Archive for the ‘health’ Category

A Note Of Thanks To My Body

At my heaviest weight, I was 267 pounds. That was 15 years ago. Through the years, I dieted, stopped, exercised, stopped, dieted some more, and stopped again. Any of us who has a substantial amount of weight to lose can probably say the same thing. We rarely get it right the first time, or the second or the third time.

When I started on my latest and last fitness journey in 2008, I weighed 230.2 pounds the day I stepped on the Weight Watchers scale. I happen to know that I’d managed to drop about 5 pounds before then. I weighed 167.2 this morning. That’s 100 pounds from my heaviest weight to now.

Yesterday I ran 4 miles. Running 4 miles is something that I wouldn’t have attempted or believed I could do….ever. Certainly not when I was 267 pounds or 230 pounds. Not even when I was 18 and 140 pounds and in good physical condition.

I was on my way to personal training this morning with my friend Jen…there will more about her and her alternative approach to resistance training in tomorrow’s blog post…and I started thinking about how far I’ve come. I think about this a lot. It keeps me going.

And I realized that I am truly grateful for having been 230 pounds, even 267 pounds. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I do now. Our bodies are amazing. Amazingly loyal, and amazingly resilient. My body still carried me when I had 100 pounds more on it’s 5’4″ frame than I do now. And at 230 pounds when I decided to get fit this time, it let me walk first, and then run…and swim and bike.

Being morbidly obese comes with consequences. And make no mistake. I was morbidly obese. I got winded easily. I got tired easily. I had acid reflux and heart palpitations. I felt like crap. But I was able to keep going.

You would think there comes a point where the body just says, “Nope, not doing it anymore. Not moving from this spot until you start treating me better.” It seems to take a lot to get the body to that point.

Think about it. If you abuse another person, you end up in jail, or at the very least that person can be taken away from you. But if we abuse ourselves, and getting to the point of morbid obesity is personal abuse, even if it’s done slowly and with yummy sugary treats, the only consequences we face are personal.

I am grateful that I weighed 230 pounds. I abused my body, but it stuck by me. And when I was ready to start treating it right, it responded. With each step and each pound lost, my body has gotten stronger and rewarded me in ways I never imagined. I have energy. I feel great. Aches and pains are fleeting. My skin has retracted to fit my frame (for the most part).

I can tell you that if I’d stayed at a reasonable weight all of my life, I probably would never have started running. I wouldn’t have gone back to swimming. I wouldn’t have attempted triathlon. Why would I have had to?

I would have been normal sized but unfit. Because I weighed 230 pounds when I decided to get fit this time, I knew I needed to exercise and eat healthier to reach my goals. I’ve taken it slowly. I’ve had missteps. But my body sticks by me. And I’m encouraged to get stronger and healthier every time I look at myself in the mirror or run a longer distance.

So thank you body. At whatever weight, I couldn’t have done it without you.

And I promise this time it’s for good.

Taking Control

Our Beloved DaleThis was a tough week. We had to put our dog to sleep on Thursday. He was old and very ill. He was also a sweet, sweet guy. We knew it was coming and we knew it was the right thing to do, but it didn’t make it any easier.

There were other stressful events this week too. Normally, I can shrug most difficult situations off and deal with them, but when they converge all at once, they can feel insurmountable–out of control.

And what do I do when faced with seemingly insurmountable stress? I eat. It didn’t help that this happened on a Thursday, my weigh-in day, and typically a day of more relaxed eating for me. On Thursday though, I let food take over. And that extended into Friday. I was looking for comfort, and looking for it in comfort food. The surprising thing was I didn’t get much comfort from the food. Only a stomachache.

Saturday I managed to rein in the eating machine somewhat by starting the day with a good 3-mile run. During the couple of hours after my run, I felt more positive and almost back to normal. My food day wasn’t perfect (we had lunch plans), but it didn’t include the bingeing from the two days before.

I am back in control today. I’m still sad. I’m still overwhelmed. But I am back in control.

This week, having reverted back to old ways for a few days, I realized that the most important part of my fitness journey is finally having control over the food I eat and how I take care of my health. My out-of-control days ended up feeding my distress and making me feel even worse. Taking charge again of my food and exercise has put me on the path toward being in control of other aspects of my life too.

