Fall cleaning

Posted: August 19, 2014 in diet, fitness, food, hormones, women
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“Spring cleaning” is a tradition for some. The windows, the carpet, the blinds and curtains, suuuuper fun stuff like that. I used to do it every spring, back when I was regimented about such things. These days, I clean when things get dirty, when I have time, and when I’m motivated. Those things don’t align often. That’s probably why my house has pet hair tumbleweed everywhere and why I can barely see through the dirt on my upstairs windows. Who wants to get on a freaking ladder?

During the last few weeks, though, I’m finding myself in a “fall cleaning” mode, partly with the house but also with my life in general. Maybe it’s because of school starting, but I think other things are in play here.

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Token photo of my youngest on his first day of Kindergarten.

As I wrote about here, I have been going through some hormonal changes and getting help from Dr. Heather Walker at Advanced Wellness to get things in order inside my body. In that last post, I wrote that I had lost seven pounds in the process. That number has since climbed to 12, and I couldn’t be happier. I’m now holding steady at my goal weight that I set about five years ago, which I honestly didn’t think was reachable. The toxins in my body have been cleaned out, and I’m finally happy with my body and my life.

During all the tweaking with my supplements to get my hormones happy again, I began to lack motivation for, well, anything. It started seeping into my workouts, which hadn’t happened in years. I was on the verge of adrenal fatigue. Though I still dragged myself to the gym, my workouts weren’t quite as tough, and I sometimes cut them short. I stopped prepping meals. I didn’t communicate well: with my husband, my kids, my coworkers, my friends. I felt constantly annoyed with everyone and everything.

Then, about two or three weeks ago, I finally felt refreshed. I am less annoyed. I have new gym workouts that are KICKING MY ASS. I sleep well and begin my day with energy again. I’m cooking again. My home and work lives are much more enjoyable. And this week, I started cleaning.

It’s all tied in together, you see. If you’re tired all the time, there’s something wrong. If you’re fighting with your spouse all the time, there’s something wrong. If you have no motivation, there’s something wrong. Don’t chalk  it up to “being old” (because you’re probably not old so don’t even use that excuse. ever) or busy or whatever. It’s likely your diet, your lack of exercise and/or sleep and, of course, your hormones. Find the source, take steps to fix it and you’ll be happy, refreshed and CLEAN.

And yay for the kids going back to school!

 

First, the good news. I’ve lost seven pounds in the last month. The bad news: six of those pounds were muscle.

In early May, I started seeing Dr. Heather Walker at Advanced Wellness to see what was going on with my hormones. I’ve known for some time that things weren’t right because 1) despite all my work, the fat was not coming off below the waist, 2) I’ve struggled with perimenopausal symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings, and 3) a myriad of other issues ranging from sleep to allergies.

Through fascinating testing, she discovered that my endocrine system, ovaries, sinuses, and other areas weren’t functioning properly. So Dr. Heather put me on a regimen of several different herbal supplements. The hope is that these supplements will straighten things out, then I can live without them. She’s tweaked things along the way, based on my feedback and further testing. It’s been a process, for sure. But many things have improved. Some have not. I trust it just takes time. After all, it took years of not taking care of myself to get to this point. The fix won’t be quick.

supplementsWhy do you care? Because hormones are king. You can work your butt off in the gym, eat clean, meditate and live green, but still struggle to lose weight, suffer from depression or have digestive issues. I’ve seen a meme on social media that basically says, “exercise, eat right, it’s that simple.” Well, no, it’s not simple. Hormones are very complex, and I don’t fully understand them. If you struggle despite feeling like you’re doing everything right, find someone like Dr. Heather.

Now, the weight loss is an exciting result. But when my trainer gave me the latest numbers from my body fat measurement, I was more than frustrated. I expected the weight loss would translate into fat loss, especially because I could see a difference below the waist. But I felt deflated when he told me most of that loss was muscle. Sure, there are worse things I could go through than to lose muscle. I still have plenty of it. But considering the style of workouts I do, the fact that I lost muscle was a shock. That’s what I do: I build muscle. So, what? How?

