Archive for November, 2011

My Back!

It’s Wednesday! Today’s post is by Nichol.

I have back issues. My lower back has been giving me problems off and on for the last two months. I didn’t run for about three days because it was killing me. I went to Urgent Care in October. They have me really good drugs. It helped (A LOT) but it didn’t solve the problem.

Rachel and I were running about a week ago, and Maddy the dog

20111127-185428.jpg
gave my back a really good tug as she tried to chase the neighborhood skunk.
That took me out of the game for a day. Then on Thanksgiving, Rachel and I ran across a busy street used the crosswalk appropriately and it went wonky again.

I have received a lot of suggestions, mostly about seeing a chiropractor. I’m not sure a chiropractor is what I need and I haven’t really bothered to look up the exact nature of their practice. I am going to do my own treatment first. Starting with twice daily lower back stretches. I will also use my 90-minute massage Groupon.

I could blame Maddy

20111127-190140.jpg but who could blame that beautiful face. She lives to run, and She lives to chase things that interest her (lizards, cats, skunks).

I started running again on Sunday, and it felt really good when we were done. I did have to go considerably slower at certain times, but I think that Heat is right, No Pain, No Gain.

Now don’t laugh, but I have also ordered Healing Back Pain by Dr. John Sarno (of the psychosomatic diagnosis, tension myositis syndrome) after doing some reading about back pain (yes, including Howard Stern’s recommendation).

Back pain has been an ongoing problem for me for a long time. I was in a pretty nasty car accident when I was about 20. I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt and had a pinched nerve in my neck and two rotated discs in my lower back. I did physical therapy but my back has given me problems off and on since then. This has also crossed my mind as a cause.

Do any of you deal with the same problem? How do you work with it? I’m taking all comments and suggestions.

Giving thanks

It’s Wednesday! Today’s post is by Nichol.

So it’s that time. Time for Thanksgiving and delicious food. Turkey…potatoes…stuffing. Mmmmm. For this post, I am going to list the top ten things I am thankful for this year. Some are serious, some not so much.

1. My family. Enough said. A lot of people have great families, but my family blows your family out of the water. Especially my sisters and my parents…usually.

2. My friends. I love my friends. They laugh at my dumb jokes, have serious conversations with me, encourage me, and make me laugh and think.

3. My job. Oh lord, some days this is the last thing I would ever be thankful for, but I recognize how blessed I am to have one, so I’ll just try to remember that.

4. Gala and Fuji apples. I can’t decide which one I love more, but I pretty much live for a nice big ripe apple. Some days Fuji, some days Gala.

5. My health. As a smoker for 20 years, and a former disgusting eater, I probably should have been dead a while ago. (See #10 for why I have not died or had a heart attack).

6. Netflix instant queue. Enough said.

7. Books. I’m a Reader. And to Mr. Stephen King, I am a Constant Reader. Books make me happy, help me relax, and take me away when I need to be taken away.

8. Gypsy, Maddy, Roxy, Nala, Felix, and Weasley. Those are the animals of the house. They love me unconditionally. The feeling is mutual. Well, except for Weasley. He’s a tortoise and doesn’t really cuddle me or show much affection. He does like to have the top of his head rubbed. That counts, right?

9. The Apple Store and Apple products in general. That’s my happy place. Sigh. I could live in the Apple store. My computer, iPad, and iPhone all work together to keep me organized, financially responsible-ish, and entertained. What more does a girl need?

10. Second Chance FitCenter. I don’t know if WordPress has enough memory (?) for me to write all the things that SCFC and its lovely, amazing, cancer’s ass-kicking, new mommy proprietor have done. In order to understand what she has helped me accomplish and the painful things she has made me do, you should read my blog post about My Story.

Don’t even ask me what I weigh right now. I’m getting back on the ball after a little slide, and back on the ball includes back to counting and measuring food. Ugh.

Come back next week though. I think I may have some exciting news. (Tempting, right?)

Have a great, safe, healthy, and happy turkey day. If you’re not a Thanksgiving celebrator, have a great, safe, healthy, and happy Thursday.

Tis The Season

The holiday season is upon us. While it has been called “the most wonderful time of the year,” for many people, it is anything but.

