Archive for July, 2009

An Interesting Side Effect of Exercise

Two years ago, I started having heart palpitations out of the blue that my doctor attributed to the lovely stage of life I’m in – perimenopause. My blood pressure was a tiny bit high, 130/90, so he prescribed a beta blocker and sent me on my way. The first medication they put me on dropped my blood pressure through the floor and after I almost passed out in Walmart, they ditched that one and tried another. Coreg.

For two years, I have been on Coreg and it has worked like a charm. Very few palpitations and all has been rosy. As I lost weight and became more active, I was able to cut my dose to once a day. I tried to wean off entirely but the palpitations came back. Mostly they are just annoying as all get-out, not dangerous.

However, a few weeks ago, I switched to the generic brand of this medication (generics by the way according to my doctor can have up to 25% more or less of the active ingredient in a drug and sometimes have a different delivery system, meaning the other chemicals in the pill may differ slightly). This is important if you are taking a medication, like I was, for a different reason that the original intent. I’m taking Coreg for heart palpitations, not high blood pressure.

Anyway, palpitations came back some and then went away again, but more than that, I have been extraordinarily dizzy. Every time I get up from my desk, I get a head rush. In the shower after running (never during), getting out of bed in the morning, any activity that had me moving after being sedentary has been making my head spin.

So I went to the doctor today expecting to hear my blood pressure is too low. My blood pressure was a little low but nothing to write home about. However, my heart rate was 44 when the doctor did it manually. Which had me hooked up to an EKG machine in a matter of minutes because that was too low. On the EKG, when I was laying down, my heart rate was a mere 32 beats per minute. Ah, so that was why I was so dizzy. It’s not because I’m blonde!

The doctor said if I wasn’t on the beta blocker, she’d be sending me straight to a cardiologist for a pace maker evaluation. For now though, I just have to stop taking the medication and see the doctor again on Friday to see if my heart rate rebounds. And I am to keep up the exercise to get my heart rate up.

So this is a cautionary tale. If you are on any medication that might be affected by a new healthier lifestyle (i.e., exercise and diet), make sure you stay on top of it with your doctor. My doctor said I am lucky I got dizzy. My heart rate is low enough that I could pass out from it. If I was driving…or swimming, this could be a problem.

When starting a diet or exercise program, we are always told to check with the doctor. There have been plenty of times where I have not done this. This time however, I’m on medication, so I’ve more or less stayed on top of it. It’s as important as eating right.

We Could All Move To Venus

A 150-pound woman on Earth will weigh 136 lbs. on Venus

A 150-pound woman on Earth will weigh 136 lbs. on Venus

When I came in from my run this morning, my husband was watching a science channel show about the planets. Did you know that if you weigh 150 pounds here on Earth, you’d only weigh 136 pounds on Venus? Now there’s some quick weight loss. The scale not cooperating? Shuttle on off to Venus for a quick 14-pounds weight loss. Wonder why we never see this on the cover of women’s magazines as a quick fix?

Could be that you get anywhere near Venus and you’d be a cinder, so your weight wouldn’t really matter anyway.

But it got me to thinking. Our actual weight (what the scale tells us) is based on gravity. If I weighed 14 pounds less on Venus  (supposing I could get anywhere near Venus), I’d still look exactly the same.

I have a love/hate affair with my bathroom scale. It rarely tells me what I want to hear, but when it does, all is forgiven and I love it again.

However, there are so many other ways to measure how far I’ve come on this fitness journey. For instance, I swam 1,000 yards this morning and then went for a 2.5 mile run (which felt like I was on Venus because it was so hot and humid). I couldn’t do that a year ago. I couldn’t do that six months ago. And that’s a much bigger testament to how hard I’m working than the number on the scale.

Instead of moving to Venus, I think I’ll weigh my accomplishments instead of only my actual body. Might be a little easier.

And hey, if Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus anyway, does that mean we get a 14-pound pass? Maybe our scales are all wrong!