Well, it later occurred to me that here’s how: I’ve slacked on my diet. Not that I’ve been eating crap, but I haven’t been eating enough. Specifically, I haven’t been eating enough protein. My motivation to cook and to cook in big batches has waned. I’m not always getting my post-workout protein shake, which I swear by. Some don’t believe in protein shakes, and that’s fine. But if you don’t get protein into your body ASAP after your workout, your muscles will catabolize. Those of us who work out five, six, seven days a week need to get even more of it than the average person. My goal is 90 grams of protein a day. I’m vegetarian, so that makes it even more challenging. But I found ways to get it before through greek yogurt, cottage cheese, almond and coconut milk, nuts, beans, and protein powders. So I just have to stay focused and motivated.

I am a continual work in progress. So are you. The key is to keep working hard and push through the frustration. Health and happiness are worth it.

 

 

I attended a couple of workshops this weekend for continuing education credits on my group exercise instructor certification. One was on foam rolling, which I’ve learned a bit about lately and have found the foam roller to be an awesome tool for muscle recovery. The other was on small group training.

The instructor for the latter was more interested in his own agenda and didn’t really follow the course outline. He was all about safety, so that’s fine. Some of the tangents he went on were valid and educated. That was fine, too. He told us the right way to do shoulder presses (hint: not like you’ve been doing them). He told us that stretching post-exercise was useless. He told us not to do the sit-and-reach stretch for the hamstrings. He told us that it doesn’t matter if your knees pass your toes when doing squats. He was very experienced and knowledgeable, so I’ll give him his due. Also, I’ve heard some of that stuff elsewhere. I just didn’t learn much about how to lead small groups.

What I did learn – though unintended – was that there are so many experts with so many different opinions and thoughts on what is good and right in the world of fitness that it’s difficult for us to determine which way to go. Seems there’s always an article written by some expert on why something you previously thought was good is actually bad. This goes for food, too.

I’ve always heard and read that burpees are an awesome total body cardio exercise, for instance. Everyone loves to hate them. But we do them because they kick our butts and we feel a major burn, right? I read an article recently, however, that told me what a terribly dangerous exercise they were. They’ll ruin your back. Soooooo, now what?

I’m technically a fitness professional, but I’m often baffled by the constant contradictions. I think too many fitness experts are on a quest to make sure people know that they are the experts. “Listen to me, because I know my shit and that other joker doesn’t.” Others actually do know their shit – I mean, the science behind all this stuff – and just want you to be educated. Those are the ones I listen to.

I can’t tell you what’s right and wrong. But I will tell you what I do in these instances. I don’t simply say, “oh, heh, that one guy online said burpees were bad so I’m not doing them anymore.” I seek out those I know who have been credible sources of information for me in the past: my trainer, his bosses and certain fitness professionals online who have either been recommended to me or I’ve met and learned a lot from.

I also use my own common sense. You know that old joke that goes something like this: “heh, doc, it hurts when I do this.” Then the doctor says, “well, don’t do that”. Yep. If you have back pain when you do burpees, then don’t do them. If you have knee pain when you do squats, maybe your form is bad. And maybe don’t do them for awhile until the knee pain clears up. If you have shoulder pain, find exercises to do that don’t bother your shoulder. And, oh, I don’t know, maybe go see a doctor, chiropractor or other expert if the pain is chronic.

There is always new science in regards to health and fitness. Perhaps in 10 years, some of these things will be proven, I don’t know. That doesn’t mean that today’s science is wrong. It’s just constantly evolving.

Here are a few of my credible sources:

1) James Fryer, Stephen and Michelle Ladd at the Human Form

2) Eric Cressey

3) The Poliquin Group

4) Precision Nutrition

5) Wellness Mama

6) Metabolic Effect

Also a shout out to some of my fav inspirational and educational bloggers, fitness pros and Facebook peeps: Danny J of the Sweaty Betties, Liana Ryan of LRX Fitness, Jen Sinkler of Thrive as the Fittest, Nutrition Snob, and Busy Mom Gets Fit (Val Solomon). Check ‘em out on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

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I love my medal

So, yeah, I ran 13.1 miles last week.