It tends more to be the time of year most filled with excess: we eat too much, we buy too much, we receive too much, we stress too much, we jam too much into our days and nights.

Unfortunately, in all of this excessive-ness, we tend to lose sight of the things that actually are important to us.

Most people, when asked, will list their health and their family/friends as their number one and two most important things (not necessarily in that order). But how many people live that way? Or, on a smaller scale, how many people celebrate that way?

people…

Spend time with people who are important to you, doing things that you both value. Perhaps create traditions that bring you closer together, instead of traditions that bring you to the mall.

Skip the parties that you really don’t want to go to.

If decorating stresses you out, don’t do it. (If decorating is something you love to do, then do it!) Be thoughtful when soliciting the help of others in your quest to deck out your house.

stuff…

You don’t have to have a stash of “just in case” generic gifts. And really, there is no such thing as a little something that anyone would like. Save your cash, get rid of some clutter, help someone else get rid of some clutter (by not giving it to them), and worry less about material reciprocity.

It is somewhat striking to me that we have an immediate transition from a holiday of gratitude for what we have to a season of materialism and wanting more.

See if you can truly be thankful for what you have … and be content with it. Carrying that through December will serve you better than carrying a credit card. (Not watching TV will help. Advertising is powerful; its job is to make you discontent with what you have.)

Kids can be taught the same thing. If they’re younger, it’s likely to be easier. And really, how many new toys do they need? How many of them will they still be playing with in a week? Again, less TV viewing (by the kids) will decrease desire for more stuff.

[I’m not saying that kids shouldn’t get any presents for Christmas — just that many people go overboard, which adds stress (in shopping, wrapping, possibly assembling, and in paying bills) and adds clutter to the house, which adds to stress later.]

health…

First, just a reminder that stress is detrimental to your health, so all of the above things that could reduce stress also increase health.

That said, I might not know anyone who won’t be uncomfortably full at some point on Thursday.

“But it’s Thanksgiving! It only happens once a year!”

True. But do this exercise to illustrate the “once a year” problem.

Go get a calendar for a year. It’s OK if it’s a 2011, even though most of 2011 is over (wow!) — it’ll work for this.

Circle (or otherwise mark) Thanksgiving. Do you celebrate Christmas with a meal? Circle it. Celebrate New Year’s Eve? Circle it. Circle Superbowl Sunday. And Valentine’s Day. Easter. Memorial, Independence, and Labor Days. Halloween. Family birthdays. Your anniversary. Estimate other non-recurring events: weddings, dinner parties, BBQs, graduations, other parties, and so on.

I bet there are a lot of circles on your calendar. I bet you could justify unsavory eating/drinking at any and all of them by saying, “It only happens once a year!” How much damage are you doing to your body (and therefore your health – a priority?) just “once a year”?

Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t eat or drink anything “tasty” at Thanksgiving. I am saying that overeating doesn’t honor your body. The issue is really just portions. In a typical weeknight dinner, you have maybe three or four different items on your plate. You’ll likely have at least twice as many on Thursday, which means your portions need to be half the size or less. Take your time eating, really savor your food, and you can still enjoy it as much as if you’d eaten twice as much but not really paid attention. Added bonus: you won’t feel sick afterwards.

I know quite a few people who don’t exercise in December because they “don’t have time.” It’s a matter of priority. Which is more important: your health, or all of the extra errands? How can you streamline and simplify your December so that you do have time to exercise? Your kids (if you have them) need to move, too. Or your friends. Or a neighbor. Or a coworker. What can you do together that you all enjoy?

How can you streamline and simplify your December so that you have time for all of the things that are actually important? Stop, take note of everything, and if the to-do list or the calendar boxes are brimming, see what can be let go. You don’t have to do it all. You owe it to yourself, and you owe it to the people close to you.

Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s to your health *clink*

Health and Longevity

Two people died during the Philadelphia marathon yesterday. One was 21 and collapsed at the finish line. The other was 39 and collapsed about a quarter of a mile before the finish line.

The 39-year-old is a friend of a Facebook friend, so I know a bit about him.

He was an Ironman. In case you don’t know what an Ironman triathlon is: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run (marathon). He finished one in the spring in just over 10 hours. (That’s a really good time.)