Dale, our dog, got old and sick. We had no control over that. But we were able to say enough was enough and help him get to a better place.

For me, this fitness journey has been about being aware and in control of my health too so I can be in a better place. Sometimes, I get knocked off, but I won’t stay down for long anymore. I like having control.

The Cost of 100-Calorie Candy

MM_100CL_7br[1].previewI was out shopping last night, knowing today was going to be a tough work day…again. I was right. I decided, while I was in Target, that  I better have some manageable, calorie-counted chocolate on hand if  I planned to make it through the day without ravaging the vending machine for the Linden Chocolate Chip Cookies and Milky Ways that are in there (yes, I know what’s in the vending machine at all times, but I am careful never, ever to put change into it anymore).

Wondering what 100-calorie treat might just do the trick today, I spied 100-calorie M&M packs. They were like a beacon on a dark night. I scooped ’em up and threw them in my cart. $3.99 for seven carefully calorie-counted-out packs.

I grabbed a pack today when I went home for lunch, so I would have it for that much-needed 3:00 pm sugar injection. I almost always opt for a healthy snack at 3pm (yogurt, fruit, kashi bar), but today, I knew that wasn’t going to cut it.

When I grabbed my M&Ms from the box, I thought, hmmm, these look surprsingly similar to the M&M fun packs. So I went online, just to see. How many calories are there in an M&M fun pack? You’ll never guess. No really. You won’t. 100? Is that your final answer? Well, you’d be right.

I paid $3.99 for 7 M&M fun packs. What a bonehead. Had I just checked the fun pack package…with Halloween weeks away they are all over the place…I could have saved myself quite a bit of money if I’d just done that research. I’m pretty sure there are more than 7 packages in a fun-size bag. And it probably costs….drumroll please….$3.99.

I’ve learned my lesson. Always check the options before purchasing 100-calorie candy. I’m pretty sure though I’m much safer with only seven fun packs in the house.

Ghosts of Injuries Past – A Torn Rotator Cuff Saga

Saturday when I was swimming, I got an old familiar pain in my left arm at lap 48. I was swimming hard, alternating fast 100s with recovery 100s to get ready for next Sunday’s race.

I was in a recovery 100, so I continued for two more laps but when the twingy deltoid muscle pain didn’t go away, I got out of the water, went home and stretched my arm with the exercises I had learned from physical therapy two years ago, along with exercises from a friend who had suffered from shoulder stuff too.

Back to the beginning: In July of 2007, I suddenly started experiencing pain in my left deltoid muscle (about midway between the shoulder and the elbow). It hurt,  but it wasn’t horrible… at first. If I left my arm alone, it didn’t hurt, but if I tried to raise it even to 90 degrees, ouch. Over my head quickly became impossible.

I had no idea really what I could have done to it. I went to the doctor, who figured it was a torn rotator cuff tendon. Based on his assessment, he sent me to an orthopedic. I chose my husband’s orthopedic/pain management doctor because I know her and like her. My husband has a bad back. Her assessment was a torn rotator cuff tendon, which she submitted to the insurance company. By now, three weeks after the original diagnosis, I couldn’t raise my left arm more than 45 degrees. It was basically useless unless I wanted to be in screaming pain.

The wonderful insurance company decided for me that I needed 6 weeks of torture physical therapy before I could have an MRI to find out what was going on  in my shoulder. I made it through 5 appointments before I couldn’t stand it anymore. I’d leave each session in tears and then not sleep for a night or two before the pain before would subside a little. I was literally living on Aleve, just to take the edge off.

Now September of that year, after two full months of not being able to move my arm, the insurance company finally agreed to the MRI. Why was physical therapy so painful? Well, because I had two torn rotator cuff tendons (partial tears that didn’t require surgery, thank goodness), tendonosis (where the tendon around the tears actually died and will never recover), a torn bicep tendon, bursitis and a frozen shoulder. Some of the physical therapy for the torn rotator cuff tendon is counter-productive for the other injuries. My doctor’s colleague chalked it up to the fact that I had a 48-year-old shoulder. Ouch. I think that hurt worse than the shoulder itself. Apparently, torn rotator cuff tendons/frozen shoulders aren’t uncommon in women in their 40s and 50s.

