Posts Tagged ‘exercise’

It Was All in My Head

June 8, 2010

In my continuing quest to take my life back and own my body, rather than being controlled by my body, I made a momentous decision.  I committed to training with a group of Cancer Survivors to participate in the Danskin Triathlon.  Little did I know how profound that decision would be.

At almost 90 pounds over my ideal weight, way into middle age (55 years old) and a body experiencing the difficulties that accumulate from life (back injury, surgery, broken bones, etc.), I got off my rather expansive butt and decided to do something different.

Like many overweight people, I was uncomfortable with the thought of working out with “athletes” and figured I would be “different”, perhaps even laughed at or, at best,  tolerated and I knew I would not be able to keep up with most, if not all, of the others in the group, but I put that aside and did it anyway.  What I discovered: all of that was in my own head.  No one laughed, no one tolerated, no one “put up” with the fat girl.  They were supportive and enthusiastic and willingly accommodating.  The coaches, the other participants, everyone just wanted to see everyone else succeed.  How incredible!

So, train I did.  For 12 weeks.  And then, the day of the Danskin arrived (I would say dawned, but the Danskin started long before dawn).  We arrived in the dark (5 am) to set up for the day. The triathlon included a 1/2 mile lake swim, a 12 mile bike ride (open road, hills, you name it) and a 3.1 mile walk/run on grass through fields and over dale.  Oh, yeah.  Did I mention I have asthma?

But, what I really want to share is that I DID IT.  Those people I was so afraid would laugh at me and be so much better than me–the ones that often, in my mind, kept me from making the choice to make a difference–those people didn’t laugh at me or abandon me.  Those people stayed with me and supported me and allowed me to support them, each in our own way.  And, we all finished.  It took 3 hours, 58 minutes and 43 seconds to finish the course and finish it we did. I did it while still almost 75 pounds overweight, 55 years old and with all the same problems, but I DID IT.

It brought home to me how ridiculous the self talk and embarrassment and all the reasons I gave myself to not do something are.  It was all in MY head.  Everyone has something they must overcome and everyone has the talk in their head.  The key is to step outside the internal chatter and just do it (do I sound like a Nike commercial here?).  I know, at least for me, it was easier said than done.  But then, I look at the wonderful people who journey with cancer and journey with obesity and journey with asthma and journey with back injuries (you get the idea), and still do it.

And, now, I, too, am one of those people.  And you can be too.

Come join me on the journey to just do it, to take control back over your life and your body and please, along the way, share your journey so we can experience your triumphs and support you and welcome you back to a place of controlling your own destiny.

P.S.  This post is dedicated to Capital of Texas Team Survivor.  You go, ladies! You are incredible.

Lack of core muscle flexibility could indicate blood pressure problems

May 16, 2010

The ability to stretch and touch our toes has long been an indicator of overall flexibility, but now it might also be a tool to determine the risk of blood pressure and cardiovascular problems.

Blood pressure is a measure of how flexible and stretchable the arteries of the body are.  Arteries carry the blood containing oxygen and nutrients from the heart throughout the body.  The amount of stretchability and flexibility of the arteries determines how hard the heart must work to push the blood throughout the body.  Stiff arteries make the heart work much harder.  This leads to increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

Testing for arterial rigidity and stiffness usually requires special equipment available only in specialized doctor’s office, hospitals and labs.  But in a study by Kenta Yamamoto, Hiroshi Kawano, Yuko Gando, Mitsuru Higuchi, et. al, published in the American Journal of Physiology – Heart and Circulatory Physiology October 2009, research indicates that in middle and older age (40 + years), core muscle flexibility, as measured by the  “sit-and-reach” test, may be a simple method of determining arterial flexibility and risk for heart attack and stroke. (A summary of the study can be found at Medical News Today).

There are many theories why muscle flexibility and arterial flexibility are related, but a number of studies have indicated that decreasing flexibility in the muscles of the low back and core in middle age and older age  correlates to  decreased flexibility of the muscles of the vascular system, leading to increased blood pressure.  The relationship does not appear to apply to people younger than 40.