In short, he was in good shape.

He wasn’t the guy you expected to die of a heart attack right before the finish line. (I know nothing of his history, of his other life habits, etc.)

And then this morning in my RSS feed, there was a blog post about keeping healthy, written by an older woman who has been taking good care of herself for decades and is in good shape, while watching people around her slowly crumble and fall apart. She acknowledges that some of that can be attributed to good genes but that it is mainly attributable to taking care of herself.

I agree. And the more science looks into it, the more science agrees.

(Yes yes yes, there are always exceptions. Everyone knows a 92-year-old guy who has smoked for the last 85 years, or a 20-year-old picture of perfect health who gets seriously ill and/or dies out of nowhere.)

I read only the first 15 or so comments on that blog post, but everyone said that really, it’s all genetic and she’s just lucky.

This makes me frustrated and sad.

Really, each person needs to be responsible for their own health and wellness. Do things happen that are out of our control? Sure. Do things happen that are a result of “in our control but not in a realistic way”? Yup. But most of the problems in most of our bodies today are a direct result of what/how much we eat and drink, and how much we move (or don’t move) our bodies.

That said, you all know I’m a pretty healthy person. I eat a fair amount of produce, I eat very little in the way of white flour products. Off and on, I look to restrict processed foods at all. I read labels and have a list of ingredients that I don’t put in my body. I avoid chemicals in many ways, both for me and for our baby.

Most people who know me just know that’s how I am, and it is what it is. Some ask me for information or advice sometimes. Some challenge me on various things sometimes. Most don’t say anything one way or the other.

It’s a different group of people who sometimes make me anxious. The ones who are sure that all of this stuff is a bunch of crap. Organics are a waste of money, plastics aren’t dangerous (to your body or the earth), etc., etc.

They bother me not because I’m insecure in my position on most things (still learning about the rest!) but because I feel pressure to be successful. Because if something happens, I am the “proof” that all of that stuff means nothing.

This was a large source of silent anxiety when I was pregnant, and it’s a minor source of anxiety with The Kid.

It’s fairly unfounded anxiety — these are not people whose opinion I’m going to sway. I will either be “proof” or be dismissed. But it exists anyway.

When I went to see the cardiologist a while back, he said that people who exercise generally have healthier hearts than people who don’t, but that I’m more likely to die while exercising than other times. Makes for a fun paradox of sorts.

So which side of the fence are you on? Do you think that eating well and exercising generally lead to longer, healthier lives, or do you think it’s all genetic and we will be what we will be?

Letter To My Younger Self

MizFit posted My letter to a littler misfit. on Wednesday; it inspired me to write my own.

(my high school senior picture)

Dear Self,

Your life’s path has so many twists and turns. You can plan, but most of those plans aren’t going to work out.

In college, you’re going to ditch your long hair, lose your religion, and gain a lot of weight. You will go from extremely passive and complacent to near the other end of the spectrum, and it will take you a while to find a comfortable middle ground. You find a good space, but you alienate some people along the way.

You will have significant stretches of extreme loneliness. You will learn a lot from them but not until much later. You will make a small assortment of (fairly minor) bad decisions in an effort not to be lonely. Therapy will help, but the first four therapists will not be worth the time or money. You will become comfortable in your own skin; it takes some time.

Eventually, you’ll figure out how to manage your finances. You’re not bad with the little stuff, and you’re not much of a shopper, but you do make some major bad decisions that will take a very long time to repair.

Don’t drive home after the show. You’re too tired.

(this is what happens when you sleep and drive — no alcohol was involved)

Opening a retirement account as soon as you start working would be wise. Living in Arizona for a year before starting grad school (so your tuition is in-state) would also be wise. Oh — and don’t buy a house right after you get married. The housing market is in a bubble and houses will be a lot cheaper if you wait a couple of years.

You will thrive teaching elementary band, giving clinics at state conferences and writing your own curriculum. Landing a gig in inner-city Phoenix will teach you about yourself, your privilege, politics, and socioeconomics in a way that nothing else does.