What I’ve Learned After A Year At Weight Watchers

I’ve been a Weight Watcher for a year as of this week (tomorrow officially). I weighed in this morning and I was down .4 for a total of 59.4 pounds lost this past year. After last week’s 3.6 pound loss, I was very happy with .4 lbs.

I was thinking this morning on my way home from weigh in about all the changes I’ve made this past year. Not only do I eat sooo much healthier 95% of the time, I finally understand all the hype about regular exercise. It’s still tough to get going some days, but the feeling during and after are well worth getting off my butt for!

They say it takes 21 days to break a bad habit and create a new one. If you are on a getting fit journey, you’ll know that it can take 21 seconds and a piece of chocolate cake to undo that new habit.

I’ve been at this for a year, and I know that to continue to my goal weight and maintain my new healthier body, I will be at it for a lifetime. It may take 21 days to create a new habit, but the reason for the habit is always lurking in the background, ready to undo all the hard work at a moment’s notice.

I’ve learned so much this year and I can even go as far as to say I am grateful that last July  I weighed 230 pounds. If I wasn’t so overweight where it was starting to affect my health and ability to do the things I like to do, I would never have started on the journey in earnest. I know that because I’d stopped and started so many times before.

Before I started Weight Watchers last  July, I wasn’t suffering from body image issues. I didn’t hate my body or the way I looked at 230 pounds. I’d come to terms with that many years ago. I didn’t feel inadequate because I was carrying extra weight. I had a lot to offer and I concentrated on those things.

I’ve learned more about myself in this past year than I thought imaginable at 50 years old. I’ve pushed my body well beyond it’s limits and it has done very well. I’ve really looked inside to try to understand how I got to this point in the first place and have surprised myself with the answers.

I started on this journey because I didn’t want to turn 50 feeling unhealthy and limited. What surprised me is how much I was missing because I was heavy. More than the smaller clothing sizes and compliments, I’m thrilled with my fitness progress. I don’t get winded going up stairs. I can run. I’m swimming again. I have energy. I sleep better. I have better concentration most days. I get outside every chance I get. Racing is fun. I’m happier. I feel balanced.

I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience these changes if I hadn’t been 230 lbs. last July or found my way to this point. And for that I’m grateful.

What’s Holding You Back?

Every time I’ve decided to get healthy, as I’m getting started, I think of a bunch of reasons why maybe I shouldn’t. Let’s face it, change is daunting.

I know all the reasons I should be fit. Every fat person knows why they should start eating healthy and exercising more. To avoid health problems, to live longer, to have more energy, to look better and feel good about ourselves. The list goes on.

But then come the excuses that lead to stopping before we start or very shortly after we get started. If we can identify those things we use to hold ourselves back and push them aside, then maybe we have a chance. At least, that’s what I told myself this time as they crept in when I was starting.

So I made a list. Why shouldn’t  I lose weight and keep it off? Here are my top ten and how they’ve played out so far:

10. Money is tight. How will I buy new clothes?

Well, the weight doesn’t fall off overnight so new clothes are not a problem right away. And really, how many new things do you need to get through the week? Guess what, when I needed new clothes I found the money to buy them. Oh, and it’s fun to buy smaller sizes.

9. I’ll get bored. How can I eat the same thing day in and day out?

Eating healthy can get boring. So can unhealthy eating habits. The difference is you don’t feel like crap after eating a healthy boring meal. I make sure I have options for my meals. Nothing overly exciting mind you, but enough so that I’m not completely sick of turkey, lettuce and tomato at the end of each week.

8. I’m too busy. I don’t have the time to plan, cook and exercise.

Bah. I exercise for a half an hour to an hour each day. So I miss a little TV. Actually I get up early so it’s done with before my day starts. And if your day is really that busy, fit in little 10-minute walks three times a day. I hear that works just as well.

As for food planning, I’m not a planner. And I tend to eat on the run. With all of the choices out there now, this is no excuse. How long does it take to microwave a Lean Cuisine? It’s faster than waiting in line at McDonald’s. And  anything tastes good on a high-fiber, low cal english muffin. Make sure your pantry and fridge are stocked with on-the-go good choices like fruit, eggs and high-fiber snacks, and you won’t need to plan too much.