I’m proud of that, yet I keep thinking, “but, …”

But I struggled the last two miles.

But my feet were killing me.

But my knees hurt.

But I was slow, finishing in 2:26.10.

But I finished 5,933 out of 8,311.

But I finished 214 out of 401 women in the 45-49 age group.

But I averaged just over an 11-minute mile, slower than I expected.

But, but, but. Most people who have congratulated me don’t care about my time or that I had a rough couple of miles. They think it’s awesome that I did it. My husband and my kids think I rock. Some of my friends think I’m badass.

But I know too many who judge and criticize. Negative thinkers abound in my world. I work in the newspaper industry, where cynicism rules. Perhaps I let these folks in my head. Maybe I’m one of them? Some days I feel badass, some days notsomuch. I am one of them.

Here’s how I’m going to use that mentality, though: I’m going to get better. I’m going to figure out why my feet were hurting and find a way to minimize that on long runs. I’m going to figure out how to get faster. I’m going to run this same half marathon next year, if not one in the fall. Can’t wait.

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Pre-race breakfast

But back to that 13.1.

I feel like I did everything right. I was in bed at 10:30 the night before, much earlier than my usual 1-2 a.m. schedule. I woke up at 5:30 a.m., had a good breakfast of two eggs, two slices of sprouted-grain bread with peanut butter and a banana. I got my gear on, then spent 30 minutes on foam rolling and active, yoga-type stretching. I was loose, wide awake and out the door at 7 a.m.

My energy level was fine. On my long training runs, I typically struggled around the eight-mile mark. A couple of times, I ran a 10-minute pace early on and paid for it later in the run. So I knew I needed to bring it down to 10:30 to keep from running out of steam early. I did so and felt great through six, seven and eight. Mile nine was actually my fastest (10.05), according to my Nike Plus app. I had a pack of organic energy chews, and popped in two every three miles, just like in training.

I entered Schiller Park, the scenic German Village square near Downtown Columbus, at mile 10 and my favorite song came on. So I sang and danced to “Happy” around the park at a good pace despite the intensifying ache in my knees. I thought I could probably pick up the pace at this point.

Then mile 11 hit and my feet seemed to be swelling up. My shoes felt tight on the tops of my feet and I wondered if I should stop and loosen them. I didn’t because I knew it would be that much tougher to get going again. I had put Vaseline on my toes to prevent chafing, which helped on my last two training runs. But my toes were kind of annoying me now.

Pretty soon, my achy knees were secondary to my achy, swelling feet. Then we started uphill. Damn those course organizers for ending the race on an incline.

My legs were kind of dragging by mile 12, but I wasn’t going to walk. My family, whom I saw twice along the route, later told me how great I looked at the first spot (around nine) then not so much at the second (12.5). When I saw them the second time, all I could yell was, “I’m almost done!”

Shortly after, we rounded a corner – uphill, of course – and I knew I was close. Finally, the adrenaline kicked in. Could’ve used that a bit earlier.

I picked up my pace significantly as I got to the top of that hill and rounded the last corner to come down the stretch. I passed a bunch of people and that felt freaking awesome. I actually felt emotional and heard myself say, “holy crap.”

I love my medal. It’s huge and it’s heavy and it hangs on a mirror in my kitchen. I achieved something pretty awesome.

But I’m going to get better. Any advice you can offer is welcome.

 

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My neighbors made this sign, which I saw as I drove down my street to come home.

 

 

Hey, did you know I’m running my first half marathon in two days?

That was facetious. I know you know because I’ve told you endlessly. But I don’t care because this is huge for me.

This past week, I’ve been full of nervous energy. I’m not so much scared as anxious. I trust my physical abilities. I know I can do this. A lot of people run these things all the time. It’s not like I’m climbing Machu Picchu. But, as I’ve said before, running is a new challenge for me. That’s only one reason why I’m anxious, though.