So, what does this mean?  The researchers suggest that incorporating stretching, such as yoga or Pilates, into daily routines could have a significant impact on heart and circulatory health, especially for those over 40. “These findings suggest a possibility that improving flexibility induced by the stretching exercise may be capable of modifying age-related arterial stiffening in middle-aged and older adults,” Dr. Yamamoto said. “We believe that flexibility exercise, such as stretching, yoga and Pilates, should be integrated as a new recommendation into the known cardiovascular benefits of regular exercise.”

There are many yoga and pilates classes designed for middle age and older adults that  help increase flexibility while accommodating injuries, etc.  Some are also available online to make it easy to do from home.  For some suggestions, check out Abby Lentz at HeartFelt Yoga or Kate Wodash at Mindful Body Center.

Good-bye Lynn Redgrave–Rest in Peace

May 5, 2010

Lynn Redgrave (for more about her, see blog in Ms. Magazine)  is gone after a 7 year journey with breast cancer.  How powerful and how sad, and how close to home that hits for so many of us.  Breast cancer is so sneaky and tenacious.  How brave are those who journey with this companion–who know so many who have travelled long with breast cancer as a companion, but also know many who have travelled but a short time.  It always brings our mortality home when someone who is journeying with cancer dies, but it is especially poignant for those who have experienced the journey themselves.

It is critical that we stay aware and focused on the steps necessary to prevent the journey with this disease–for all.  Ladies, get your mammograms, remember monthly self exams, get your pap smears, do whatever it takes to catch it early on the journey. And men, you are not exempt from self exams and tests.  Better yet, take action to prevent it in the first place–eat healthy foods, stop smoking or don’t start, check your vitamin D levels and supplement if necessary, know your family history and risk factors.

The journey with cancer is becoming way too common.  Please don’t join us on the journey.  As my friend Barbara, one of the founders of Capital of Texas Team Survivor said yesterday to a new member “We are glad you are here but sorry you qualify.”  Our wish would be that no one else need join this group and that we can get to know you without having to travel this journey with cancer together.

So, Lynn, may your journey shed light and hope and save lives.  Rest in peace.

NOTE: The photo is by her daughter Annabel Clark, August 2003, after surgery, chemo and radiation.

Side effects may include…and for me they do!

April 28, 2010

Have you ever listened to a drug commercial and after hearing the possible side effects wondered who would take the drug? The tone of the commercial or insert would lead you to believe that the side effects are rare.  I question how rare they can be.  After all, a side effect is like a weed.  It is only a side effect because it isn’t the reason you are taking the drug–just like a weed is a weed because it isn’t growing where you want it.

For a complete explanation, you can check out this Medterms website

Let’s use Aspirin as an example.   Aspirin does a lot of things in the body.  It makes the blood thinner and decreasing clotting, it relieves pain, it lowers fever, and it decreases inflammation.  If you are taking an aspirin a day for heart health, you are taking it to decrease clotting.  If you are taking if for head ache, you are taking it for pain.  However, the aspirin doesn’t know you only want it to relieve the pain, so if you are taking it for a headache, it still decreases your clotting and decreases inflammation.  Those are the side effects.

It turns out, I seem to notice and experience side effects of almost every medication I have to take.  But, you know, those side effects can be sneaky and subtle and can easily be confused for another problem.  It takes diligence to read the inserts and know how the medication’s side effects can be experienced.  Too often, the side effect is treated as a separate problem and a new medicine is prescribed to relieve the symptom, when really it only required a different medication in the first place.

This can be tricky, though, if a person is taking a number of medications, like I am.  As I was reviewing my recent symptoms (thank you to all my friends for pointing out that I have been complaining of them for a while and needed to do something about them), I have come to realize that the side effects of several of my medications are all the same.

All I can say, is Good Luck Docs, in figuring out which ones to change.

In the meantime, I am doing everything in my power to take my health back and do away with all these unhealthy chemicals called drugs.

The switch from “want to want to” to “want to”.

April 21, 2010

I don’t know what switch was turned on for me.  For years I have been overweight and frustrated by it, and complained about it, and threatened to so something about it, but it was more of a want to want to than an actual want to.  I knew it was unhealthy and I knew I “should” do something about it (I am really good at “shoulding” on myself).  Many of my friends were, and are,  very encouraging, but still I did nothing.

