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Tough times didn't break my stride." 
                                                                AIDS Walk New York 2009 Theme  


Was Our Walk Through Central Park a Success?

By: Karen J. Allen
Co-Publisher, On the Gay Horizon

Oh, yeah......

Just before thousands of enthusiastic walkers were turned loose to make their way through Central Park and then along the Hudson River, AIDS Walk founder Craig Miller borrowed the postal worker's slogan and announced,  "Neither rain, nor recession, nor fear, nor flu will keep the AIDS Walk participants from their appointed rounds."

In the midst of what has been called the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, predictions of rain and temperatures in the fifties and outbreaks of swine flu in the New York metropolitan area on the rise, 45,000 people showed up to walk. How awesome is that?

AIDS Walk New York, the world's largest AIDS fundraising event, raised more than $5.6 million this year. Not as much as last year's $7 million --- but you may have noticed it's been kind of a tough year. The first AIDS walk in New York was back in 1986. 4,500 brave souls walked, raising $710,000. We've come a long way since then but AIDS is far from under control. Now is not time to break stride.

When we were listening to the opening ceremonies --- corporate donors being honored and local politicians being recognized --- I kept looking around at the crowd. Many carried signs listing the names of those they walked in memory of. Their partner, brother, sister, mom, dad, child, friend, co-worker. I saw hats and vests and jackets literally covered with pins representing the years that they had participated in these walks. Lots of gay folks in the crowd but we were not the majority. There were straight families, religious groups --- from Baptists to Sikhs --- school kids, company teams, fraternities, every nationality imaginable, young and old, healthy and not. And, of course, various breeds of dogs --- some wearing AIDS Walk t-shirts and others just simple rain gear.

Why do all those people make the effort to pester their families and friends for donations and then give up a large chunk of their weekend to walk six miles in what was predicted to be a cold rain? Because it's personal. Because, for most of them, it's not about statistics and trends. It's about someone they love --- or loved.

It felt good to make this journey. To be a part of the energy that flowed through the city. Not just during the walk but before and after when people would stop and ask us about it --- or thank us for what we were doing. I wish you all could have experienced this with us. And we are deeply grateful that so many of you made such generous donations --- especially those in honor of Melinda. We raised over $2,100. Thank you!

I would be less than honest if I didn't mention that I was looking for that balloon archway that marked the finish line. Six miles is a long way! Could have been a lot worse though. I may not be in the best shape but how many of those 45,000 do you suppose were clever enough to make this trek with their own ChiWalking instructor/personal trainer?

Thanks, Ann-Marie --- I might have stumbled through without you, but it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun!


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Legs Against the Wall

By: Ann-Marie Giglio
Co-Publisher, On the Gay Horizon


Well, she did it again.  Karen walked 6.2 miles.  She did it using ChiWalking techniques.  And she did it with about 45,000 of our good friends--the teams of kids, of high schools, insurance companies, stores, and then the people like us--along with the percussion bands, the symphonic marching band, the cheerleaders, the "dolls," the guys dressed in bunny slippers, the guy on stilts.  Some walked in memory of loved ones.  Some walked to raise awareness.  Everyone walked to raise funds for the Gay Mens Health Initiative. 

(BTW, I missed meeting Kenneth Cole.  He was way ahead of us with his team, and in that kind of crowd, you really can't catch up.)

Being with friends sure makes a difference.  And with good reason.  We are social animals.  We are wired to be in a group.  That's why it's easier to stick with an exercise program or routine when you do it with a friend.  Not only are you accountable to one another, but you also activate the social part of the brain that sends good feelings into your body.  And that's on top of the ones already flowing from the physical activity.

But back to Karen.  The other thing that helped her is that after we had a post-walk lunch, we walked back to the hotel and did something runners call "Legs Against the Wall."  It's actually a restful Yoga pose that anyone can do after a walk or run, or any time you feel like relaxing.  You need two things:  a hard floor and a wall or even a doorframe.

This will be impossible if you have dogs and/or cats.  They will want to climb on you, so be sure to push them out of the room and SHUT THE DOOR.

All you need to do is lie on the floor, on your back, close to the wall, and then turn on your side,  bend both knees into your chest and scooch your butt as close as possible to the wall.  If your back or hamstrings don't like this, put a folded blanket under your butt.  Then, roll youself from your side to your back and extend your legs against the wall...hence the name.  Get your legs as long and straight as possible, but no locked knees.  (You're like an "L")  Stay here for at least five minutes.  This will reverse the blood flow in your legs, draining the lactic acid, refreshing the capillaries that get cheated in your usual vertical position, pool blood in your abdomen refreshing all the organs and systems, and stretch your leg muscles, especially those pesky hamstrings, without using any joint action or gravity. 

I think though, at the end of the day, one other thing helped Karen.  Our commitment to the cause and to our friendship.  We walked to honor Melinda, and to hope for a brighter future.  But we also learned about one another and about ourselves.  I mean we walked for 3 hours!  So naturally, we talked.  But also, it's really important to keep pushing your boundaries--all kinds of them--to see what you're capable of.  We earned our own respect and the respect of one another that Sunday in NYC.  And that's priceless.  We will take that with us wherever we go, but especially next year, when we walk the Walk in 2010....right, Karen?

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Learning to Love Plank

Fit in a Year - Week 19

By: Ann-Marie Giglio
Co-Publisher, On the Gay Horizon

Some people--who will remain nameless but perhaps you can guess--have complained recently about my article suggesting you learn to do the exercise called Plank.  They said, WTF?  Does she really expect us to do that?

Let's put that more clearly:  learn to do the exercise.  Not start out knowing it.  You wouldn't need me if you were born with this knowledge and experience....

If you're having trouble, try this:  do it against a wall.  Stand an arm's length away, align your posture, button your navel to your spine, and lean into the wall.  Try to keep your arms extended.  While you're there, do some push-aways.  Keep your form.

When this becomes too easy, try it on your knees, on the floor.  Same postural alignment, same engaged abdominals, but put your hands beneath your shoulders and lift up, arms extended, until you have a straight diagonal line (side view) between your shoulders and your knees.  Stay there.  It's all about the ab in this position.  No slumping.  Do some mini-push-ups.  One-half of an inch is fine.   Try.  Try until you succeed.  Maybe not today.  Maybe not for a month.  That's ok.  Eventually, you WILL succeed.  That's what matters.

When you're ready for the next level, get up on your toes.  And refer back to my original post,
"If you only do one exercise, this is it."

If you try to do this frequently enough, you will learn it.  It's nothing more than muscle memory.  And that comes with repetition. 

If you stick with it, there's a bonus:  you'll learn something about yourself.

Stay centered.  Be strong.  Be back next week with more label reading!


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