Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A few questions

Since I'm a bit behind on blogging lately, I thought I'd answer a couple of recent questions in a post instead of in the comments.

Mallow asked:

What is your routine for keeping motivated during the winter months when it's too cold, dark & dreary? Couch potatoes want to know! :)
First, let me confess that I am quite a lazy person. Napping is one of my hobbies! I would much rather sleep in than get up early and run before work. Especially in winter when you're getting up without even the hint of sun in the sky. But, I know how wonderful running and lifting make me feel, so I've made them a priority in my life. I've incorporated in my exercise routine a strategy I learned through parrots -- setting myself up for success.

I joined a running club several years ago and, through that club, found a group of people that get together every Sunday for a run. I've made some amazing friends this way, and know I'm getting at least one longish run in per week. I now actually have running appointments set up 5 days a week. There is no way I'd get up at 4:40 to run by myself -- the warm bed would overtake my good intentions -- but knowing that someone will be waiting for me motivates me to get up even when I don't really want to! And at the end of the run, I'm always happy that I did so! Most larger cities have running clubs, or you might be able to find a running partner on craigslist.

I also find it helpful to write on the calendar my exercise for the day. I don't like seeing too many blank spaces, so that's another way I help to set myself up for success, by adding a bit of accountability.

Another thing that helps me is setting goals. I'm a very goal-oriented person, and several of my 2009 goals were exercise-related. For example, I want to average at least 26.2 miles per week (that's the distance of a marathon), get at least one PR in a race (accomplished!), bench press half my body weight (accomplished!), and complete the 100 push up challenge (temporarily halted, will try again in late May). These kinds of things help me think of myself as an athlete rather than someone who runs just to be healthy, and that mindset means I need to keep active.

Mallow, I know you can do it :) It's become so routine now that I get crabby if I go more than a day or so without vigorous exercise. Fifteen years ago I would have laughed at you had you told me this is how I'd turn out. I wasn't an active person and was carrying around quite a few unwanted pounds.

Doodle Bird, in response to this post, asked:

Why are you more protective of Calypso?
Of my 6 parrots, 4 of them have significant neglect and minor (as far as I know) abuse in their pasts -- Calypso, Rocky, Beeps, and Stella. The latter three, in my opinion, have all overcome their pasts. They behave as healthy, well-adjusted parrots. They explore, are curious, and, for the most part, have whole-heartedly subscribed to our philosophy of parrot personal responsibility. If they're unhappy about something, they realize they're empowered to change the situation. Their behavior is very similar to Max's, who has lived a life of comparative captive parrot luxury.

This is not the case for Calypso.

He's made huge strides since he's been with us. When we first got him, he used to climb down from his cage, seek out a corner, and sway back and forth, as if in a trance, repeating, "Shut up stop it shut up stop it," over and over. He hasn't done this in years.

But, he acts afraid of Thomas. He refuses to fly unassisted, preferring to have me support him as he exercises. If he wants to go somewhere, he gets into his begging posture and makes begging sounds until I transport him. If I ignore his request, he eventually gives up and stays where he is.

As usual, I'm anthropomorphizing, but he acts like someone who's been beaten down and has low self-esteem. Because of this, I have a protective bent towards him. In training, I don't ask him to do as difficult of tasks as the others because I don't want him to fail. I go out of my way to make sure he gets the biggest cashew nuts (his favorite). Among other things.

I truly believe he's quite happy with us. He dances and whistles and loves making kiss sounds. He loves eating and playing and (when he's in the mood) training. I need to work on raising my expectations of him to match those of the other parrots because he's always surprised me with his abilities when I've given him the chance.


Mallow said...

Thank you for this post! In describing your former self you have described the current me! :) Napping?, check. A bit overweight?, check. Running for fitness?, what, who, me???
Thanks for the tips and strategies. I know things always go easier when you have friends with the same goals and interests. It's time for me to look at the 'Couch to 5K' web site again! :D

You have such a kind and sensitive insight regarding Calypso and your other birds I couldn't help thinking how very lucky they all are to have found you and Thomas.

DoodleBird said...

I had no idea he had such a horrible past. This is why I like animals more than people...people are stupid. I can't believe he would sit in a corner rocking. You're not wrong about the depressed part. I was watching a special documentary on parrots, namely cockatoos, that spend their whole lives rocking and making repetitive movements when they've been abused and neglected. They go crazy because they are so intelligent and need companionship and stimulation. Some parrots can come out of it and lead relatively normal lives if it's not too late like in the case of Calypso.

However, think of this: if it were an abused child and you sheltered them from experiencing failure at some point would they ever learn anything? Would they have self confidence? No, they would rely on others to do things for them even as adults, and probably be very easy to take advantage of. Or what if you never exercised or used your right leg, only the left. It's in perfectly good working condition but you let your left leg do all the work. Would you be able to walk very well? He can do so many things if you guide him! Caiques are so incredibly smart, before Nani I had no idea what a smart little bundle of joy she'd be.

You could start building his confidence by using a lot of foraging toys where he has to figure out for himself how the puzzle works and how to get the treat. Don't be surprised if he ignores the toys, even for months. But leave them there. Slowly work up to harder toys. In training start off the sessions with extremely easy tricks that he already knows. Little by little make it a bit harder. He's learning, not crying inside because he didn't get the treat this time. He may or may not give up but just try again next time following the same routine. His confidence will start to grow. Try offering him treats to fly short distances and then go crazy with praise when he makes the slightest effort.

After reading about Calypso I just want to pick him up and squeeze him! I'm sure that would result in some bodily injuries on my part though ;-)

DoodleBird said...

By the way, did you get the painting framed?