Then the cancer was diagnosed (a cancer that is fed and supported in its development by the excess estrogen produced in fat cells) and still I wanted to want to but did nothing.  I talked about doing something, I laid elaborate plans for things I would do that I didn’t do.  I even joined a gym and kind of went, but didn’t really push it much while I was there.

I got the operation report for my cancer surgery and read all about the problems encountered and actions taken as a result of my obesity, but still could only find the “want to want to” in myself.  I attended support groups, nutritional counseling and in-depth workshops.  They all supported my fantasy that I was doing something, but I was still not moving my body nor changing my eating.

Then, one day, I was.  I signed up to participate in training for a triathlon (the Danskin) and I knew I would probably be the heaviest and most out of shape person there (I still am) and it was scary and uncomfortable and yet, suddenly, I was willing to go.  I was suddenly willing to do what it takes to take control back over my life, my body, my health–everything.  I wish I could pinpoint what made the switch turn on.  If I could do that, I could make a fortune turning everyone elses “want to want to” to a “want to”.  But I can’t.  All I know is that finding a set goal and a set group of people who could provide the tools without judgment to get me there, who could see for me what I couldn’t see for and in myself, has been a huge part of it.  It would seem that in my endless planning and attempting that I actually put myself in the way of the answer for me.

So, I am training (not as hard as some of the others, but training none the less) 5 days a week.  And, while not a flattering picture of me in any way, here is proof that it doesn’t matter how big I am or how out of shape I am, I CAN DO IT if I just decide to. And so can you, when you decide.

I would love to hear about your journey from “want to want to” to “want to.”

Eating out doesn’t mean eating unhealthy.

April 19, 2010

Eating out doesn’t mean eating unhealthy foods, or giving up on the cleanse.  Eating on the cleanse has been fun and pretty simple and easy the past several weeks.  And with minimal appearances by lettuce during that time.  But, there comes a times when eating out is on the agenda and it can seem daunting to eat out, enjoy the meal with others and still eat healthily.  That was my challenge this past weekend.

With family visiting from out of town (and one of them is a chef, so knows good food) and a schedule that was a little on the time constraint side, it might have seemed a challenge to eat foods on the cleanse without eating lettuce salads. But, most restaurants offer something that fits the bill.  Now, I will admit that in some smaller towns, finding vegetarian fare that isn’t based around salads might be more challenging than in a big city, but you can always ask for what works for you.

Friday evening was a stay-home-finish-laundry-get-the-house-ready evening.  And after a full week of work, the food needed to be easy and comforting.  So, what is easier than vegetarian fried rice and my favorite fast food, spring rolls.  Warm and flavorful rice and cool and easy spring rolls with a rich peanut sauce.  My idea of a healthy take out meal.  Yum.  But easy to make at home also.

Then, lunch out at a wonderful, local, Interior Mexican cuisine restaurant here in Austin–Sázon. Lots of healthy choices on the menu, but how could I pass up Calabazitas Rellenas–steamed tender squash stuffed with roasted corn and serve with fresh roasted tomato salsa. Light and healthy and delicious.   Then dinner that evening at Kerbey Lane with potato flautas, guacamole and pico de gallo.  While the flautas are deep fried, they are far from greasy and it was wonderful warm food during a cool thunderstorm.

Finally, Sunday morning brunch at 24 Diner for divine slow cooked steel cut oatmeal with apples and brown sugar and vegetarian sausage (made from beets and lentils and rice and flaxseed).  I am going to search for this recipe.  It was delicious.

Then back to cooking at home again last night.  A rainy, cool day just begged for a warming hearty stew, so it was time for Green Chile Stew and garlic toast (wheat free bread of course).  How warming and comforting and just plain good.

Now, on the third week of the cleanse, it might be time to add in some lettuce.  But, then again, maybe not.

Meltdowns and other manifestations of fatigue and stress

April 16, 2010

I was recently reading the blog from Cancer Bitch about meltdowns and thought it was incredibly timely.  I, too, have been in meltdown.  And, for no good reason.  Except fatigue and stress.  It doesn’t feel acceptable to blame the cancer or the treatment, even though i want to, kind of.  My treatment was over almost 15 months ago.  Supposedly, the cancer is gone. But, nonetheless, I just wanted to cry. And cry. And pull the covers up and cry.

