month of a woman who went to a coastal restaurant and ordered oysters. She found fifty pearls in her mouth as she ate! I’m sure she will be 95 someday, wearing a polyester jacket, touting the beauty benefits of Mrs. Stewarts Blue Rinse, showing people her lap dog named Cuddles, inviting her bridge club over for, you guessed it, club sodas and wearing a pearl necklace! As I think about that true story, I want to remember that my life isn’t just a chaotic, sloppy mess but, in the frenzy, there is something beautiful being made in each of us. I want my imperfect self to embrace the imperfect people closest to me, knowing that we are growing each other, sending out shoots and we will someday look around and see the vast, warm summer grove we are a part of. I think Frost would find that woods particularly lovely and deep. This week… I am Aspen planting!
Extreme Abs, Weeks 5 and 6. It’s about to get more intense! We are working the Rectus Abdominus and the Obliques pretty hard at this point: 1 day Rectus Abdominus, next day Obliques, day of rest and repeat. For each exercise, do 4 sets of 12-15 each and choose 2-3 of each type of the recommended exercises each day (make sure you choose one that involves a leg lift on the Rectus Abdominus day). So, on day one, choose 2-3 Rectus Abdominus exercises and on day two, choose 2-3 Oblique exercises. Push it as hard as you can!
The best way to explain the specific exercises to you is to have you watch Scott Herman’s 16.5 minutes long Youtube video on abs, Scott is an impressive athlete (he has more videos on utube) and I am taking this video of his as a challenge to TRY these for 2 months, four days a week with no or low weights to start with. I think it is best to start these after warming your body up the first month with the workouts I previously mentioned, if you haven’t done ab workouts lately. I am inordinately excited to introduce you to my very gifted son, Elias. Elias loves anything athletic, artistic or construction oriented. He has an eager, helpful and driven personality. Elias drew each of the exercises, so you can easily print this instruction sheet and take it with you to the gym, as a reminder. He wants you to know that he had to rush because I was pushing him with a deadline, so these are not completed pictures. Remember, the dinosaur can be eaten if you eat 3 bites a day! I hope you find this helpful in your quest for strong abs!
Rectus Abdominus Exercises (choose 2-3, with one involving a leg raise):
1. Elbows to knees. Focus on contracting core. When the weights get heavier, have someone stand on your toes for stability.
2. Start by simply hang from bar and raise knees as high as you can. Move towards doing it like the picture above, using weights between your feet on a dip bar (knees to chest, hips stay in line with hands).
3. Pass ball between hands and feet and make sure you lift your shoulder blades off the ground.
4. Crunch and touch elbows to knees and don’t let the medicine ball touch the ground.
5. Reach up and touch the opposite hand/dumbell with opposite foot. Do sets on each side.
6. Doing crunches on exercise ball, hold plate tight to head.
Oblique Exercises (choose 2-3):
7. Use cable machine. Keep hips facing forward. 15 reps on each side per set. Down the road, can do from low or high angle to target the obliques differently.
8. Start with holding a plate and move, down the road, to dumbbells. 15 reps per side per set. Don’t let hips slide, it puts too much pressure. Keep hips as level as you can. Crunch torso.
9. Balance on glutes. Don’t touch the weight to the ground. 15 reps per side per set.
10. Hips forward. Use 5-10 pound weights. Arms straight the whole time. To get form correct, practice at home with pole on neck.