7. I can’t afford to eat healthy.

Yes you can. Twinkies and Entenmann’s cakes are expensive too. When you stop buying those and trade for healthier choices, the food bill stays about the same. It might go up a bit in the beginning as you are finding your rhythm, but it goes back down.

Oh and when you unload some of those prescriptions and over the counter medicines from the ailments that the weight is causing (like Zantac for heartburn), you can spend more on food.

6. My family, friends, whoever won’t like me anymore if I lose weight.

Anyone who begrudges you finding your way to a healthy lifestyle is not someone you want in your life. If they love you now, your friends (even your fat ones who are envious because they wish they were doing what you are doing), family and whoever will still love you. And they will be proud of you too. You, after all, are accomplishing something spectacular.

5. I might be heavy but I’m in proportion. If I lose weight, I might lose unevenly and end up with a small top and big butt (or skinny legs and big belly…take your pick).

Whatever your body shape is, that’s what it will be when you lose weight. I really worried about this. Guess what, I’m the same proportion, just smaller and tighter. And if you don’t like your body shape, this is your chance to shift it. Exercise! Cardio is a must but also find targeted exercises that work those trouble spots.

4. I can’t afford a gym membership.

I couldn’t. Not in the beginning. But I could afford cheap sneakers and I was able to walk around my neighborhood. Start now while it’s light out in the morning and late into the evening and you’ll be exercising for free before you know it. And you can’t tell me you don’t know how to do a crunch or even a pushup. Those don’t cost anything either. And now, lots of gyms are running great specials to get you to join (they figure we’ll never go anyway). Take advantage if you really want to join a gym.

3. My boobs will shrink down to nothing.

Ok, this one happens. But again, it’s in proportion to your body size so it’s really not that bad. I never had a large bust until after I had children and was 100 pounds overweight. The boobs were the first thing to go as I started to lose weight. They are smaller now, but they actually look so much better on my frame, and my fear of losing the girls was somewhat irrational. They are still there, and while smaller, since my tummy is smaller too, they actually look so much better! I will say though that I’d be lost without underwire!

2. My personality will change.

You know it just might. But do you really think it will be for the worse? My personality hasn’t changed so much as shifted some. I’m still the same person with the same insecurities (I still feel fat a lot of the time even) and same inclinations. What has changed though is I think about me once in a while now. I do things for me. I smile more. I have more confidence. I take a few more risks. I have met goals and accomplished more in this past year than I thought possible. And if I can do this, I can do anything, can’t I? And there’s nothing wrong with that.

If you are a nice person, you will still be a nice person. The only difference is you might just be nicer to you. Getting fit is liberating. Enjoy it.

1. Saggy Skin!

We’ve all seen the plastic surgery commercials. The gastric bypass patients who’ve lost 100 pounds in six months. Look at all that skin! I’d rather be fat! No, you wouldn’t.

I really worried about saggy skin. I even figured when I started getting fit this time if it got bad, I would stop wherever it was that was comfortable. I’d rather be a little overweight than have loose skin. News flash. If you lose weight slowly, 1-2 pounds a week, and you exercise and drink water, saggy skin isn’t so much of a problem. I’m 60 pounds into an 80-pound weight loss, and I can tell you that the sagging skin isn’t nearly what I imagined it to be. Yes, I do have some, but I had it before too. And the only one who ever even notices it is me. All of the other changes in my body, like a waist and legs that like to run are well worth it.

Those were my top 10 reasons for not getting fit. And I have a bunch more. The reasons to get fit though so far outweighed them that I chose to ignore them this time.

Try to focus on the things that may be stopping you and write them down. Since they are usually only whispers in the back of your mind, they can be difficult to hear but they are there and they are insidious.

Then write down an equal number of reasons to get fit. There are more of these than there are excuses. Consider how you will feel when you’ve conquered your fears and misgivings and have started to meet your goals.