True, I am training to participate in my first Danskin triathlon. And the training is hard and my body is fighting back and I am exhausted and I hurt and I am totally graceless and awkward and frustrated and resigned and you name it. And then, yesterday I just wanted to cry. For no particular reason. I just wanted to cry. And I can’t blame it on treatment or chemo or anything. And, it has been 15 months and I should be ok and, and, and…… But I just wanted to cry. But, of course,  I didn’t cry because I didn’t have a reason.

Interesting how I had to have a reason–a socially acceptable reason- to allow myself to feel and express that feeling.  I wonder if some of the fatigue I am feeling comes from my unwillingness to just feel what I feel. Why, I wonder, do I need to have permission and validation to have and express feelings?  How interesting it is that I assume that because I am not currently in treatment or actively manifesting the disease that I should believe that would be the only reason I can use to justify a meltdown.  I can’t just feel stressed and fatigued because I am working hard to catch up on debt from medical treatments or a down economy, or stressed because I am eating differently and moving my body more, or stressed because I am taking on several new projects, including writing a book and presenting a number of workshops.  For some reason, I believe I should be able to handle all of these without being stressed. What???!!!  What is that all about?

What I am realizing is that life is stressful without journeying with cancer.  We all feel stress and everyone has a right to feel that and express it.  If it means crying, then by crying.  If it means cuddling and sleeping, then by cuddling and sleeping.  Meltdowns are the body’s way of saying “you aren’t dealing with this.  You have forgotten to take care of me.”

Once I realized that expressing what I am feeling is the first step in taking care of me, last night I chose to just cry.

And then, today, in the mail, I got the results from my most recent cancer screen and it was negative.  And, for a moment, I thought “See, I have a reason to be stressed.  I was waiting for these results.” Perhaps.  But, do I really need a justified reason—still?

Maybe.

Some thoughts about fear.

April 13, 2010

Cancer is a scary word. Cancer is a scary thing.  Living with cancer is often a life of uncertainty, a loss of control and, some would say, scary.  But so many of us (all of us?) live with fear. And it is interesting how our decisions are so influenced by fear.  Not just those living with cancer, but all of us.  And even before we found cancer, we often found ourselves living in fear.

Recently, on a street very close to my house, several people waiting for a bus were killed when a driver lost control of his car on a curve and hit them.  Fear totally directed that young man’s decisions in driving that car.  Out of fear of not being important or good enough, he challenged another driver to race him at the stoplight.  He had to prove himself to a total stranger to feel good enough out of fear of not being enough. He was doing 80 miles an hour when he got to the curve posted for 35.  He ended up justifying his fear–he killed two people and injured another.  Wow! Fear of not being good enough led him to make choices that reinforced the feeling of not being good enough.

But, for most of us the decisions we make are much more subtle. One of my friends recently purchased a gift for her nephew’s birthday.  She spent a lot of time thinking about the perfect gift, then found a small local store to purchase the item from. It was an electric guitar.  After a lot of discussion with the store owner, she purchased a guitar that was in stock rather than order the exact one she wanted and, while it wasn’t exactly what she had envisioned it, she was very happy with it.  Until she got home.  The more she thought about what she had wanted and what she had purchased, the more she wished she had ordered the one she original envisioned.  But, she was too afraid to take it back.  She would have purchased one from another store before taking it back because “she was embarrassed and afraid to look stupid.”  Her fear wound up costing her several hundred dollars.

So, perhaps most of us would have taken the guitar back. But how many times each day do we make choices out of fear.  Fear of not being good enough, fear of not having enough, fear of being unworthy or unlikable or unloved?  Every time we hold back, every time we take the easy way out, we can trace it to fear.  Yesterday, I finally made a phone call that has been on my to do list for a week–just because I felt afraid.  Once I made the call, it was actually pretty easy.