When I started swimming, it was on the advice of my orthopedic doctor (also a triathlete who has had a torn rotator cuff), who said it was one of the best strengthening exercises I could do for my shoulder if I could handle it. While I have my mobility back in that arm, I still have lingering pain. Usually, my shoulder will be a little stiff in the beginning of a swim, but swimming does loosen it up. It took awhile, but swimming generally feels good on my shoulder.

This morning, my shoulder/arm is still achy. It was to be a swim workout today but  I opted out because I won’t risk injuring this arm again. It was the most unbearable pain I can ever remember (and I was in unmedicated labor for 30 hours with my daughter). I believe it was the frozen shoulder that caused the majority of the pain (the membrane sheath that encapsulates the shoulder shrinks up and makes movement difficult) and that’s preventable as long as I keep moving my arm, but even feeling the familiar deltoid muscle pain is enough to send me into a panic.

I have a race on Sunday and I was hoping to get at least one more swim in before then. But if I don’t, at least the swim is the leg of the race where I feel most confident. Even if I swim easy, I’ll do OK in the swim. And in the meantime, I’m hoping that the twingy pain I’ve had in my arm these last couple of days are the result of a tendonosis flare-up and not a new tear. Fingers crossed.

Going from sedentary to active, I’ve taken all of my training pretty slow and steady to avoid injuries. I’d rather go slower than not be able to go at all. I’ll push myself through achy muscles and whiny knees. But this? It’s just not something to be screwing with. I promised myself in the beginning that I would always pay attention when there’s pain.

Missouri 60 Challenge Results

I had four goals for the Missouri 60 Challenge and I did pretty well with them although I didn’t hit them completely.

1. The weight-loss related project I’m working on includes moving my blog to my own host so I can do more with it. I’ve hit some technical difficulties (mostly user related because some days I’m a technical bonehead), but I’m almost there.

2. I finished my first triathlon! YAY! I had hoped for a finish of under an hour and it took me 1.06, but that’s ok. In hindsight, I was asking for a lot from myself. I finished. That was the goal.

3. I wanted to sign up for another race. I was thinking a 5K maybe, or even a 10K. Instead, I’m doing the Trek Women Triathlon this coming Sunday. Thinking big. And I’ve scouted out some 5Ks I’d like to do in the later fall. I’d also hoped to be able to run 4 miles straight by the end of this challenge. I’m close. I hit the 3.5 mark last weekend. With the new triathlon coming up though, it was more important to concentrate on the 3.1 distance… especially off the bike. I’m ready. And running four miles is right there as the next goal.

4. I wanted to be fitter than I was when I started. I’ve definitely accomplished that. I’m running farther, more consistently, and my swim and bike training has gotten better too. I feel great!

And to top it off, I’ve lost 5.8 pounds since the start of the challenge, bringing my total loss to 61.2 pounds. I’m getting there!

dianenow new diane

Not a huge difference on the outside, but there is a huge difference on the inside!

And there’s a huge difference from where I started. And boy, does that make me happy.

Here’s one from back before getting healthy. This has been a year of big changes…all for the better!

Diane_Vacation

The ‘Not So Obvious’ Benefits of Exercise

I’m not in love with getting out of bed in the morning to exercise. But I am in love with how I feel when I’m doing it and how I feel for the whole day after.

We all know that exercise is essential to good health and fitting into those smaller jeans and muscle tone. We all know that exercise gives us  energy and stamina and strong bones.