Eventually, you will clean up your eating and start to care about “all that healthy shit.” Your disgusting diet will turn vegetarian. You’ll crave vegetables. Fried foods will make you physically sick. You’ll lose 80 pounds. You’ll have a sizable working knowledge of GMOs, BPA, “natural flavors” and other unsavory food supply practices that aren’t anywhere close to on your radar right now.

You’ll wash your hair with baking soda and wear shoes with toes.

“Run when chased” will turn into triathlons.

That’s a lot of words to be eatin’.

These things that formerly were so repugnant and stupid to you not only become part of your career, but they become part of you and define your lifestyle.

The cancer journey is slightly terrifying, but it’s not the bumpiest part of your journey and it gives you “street cred.”

One constant? The road is twisty and rarely can you see more than a few feet in front of you. What changes is how you experience it.

And no, Arizona isn’t a big sand box. Different kind of desert.

Fondly,

Your older, wiser, happier Self

Couch to 5K

It’s Wednesday! Today’s post is by Nichol.

I always say I hate running. I don’t think I really do. There have been nights that I have come home from work or school and just gone out to run, alone. It hasn’t happened very often and it’s not usually a very long run, but I feel like I cleaned out some mental space by the time I get back home.

With that in mind, I have re-started the Couch to 5K program. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s exactly what the title says it is. It helps you move from the couch to running a 5K. It’s not a antic potion (I wish) but it baby steps your running up to running a full 5K. With me, it’s more like jogging a 5K, but my snail like running pace is beside the point.

When my sister Rachel and I first started, last year, we got to week 5 (the program lasts 9 weeks), and then we stopped. We would randomly pick it up here and there, but it was pretty much over. I even took the app off my phone. But now I’ve totally stopped doing anything and even my eating has slid. Still not eating fast food, but I’m no longer really paying attention to what I put in my body. I kept thinking that I’ve conditioned myself and I can manage without tracking food and doing random hikes or boxing classes now and then.

But I haven’t reached my goal, my body is no longer transforming. I am not satisfied. I still need to lose about 80 pounds and I need to be in shape. So here goes the next (third? Fiftieth?) recommitment. I’m in it to win it. I feel that desire again, which is nice. I would like to be at my goal weight by my 33rd birthday. Which gives me nine months. Which is 8.88888888 lbs a month. Totally doable.

I will be running, taking some more yoga and boxing classes, trying to squeeze in some Zumba, biking, and hiking.

If you have some fabulous ideas, or you want to come do some physical exercise with me, let me know. Leave a comment and let’s all recommit together.

Change is possible. I started the change before, I just need to finish it.

No Pain, No Gain?

I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase “no pain, no gain.” And you probably have an opinion about it — either that it’s true all the way or it’s complete crap.

Both are right. And both are wrong.

If you are sedentary and you sneak in some extra movement into your day — parking at the far end of the lot, taking the stairs, etc. — you are definitely gaining without much (any?) pain. Beyond that is a different story.

If you are lifting weights and your muscles never burn or fatigue during your workout, you’re not getting much done. Sure, it’s movement, and it’s better than sitting on the couch, but don’t you want to maximize return on your time?

If you can get through all of your sets and reps of any exercise with no burn, you need to increase the weight or the reps. Pain = progress (to a point).

For a straight cardio workout, you should sweat. Yes, this seems obvious, but a former roommate of mine used to claim that the gym just didn’t work for him. With a little questioning, it turned out that he’d spend a lot of time on the treadmill but never break a sweat because he didn’t like to sweat. Problem wasn’t the gym, it was the gym member…

Pain, in the “muscles burning” sense, is good. You can push through that kind of pain.

However, that is very different from “I’m injured” pain, which is not good and should not be pushed through.

What’s the difference?

“Good pain” is a burning sensation. If you’re not sure what I mean, try this: hold your arms out to the sides, parallel with the floor, elbows straight. Before long, you will feel the burn: good pain.

“Bad pain” is everything else including sharp pains and excessive tension. These are not “push through it” pains and should be heeded as signs that something is wrong.

Make sense?

So “no pain, no gain” is true, as long as it’s the right kind of pain.

One week later…

It’s Wednesday! Today’s post is by Nichol.

First things first: happy birthday to my second to last little sister (the 8th) and to my mom (the 9th)!

