Written by: Beth Hudson, LBKA
After we join this club, we are told by our physicians, PTs and OTs that keeping the rest of our body sound is important. For lower extremity amputees, it’s important to have a strong core and glute muscles, as well as hamstring and quads that you have .For upper extremity, shoulders, back, and torso. There are countless exercise routines online (I highly endorse Strong Body by Cosi Belloso) to help you keep in shape. Yoga is also very helpful, and mindfulness and medication help us calm the internal storm. Some like the gym (not me!) and some like to exercise by getting out there doing a myriad of sports - you do you!
I was riding BB (my recumbent trike) with BH (Better Half) on the Chiefland, Florida rail trail the other day. It happened to be a Saturday and was therefore busier than on weekdays - lots of riders, walkers, and happy dogs. On a scale of 1-10, the day was a 20. The temperature was a breezy mid 70s. Here in north central Florida, the trees have leafed out, and the flowers have started to bloom. We saw (and inhaled) purple Lilacs, which reminded me of home, as it is NH’s state flower. Wild purple and pink Phlox lined the sunny areas of the corridor. Patches of Moldavian Dragonhead were turned toward the sun. Moldavian Dragonhead - well, that was a new one for me!
Which brings me to my point - we must set goals for our intellect. The average adult brain weighs approximately 3 pounds, and it also needs to be exercised. There is never a time in our lives where we can’t learn new things. Every once in a while you see a 90 year old finally get their high school diploma or graduate from college. When they are asked why, most say “You’re never too old to learn.” If we don’t challenge our brains, life can get very tedious and boring. It must be the teacher in me, but there is merit in learning just for the sake of learning - no end game, no monetary gains, no competition to win - just the satisfaction of learning something new and interesting..
That intellectual goal, just like your physical goal, depends on your own passions. What do you want to learn about that will bring you joy? I never took a class about flora, fauna, and trees - I am woefully ignorant in that area. I can identify a maple, an oak, a willow, and a birch, and I know a few flowers, but nothing I can’t buy at a nursery. My intellectual goal this year is to expand my knowledge of these things. Secondly, I don’t know my birds that well either. As much hiking as I do, my intellectual curiosity had me looking for a way to learn.
I use two apps that have helped me tremendously. For birds, Merlin. This app allows you to identify birds by either taking a picture (if you can get close enough - good luck with that!) or by sound. It will record the sound and instantly compare it to a database, which then shows you a picture of the bird. Birders have a “bird list” where they keep track of the birds they have encountered. Mine has expanded greatly here in Florida. I’ve added the Boat-tailed Grackle, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and the American Oystercatcher, to name a few.
The second one is LeafSnap - This is for flora, fauna, and bark. I must say the “bark” identification is not very accurate. But the flora and fauna have a wide database. You snap a picture and the app does the rest. Out in Colorado and Utah last summer, we found a few high altitude flowers that I had never seen before, and it was interesting to learn about them. Not into birds, fauna, and flora? That’s ok! Learn about (fill in the blank).
I absolutely believe that you do NOT have to be good at something to enjoy it. This is especially true with creativity, which also exercises the brain. Go to a sip-n-paint, take a class at a community college (many offer very inexpensive, no-credit classes), find free events in your community.
For me, the more I occupy my mind, the less I feel pain, you know, the art of distraction. Happy learning!
And remember: You never know how much strength you have until you are called upon to use it.