But I’ve  gotten a couple of things from exercise that I didn’t expect:

  • My skin looks great. I don’t know if that’s from sweating or all the water I drink because I sweat, but  I actually had someone tell me recently that my skin is glowing. Plus I have a tan. A healthy, gradual tan that has come from running and biking outside (and a little sitting on the beach, which I wouldn’t have done in summers past.)
  • Speaking of water, I drink so much more water on the days that I exercise. And it’s easy. I’ve usually downed 32 ounces of water before 9:00am when I go out running in the morning. And I drink, drink, drink all day to rehydrate. On non-exercise days, water isn’t as appealing.
  • I eat better and usually less on exercise days. It’s almost as though my body knows on the days that its expended all that energy that real food is necessary to replenish. And that’s what I crave. On running days especially, I’m more likely to reach for that apple and make myself a nice lean protein/whole grain and veggie dinner than on off days.
  • I tend to concentrate better on workout days. I feel clearer, more focused and generally, lessed stressed. My job, my life are stressful these days, so that’s a very good thing.
  • Confidence. I am so much happier with the way I look and how my clothes fit, that I feel better about myself and more confident in my appearance. More than that though, I know I can run 3 miles, bike 10 and swim a half a mile, sometimes all on the same day.  These are things I didn’t think I would ever do, or ever be able to do,  and I’m really proud of my accomplishments. It’s taken a lot of hard work, but it makes me feel like I belong to a special club. And I draw on it when I’m feeling not so hot or confident in other areas of my life.
  • I’m inspired. Doing something repetitive for a half hour or longer gives me time to let my mind just wander. Lots of times, I just stay tuned into whatever music I’m listening to, or I focus on my form. However, other times, when I let my mind just drift, I come up with creative solutions to ongoing problems, blog posts or ideas on how to share what I’ve learned along the way with others.

On that note, I do have plans for creating an environment where those of us on this journey can encourage each other to stay the course and reach our collective goals – good health and fitness – however we are getting there.

When You Least Expect It

Saturday, because of the rain, was a swim day. I usually swim train with a friend on Saturday morning and that makes it more fun. Yesterday though, Jen was off on vacation, so I headed to the pool alone. I did not want to go. It was rainy and dark and miserable here yesterday. To swim on Saturday, even in crappy weather means getting to the gym by 7:30 am. The pool starts to get crowded around 8:15 or so. I had to coax myself out the door.

However, I was off from training on Thursday and then again on Friday, so I made myself go. The way I felt, I wasn’t so sure it would be a very good training session, but these things need to be done.

I got there and there was only one other person in the pool. Sweet. I love it when I get the pool, or at least a lane, to myself. And I kicked off. I had decided to swim 400 meters hard, easy for 100, hard for 200, easy for 100, etc. I had a great 400-meter swim (although there was no clock to tell the time) and a great rest of my swim too. I swam harder more than I had planned and overall went 1500 meters (the most I’ve done). I felt great when I got out of the pool. And I felt great pretty much the rest of the day.

Sunday morning, I had a long run planned. Again, morning came and I did not want to leave the comfort of my bed. I was up late the night before and sometimes, I just like to sleep in. It was not raining though and there was still some cloud cover so it was cooler than it has been. I got up, got dressed, tried to hook up Runkeeper on my iPhone to track the run, but to no avail. For whatever reason, Runkeeper couldn’t find my location. Next time.

I set off walking like I always do; giving myself my little pep talk, like I always do; listening to my music, like I always do. I started running and decided to take a longer route that I take on the bike, figuring if I got tired, I could always walk a bit.

Bottom line, I ran three and a half miles today in 43 minutes and I could have gone farther. With the weather being cool, and maybe because I’d had a couple of days off from running, I felt strong and consistent today. I didn’t get winded, my legs and knees felt good and I only had one spot where I felt a little draggy. I wasn’t too sure how much distance I was tacking onto my run (since it was spur of the moment to go farther), so I stopped when I think I could have probably run more.

I’m going to try a slightly longer run on Tuesday to hit the 4-mile mark, since that was one of my goals for the Missouri 60 challenge!

Both days this weekend, I didn’t feel much like exercising and really didn’t have very high expectations for my performance based on my not-so-enthusiastic attitude. What surprised me though, is if I can get past the grumblies and out the door, once I get going, I really, really enjoy working out and pushing myself. And even though I’ve been doing this on a regular basis now for a year, it still surprises me.

I like surprises. So I’m going to keep hitting the road, the pool and whatever other fun exercise opportunities come my way.

How do you talk yourself out the door to get your exercise in?

PS: There was no rolling me out of bed this morning. I’ll be getting my bike ride in after work today!