My tri post last week was LAME. Sorry about that. I wrote it the same day and then spent some time recuperating. Hope you didn’t feel too gypped. Let me take you back a week or so and be a little more descriptive.

So the three or so days before, I had a constant feeling of nausea and dread. The morning of the tri was awful. I woke up around 3:45, even though I set the alarm for 4:15. Probably the first time in my life I didn’t hit the snooze button 5 or 6 times. I was relatively okay as I was getting ready. Braided my hair, worried about a swim cap, drank some coffee, just stayed busy. I was really emotional as the time got closer. I cried when my sister didn’t get up to go with me, but my best friend (20 years and counting) come over and we left.

As long as I was doing something I was ok. Setting the bike up, thinking about the pool water, chit chatting with participants and spectators, that kept me occupied. My friend Tracy was participating in the maxi, and it was nice to have someone there, doing it with me, and who had done it before. I got teary again during the race meeting and then the kids were off and swimming.

I spent about 20 minutes hopping from foot to foot, and my mom made the very astute observation: “are you a little nervous, Nichol?”

Aside from Tracy, and Janna (the aforementioned best friend), my mom, dad, and youngest sister were there. I also had two other fine ladies there, one was armed with a very fancy camera. Thank god I didn’t see that until I was in the pool.

I did almost drown in the pool. I had to stand up and cough a ton of water out. And to the lady who said “oh, it feels like bathwater”? I am going to punch you right in your esophagus. That water was COLD. Bathwater, my ass. Coldness and near drowning aside, I swam a quarter of a mile in 6:10. I was banking on 15. I think at least a minute of that was trying to get up the ladder at the end.

The bike was good. 8 miles on a mountain bike was good for me, not so much for my butt cheeks. The only truly awful part of the biking was Brown Road. You would never know it in a car, but on a bike the very subtle incline was very noticeable and killer. 80th St and Adobe was great. I was cruising. Biking was done in 57:29. Totally what I was expecting due to my snail like biking abilities.

And let’s all give a big thank you to the triathlon gods that kept me on my feet as I tried my rolling/running bike dismount. I knew that was a mistake but I couldn’t help myself. My legs turned all jello-y under me but then I saw Trish’s big damn paparazzi camera and knew that she would gleefully take 100 pictures of me on the ground. (I would not have been offended, I would have made them Facebook profile pics).

Then I ran. Well, I did take my sweet time putting my bike away, but then I walked. Yup, walked a good portion of what should have been a run. Half mile. Usually that’s nothing but after swimming and biking, my legs didn’t want to do anything. I performed my sad little jog/stroll in the beginning but I picked up my pace when I realized people were waiting for me and it would be time to eat pancakes…a lot of pancakes. My run was 9:38.

Overall time was 1:13:17. I was anticipating 1:45:00 so I was pleased.

And the million dollar question: to do or not to do another triathlon?

Quick and dirty answer? Nope. Of course! Especially if people continue to buy me breakfast food afterwards.

Two Quick Running Tips

The weather has cooled off here in Phoenix. As a result, many more joggers at more skill levels are seen at all times of day.

There are two mistakes I consistently want the slower (newer?) runners to adjust:

Relax your shoulders

We have a tendency to raise our shoulders all the time, but particularly when we’re engaged in something physical … like running. A long time ago, I posted about shoulders here.

Swing your arms front to back

When you walk or run, your arms help give you momentum. I see quite a few joggers swinging their arms across their bodies. Let your arms swing front to back without crossing in front of your body. That way, they are helping you move in the direction you are trying to move. It will also stop you from twisting your upper body so much. Why expend energy on useless motion?

Two very do-able things for all fitness and skill levels. Try them and let me know if you notice a difference!

Yippee and Ow.

It’s Wednesday! Today’s post is by Nichol.

So it’s done. First triathlon is under my belt. I’m writing this about 11 hours after I finished. I’m exhausted, my legs are screaming, and I think that I have never felt better.

The plan was to finish in under 1:45:00. I’m a new tri-er and I don’t bike, swim, or run very fast. My final time was 1:13:17. It was a mini-tri, and I am so happy I did a mini to begin with.

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