There are good days and bad days when you are getting fit. I was having a tough day today. And I needed to revisit why sometimes it is so easy to get off track. By checking in periodically with how far I’ve come and identifying the reasons I try to sabotage myself, I take the power away from my fears and excuses. I have the power, and with that power, I win.

The Key To Running Success: Persistence, Not Perfection

Since I started triathlon training, I have concentrated on the run the most. And it’s paying off. Since it was the one thing I’d never done before, it was also the one thing that freaked me out and made me hesitate about even trying.

I signed up anyway because I can always walk if I have to. I had to in my last race. I had to walk a lot. For the race coming up on August 1 though, I won’t have to walk. I may have to run slow, but I won’t have to walk. I can run now.

Saturday, I ran a full 5k in my neighborhood. I took a new route that I’d mapped out the night before in my car (it’s also kind of my bike route). 3.1 miles. Mostly a flat run with 3 hills (or maybe I should say inclines, but decent ones). I woke up later than I’d planned on Saturday and almost bagged this run too because I had other stuff to do. And then I considered running my usual shorter 2.5 miles. But I wanted the change, and I wanted to challenge myself. My thinking is that if I can run 3 miles, then the 2 miles (even right after the bike leg) won’t feel so bad on race day.

So I did it. I walked .2 miles to warm up and started jogging. It was hot because it was already 9:00 am. But I kept going, kept my pace slow so I didn’t kill myself and I finished in 38 minutes, which running-wise after a walking warmup, was probably about 11:30 to 12 minute miles. I was happy with that because at one point in the run, I didn’t think I’d even be able to run the whole way. It still amazes me how a run can feel great one minute, crappy the next and then good again. I was so thrilled that I completed the distance without walking that I even threw my arms up into the air a little as I turned into my driveway!

This morning I went running again. It was my usual 2.5 mile run. Until I get more comfortable with the distance, I’m keeping the long run to once a week. After race day, I’ll kick that up. This morning’s run was probably the best run I’ve ever had. It was early (6:00 am) and cool and dry. I think it’s the first run I’ve had in a while where there hasn’t been stifling humidity. This morning, I knew I was running a distance I’m comfortable with (amazing how much of a difference half a mile makes) so I decided to open it up a bit. When I’ve been running, I go pretty slow and bump up the pace at least once or twice during the run to get used to a faster pace. IThe faster pace actually feels more natural, (trust me, it’s not that fast), but  it’s been tough to keep up for very long. This morning was different though. I don’t know if it was the crisp weather or how I was feeling, but I opened up and only slowed down on one hill. I even got the thumbs up from a couple of walkers, which made me smile and then run faster. I ran 2. 5 miles this morning in 26.30 minutes, a little over a 10-minute mile pace. For me, that’s sprinting.

I was so pumped after this morning’s run. It felt amazing and I actually can’t wait to go again on Wednesday, although I rarely get the same results two runs in a row.

Thursday is my one year anniversary with Weight Watchers and serious blogging. I was looking back at some of my earlier posts this weekend. I felt triumphant when I went from walking a mile to walking a mile and a half.

Now I’m running three miles and working on going farther and running faster. I would have never thought this was possible a year ago.

MaggieApril, from Taste Not Waist, commented on one of my blog posts recently “Persistence, not perfection. Good Lesson.” It’s so true. My running experiences have been far from perfect. It took me seven months to complete the 9-week couch to 5k program. But I have kept at it and kept at it.

And look, I’m a runner now.

Drumroll Please…..

Stars_StreamersThe Plateau is officially broken! One week before my one-year anniversary with Weight Watchers, the scale finally showed me some love! Would you like to know how much love?
3.6 pounds worth! Hard work paying off.

I lost 50 pounds from July 2008 through the beginning of April. It was slow but consistent and I was happy with that. I had my first race on April 18, and after that it was like my metabolism decided to just take a break. From April 18 to July 3, I lost 5.4 lbs. total. Not one of those weeks were losses without a decimal point in front of the number. But I stuck to it. And about a month ago, I started making changes each week to see if I could make the scale move. Nuthin, or at the very least, very little.