I used to hold myself back from exercise or active events out of fear–fear I would look stupid, fear I would be awkward, fear I wouldn’t be as good as every one else. Wow! I would compromise my own health out of fear. Fear of being embarrassed due to being out of shape and overweight led me to make decisions to not exercise to get into shape. (Not really much different than the young man in the car, really.)And the interesting thing is, I am not alone.  I have met many and know many people who have the same fear based decision making pattern. People who are struggling financially who don’t open bills when they come, people who are having a hard time getting customers who are afraid to go to networking meetings, people who are having slow sales but are afraid to do calls.  Our fears just reinforce our beliefs that lead to the fear.  But how incredible when we bypass the fear and just do it (ok, so I stole that from Nike:)).

I finally committed to a training program.  And, while it certainly isn’t always comfortable (I am the heaviest and most out of shape in the group) and I often cannot do what everyone else can, I have learned to laugh at myself in a gentle way.  And, it really isn’t as bad in reality as it is in my mind.  IF you could have seen me last night trying to balance on the bosu, you would have cracked up.  As did I.  And guess what! No one else in the group even cared.  They were too worried about what they were doing to laugh at me.  And that is the key.  People really are much less judgmental toward us than we are to ourselves.

(BTW, this is not me on the bosu.   I only wish I was this steady on it–I could barely stay on it with both feet:))

So, where does fear hold you back? Where could you find one fear to bypass today and just do it?

You don’t control me–cancer! I have control again.

March 30, 2010

Cancer is such a betrayal.  We wake up every morning and expect our body to function.  Even when we feel sick, we trust that our body will heal and we will eventually feel better–that our body has the ability to continue functioning. I think that is why we are so startled and fearful when we suddenly trip and fall, or try to lift something and find we don’t have the strength.  We live in the assumption our body is a tool that works all the time.  It is startling to find it sometimes doesn’t.

Cancer can be even more unsettling. Not only does the body not work correctly as expected, but the body has actually turned on it self and is in self-destruct mode.  It certainly left me with a feeling of having no control–my body was set to kill itself and I was along for the ride.  Of course, there were decisions to make and things I could do to take control over the cancer, but the questions remained: when would my body decide to self-destruct again?  After all, it had made the choice once, it could make it again.  It can be easy to give up our power to make a difference with questions like this floating through our mind.

I have been in this space for almost a year and finally realized I had given up my power to make a difference–to work with my body to let it know how honored it is, how important I believe it to be and to love it by taking care of it.

To take back that control, I committed to training with other cancer survivors for the Danskin triathlon in June.  The training started 2 weeks ago and, while I am sore and realizing how poorly I had been treating my body, it has been incredibly empowering to know I am taking control of my body once again.

I invite you to share in my journey as I take control of my own life, body and health.  For those who have found ways to take control of their bodies after illness or injury, I would love to hear your stories.

Taking back my health

March 25, 2010

I have discovered an interesting phenomenon.  I discovered that, even though I consciously decided I wanted to be healthier and more energetic and to just plain feel better, I was stuck in actions that did not support that result.  And I would become very frustrated at myself and my lack of will power and my “laziness”, but that didn’t motivate me to change anything.  I suspect I am not the only person to experience this.

So, I wondered, why do I say I want it and I really believe I want it, yet won’t do anything about it?  And, I came up with many different answers to that question.

  • I don’t know where to start.
  • I am so confused with so many people giving such different advice
  • I am just too tired
  • I am too old to do the things I used to do.
  • I don’t want to hurt myself
  • It really isn’t important in the scheme of things
  • If I can just accept myself where I am, I should be happy and things will happen naturally.

I am sure you can think of others.

But, I knew all those answers weren’t the truth.  I knew because I had been faced with a life threatening illness-cancer.  And I knew that many of the factors that can lead to cancer were factors I had–sedentary life style, obese, poor sleeping habits, high sugar intake, high stress.  I did have some things in my favor, however.  I had, and still have, a strong support network and community that allows me to be real, a taste for and desire to make healthy foods, and an understanding of how important all the things I was missing were to my health. Still, a year after my cancer treatment, I had not taken action to change the things that could help prevent the cancer from recurring and I had to ask myself–why?

Over the next year I am challenging myself to take action on those things that I know do not support my health and I am going to share my journey in the hopes it can help others join me on the journey to take back our health.