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Is workout routine too intense?

Dear Doctor: I wonder, as a 67-year-old woman, whether my workout routine would be considered too strenuous? I walk six miles and use weight machines five days a week, and do an hour each of yoga, Zumba, cardio and stretching each week. This routine has helped me lose 27 pounds and get off of blood pressure medicine. Do you think I need to slow down?

Dear Reader: That’s quite an impressive regimen for age 67! As long as you’re in good health and enjoy what you’re doing, we see no reason that you can’t continue. That said, there are a few things for you to consider that can help you evaluate your exercise routine both now and in the future.

We have multiple goals when we exercise. On the physical side we want to increase muscle, decrease body fat, enhance agility, flexibility and coordination, and improve heart and lung function. (And for those of you lucky enough to be in peak physical shape, you exercise to maintain it.) However, thanks to the more-is-better mentality that can overtake any program of self-improvement, it is indeed possible to do too much. Gauging whether you fall into that category is a bit more complex than just deciding that a list of activities looks too long or daunting.

Our bodies and minds are not at all shy about letting us know when we’re overdoing it. On the physical side, signs that you may want to ease up include being unable to continue to perform at the same level, persistent aches or pains, fatigue during and after exercise, loss of appetite, repeated injuries and increased susceptibility to colds. Mental effects can include poor or disrupted sleep, loss of interest or motivation, as well as anxiety, irritability or depression.

Because we’re generally working to improve when we exercise, a certain amount of discomfort can be part of the process. But if a workout leaves you worn out to the point that you no longer feel the physical and emotional benefits or have lost the emotional afterglow that so often accompanies physical achievement, then it’s time to reassess.

If you begin to experience any of the symptoms or side effects we just discussed, either physical or mental, then you should consider making some changes. You can cut back a little bit on frequency or intensity, include an additional day (or two) of rest or swap out an activity with variations that will help keep things fresh. Right now, you have included all three elements of a well-rounded exercise routine — cardio, resistance and flexibility. If you do decide to make changes to your routine, be sure to maintain that same balance.

It’s clear from the weight loss you cited and the improved blood pressure that has allowed you to stop taking medication that you’re reaping a number of physical and emotional benefits from your current approach. We suspect that your family and friends are a bit in awe of what you do and what you have achieved. Just remain aware of what your body and mind are telling you and adjust accordingly.

Mandarin duck holds NYC in its spell

NEW YORK — It took just days for the brightly colored Mandarin duck that appeared suddenly in a Central Park pond to turn both New Yorkers and visitors into a new gaggle: the quackarazzi.

A horde of photographers has been gathering daily in the park off Fifth Avenue for well over a month, hoping to catch a glimpse of the exotic bird with pink, purple, orange and emerald green plumage and markings that admirer Joe Amato compares to “a living box of crayons.”

“So many people are drawn to this bird because its vibrant, vivid colors are associated with sunsets and rainbows,” says Amato, who comes almost daily from his Queens home with his expensive camera equipment in tow.

Bird lovers and sightseers have dutifully documented the bird’s every move through social media postings and videos that have noted its gentle glides across the water, its sniping at the ordinary mallards and even a vacation, of sorts, to a lake in nearby New Jersey.

This week, New York’s latest rising star didn’t disappoint — with the feathery showboat preening its wings in the shadow of the historic Plaza Hotel as people on shore jostled for a better look.

Leesa Beckmann commuted two and a half hours from her home in Vernon Township, New Jersey, to see the duck that her 90-year-old mother has been talking about since its arrival.

“I’ve got to see this magnificent duck,” Beckmann said to her mother.

She plans to shoot and frame photos for her mother to hang on the wall.

Ornithologist Paul Sweet, however, who heads a vast collection of bird specimens at the New York-based American Museum of Natural History, isn’t as throttled as others are about the duck.

Sweet says there’s nothing special about a Mandarin duck in Central Park. Not only is there another one (albeit captive) a short walk away at the Central Park Zoo, but such ducks are often imported from Asia for use on private property. From time to time, they escape into the wild.

“This bird is clearly not a vagrant,” said Sweet, adding that there are no records of actual wild Mandarin ducks in North America. If that actually happened in New York, of all places, “birders would be very excited.” For now, he says, they’re not.

“A lot of non-birders tend to see gaudy birds as more beautiful,” Sweet said. “But to me it’s no more beautiful than, say, a sparrow.”

In this case, expertise is not the point: Beauty is in the eyes of the New York beholders — humans for whom the carefree creature that has made Central Park its home offers some kind of balm in a troubled, chaotic world.

Friend seeks validation for his work

Dear Harriette: A good friend has been complaining about how his co-worker is always looking for validation. This same friend comes to me on a regular basis looking for validation himself. This dude sends me samples of his work so I can give my “honest opinion.” The work is good, but I’ve had enough. Once in a while, it’s OK, but this has become more and more frequent. How do I explain to him he’s doing the same thing that he’s complaining to me about? — Enough Validation, San Diego

Dear Enough Validation: Usually what upsets people in others is exactly what is true about them, though they rarely notice it. In your friend’s case, it is true that most people crave validation. We all want to feel loved, respected and seen. Depending upon our backgrounds, the need for external support can vary dramatically.

A kind way for you to address this situation is to tell your friend that what you know about people, pretty much all people, is that we want to be accepted and respected. Point out that you have noticed that he gets frustrated by the co-worker who constantly wants validation, and you understand that it can get

Playing matchmaker

Dear Harriette: One of my family members desperately wants to get married but has horrible social skills. Overall, this person is nice and successful; she has a master’s degree and great credit, and she owns her home. But like I said, she has horrible social skills — she either tries too hard or not at all. I would like to help.

I want to introduce her to someone I’ve dated in the past because I think they would make a great couple. There is a small problem: The woman I dated hints she wants to get back together, but I think only because she wants to get married. I’m definitely not interested. I think these two would be a great couple because they have accomplished similar goals, and both seem to be socially challenged. What are your thoughts about me introducing my ex to a close family member? — Introducing the Ex, Seattle

Dear Introducing the Ex: Start with your ex. Be clear that you are not interested in being anything more than friends. Tell her that you have someone you think could be a great partner for her. If she seems interested, make it clear that this is a family member, so you want her to be sensitive to a meeting.

If she seems open to the possibility, speak to your family member and explain that you think your ex might be a great match for them. Introduce them only if both of them are open to the idea. Obviously, you should keep your awareness of their social awkwardness to yourself.