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Saturday, March 23, 2013

First door on the left

Ask most people if they are right or left handed and they’ll answer in a heartbeat.  Ask about their eye dominance, and marksmen will respond quickly.  Ask about their feet and most will stare blankly at you.  Continue reading this potentially important information, and you’ll never walk into a public restroom the same way again.
I have been lucky enough to take a few mini courses in tracking.  I can identify a cat from a dog from a coyote and on a good day can tell you if the deer that walked through the mud was a male or female.  Animal tracking gives you a strong connection to the natural world.  You begin to walk with the animal, feel its thirst and quest for water, its attempt to eat or consequence of being eaten.  A good tracker will look at tracks and be able to piece together an entire story about that animal, because animals follow patterns and instincts.
We have to remember, though, that when it comes down to it, we are animals, too.  And just like the critters of the wild, we follow patterns and instincts.  Once we figure out how to use our feet and legs, we follow them where they take us.  Obviously our brains tell us where to go, but our bodies tend to tweak the way we do it.  Consider the way you reach for a cup of coffee or a toothbrush.  Which hand do you use?  If someone is whispering to you, don’t you lean in with a certain ear?  Sidedness happens all over our bodies, not just in which hand we use to sign our names. 
Unbeknownst to most people, our feet and legs have a dominance almost as important as our hands.  Soccer players and skate or snowboarders might be more familiar with this concept, but think of which foot you use to walk up the first stair? Or with which foot you might smash a man-eating spider?  Chances are it’s all the same side.  Which leads me straight (or semi-straight?) to the bathroom.
According to my tracking instructor, humans right or left foot dominance will make both conscious and subconscious decisions in their lives.  For example, if a person wanders off into a field or the woods, the dominant foot will tend to pull the person in that direction.  (We actually tested this, blindfolded in a field.  If I’m ever lost, please check to the right.)  
Approximately 81% of us out there are right-footed, which means that when given the opportunity, 81% of our bodies will generally take us to the right.  That’s a lot of people going to the right.  Which is why we are finally, yes, finally, getting to the bathroom.
Upon entering a public restroom with stalls lining both sides, we as humans are forced to choose.  Granted, we all look for potties with a supply a toilet paper, clean seats, and clear water, but still, what if they were all like that?
Tracking science shows us that 81% of us will tend to the right, and one might argue that the toilets on the left are only used 19% of the time, therefore making them just the slightest bit cleaner or at least less used.  And I don’t know about all of you, but I’m pretty sure I’d rather go into a stall that has had fewer visitors than the ones on the other side of the hallway.  It’s a fight against the instinct in my feet, but that’s the bonus of being human—my brain reminding me that nearly times as many people have been on the other side.
Now think of which hand you use to flush.

Sledding and sweating and smiling

A few words about aging, because as much as we’d like to not do it, it happens.  You could eat every health food in the book, spend your paycheck on vitamins, slather yourself in creams, and exercise like a fiend and still, at the end of the day, you’re still another day older.
Gray hairs and wrinkles don’t lie.
The good thing about aging is the part that we can control, and I’m not talking about coloring your hair.  I’m talking about the theory that you are only as old as you feel.  Or even, you’re only as old as you want to be.  (Today I packed a piece of plastic doggie doo in my son’s lunch.  By this rational, I am approximately eight years old.)
So when faced with the ticking clock, I think it’s important to take time out of our busy adult lives and actually attempt to be youthful now and then, because if for no other reason, youthfulness feels wonderful.
And there is nothing makes me feel more young than the prospect of a day of serious sledding.  Not the average tiny hill or down the driveway sledding, but rather the big hill type that takes you so long to get down, you have to stop and take breaks on the trek back to the top.  Unless you’re me, in which case I sprint back up and I will knock you and the sled you are resting on out of the way because daylight’s burnin’ and mama needs to pack in as much sledding as possible.  When I push you out of the way at the top of the hill, it’s nothing personal.  It’s just that the act of swiftly zooming down an icy slope with only a cheap piece of plastic between my very self and the snow and rocks and plants gets my heart pumping.  And while screaming down the hill, it’s almost as if I can feel my worries be tumbled up in the wake of my sled.  My smile gets a little bigger, I laugh just a little bit louder, and in general life gets a little better.
If that’s not enough to send you out with breadbags over your socks, I thought I’d further support my theory that sledding is good by providing a few interesting facts, that I promise I didn’t make up.
Sledding exposes us to sunlight during the winter months when we are usually deficient in natural light and can help with our circadian rhythms.
Sledding increases our positive emotions and helps keep us happy by getting us out of the stale indoor air to a natural, outdoor setting.
Sledding can be a great cardiovascular exercise as you walk up and slide down the hill.  It becomes an excellent cardiovascular exercise if you jog, like me, exaggerated more by the whooping and hollering I do after a particularly swift run.
Sledding requires a combination of muscles and balance.  It progresses to a fabulous strength building activity when you drag the sled up the hill with a kid still on it.
Sledding burns a decent amount of calories—0.04 per pound per minute.  And, if you do the math, a recent morning of sledding had me losing almost 900 calories which is about exactly what I consumed in hot chocolate upon coming inside.  While I suppose it makes it a bit of a fitness wash when counting calories, the benefits of snow flying through my hair and screaming in elation as I coast down the hill make it all worth the while.  Even those wrinkly laugh lines from all those smiles are worth it.
Age schmage.  

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