2014-03-10 14.18.04It occurred to me today that perhaps the other reason is that running this half marathon represents – more than anything else I’ve accomplished – how much progress I’ve made. More than dead lifting 175 pounds. More than finally being able to do one unassisted pull-up or slamming a sledgehammer on a giant tire (LOVE THAT!). I’ve always been strong and athletic, even in obesity. I’ve always loved muscle. I’ve always known I could get strong. Running 13.1 miles was never, ever on my radar. I only started running two years ago. I never thought I’d be able to run nonstop for more than two hours.

When I think about it, which I do often, I tear up. I’m emotional about it. Sure, some of that is middle-age female hormones. But I’ve gone from obesity to being fairly fit in five years. I turn 46 on the day of the half marathon and I swear I look and feel better than I did at 26. I like my ass in jeans. I like wearing fitted tops. I have endless energy and motivation.

A good friend complimented me the other day and told me I have nothing to be ashamed about. That meant a lot, not just because of who it came from but because, recently, I have been ashamed. I tried on a bikini a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t look away quick enough. Body image issues creep into my head, despite my progress. Such is the life of a woman, sadly.

But I’m proud. My Christian friends may remind me that pridefulness is a sin. I acknowledge that I have not reached these goals on my own. I am a Christian and I know that God has been on those long runs with me, even though I haven’t been all that faithful to Him. But I also know that I have worked pretty stinking hard to get here. And I’m proud of that. No sin in that.

I expect I’ll cry a bit on Saturday. Hell, I’m crying now. I won’t apologize for that nor will I be ashamed. Bring on my own personal Machu Picchu.

 

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After my 10-miler in a steady rain

Woo boy, I’m almost there. My half marathon is about two weeks away and I’m feeling the butterflies.

I ran my longest training run – 12 miles – today, and my legs are achy and tired. But I’ll continue to stretch and foam roll and hope to be fine on race day. Here‘s a post I wrote over on Dispatch.com about the importance of stretching, by the way. Next week is taper week, so I’ll run two three-to-four milers and an eight-miler. Then it’s race week!

My trainer took my body fat measurements before I started training. He took them again last week and I’ve already seen some changes. While I haven’t lost any weight (I actually gained one pound), I’ve lost fat in several areas, including my quads, which have been my most stubborn area. My total body fat percentage has gone down more than 1 percent during my training period. He’ll take them post-half, as well. The fat loss may not necessarily be due to the added running , but my best guess says it is. The good thing is I haven’t lost any muscle, which is a very real concern when adding steady state cardio. I haven’t changed my lifting program during my training, except for a missed day or two for various reasons.

So far, here’s what I’ve noticed or discovered:

1)      I feel good, for the most part, on my long runs. I had one bad one, but the rest have been comfortable and steady as I learn pacing.

2)      I’ve picked up speed on my short runs.

3)      I struggle in windy conditions and do better in the rain.

4)      I’m more vigilant about foam rolling and dynamic stretching before and after runs than I was pre-training.

5)      I actually enjoy this and plan to continue with long runs after the race.

6)      Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” makes me, well, happy during my runs. If you see a woman running in the Grandview/Upper Arlington/Campus area while singing and dancing with hands in the air, that’s me listening to “Happy”. Best song on my running playlist.

How is your training going? What changes have you noticed?

hffconnect

I want to help everyone – men, women, children, whomever – get healthy. But women have some specific issues that need special attention.

Hormones. And then there’s hormones. And also hormones. Actually, there are other things, but this is the biggie.

Lucky for me and you all that my most favorite gym in the whole world is hosting a special event just about women’s health!

Human Form Fitness, where I’ve been training with James Fryer since August 2012, is hosting a unique event called Connect. Mark it down for Sunday, March 23 from 2-4:30 p.m.

At the event, we’ll hear from area women’s health experts regarding clean living, hormones and living with vitality. The $25 registration fee goes to the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio.

Sign up at here. Click on the “workshops” tab and you should see it.

Hope to see you there!