Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Music All Around Us

If you take a minute out of your day to stop and listen - what do you hear? It's very rare that you hear nothing. If you were at my house right now, you'd hear me listening to the Dave Matthews Band play a concert through my computer speakers. Earlier I was out on a bike ride, listening to my favorite workout mix on my iPhone. When I got back, you may have heard me trying to learn a new song on the piano, or maybe strumming away on my guitar. Later tonight you'd probably hear the town's state championship marching band practicing for their upcoming performances. What does it sound like where you are? Is your neighbor in the cubicle next door listening to a radio station? Maybe you're about to leave work and are looking forward to listening to a new CD on the way home. Maybe you went to a concert last weekend and are still humming some of the tunes they played. If you really stop and listen, you can hear the music all around us.

Music does so many things for different people. It expresses our emotions - love, anger, sadness, joy. You can use music to entertain guests, relax after a long day, tell someone how you feel, get pumped up for the big game, you can even use it to walk down the aisle when you get married. It's really the modern day poetry.

What's even better than listening to music in your car or on an iPod is listening to a live concert. Whether it be a huge amphitheatre with 40,000 people, a local band at the neighborhood bar, or just a few people gathered around a street musician - there's nothing I love more than watching someone play.

Recently the Washington Post did an experiment with a violin player. They put him in a Washington DC Metro Station. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, over 1,000 people passed by him. Most paid very little attention to this "street performer" that many probably thought was just trying to earn a buck. Little did the people walking by him know that this was world famous musician Joshua Bell playing some of the most intricate musical pieces ever written on a $3.5 million violin. Two days prior to this experiment, Mr. Bell had performed at a sold out theatre in Boston where the tickets averaged $100. Just the other day, I was running through an airport and heard a couple of people in the gate area playing a guitar and violin. If my flight hadn't been leaving in 2 minutes, I would love to have stopped and heard them play. Who knows, maybe it was a world famous musician and I didn't have the time to listen. Makes me wonder what else I've been missing.

Listening to music is one thing, playing it is an entirely different thing - it's an art. A little over a year ago, I started taking guitar lessons. For me, it was something that I had always wanted to learn. I soon realized that it was more than learning a new instrument though, it was almost like learning a new language. It engaged different parts of the brain and allowed me to escape from whatever was bothering me on that particular day.

Thomas Edison has said of music: "Of all the various forms of entertainment in the home, I know of nothing that compares with music. It is safe and sane; appeals to all the fine emotions; tends to bind family influences with a wholesomeness that links old and young together. If you will stop to consider how the old songs are loved in all the homes, you will realize what a deep hold music has on the affections of the people."

I don't think it could be put any better than that.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Today I Got Beat Up By a Girl

It's been a while since I've worked out with a personal trainer. I guess the two main things that have been stopping me are (1) the cost, and (2) the embarrassment of passing out at the gym after lifting those little baby weights that they have in the child care area. My gym recently offered three free 1/2 hour workouts with a trainer - I figured it'd be a good time to get back and learn some new exercises, plus the price was right.

I signed up with a girl named Cassidy. Cassidy is one of those super humans that you see on television shows. She has lost over 130 pounds by - get this - eating well and exercise! No one can complain around her about how their face feels a little puffy or they just can't loose weight. She's been there, done that, and through lots of hard work is now one of the top personal trainers at the gym. She also teaches the cycling class that I take when the weather is bad. Since the weather has been so nice lately, I haven't been in her class for a while - I think our workout today was her way of getting back at me.

I showed up early to warm up on the elliptical machine. I figured that would show motivation and maybe she'd go easy on me - she didn't. We started out with some sort of lunge with one of those big balls against a wall with weights and lots of pushing and moaning and quivering legs. She said, "Wow, you're already sweating." Yeah, that's what I do when I workout for 25 seconds.

For some reason we had to run from exercise to exercise, next was burpee's with push-ups. For those of you who don't know what a burpee is - imagine standing, then squatting, then throwing your legs back into the push-up position, back to squatting, then jumping up to the standing position again. Oh, except we couldn't do just a normal burpee, we had to.....no, I had to do three or four push-ups while down in the push-up position during the burpee.

We continued through the rest of the exercises and got to one called "skull crushers". There's nothing more encouraging to a guy who hasn't lifted weights in a while to do an exercise in which, if you screw it up - you will crush your skull! While I was laying there, wondering how I got tricked into doing an exercise called "skull crushers" with a girl who clearly knows how to exercise, she said, "Don't forget to breathe." Oh gee, thanks, I almost forgot to breathe! Can you remind me to blink my eyes every once in a while too so they don't get scratchy!?

After we finished the first set of exercises, she reminded me to let her know if I was feeling lightheaded. "Okay," I said as my tunnel vision focused on the clock and I noticed that we had been working out for a whopping 13 minutes! Why is it that I can go ride my bike for two hours, yet 13 minutes of pushing weights around puts me into the flight mode of the "fight or flight" response to stressful situations.

We started out again doing the ball lunge with bicep curl and it wasn't too long after that I thought I might throw up, or pass out - or both, in which case I would probably drown in my own vomit. I told her I was feeling a little dizzy and she quickly lightened up on me, which is when I realized that I should have mentioned that much earlier. My brain must have been lacking oxygen during this period because at one point I thought I saw purple drops of sweat coming off me. I thought to myself, "It must have been that grape Gatorade I drank earlier."

We eventually worked our way through a modified version of the workout she originally had in mind and by the time we were done, I felt pretty good. It's always such a good feeling to have a good workout, get those endorphins going, and know that you're going to have that "good sore" the next day (or three).

Cassidy definitely gave me my money's worth and as long as I'm with a personal trainer, I'd rather have it be too hard than not hard enough - that's what she said!