So last week, after my weigh-in (I stayed the same after a very rigid couple of weeks), I let it go. I decided I would focus on my triathlon training, part of which meant paying closer attention to the quality of the food I am eating, rather than making sure I stayed in points. After all, this is about being “fit,” not the number on the scale.

Fourth of July, I had Godiva chocolates (3 truffles), a killer dinner (more than usual points but all really healthy stuff) and even ice cream. Real Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. None of that light stuff. I paid attention to my portions. I tracked everything. I made points a secondary focus. I didn’t get hungry. And I really enjoyed my food.

This entire week I went walking, running, biking, swimming. I did abdominal work…all the stuff I’ve been doing, although I may have ratcheted it up a notch because I’m getting closer to my race date.

It was an epiphany for me because even though I was going over points some of the days, the number on the scale actually went down. I realized I had gotten myself into a weight watcher’s rut of  sorts. I was staying in points but maybe not making the best food decisions. So all this week I focused on the quality of my food. After all, the ultimate goal is good health. I’m going to continue with what I did this week into next week and beyond to see how it goes, although after this week’s loss, I’ll be content to stay the same next week.

175 was a comfortable weight for my body. I have been stuck here before many years ago. But now that my body has let the number go, I’m hoping to keep moving downward until I get to the weight that’s comfortable for my head.

I know getting healthy is not about a number. I do. But when the scale reflects our hard work, it feels good. It really, really does.

Swim, Bike, Run

triathlon123I am not one to exercise for exercise’s sake. Never have been. I needed some sort of motivation other than “It’s good for you.” So I signed up for a triathlon. When I could barely walk a mile, I set my sights on triathlon. The reason? In my vast weight loss knowledge (cause I’ve lost and gained so many pounds so many times before), I know it’s better to vary the exercise routine because it works different muscles, you don’t get bored, etc., etc.

So since I needed something to train for that would give me the motivation to do more than one type of exercise, I picked this multi-sport. Did I mention I’m not really fond of exercise? I figured I can swim, I can bike, and well, even though I couldn’t run at the time, how hard could it be? Boy was I in for a rude awakening.

And my brother is a triathlete, so I had someone to turn to for information.

As I get ready for my first triathlon (I raced back in April but it became a duathlon because of pool problems), I’m so excited to see how far I’ve come. I can actually run two miles  now. I couldn’t in April (not on the road anyway) and I can bike the six and swim the 400 meter distance. I realized though, I’ve been lax in my training up to this point. While I’ve been practicing all three disciplines, I haven’t been doing them enough together, mostly because of time constraints. I can tell you from my first experience, running after a six-mile bike ride is a whole lot more difficult than just running for running’s sake. I don’t care how slow you go. Off the bike, jello legs tend to make that first half mile of a run a doozy.

So for the next three and a half weeks (the time before my next race on August 1st, I will be training all three segments close together through the week, with bricks (bike and run together, swim and bike together, you get the idea) on the weekends where I have more time. Last night I ran, despite all kinds of delays (didn’t actually get out on the road until 7:45 pm). I had biked the night before and I was determined to run to work those muscles in succession.

This morning, I swam. Tonight I bike. Tomorrow morning, I run. Tomorrow night, I collapse. It’s the way the race goes. Swim. Bike. Run. Collapse.

By themselves, I extend my distances because someday soon, I’d like to do longer races, but the plan is to get the muscles working in the right order. It’s much easier to get in a pool and swim after a run than the other way around.

I’m glad I chose triathlons as a place to start. I know they aren’t for everyone. But even if I never competed in a race, it pushed me to train in several different exercises, I think giving me a good balance and helping to prevent injuries. Besides, after this 5Ks may feel easy.

My first race is the Mini Mighty Man Sprint in Eisenhower Park, East Meadow, NY, August 1. It’s powered by if you’re interested in something like this. They offer a bunch of different races at all levels.

This starter tri is a 400-meter swim, 6-mile bike, 2-mile run. Wish me luck. I’ll need it!

By the way, I don’t look nearly as fierce as the triathletes in the picture!